Saturday, April 28, 2012

For My Soul

For my soul He came,
Down from heaven to take my blame.

For my soul he lived,
Living the sinless life for me.

For my soul He died,
God the man was crucified.

For my soul He intercedes,
His priesthood perfected in suffering.

For my soul He gives,
Daily grace greater than my sin.

For my soul He comes,
 Back for me to live with Him above.

For my soul He loves,
Forever and always I am His betrothed.

For my soul, yes, for my soul;
The King of Heaven came down for my soul.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Scriptures and Relevance

What makes the Scriptures relevant to our life
is our application of them to our life.  It is in
our obedience to the Word of God that the truth
of the Scriptures is applied to the situation which
we find ourselves in. 

Show me someone who says the Bible is not
relevant, and I will show you someone who does
not know the Scriptures nor practices the Scriptures.

So if you want to make the Scriptures relevant to
your life, learn them and obey them.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Indwelling Sin vs the Indwelling Spirit

For the good that I want, I do not do,
but I practice the very evil that I do
not want.  But if I am doing the very
thing I do not want, I am no longer
the one doing it, but sin which dwells
in me.  I find then the principle that
evil is present in me, the one who
wants to do good.
Romans 7:19-21

However, you are not in the flesh but
in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God
dwells in you.  But if anyone does not
have the Spirit of Christ, he does not
belong to Him.  But if the Spirit of Him
who raised Jesus from the dead dwells
in you, He who raised Jesus from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies
through His Spirit who dwells in you.
So then, brethren, we are under obligation,
not to the flesh, to live according to the
flesh--for if you are living according to
the flesh, you must die; but if  by the
Spirit you are putting to death the deeds
of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:9-13

To combat indwelling sin we have been given the indwelling Spirit.  And it is by the Spirit that we put to death the deeds of the flesh.   The frustration in Romans 7 turns into the victory in Romans 8.  Yes, the principle of indwelling sin is real, but it is swallowed up by the greater principle of the indwelling Spirit of the victorious Christ. 

The issue is not are you struggling with sin, because if you were not a Christian there would be no struggle; but the issue is are you having victory.  Too many Christians feel guilty because they struggle with sin, they battle the tempation.  These very battles are signs that you indeed have been saved, and now the internal battle between sin and righteousness has begun, because sin does not willingly leave the building, but must be put to death and thrown out. 

But take heart, my friends, because greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world, greater is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus than the law of sin and death, and greater is the indwelling Spirit than indwelling sin.  For our great High Priest has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin; and now He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.  The victory over sin is ours in Christ.  Don't lose heart in the struggle, but take joy in each victory.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Beatitudes of the Psalms-Part II

We are continuing to look at how blessed we are according to the Psalms.

Psalm 65:4 How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You to dwell in Your courts.  We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your Holy temple.  Being chosen, called, and kept is not confined to the NT.  Here the Psalmist speaks of the blessed state those have that have been chosen by God to be brought near to Him so as to permanently abide with Him in the new Jerusalem.  The Scripture tells us that the nearness of God is our good, and it is good for us because we are blessed by it.

Psalm 84...the whole of this Psalm deals with the state of blissful spiritual prosperity that we dwell in, and is particularly expressed in verse 2b..."my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God." and, verse 11, "For the Lord is a sun and a shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." Here the Pslamist exults in his blessedness bestowed upon him by the Lord because of his right relationship with Him; and so should we, and this type of exultation, giving glory to the Lord should inhabit our prayers. 

In this Psalm, the Psalmist goes on to exclaim, "How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion!" and, ends the Psalm with, "O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You."  The path to heaven starts in the heart, and the Lord has circumcised the heart of every true believer, giving him a heart that knows and accepts and trusts the truth;  this is the start of the path that leads to Zion, and is the first blessing of the Lord.  The heart of a true believer knows this very well and we rejoice exceedingly in this great blessing.

Psalm 80:15 How blessed are those who know the joyful sound!  O Lord, they walk in the light of Your countenance.  Wasn't this the promised blessing in Numbers 6:25-26 for those who would keep Him as their God?  They know the joyful sound, as seen in Psalm 84:2b, the sound of a joyful heart, their own heart.  We too should know this joyful sound, the sound of praise and exultation for our Lord as we experience the light of His countenance because He is near, and drawing nearer, to us.

Psalm 112:1 Praise the Lord!  How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments.  The reason the person who fears the Lord is greatly blessed is because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, God's wisdom that is found in His commandments.  True wisdom will find great delight from the commandments of God, for from them flow the springs of life, and through them we live a life pleasing to God; and a life pleasing to God is a life of great and blissful prosperity. 

