Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kingdom Currency

“16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” – James 3:16-18

And again,

“22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” – Galatians 5:22-26

There is no room for selfish ambition, jealousy and arrogance in God’s Kingdom. The Lord considers those things to be unclean, the realm of death. But the self-centered western mindset is a familiar spirit that beckons us, and we easily, eagerly disregard that call to die to our own wants, to serve Him sacrificially by serving each other. And not just service for the sake of fulfilling a duty—it’s the heart attitude He seeks to change, from earthly wisdom to the wisdom of God, the change of motive from selfish ambition to self-control.

Service without that transformation of motive—without dying to our own agenda—profits us nothing.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Romans 8 - a Sense of Belonging

Romans 8 is truly a treasure chest for the believer. He (the Lord) brought me back to it two nights ago. I'm not very good at remembering the references to verses that I love, so when He gives me a verse reference, I usually am surprised and blessed.

This happened to me two nights ago with Romans 8. The assignment that night was Psalm 119, Psalm 34, Romans 8, and John 8. John 8 is a whole other bag of goodies, as are the others. Right now I just want to talk about this one verse in Romans 8 that blessed my socks off. It's one He's given me before, one to hold onto and really embrace, and apparently He felt the need to bring me back to it. But I want to give the verses around it too, to really capture the context:

14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
16 The spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heris with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

Verse 15 was the verse. Do you see the sense of belonging that He wants to give us?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Confession Trumps Sin

I belong to a wonderful women's Bible study at my church. There are probably 75 of us who meet every Tuesday morning, study the book of John, then break up into small groups and discuss how what we studied applies to our lives.

This week's discussion was on John 8:1-37 (or thereabouts).

Have you ever read John 8? Yeah, me too. But read it again with me. It's a powerful passage on many levels, and every time I read it, I get something new out of it.

The setting of John 8 is during the Feast of Tabernacles, an 8-day feast that is so doggone rich with meaning that I'll just sigh and move on because I could blog for days and barely scratch the surface. I'll just say for now that lighting the temple menorah, the seven-branched lampstand, plays a significant role in this feast (although there is MUCH more to the feast than that).

In John 8:12, Jesus said something fascinating: "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life."

Back to that temple menorah. I said before that there are seven branches on the lampstand. There are three lamps on each side, and one in the middle. The ones on the sides point to the middle lamp, the servant lamp. The servant lamp points directly to the Holy of Holies, the place where God's presence resides.

The menorah was known in Jesus' time as "the light of the world."

In John 8:2, it clearly says that Jesus was in the temple. So we know the setting, that the menorah was nearby, maybe even visible from where He was standing. He was letting them (the people and the pharisees) know who He was, and using an illustration with which they were all intimately familiar. That menorah had represented Him for thousands of years, a type and shadow of what He was doing for them right then, leading them straight into the Holy of Holies, the presence of God. After all, He is the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but through Him. (Jn. 14:6)

And, as our women's group discussed, Jesus is the light, illuminating the truth for us. I want to delve a little deeper into something here using what is commonly called the "law of first mention."

Psalm 119:142 says, "Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law (Torah) is truth." The truth is the Torah (Law) of God. The word Torah literally means "God's teaching and instruction." It comes from the root word orah, which means "light." So, when John, in John 1 said that, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." and when Jesus says that He is "the light of the world," they're both saying that He is the Torah incarnate.

1 John 3:4 says, "Everyone who practices sin also transgresses the law; and sin is transgression of the law."

And further in John 8 (vs 31-32), Jesus says "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

So, if He is the light of the world, and if He illuminates truth for us, and truth is the Torah/law, and the transgression of the Torah/law is sin...then, by default, He illuminates our sin for us and sets us free.

He shows us our sin.

And then He sets us free from it.

During our study yesterday, the leader discussed what she called "grace-aligning habits," such as reading our Bible, fellowship, daily confession, etc. And the focus of that was on confession, how powerful confessing our sins can be. We were challenged to find an accountability partner (preferably our husbands, for those of us who are married), someone with whom we can be honest on a regular basis and truly confess our sins. The benefits are eternal.

After all, as long as something is hidden, it holds power over us. But once it is brought to the light, we can be free from it.

And to illustrate that point scripturally, tonight the Lord told me to read Psalm 32:

1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
2 How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!
3 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me;
My own vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
5 I acknowledged my sin to Thee,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, "I will confess my transgression to the Lord";
And Thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin. Selah.
6 Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not reach him.
7 Thou art my hiding place;
Thou dost preserve me from trouble;
Thou dost surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked;
But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you his righteous ones,
And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

Okay, I know that was long, but it was absolutely amazing! The power of sin is so great that when we hide it, our bodies actually waste away. We must confess our sins. If we don't they literally eat away at us, and not just spiritually but physically. It doesn't say our souls waste away. It says our bodies. But look at the power of confessing our sins! When we confess our sins to the Lord, He forgives our guilt! David, the psalmist, urges us to seek the Lord, not to waste any time, but to see him. David has experienced the Lord's forgiveness, and he wants everyone else to experience it too. When we confess our sins, God becomes our hiding place. He preserves us from trouble. He surrounds us with songs of deliverance.

And then God steps in, responds to the confession and repentance, and basically interrupts the psalmist, with a prophetic promise: "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you." Did you catch that? "I will instruct...and teach you." Torah is God's teaching and instruction.

Isn't that beautiful?

I don't know about you, but I want that. I want Him to instruct me, to teach me the way I should go, to reveal His Torah to me, because I know that Jesus is the Torah incarnate. I want Him to counsel me with His eye upon me. I want to continually be in His sight, because if He's looking on me, I know He hasn't forgotten me. He knows right where I am. I'm no longer lost. I'm not in darkness. His word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path...showing me the way that I should go.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day Tuning

The years go by and the piano sits there, unplayed. Then one day you realize that the note you knew was C is now sharp. As you play that recital piece you still remember from the sixth grade, you realize that every note is sharp and dissonant, and playing it is no longer pleasurable.

As I'm writing this entry, my piano is being tuned. Yes, on New Year's Day. Do I have a great piano technician, or what?

Tuning a piano is a long, complicated affair. Lots of terrible, discordant pitches come out before the right note is isolated and locked into place. Then the tech moves on to the next key, and you hear the same cacophonous sounds, until that key's true note is found. Two hours this man has been tuning my piano, making up for my failure to keep its tune maintained over the last few years. Had it been regularly tuned, this would be over in an hour. But as things are, the technician has gone over each key, not once but thrice, in his attempts to get my poor pianoforte back to where it should have been, and he will have to return in a few months for another tuning to achieve concert pitch.

Neglect will do that to a piano.

The same thing happens to our souls. When we fail to stay in tune with our Creator, we eventually become unpleasant to hear. But when we are in harmony with Him, in His Word, walking in His Spirit, the words we speak are like spiritual music, bringing glory to Him.

It's so much better to stay in tune than to neglect our souls and then require a major tuning. And I can think of no better way to start the New Year than getting in tune with God...and then letting Him use us every day so He can keep us that way.

used by permission
Christian Devotions Press
Copyright 2009