Armed …… and Dangerous?

“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.” – 1 PETER 4:1‭-‬6 NASB

This is our Christian ‘Call to Arms’, because our battle cannot be won with a ‘peacetime’ mentality. We are at war. The enemy is constantly assaulting us and tearing us down, often through other people – especially people we are close to. Peter is talking about our attitudes and thoughts. If our attitude is one of promoting Christ, we are likely to suffer for it. It is up to us as followers of the Christ, Who has suffered for us, to have the right attitude about it. We freely suffer in love, for the sake of His Righteousness. Like Jesus, we choose a life of suffering.

“No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” – JOHN 10:18 NASB

When we have a desire for the Will of God, our choice is suffering in and with our LORD Jesus, or sin. We are not living sinless perfection but we do need a clean break from sin; a decision to live for human passion (sin) or live for the Will of God. Resolve that past sins are enough. Don’t keep doing them!

“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” – PHILIPPIANS 1:9‭-‬11 NASB

The reality is that there is a coming of Justice. We have the knowledge that all people, both the living and dead will be judged justly when Jesus returns. Our assurance lies in the Hope of the Gospel. All of us will physically die, but we have the hope of afterlife, in an Eternity that is sure and real.

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” – HEBREWS 9:27‭-‬28 NASB

Once For All

17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the Right Hand of GOD, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.” – 1 PETER 3:17-22 NASB

Martin Luther made a very interesting observation on this selection of scripture. In his Commentary on Peter & Jude, “A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.” If Martin Luther has trouble understanding it, I’m not sure anyone can!

Peter continues his thought from verse 17 in the next chapter: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” – 1 Peter 4:1‭, ‬12 ESV

He understood from experiences in his own life that we need understanding and hope. He makes the point that to suffer for being a Christian is normal. Jesus said “You will be hated because you are known by My Name.” (Matthew 10:22, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17) Be ready to suffer.

What kind of Saviour do we need? John Piper says we need a compassionate Saviour, a fellow sufferer, and we have just that in the person of Jesus Christ. He suffered first: “….. For Christ also died for sins once for all – final, complete, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; …..” (verse 18)

Christ suffered first. Anything we have suffered, everything that we might suffer – pain, abandonment, isolation, loss, grief, condemnation, torture, torment. Now we will suffer. He gets it. He has sympathy, empathy, and compassion. We do suffer consequences, but we will not have to suffer the penal punishment of an eternity in hell, because Christ bore that wrath full measure, MY iniquity, MY substitute – personal and potent – on the cross.

Noah acted on the Word of God, and built a huge boat far away from any water. Can you imagine the ridicule? Yet he did it, because GOD told him to, preparing for an event that was incomprehensible to him and the people he knew. When the rain started, it was a phenomenon that had never before occurred. It, combined with the water rising up and flooding the earth, completely covered and wiped out the old sinful world. Water that saved them from similar destruction only because they were in the ark. Baptism – the water – doesn’t save us, but if Jesus is our ark, the water washes away the sin and cleanses us. We come out of the water through Jesus like Noah came out of the water through the ark. The visual of baptism represents the death, burial, and the Resurrection, the Risen Christ. It could be viewed as the “Pledge of Allegience” of Christians. Christ went from this earth to sit at the Right Hand of GOD. The “Right Hand” signifies the preeminent, ultimate position of authority. EVERYTHING lines up under and is subject to Jesus, including Satan and all of his followers. That could be a scary thought if you aren’t on the right side…… Jesus ascended to heaven, to the Father, 40 days after Easter. That’s the reason He is not on earth with us. Remember what Peter said in 1 Peter 1:8a “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.”

What do you do when you are discouraged and suffering? We find encouragement throughout the Gospel. When I accept Christ as my Saviour, I AM saved, and I WILL ALWAYS BE saved, from that moment forward. Amen.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38‭-‬39 ESV

Have You Prayed About It?

“Have you prayed about it?”