Psalm 119:1-3 How blessed are  those who way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are the those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him will all their heart. They also do no unrighteousness, they walk in His ways.  This great Psalm starts out with a double blessing, but the key to the blessing is seeking the Lord with all Your heart.  The Lord, Himself, is our greatest blessing.  He is our very great reward.  For it is Him that is missing from our lives.  It is was our sin that separated us from Him, and even now continues to cloud our relationship, and foul our fellowship with Him.  We must seek Him through His word, and when we are obedient to His word our ways will be His ways, and our walk (way of living life) will be blameless before Him.  This is a blessed state to be in and a state that exists because of a right relationship with Him.  And, when we seek Him, His promise to us is that He will let us find Him, and in finding Him is life, abundant life (Amos 5:4, Deuteronomy 4:29, I Chronicles 28:9, Jeremiah 29:13-14, Jeremiah 33:3, John 10:10).  This is a very great blessing indeed!

Psalm 128:1-4 How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.  When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy and it will be well with you.  Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table.  Behold, for this shall a man be blessed who fears the Lord.  Wow, quite a promise!  Quite a blessing!  Notice here, the Lord did not say He would make you rich, but that the fruit of your labors would be sufficient to make you happy, and it will be well, not only for you, but for your family as well.  Godliness is a means of great gain when accompanied with contentment (I Timothy 6:6), and we are to find our contentment in the Lord.  Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (food, clothing, shelter) will be added to you."  Being taken care of by the Lord is a great blessing, and we live in that blessing when we fear Him and seek Him, trusting Him to provide for our needs.  After all, He is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think....and does.

Psalm 144:12-15 says much the same thing as Psalm 128, but ends with, "How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord."  There are many things/gods to worship in this world; and they all are the making of man's own desires, most usually cast in his own likeness.  True blessing, blessing both for now and eternity only comes from the Lord, the one true God.  Our great blessing is that God changed us from self-worshippers to God-worshippers.

Psalm 146 is a great praise Psalm, and verses 5-10 are praises because of the great blessings given by God. "How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; the Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous; the Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.  The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations.  Praise the Lord!  Our being blessed is the total of all the blessings of the Lord that are ours.  All the blessings that He gives those with whom He has entered into covenant.  His is our great Helper, our very present help, and our adequacy.  Whom else could we need, whom else could and would do all of this for us?  So are we greatly blessed?  You bet we are!

These are the exclamatory blessings enumerated in the, powerful, awe and reverence inspiring, and wonderful to meditate on.  They let us know how truly good and gracious our God is to us.  But there is more, yes there is more.  Let's look at Ephesians 2:4-7, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  I boldly italicized the so that, so that you would not miss it.  It is the purpose statement for why God saved us.  He loves us, has always loved us, and in the ages upon ages upon ages to come He will lavish His gracious love upon us...blessing upon blessing upon blessing for all eternity.  Incomprehensible, unimaginable...yet true.  As blessed as we are now, and we are greatly blessed now; our current state of blessing cannot compare with our eternal state of blessing when all sin that stands between us and our God has been eradicated, eliminated, and exterminated.  A state of heavenly bliss that cannot be imagined or described or broken will be ours for eternity.

So my friends...what is your response to this great God?  Will you make Him your trust, your greatest desire, your God?  Will you seek Him with all your heart?  Will you revere Him and praise Him, and live to please Him?  Will you bow in submission to His great love, and experience His great blessings, now and for eternity?  Or will you turn from Him to pursue your own desires, making yourself your own god, and experience the wrath of God for all eternity? 

An old children's Sunday School song comes to mind, "Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your blessings see what God has done.  Count your them one by one...count your many blessings...see what God has done."  A good word then, a good word now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Beatitudes of the Psalms-Part I

The Sermon on the Mount is considered by many not only the finest sermon Christ ever preached, but the greatest sermon ever preached (Of course, it goes without saying that if it was Christ's finest sermon, then it would be the greatest sermon ever.)  This great sermon starts out with the pronouncement of spiritual blessings commonly known as the Beatitudes.  In these Beatitudes we see both those who are blessed (what they have done to receive the blessing) and the blessing itself.  If you examine this passage carefully what you will see is these blessings are spiritual blessings, and these blessings are the result, the fruit if you will, of a right relationship with God.  These blessings belong to those who know God, love God, and serve God. 

To the Jewish people at that time, being blessed by God was not a new concept, and neither should be the concept that those who are blessed are those who have a right relationship with God, men and women of faith.  This fact had been stated for them right before their entrance into the promised land, as we see in Deuteronomy 11:26-28, "See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:  the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you to day, by following other gods which you have not known."  Now, these blessings were to them as a nation, but we also see blessings for those individuals who worshiped the true God and did not follow after other gods. 

There are two primary words for bless in the OT, barak and esher.  The predominant word used is barak, and it means to grant favor, to be kind or gracious or generous, or to be good to.  This word is used 330 times in the OT and we see it best expressed in Numbers 6:22-27, Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and to his sons saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel.  You shall say to them:  the Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.' "So they will invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I will bless them."  We see many examples in the OT of God blessing His people, both corporately, and individually.

