The Love of Christ

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” – EPHESIANS 3:14‭-‬19 NASB

What is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ? It surpasses knowledge. It completely wraps us up and covers us. It is deeper than the deepest oceans, higher than the farthest stars; more all-encompassing than the entire universe. It is warmer than the thickest fur coat, and more soothing than the softest silk or flannel on our skin. His Love covers every person, every situation, and there’s still enough left over to fill our world.

Why is it so difficult to believe?

Our own flaws keep us from the Love He offers, as we try to compare the incomparable to the imperfect, and we view Him through our distorted lense of life. If our human fathers were capable of displaying God’s qualities of impartiality and unconditional love, we would understand God! Our earthly fathers are bound by the same sinful spirits as we are, subject to that stinkin’ thinkin’ the Enemy introduced into the Garden; our free will prevents us from ever being perfect. However, we have been given an amazing example in Jesus Christ, and despite their flaws, many earthly fathers strive to provide an example of the love and forgiveness of our Father. I was blessed to have a father who loved God and who strove to be a godly man, in spite of his imperfect human nature.

This Father’s Day, maybe we can focus on the qualities that we see in our dad’s that perhaps reflect some of that love from the Lord. As humans, we can’t even comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth ….. which surpasses knowledge, the Love of Jesus Christ, but we can express our human love as appropriately and completely as we do understand it. May all of the fathers be strengthened with that power through Christ’s Spirit in their inner man, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” – EPHESIANS 3:20-‬21 NASB

So-called Brother

As followers of Jesus, we need to be aware in our relationships and in our actions/activities with friends who have not yet accepted Christ as their Saviour. It’s easy to be drawn into things that don’t honor our Lord. While this knowlege is important, we also need to hear this warning letter that was written to the Church in Corinth. I don’t think we consider this as much as we should.

“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” – 1 CORINTHIANS 5:9‭-‬13 NASB

Not just in our association with non-Christians, but with other Christians, we have to watch ourselves. Are we cautious in our relationships? Do we take care in our business dealings? We all know of businesses that have the Christian ‘fish’ or the symbol of a cross in their advertising. I’ve read advertisements where they claim to be a ‘Christian’ business. I think we need to be extremely careful doing this!

Instead of advertising our Christianity, I believe we should let our actions and our ethics speak of our love of the Lord. Just because there’s a fish or a cross on the sign doesn’t make that business Christian – but it does set a precedent, especially if/when there is a problem. There are hundreds, no, thousands, of examples of a so-called Christian business person who has taken advantage of or treated their customer unethically. I imagine we’ve all seen it or experienced it.

Actions speak louder than words….. but words are still important! Today, may we all make a conscious effort to let our every action reflect the Light of our Lord. Just like the moon, which doesn’t have any light generating capacity itself, yet shines so brightly when reflecting the light of the sun, there is no light in us alone; it all comes from the Saviour, the Son.

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

Control

Control. The one thing I think everyone wants in their life. Instead, God gave us free will. I was reading the other day and came across a passage that really says this well

“I didn’t have control over what anyone else did. And while God could control anything and everything, He had given His creation the freedom to choose. God could intervene, but then He’d be no more than a master puppeteer. A puppet couldn’t love back. And that was what God asked. His children had to choose whether they’d love Him enough to obey or whether they’d go the other way. I had to accept that God gave everyone the same freedom.” Haley, Design On A Crime by Ginny Aiken

I don’t have control over anyone else, or over what they do, and trying to control them only hurts me We can choose to follow God’s teaching, taken from His Word, or we can choose to attempt to control our lives. He allows that choice, and I believe it saddens Him more than we can imagine or comprehend when we choose the path away from Him.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” – Colossians 3:12‭-‬15 ESV

Choosing to forgive someone takes the power away from them, and makes their actions weak and incapable of hurting us any longer. Years ago, I heard a song on the radio during a time of deep despair and at a time where my life was completely out of my control. These words are deeply meaningful. It’s called The Key, sung by Steve and Annie Chapman. This is just a tiny taste:

“Now don’t you know the offender

Is rarely the one in pain

Instead the one who will not forgive

Is the one who wears the chains.”

http://www.steveandanniechapman.com

Hope it helps you a little.

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

Sex = Sin???

In a word: No. God created sex as a beautiful expression of love between a man and a woman ….. in the right context.

“Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:18‭-‬20 NLT

Sexual sin. That’s a tough subject. Sex….. we can’t even get a consensus of what that means anymore. If you ask a teenage today to define sex, I think you’ll get a different definition than if you ask someone in their 40’s and up. Sexual sin is much more than the physical act of intercourse between a man and a woman, and there are quite a few scriptures addressing it as immorality and sexual sin. Hear what Matthew recorded Jesus saying about it:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall not commit adultery’ (Exodus 20:14); but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – MATTHEW 5:27-28 NASB

According to JESUS, Who is the ultimate authority, just thinking the lustful thought is the same as actually following through with the physical act. The way I read the scriptures, there is only one way that sexual activity is correct and sanctioned by our Creator LORD, and that is two-fold: between a man and a woman, and within the sanctity of marriage. Marriage is a promise between a man and woman and God. It doesn’t have to take place in a church or place of worship, and it doesn’t have to be a ceremony ‘performed’ by a cleric. I believe that as long as it is properly witnessed and the committment of both the man and the woman is entered into whole-heartedly, it is as binding as any church or government ceremony….. and I believe God honors those committments. Anyone who is married, however they decide to commit, is bound to their spouse ‘until death’ and needs to honor that by being faithful in mind, heart, and body.

Sexual sin affects much more than just the one committing it. Whether it is ‘just’ mental or you follow through with a physical act, because you desire someone other than your spouse, it affects your actions towards both the object(s) of your lust and your spouse. If you aren’t married, it still affects you and any other party involved. You may think you have it covered and it’s a secret, but I promise you, everything – everything – will come to light sooner or later. Lust compromises your heart and your emotions, making simple things difficult. It’s a lie. A whole Pandora’s Box is opened: consequences follow wrongs. You may ‘get away with it’ the first time, or the 20th time….. or so you think.

Pray about it. If you find yourself attracted to someone, give serious thought and prayer to the matter. Go to someone you trust and talk about it. We have each other to lean on. Even the Apostles struggled with sin! Paul writes:

“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” – ROMANS 7:19 NASB (Read all of verses 14-25)

“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.” – JAMES 5:16 NASB

By the way, for anyone who wants to play the “but I’ve fallen out of love with my spouse and I ‘love’ this new person …….” As Col. Potter on Mash used to say, “Beaver biscuits!” LOVE is a choice. If you have “fallen out of love” then you’d best climb up that ladder and get back into it. Just my ‘2 cents’ on love…..

For further reading and study: Matthew 5:31-32; 15:19; 19:9; Mark 7:21-22; John 8:41; Acts 15:20; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 5:1,11; 6:9,18-19; 7:2-5, 10:8; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Hebrews 13:4; Revelations 21:8

Ready to Defend the Faith

“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” – 1 PETER 2:17 NASB

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing …..” – MATTHEW 6:1‭-‬3 NASB

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts (v. 13-14 are from Isaiah 8:12-13, with ‘Christ’ substituted for ‘Yahweh’), always being ready to make a defense (apologetics: a rational and reasonable answer or account for the HOPE that is in us, or why we believe what we believe) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.” – 1 PETER 3:13‭-‬16 NASB

What is this Living Hope, that we would want to honor all people, or care for those less fortunate, or even be willing to submit to suffering for it? If you go back to 1 Peter 1, especially verses 3-5, we see it clearly stated:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who according to His great Mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” –
1 PETER 1:3‭-‬5 NAS

Apologetics in a nutshell. John Piper said (“Make a Case for Your Hope”, October 19, 1980) about verse 15, “….. literally Peter said, “Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts ready always to make a case . . . for your hope. This suggests that there is a very close connection between reverencing the Lord Christ in your hearts and always being ready to make a case for your hope. ……. How shall you always be ready to make a case for your hope? Answer: Reverence the Lord Christ in your heart, and you will always have a reason to give for why you are hopeful.

Charles Ryrie’s book “Basic Theology” looks like a good resource for really digging onto what you believe, and for understanding how and why you come to your conclusions. I’m convinced that not only does GOD exist (Genesis 1:1), but He is the Creator of everything. He is Triune, equally GOD the Father, GOD the Son, and GOD the Holy Spirit. The Bible is His Word, communicated through humans to put it into written form, and not to be disputed or changed by us. GOD the Son, Jesus, left heaven to live an unimpeachable life as a human; born of a virgin, 100% GOD and 100% human. He was brutally tortured and killed by us, only to conquer death and the grave, rising up out of that tomb in a glorious, resurrected body three days later. His return was witnessed first-hand by hundreds of people, and His transformation and ascent into heaven occured in front of witnesses. God wants to communicate with His creatures (that’s us!), and He does it through His Book, the Bible, and through prayer. In the Book, we can read the 500 prophecies that have already been 100% fulfilled; and the 500 prophecies still to come. He is GOD and He has come for me; He is my Hope – the ONLY Hope of life and eternity. Enthroned in our hearts, He is the Living Hope – the only Hope in a seriously depraved world. I have experienced – and embraced – that Hope and Mercy in my life.

Have you embraced the Living Hope of Jesus Christ? Are you ready to defend your faith?