Friday, October 24, 2014

Essentials of the Christian Life---Faith, Hope, and Love

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three...
I Corinthians 13:13a

In this verse at the end of the love chapter in I Corinthians, Paul gives us the three Divine distinctives, the three essential qualities that mark the life of a believer. All three of these qualities are operative in the true Christian, and to the extent they are operative determines the quality and vitality and effectiveness of our spiritual lives.  Also, it is the operation of faith, hope and love in our life that is the source of our joy, and it is the extent to which these qualities are operative in our lives that determine the fullness of our joy.

Additionally, these qualities do not operate in isolation from each other, but operate in conjunction with each other.  Each directs, reinforces, and feeds the other. Faith is the foundation, love provides the motivation, and hope gives inspiration. As a cord of three strands is not easily torn apart (Ecclesiastes 4:12), so the Christian life that has faith, hope, and love stands strong against the perils of this world and the wiles of the devil.

Faith is the foundation, but without love faith becomes dry, barren, ritualistic, and formalized. Without love faith becomes a duty to be performed, not a life to be lived.  Love gives strength and vitality to faith and makes faith come alive. Love gives purpose to faith. (I Corinthians 13:2b, Galatians 5:6, John 14:21, 23, I Peter 1:22)

Hope causes faith to persevere by giving it a reason to persevere. Hope directs faith's attention from the life here and now to the life hereafter. Hope gives faith its eternal perspective. Hope is faith's anchor during the storms of this life, its restraint to keep it from heeding the siren calls of this world, and its beacon to keep it on course. (Hebrews 6:19, 11:1, Galatians 5:5, I Corinthians 15:19, Colossians 1:5)

My friends, are these three essentials present in your life?  If they are not, cry out to the Lord for Him to bring these into your life through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. If they are, seek to cultivate them all the more in order that your life in Christ may be full of His abundance and overflowing with His joy.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Letting the Peace of Christ Rule

This is a repost.

As believers we are to "Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts," (Colossians 3:15). So often we see this verse either ignored or misapplied, and it is because of a misunderstanding or a false assumption of what this peace is. So let's see if we can garner a better, a correct understanding of what the peace of Christ is and how it is manifested in our lives.

First off, this verse is in the middle of a section where Paul is talking about our common ground in Christ because He is all and is in all (3:11), and how this is manifested in our life in the church in how we treat and respond to one another in the body. So its primary application is for believers in the context of church life. So this peace of Christ is to rule, act as arbiter or umpire, in our dealings and interactions with other believers, especially those in our local body.

Secondly, what is this peace that Christ has, that is to be the umpire of our hearts, and how did we come to possess it? In John 14:27 Christ says, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you." So we see that it is Christ, Himself, that has given us His peace, and we have this peace because He has come and taken up residence in our heart; and we have become partakers of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4). The peace of Christ is the peace between Him and the Father. There was no enmity between the Father and the Son because Jesus always did the things that were pleasing to the Father (John 4:34, 5:30, 8:28-29, 8:42, 12:49, 14:10, 17:4, Matthew 3:17). Because of His perfect obedience to the Father there was unity and harmony between them with peace being the by-product of that unity and harmony. Christ had the same unity and harmony with the Father in His life here upon the earth that He had with the Father in eternity past. This is why Jesus could say, "I and the Father are One." (John 10:30, 17:1122-23). The body of Christ is to have and manifest the same unity and harmony within itself that exists between Christ and the Father (John 17:20-23).

Before salvation we were at enmity with Godwe were His very enemies (Romans 5:10), but God reconciled us to Himself (made peace with us) through His Son (Romans 5:10, II Corinthians 5:18-19). The Father and the Son were at perfect peace, so that, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:29). So when we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts it means that we are not to do anything that would disrupt our peace with our heavenly Father. Our peace with Him should guide our decision making and govern our responses. Within the context of this section of Colossians we see this worked out in our compassion, gentleness, kindness, humility, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love within the body of Christ. We have peace with God and one another as we practice these Christian graces mentioned here; and it should then be a part of our life so that, "As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18).

So, first, be sure that you are at peace with God through faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then pray a prayer of thanksgiving to God for establishing peace with you, His enemy, and reconciling you to Himself through the blood of the cross. Now live a life of peace with God through how you live your life with others in the body, and in the world; but not at the expense of righteousness or the truth.