Whenever we have a question or concern, or we are worried about something, that phrase should be the first thing that pops into our mind.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the LORD will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” – JAMES 5:13‭-‬18 NASB

Billy Graham wrote: “Faith pleases God more than anything else. The Christian life is dependent upon faith. We stand on faith; we live on faith. Faith is loved and honored by God more than any other single thing.

The Bible teaches that faith is the only approach that we have to God. No man has sins forgiven, no man goes to heaven, no man has assurance of peace and happiness, until he has faith in Jesus Christ.

You may be saying, “God, I believe you are a great person, but I do not believe your Word; I do not believe what you say.” In order to please God, you must believe Him. Perhaps your faith is small and weak.

It does not matter how big your faith is, but rather, where your faith is. Is it in Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for your sins?”

I especially appreciate the last 2 sentences, because for years my faith was small… tiny, almost nonexistent. Because my faith was so small, my constant search for peace & happiness did not yield anything. Oh, I could sense them! I knew they were within reach ….. but I couldn’t quite get there. I knew, because of my parents teaching us while we were children, that true peace only comes thru JESUS. Scripture is quite clear on that:

“Without faith it isn’t possible to please GOD. Those who come to God must believe that He exists. And they must believe that He rewards those who look to Him.” – Hebrews 11:6

Without faith, it is difficult to pray, and without prayer, it is difficult – maybe even impossible – to have faith. The thing I most hope to get across is this: No matter what is going on in your life, whether mental or physical, there is HOPE. There can be PEACE. Regardless of what anyone else says or does to us, JESUS is the answer. Claim it – claim HIM. Pray about it. Hold a conversation with God!

See that tiny flicker of faith that is hiding deep in your soul? Fan the flames. Let GOD supply the fuel!

Have you prayed about it?

This Is Timely….

“Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” – JAMES 4:11‭-‬12 NASB

I don’t think James was speaking about man’s laws here, but God’s. There isn’t a person on earth who can say they are better than another, because even though our outward lives may appear “better”, God looks at our thoughts over our actions. Our thoughts make us no better than the worst murderer, because who hasn’t murdered someone in their thoughts? Or whose thoughts would reveal that they have desired a man or woman who was not their spouse? Who hasn’t wished for gold and riches, a bigger better house, more clothes and more things? Just because someone looks all clean and prim and proper on the outside, doesn’t mean that inside, they are the same. We have to remember, too, that in God’s eyes, sin is sin. A lie is no better or worse than murder – and everybody has lied.

“You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.” – James 5:5 NLT

So. What to do?

I think that all we can do is to do as Jesus did, and continually pray to the Father, not my will, but Thine. Actually, that’s the best thing we can do! I’m far from perfect, and I count myself among the worst of criminals, but there is one thing I know without a single doubt: I have been forgiven of all my sins, and one day I will see my Saviour! O Glorious Day, one day He is coming! Listen to this hymn, Glorious Day, sung by Casting Crowns.

Do you know that Truth? Can you sing without hesitation that when He returns, He is coming to sweep you up with Him ……. or will you be at the Judgement Seat, wondering what happened?

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s One and Only Son.” – John 3:16‭-‬18 NLT

I Just Don’t Get It

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” – JOHN 21:25 NASB

There are other, similar statements in the scriptures, stating that Jesus did innumerable unrecorded miracles. These miracles were witnessed by hundreds of people. Yet we still don’t believe? I just don’t get it. Millions follow Buddha. He never did a miracle, he never claimed to be sent by the Creator of the Universe, and he didn’t arise from the grave after he died. Research “great religions of man”. Belief in Jesus in not a religion. It is a way of life. There is no dictated behavior. I found this from the C.S. Lewis Institute, and it says what I mean to say much better than I am able to.

