LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 2

Romans 12:3   I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

[Grace: a capacity to tolerate, accommodate, or forgive people (Encarta Dictionary)]

According to this verse, and as the above definition would indicate, we are all living under God’s capacity to tolerate us, accommodate us, and forgive us. This seems to be an accurate assessment, but we have this place with God because he loves us. Yes, ours is a humble place, yet also a place of freedom and comfort. It’s not about what we do for God, but about what he does for us. He shoulders the burden for us, and we say, “Thank you Jesus!”

Next week we’ll continue to explore the treasures of Romans chapter 12.

THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM Part 2

Here is part 2 of the story I started last week.

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What the rebel leader failed to realize is that because the son never joined his rebellion he was innocent. The rebel leader could kill his subjects, but he could not kill one who was not his subject. If he did he would forfeit his right to rule. When he was able to have the Son killed his victory dance was immediately cut short. Imagine the moment that he realized by having the Son killed he lost his authority over the new kingdom.

Since the son was innocent he could cleanse the people of the New Kingdom by taking their evil burden upon himself. He took on himself the curse of death and allowed his innocent blood to be shed as a cleansing for the people. Once cleansed the people could now enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom. As a sign to all, the Great Ruler raised his Son from the dead in victory.

Thus began the Great Ruler’s restoration of his rule in the new kingdom. Many of the inhabitants chose to enter his kingdom right away. In his kingdom were eternal life and love and goodness. The rebel leader prowled around trying to stop the growth of the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but he could not.

The son returned to his place in his Father’s realm with the promise to return and completely end the rule of the evil rebel leader. Until then the people could enjoy the cleansing sacrifice he gave to them. Even though they still lived with evil all around them, the joy of their new life sustained them.

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In John 16:33 (The Message) Jesus said to his Disciples, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakeable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

So, Take heart! He has won the victory for us. We have eternal life and the blessing of living in God’s Kingdom. Our whole future is bright for we will live in a kingdom of love forever under the rule of a gracious and loving king.

I’d like to leave you with this thought. It is not about the place in which you live, but under whose rule you live. Two choices exist. You can live under the authority of the defeated ruler of this world whose job is to steal, kill and destroy, or under the rule of the God of the universe who has these two guiding rules, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. I think the choice is that simple.

LIVING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD NOW

Over the last two weeks I’ve shared these thoughts:

When Jesus came to earth, he brought the Kingdom of God with him.

Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he gave us access to the Kingdom of God.

To enter the Kingdom of God, we must surrender our will to God’s will and receive Jesus as our savior.

As soon as we enter the Kingdom of God, we gain eternal life.

 

Before we entered God’s Kingdom, we were simply dissipating life. One of the blessings of living in God’s Kingdom is his will now guides our lives. God’s will can be explained by these two commands. Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” God’s will is to help us step beyond our self-centeredness and live a life of purpose.

What I have observed, over the years of living in God’s kingdom, is that every one of God’s children has a unique and specific purpose to fulfill. Bonnie calls this our passion. For her and me the passion has been for children in need. Our lives together have always been directed toward serving children. The seed of this passion was planted very early in our lives and is now satisfied as we walked with the Lord. What is your passion?

The Kingdom of God is a glorious place, even now, for those who love him. We look forward to Jesus’ return and the final defeat of evil, but for now, we have a purpose to fulfill. “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).”

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY

In his book Eldon Ladd points out that God’s kingdom is not a place, but is simply his right to rule, his divine sovereignty. God’s kingdom exists right now. We enter god’s kingdom when we surrender our will and except his will. His will being foremost that we receive the gift of his son’s redeeming work. Receiving God’s salvation births us into his kingdom.  We are a new creation in Christ (2Corinthians 5:17) with an existence in God’s eternal kingdom.

Though we who have received salvation in Jesus are now part of his eternal kingdom, we also exist here in the temporal world. How does our new status affect our physical presence here? Eldon Ladd states the answer very nicely, “The kingdom of God is, then, the realization of God’s will and the enjoyment of the accompanying blessings” (*Ladd, page 24).

In my personal experience of realizing God’s will in my life, I have found comfort, protection, maturity, physical and emotional strength, and an overall exciting challenging life. The accompanying blessings are manifest in my family and friends and a meaningful existence. God treats each of his children individually, according to who he created us to be, yet we all benefit from his will and the accompanying blessings.

If you have received Jesus as your savior, you have eternal life in God’s kingdom. You now exist in the realm of God’s divine sovereignty. We will someday leave our existence in the temporal world, but we will continue to live forever with God our Father.

Next week let’s look further into our presence in this world as God’s children.

 

*The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, George Eldon Ladd, Martino Publishing 2011

HUMANS WITHOUT GOD

In the first chapter of Romans Paul writes about the state of humans without God. It is a scathing account of what we are like when we turn our backs on God. The frightening part of reading his words is that I see the potential for these evils in myself.

