Sunday, August 19, 2012

Galatians 5:25

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit”

Have you recently disappointed yourself?  Did you lose your temper and get angry with someone?  Perhaps you failed to take advantage of an opportunity to present the Gospel to an unbeliever? Maybe you neglected to take the time to encourage a fellow believer?  Honest reflection on such failed opportunities surely led you to recognize your weakness and vulnerability to worldly thinking.  How could you fall so short of God’s expectations when you desire so deeply to serve and honor Him? Paul explained his struggle with this very thing: “For what I am doing, I do not understand.  For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do (Rom. 7:15)”.   Such failures are not rooted in a lack of will; they are the result of your own inadequacy.  Paul’s point in Galatians 5:25 is to emphasize that in the same manner in which our salvation was dependent not on ourselves but God, so too is our daily Christian walk. The fruit bearing Christian walks not by means of the flesh but in dependence on God the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16). 

Consider Peter who was surely sincere when he proudly proclaimed to Jesus on the eve of His death that he would never deny him and then proceeded to deny him three times as Jesus predicted.  Peter had a strong will to serve his Master and proclaim His name to the world; however, when the time came Peter was too weak to even admit that he knew Jesus because he was afraid of what could happen to him. This same Peter responded to a confused crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost by raising his voice for all to be heard and proudly proclaiming the truth of what happened that day. He affirmed that Jesus had risen and was seated at the right hand of God the Father.  What had changed?  How did the same man who could not even admit that he knew Christ to two servant girls and a small crowd give such a powerful message to thousands of people from all over the world in Jerusalem?  The answer is found in Acts 1:8 when Jesus commanded the disciples to do what Peter had done and explained by what means they would do it: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth".  Peter’s past failures were the result of his fleshly weakness whereas the success which he achieved on the day of Pentecost when the first three thousand believers were added to the church was the result of his reliance on God the Holy Spirit. Our success in our Christian walk, like Peter’s depends on whether or not we rely on ourselves or God!

We rely on God when we prayerfully go about our day submitting our thoughts to the Word of God as it is written on our hearts.  When opportunities arise we must be oriented to God’s priorities rather than our own.  In those moments when we feel like succumbing to the weaknesses of the flesh we must turn to prayer and ask God to give us the strength to submit to His will rather than our own.  We are to humbly go about our day, recognizing the inadequacy of our own power and ability and our complete dependence on God.  Only when we completely submit our thinking to the Will and Word of God will we be able to successfully draw nearer to Him.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

James 1:2-3

James 1:2-3- “Consider it all joy, my brethren when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Are you struggling?  Perhaps you are dealing with financial difficulties? Maybe you are having a health problem?  Has someone close to you gone astray?  We are all facing adversity in one area or another.  Scripture clearly teaches that the Christian who endures will surely have done so through adversity.  The basis for our rejoicing during times of suffering is not by deceiving ourselves into thinking that our adversity is not real nor are we to employ the worldly mechanic of overcoming adversity through positive thinking.  The joyful Christian recognizes not just the command to rejoice but the rationale behind the command which is that such testing produces growth in our faith.  God puts trials and testing in our life in order to mold and shape us into willing servants. In the same manner in which the athlete suffers through training that he be prepared for competition, so too must we suffer in order to be prepared for the work which God places before us. If our objective is to draw nearer to God, then our desire to become who God wants us to be will overwhelm the struggle of our temporal circumstances. Like the victorious athlete who recognizes that the glory of victory is worth the pain and suffering of training, the believer is to be oriented to future glory not temporal suffering.  Paul clarifies the believer’s destination in Romans 8:18- “for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us”.

Consider the incredible truth revealed to us by the writer of Hebrews concerning our Lord, Jesus Christ.  “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10).  The word translated “perfect” does not mean sinless perfection but maturity or completeness for Christ did not have to grow into sinless perfection, he was sinless from birth.  Jesus had to endure adversity in His life in order to be prepared for the work that God the Father had placed before Him.  The believer should be comforted during trials in knowing that just as the pioneer of our Christian walk had to endure suffering in order to be made complete, so too must we suffer that we be one with Him: “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren…” ( Heb. 2:11).  Imagine if you had the opportunity to stand side by side with Christ and suffer with Him!  If given the choice between temporal comfort or suffering with Christ, surely you would choose to suffer with Him given what you know about Him.  Then consider- that is exactly the opportunity that you are presented every time you face adversity as Paul explains: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Rom. 8:17).  The believer has the opportunity to share in both the suffering and the glory of Jesus Christ.

Orient your thinking to the eternal realities of your relationship with Jesus Christ.  Recognize that if Christ had to endure adversity in order to be made complete, how much more do we need adversity in our lives?  Consider that God is molding and shaping you to be Christ like and as a result you will share in the glory which is to come.  Weigh this against the temporal discomfort of your struggle and ask yourself whether or not it is worth it.  Considering this reality, how could we do anything but rejoice!  Rejoicing in our suffering will enable us to draw nearer to God.