The other word used for blessed is esher.  This word is used 44 times in the OT and means a state of happiness or blissful prosperity.  It is the result of being blessed, it is the state of being blessed by God, of being the recipient of His gracious favor and lovingkindness.  It is literally the result of being in a right relationship with God.  Also, when this word is in the masculine plural it becomes not just a statement of the condition of blissful prosperity, but an exclamation (!!!) of blissful prosperity.  Of the 44 times this word is used in the OT, it is used as an exclamatory pronouncement 26 times in the Psalms.  We see it translated by the phrase "How blessed." (NASB)  So when we see this phrase in the Psalms it is an exclamation, not a question; and it is a pronouncement of how blessed a person is as a result of their relationship with God.  In essence, these verses become an exclamation of the blessedness that is theirs, their Beatitudes, because of receiving the blessing of God.  The blessedness is not just a single blessing, but a great blessing, a multitudinous blessing, a bountiful blessing; it is a blessing that contains many blessings.

Lets look at them:

Psalm 1:1-2 How blessed is the man who does not walk in counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path or sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  Here we see the person blessed because of what he is not doing...not living by the wisdom of the wicked (world), not taking the same path (course of life) as the sinners, nor participating with those who mock God.  The reason he is not participating in any of these is because he delights in the Lord so much that he considers His law and applies it to his life.  This results in this man being greatly blessed by God.

Psalm 2:12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled.  How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!  Again, a bountiful blessing, and this bountiful blessing is for all who take refuge in Him from the wrath to come.  The blessing is the escaping from this wrath, the wrath of the Son that is coming; and to escape the Son's wrath you must take refuge in the Son, Himself, by doing homage to the Son in taking refuge in Him.  Those who have placed their faith in the Son, who have bowed the knee and done homage to Him as King of kings, and Lord of lords receive the great blessing of being protected and spared from His wrath.

Psalm 32:1-2 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!  How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!  Here we see the blessing  that comes as a result of the forgiveness of sin.  There is a state of spiritual bliss that is a result of our sins being forgiven, of our sins being imputed (placed on) to Christ.  When our sins have been taken away, and we experience fellowship with God, the fruit of that fellowship is bliss.  When our spirit has been cleansed and our heart has not been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, then our soul enjoys spiritual prosperity.

Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.  When we take refuge in Him for our salvation, we taste the goodness of Lord, we taste of the blessing of His presence, and we experience the bountiful richness of His love and mercy toward us.  If we being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more our perfect heavenly Father is good to us.

Psalm 40:4-5 How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, and has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.  Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, and Your thoughts toward us; there is none to compare with You.  If I would declare and speak of them, they would too numerous to count.  Have you ever thought about counting the wonders of God...every star that He as created and named, every man and woman that is fearfully and wonderfully made, each and every blooming flower, the power of the atom, the heat of the sun, the beauty of the sunset, the sound of the surf, the beauty of music,  or the shake of the earthquake?  His thoughts toward us, those who bear His name, those who are in right relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, are as numerous as all His wonders.  We are on His mind all the time.  How much more blessed could we be?

Psalm 41:1 How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble (evil).  We see here God's blessing of deliverance to those who act like Him and look to the state of those who cannot help themselves, and who are in no position to return the favor. (Romans 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.)  (James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight or our God is this;  to visit orphans and widows in their distress...)  We are most blessed when we are most like Him!

to be continued.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Are You Maturing as a Christian

As you read through the first sixteen verses of Ephesians chapter four you see that the means of maturity is the Word of God, the measure of maturity is Christ Himself, and the mark of maturity is love.  So, at what point do you know if you are maturing?  Is there something that we can look at or point to, in ourselves or in others, that would be evidence that we are mature spiritually, or at least heading well in that direction?  Well, there is, and it actually is pretty it is:  When you lose yourself and start asking the Lord to make you a blessing to others and to Him.  When your desire becomes more about the Lord and others, instead of yourself, you know you are on the right track and on the way to maturity.

If we were to sum up the life of Christ, that is what we see that stands out about Him.  We see this in the gospel of John when He says these things:  "I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."...My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish all His work."...But so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me."..."Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

Friends, let us seek to be a blessing to others, and to the Lord.  Let us lose ourselves in Him and in others.  And in doing so, may He use us for His greater glory!  Amen.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

It's Easter, Sing and Shout the Victory!

There is a hymn titled "When We All get to Heaven," and the chorus is as follows:

When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be.
When we all see Jesus
We'll sing and shout the victory!

Honestly, that's too late. There is one mighty victory that overcame sin, death, hell, and Satan; and that is the resurrection.  This was God's victory in Christ, and it has become our victory.  His resurrection is our resurrection, His triumph our triumph, His power has become our power, His ascension will be our ascension, and His life is now our life; and all of this is our reality because He rose again.  He overcame the power of sin, He severed the hold of death, He blew open the gates of Hell, and took the keys of death and hell from Satan; and on that Great Day when Satan is thrown into the lake of fire, death and Hell will be thrown in with him. 

It's too late, too late, I say, to wait until we see Jesus, our Dread Champion, before we sing and shout the victory.  That victory is ours now, and forever.  Let's sing and shout that victory--His victory--our victory, as we celebrate it this Sunday.

Do I hear any Amens?