I have just finished the intense season of my job as a driving instructor. When the high schoolers are out for the summer, we’re on the road for many hours. If I had any doubts about Paul’s discourse on the state of humans, all those hours in traffic have been a visual clarification of his accuracy.

As I watched humans aggress upon their fellow man, and continually endanger the lives of others, I was appalled. Then I remembered. Almost every self-centered uncaring act was something that I had done. Yes, even as a Christian.

What did I learn from this? I desperately need God. Every moment of every day I need God. Only in him can I be loving, compassionate, and forgiving. These are the traits I need in every situation, especially in traffic.

A TRANSFORMED MIND

One of the difficulties followers of Jesus face in our current society is avoiding the consumer mentality. “Let’s go shopping” is the call. We get to buy things and spend money. There is never an end to what we can buy, but unfortunately there is an end to the money we have to spend. Running out of money is a definite downer. We are then driven to figure out how we can get more money. Living the consumer life never brings us satisfaction.

I have been reading through Matthew chapters 5-7, and as I read it occurred to me that Jesus is redirecting his disciples’ way of thinking. Jesus taught his disciples to think differently. He wanted them to put aside self-concerns and focus on the Kingdom of God. Paul restates Jesus’ teaching in Romans 12:1-2,

            So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (The Message).

If we allow him, Jesus will change our way of thinking. He will transform our minds. Let me recap what Paul is saying. We should take everything about our lives and place it before God as an offering. Then we should humbly accept what he has done for us.   Our way of thinking is not about what we can do for him, but what he has done for us. So with a heart of gratitude, we fix our attention on him, and receive the new way of thinking that he works into us. This allows us to do what he sets before us without distraction. The result, “God brings the best out of us, develops well-formed maturity in us.”

Repost from 6/2018

OUR SIGNIFICANCE

Today, I will go about my day doing what God has set before me. Perhaps, I will touch someone else’s life in an important way. Maybe, they will be encouraged in the Lord. Maybe, they will find a greater measure of the life that Jesus brings. Whatever happens in this day, it will be a minuscule part of what will happen on the earth. Across the globe, billions of Christians will also be going about doing what God has set before them. We are part of a great Army advancing the Kingdom of God.

Over the weekend, I put together a 500 piece puzzle. Each piece was just a small part of the whole, but the picture would be incomplete if one piece was missing. So, I recognize that what I do today may seem insignificant, but it is not insignificant. It is a little part of God’s big picture.

THE PICTURE OF YOUR LIFE

Have you ever opened a 1000 piece puzzle and dumped the contents out. It’s quite a jumble of pieces and cardboard dust. Now imagine that someone gave you this puzzle in a Ziploc bag without a picture. It would be quite a challenge to put together. Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody came along who knows exactly what the picture looks like? That person could guide you while you worked to put the puzzle together.

Isn’t this what life is like? We don’t know what it will look like. We’re just trying to put the pieces together. And, isn’t Jesus the one who knows the whole picture? When he was on the cross, just before he gave up his spirit, he said, “It is finished.” He had completed the goal of restoring our relationship with God.  Now he’s at work guiding us through life. We should let him. When we pray, we should trust him for the answer. He has the whole picture, and he knows what’s coming.

LET US CELEBRATE

Romans 3:21-24 (The Message), But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift.

Verse 25, God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear.

We have new life in Christ Jesus. That new life begins the moment we believe, and it last forever. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten. We have entered the Kingdom of God. His will guides us and protects us. He is with us no matter what we encounter in our remaining years here on earth.

When we leave the earth we will live in righteousness. We will be together forever. I’d like to add we’ll all be nice, since the sinful nature will be gone. Jesus did all this for us. So let us celebrate what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. I’m looking forward to that time when we’re all together in Heaven. Imagine the celebration.

OUR PLACE BEFORE GOD

Since the beginning man has been fascinated by the universe. We have studied the stars for patterns and worshipped the sun and moon. Astronomers find that the universe is increasingly more vast than they had imagined. The Bible tells us that God spoke it into existence.

I had this contrasting thought this morning, I thought of the magnificence of God. The one who spoke the universe into existence, and then there’s me. So what is my place when I go before God, mouse before a lion, krill in the mouth of a whale? The humblest place I can find is not adequate. Jesus came to help with this dilemma.

He first referred to God as our Father. Father is a perception we can easily relate to. God, being perfect, would represent the ideal father. One who will love us, protect us, teach us, and provide for us.

Jesus went even further when he addressed his disciples. In John Chapter 14 when Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father he replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

Obviously, Jesus didn’t come as the whole manifest presence of God, but he represented the heart and character of God our Father. Jesus was all that an ideal father would be, and then he humbly gave his life for us.

My conclusion, I am on the receiving end of my relationship with God. My fate is entirely in his hands. I can never repay him for his love, kindness, and mercy. I can never match his humbleness. My place before God is one of gratitude. I will praise him and thank him the best I can for as long as I have breath.