“When we look carefully at the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, the call to “follow me” takes on much greater clarity and specificity. It is indeed a call to “walk as Jesus walked,” to live a life of radical faith and love. Once we truly grasp this, our first reaction is likely to be one of dismay. If we are at all aware of the depth of indwelling sin and the dysfunctions that plague our lives, we know it is impossible for us to fulfill such a call. Yet this reaction is actually healthy, because it is based in reality. It is indeed impossible for us to live this way. And that is precisely the point.

Jesus knows we cannot follow him without a power beyond ourselves. And that is why he sent the Holy Spirit to empower us.

It is only through the indwelling Holy Spirit that we can obey the teaching of Jesus and follow his example. He assures us of the Father’s love, he makes the things of Christ real to us; he makes the gospel precious to us; he convicts us of sin and assures of forgiveness when we repent; he transforms us from glory to glory, into the likeness of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:16–18). That is why we are taught to earnestly seek to be filled with the Spirit each day (Eph. 5:18) and to be led by him in all our ways (Gal. 5:16–25). When we do, we will find that we can live in newness of life. Not perfectly and not immediately. But day by day, as we walk in faith and obedience, the Spirit will produce in us the character of Jesus: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23).” – Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min. Director of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute

(http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Following_Jesus_Christ_Tarrants_Single-Page_Full_Article)

I’m grateful to have access to study such diverse sources! Study for yourself and determine the truth. I don’t believe that anyone who diligently and honestly searches for the Truth won’t find it. I know where it lies, and it is in the Person of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you will discover the Truth – and accept the Truth – as well! Amen!!

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – JAMES 1:5 NASB

Where Do You Stand?

I would have loved to be standing in the room with Thomas and the other followers of Jesus when this happened!

“Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” – JOHN 20:27‭-‬31 NASB

As I contemplate this meeting between Thomas and our Lord, I wonder where I would have stood on that day? Would I be next to Thomas, needing to see the wounds to believe that this man was truly Who He claimed to be? Or would I be across the room with Mary and the other followers, knowing that my Lord was in the room? I know where I stand today, firmly with the ones who believe without having seen. How can we not, when we look at the incredible things He did and the incomparable life He led, witnessed by hundreds – thousands – of people, and recorded by such diverse men?

I believe in Jesus Christ; I believe He is the only begotten Son of the Creator God. I believe that He died for my sins and was resurrected on the third day, and I know that on the day my earthly body dies, I will see His Face as He welcomes me into our eternal home. Where do you stand? It’s crucial to decide! Selfishly, I want to see you in heaven.

“Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Can I get an Amen?

(Image from Pinterest)

No Ordinary Man

The chief priests and Pharisees were so frightened of Jesus and His testimony, they went to Pilate to complain about Him and His followers. Keep in mind that at this point they know that Jesus is dead and in the grave, yet they are so afraid of this dead man that they want His grave sealed and a guard set on it!

“Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” – MATTHEW 27:64‭-‬66 NASB

They knew this was no ordinary man they were dealing with.

Over the centuries, there have been many imposters. If you Google “men who claim to be Jesus,” a long list of names comes up. Then there are the many who claim that Jesus was ‘just’ a prophet like Moses or Muhammad or Buddha. Who, in all of these men have died and been resurrected in three days, besides Jesus? The list of imposters is hundreds of names long, and the names of men from that list who died and rose from the dead is zero. Not one. They are, or were, all ordinary men. Not so, Jesus.

Luke, a physician, wrote factually about Jesus. He researched what he wrote and reported first-hand accounts.

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” – LUKE 1:1‭-‬4 NASB

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the Holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” – LUKE 1:31‭-‬35 NASB

This Holy Child, this Jesus, is no ordinary man. He is 100% man, and 100% God.

How bereft His followers must have felt this morning, following His unimaginable, incredible death on the cross! This is the first day they have been without Him, without His physical presence, in three years. At this point, they don’t know what to think; they are overcome with the grief of His death. Gather together with them today. Meditate on what it felt like for them. We have the advantage, because we know that He conquers death and will rise up on the third day!

He is no ordinary man. He is worthy of our love, our worship, our devotion!