Monday, November 28, 2011

The Restoration of God through One Another

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)

Excerpt from “Walking with God and One Another in Sharing Jesus” – 2011-11-27
Praise God that the Bible tells us that our God is a not a God of criticism but a God of restoration. The bloody cross of Christ is proof of that. We see God’s heart in Jesus Christ, who gave his life so that we might be restored back to Himself. God is a God of holiness and righteousness and justice who condemns sin and who condemns the behaviours and actions and that result from the sin that lives within us. Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we might be restored back to God through Jesus Christ. This is the cry of our fallen hearts, the ache and yearning of our lost souls. In Psalm 51:12 King David cried out, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation!” and in Psalm 23:3 he praises his restoration back to God: "He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake."

And so we must take care not to look at one another with critical hearts. I’m reminded of the story about a wife who came home to find her husband shaking frantically and wildly dancing all around in the kitchen. She saw a wire running from his waist towards the electric frying pan. Thinking that he was being electrocuted, she grabbed her son’s baseball bat from the corner, and intending to get him away from the deadly current - she knocked him to the floor, away from the frying pan, breaking his arm in two places. It was then she realized that her husband had just been listening to his IPod.

We must take care not to swing at people when it seems they are struggling or in trouble or who are not living up to our expectations – but rather we should be seeking to help them. Maybe you remember the television commercial that showed an elderly woman lying on the floor shouting, “Help me, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up?” Brothers and sisters, there are times when we fall in our spiritual lives, and we can’t get back up by ourselves - and we need “one another” to get back up and walk.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bearing the Fruit of Grace through God’s Word

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

Excerpt from “Walking with God and One Another in God’s Word” – 2011-11-20
In Mark 4:20 Jesus said those “who hear the word and accept it” will “bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." Jesus is telling us here that when we have God’s Word in our hearts we will bear fruit. Our Lord supports this in the Gospel of John: "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The fruit-bearing Jesus is speaking of here is the fruit-bearing that first takes root in the heart of the follower of Jesus - who has Jesus “abiding” (present, living in, remaining) in their heart. The Bible tells us that the fruit that we bear with Jesus living in our hearts is the fruit of the Spirit— "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). Only when the “abiding” Word (Jesus) takes root in our hearts can we bear any of the spiritual fruits. In John 17:17 Jesus prayed: "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." To word “sanctify” means to “to make holy.” The Word of God is the means the Holy Spirit uses to “sanctify” us, to make us more holy. Our holiness, our Christ-likeness, is what makes us more fruitful to God and to others. But if the “word” of God does not abide in us and take root in our hearts, we cannot bear fruit for God. Our walk with God will neither be consistent nor fruitful if we do not consistently spend time “abiding” in God’s Word.

In Acts 20:32 the apostle Paul said this to the elders of the church in Ephesus: “Now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” The apostle is telling us here that the Word of God is the means by which is the power of the grace of God comes into our lives. The gospel of John tells us the same when it says: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . and from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” When the Word becomes flesh in us we receive grace upon grace. And so reading, studying, hearing, meditating and memorizing and preaching and teaching and discussing the Bible is not a boring, passive activity - but rather a joy-filled, passionate, life-saving, life-building, life-sanctifying activity of God’s grace!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Our Ability in the Faithfulness of God

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)

Excerpt from “Walking with God and One Another in Accountability” – 2011-11-13
This verse is often used to support the idea that God never gives us more than we can handle – but that idea in itself is not biblical. God’s Word tells us that God is always giving us more than we can handle because if He didn’t, we wouldn’t need Him. And we need Him because as fallen sinners we do not even have the “ability” to keep ourselves from sinning. This is what Paul wrote about in Romans 7:18: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ABILITY to carry it out.” The only power, the only strength, the only “ability” we have to keep ourselves from being overtaken by temptation is the strength, the “ability” we receive when we submit and surrender ourselves to God. And when we do – “God is faithful.”

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Resting on God

Resting on God

O God, most high, most glorious,
the thought of Thine infinite serenity cheers me,
for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed,
but Thou art for ever at perfect peace.
Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment,
they stand fast as the eternal hills.
Thy power knows no bond, Thy goodness no stint.
Thou bringest order out of confusion,
and my defeats are Thy victories:
The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

I come to Thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows,
to leave every concern entirely to Thee,
every sin calling for Christ's precious blood;
revive deep spirituality in my heart;
let me live near to the great Shepherd,
hear His voice, know its tones, follow its calls.
Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth,
from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.
Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities,
burning into me by experience the things I know;
Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel,
that I may bear its reproach, vindicate it, see Jesus as its essence,
know in it the power of the Spirit.

Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill;
unbelief mars my confidence, sin makes me forget Thee.
Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots;
grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to Thee,
that all else is trifling.
Thy presence alone can make me holy,
devout, strong and happy.
Abide in me, gracious God.

From "The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotion" edited by Arthur Bennett

Reconciling with One Another for the Grace of Forgiveness

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Excerpt from “Walking with God and One Another in Reconciliation” – 2011-11-06
Reconciling is hard and complicated because relationships are hard and complicated – because we are fallen and sinful. We live in an age that is saturated with entitlement and rebellion and cynicism; it is all around us and it is all in us. And because it is so - we are all guilty of hurting or offending others from time to time. We may not have meant to or are not aware that we have – but we have and now there’s not only hard feelings and but also gulf in some of our relationships. Now we normally justify what we have said or done because we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions but everyone else by their actions. This is because our inherent sinful pride tends to we see our motives as pure – when in reality that is rarely the case.

Yes, reconciliation can be difficult. But just because it is difficult doesn't mean it is not right. In fact God commands that we do so. The purpose of going to those we have hurt or offended us is two-fold. First, it is be reconciled. And second, it is to be an instrument of God’s grace. You see the key to reconciliation is forgiveness. In humility we go to those we have hurt and offended and say to them, “Forgive me. I was wrong.” If they accept this, reconciliation begins. If they are not open to forgiving, it is in the hands of God: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” When we ask for forgiveness from those we have hurt or offended we are allowing ourselves to be instruments of God’s grace – because reconciliation is the objective of forgiveness. This is God’s heart for us, who reconciled us to Himself when, “He delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).