Monday, April 27, 2009

Is there Fruit in your Church?

Does your church have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control pouring from its leaders and most of its people, on your campus and into the streets where its people are? If not, something is terribly wrong!

Christianity is not just the proclamation of the Gospel; it is also the example of the Gospel!

This begs for a question: why do so many Christians see their faith as “on hold” until when it may be needed, and/or are doing nothing or just what they can get away with?

Is the Fruit of the Spirit in you and in your Church?

How many of us have ever ventured into a church that was filled with unkindness, where we were ignored or even mistreated and where the church seemed more like a thorn bush than a fruitful vine…a church filled with a bad atmosphere from the bad spiritual breaths of its people making smog instead of the sweet fragrance of God’s presence and love? As a pastor, I have a tough battle to make sure my flock behaves so that Christ would be pleased. And of course, I need to set the tone. I can try my best to set an example so I am not a thorn bush, and I can teach; but I cannot make them behave! I can model, teach, disciple, urge, and pray. But, real, authentic Christian love comes solely from a real, authentic Christian formation. This is caused from the Fruit of the Spirit growing in each of us. If someone is not growing in the Lord, he/she is not willing or able to treat others with love and respect, nor is he/she able to model and do and be as Christ exemplified and taught. Care, compassion, and a real affection for others will be moot, love will be stifled, and kindness absent; and no matter how good the campus, teaching, or mission are, all that will be noticed is an annoying noise. The church will be an irritating and frustrating club of stubborn prideful people, devoid of harmony and brotherly love—devoid of Christ! Do we really want that? If not, what are you willing to do about it?

The essential way to grow a church is to be faithful with our Fruit! No one wants to come to a club where the people are angry, bitter, immoral, impure, corrupt, into idolatry and witchcraft, and full of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness…and so forth! These are the key words Paul talked about in Romans, chapter one. It is the same with a local church; who wants strife when care and friendship are called for and needed? People will come to a place where there is love and joy, where they are treated with kindness, cared for, allowed to work on themselves while being shown patience and the composure of Christ from the leaders. We need to know that we display Christ by our attitudes and actions. If we do not do this right from what Jesus modeled and taught, we will get our churches all skewed upside down and wrong. We will be the church of the thorn-bush, a fruit-stand devoid of fruit, a place of dysfunction instead of a church of Jesus Christ and His transforming power!

Remember: Christ did not give up on us when things went from bad to worse with our sin. His grace, forgiveness, and perseverance came to us anyway!

Questions to ponder:

We are called to stretch and grow beyond what we think we can do! Remember, our Lord offers His encouragement for all those who are in Him to grow in Him!

What does it take for you to have a greater desire and ability to grow, practice, and apply your faith?

What does it mean to you to make every conceivable effort to put into practice your faith and fruit? How is this necessary for your life?

What have you received from Christ that drives your life? What is in the way? What are you going to do about it?

Remember, Christ is our Empowerment and our Example!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

The Word becomes Flesh! P2

Read John 1:6-18

This passage continues the prologue, introducing to us the God-Man, who is eternally existing and who now comes as fully God and becomes fully man. He becomes flesh and dwells among us. God is now one of us, God among people, personally conveying His Love, personally giving us His grace! In John's Gospel there is a lot of word repetition; this was a Jewish literary device to bring emphasis on the importance of what was being said. What is more important than God saving us?

The Word became flesh!

This is referring to the incarnation of Christ. Here meaning Christ who is fully God—the ultimate reason, the same substance and essence of God, the Creator—came into His creation as both an eternal being and a created being, a man—fully God and fully man. The Spirit and full force of God came together. This is called the “Incarnation.” Christ, who is not a created or made being, came into the world as one of us. This means that Jesus Christ, being fully Divine, was also born into the world as a full-fledged person who would live in our place, fulfill the law, and become our substitute for the penalty of sin we incurred. He took that penalty and paid it by His sacrifice on the Cross and His shed blood. This is the heart and purpose and reason of Christianity, of whom and what Christ is, and what He came to do. Without this incarnation, we have nothing of real substance, nothing that can save us; rather we just have a meaningless religion with good ideas (Joel 2:32; Matt. 20:28; 26:36-46; John 1:14-19; 29; 3:13-18; 8:28, 58; 19:35; 21:24; Rom. 5:8; 8:32; 9:5; 10:9-13; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; 8:9; 12:8-9; 13:14; Phil. 2:5-8; Col. 1:15-17; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3-12).

Now through Christ, all have the opportunity to believe. God extends His grace outward and forward to all people. God is not just the God of the Jews; He is the God of the universe—of all things. The Jews were instruments of His choosing to be His witnesses; now John is the witness of Christ who brings the Gospel to all. Jesus is relevant to all people of all times, of all ethnicities, ages, and places. The only restriction is to those who are not His—who refused His offer (John 17:5, 14-15).

Do you know who Jesus is? He is the face of God, the One who eternally lives and reveals to us the Father. He is the one who gives you life and the light of the Word for your salvation! We know God by knowing Christ, who is God. We know Him by knowing His written Word that carries to us His living Word. Are you living your life because of Who He is and what He has done for you? Are you forever devoted to Christ as LORD? Does your character reflect Who Christ is and what He is doing in you? Do you believe in the eternal Christ? Are you living up to what you believe with trust and hope? If not, why not (1 Pet. 4:19)?

Christianity is not earned or presumed; it is not learned or reasoned or built or formed or inherited or purchased. It is something that no price can ever lay hold of—except the price paid on our behalf by Christ! Yet once we have it, we can lean, learn, reason, inherit His character and eternal life, and continually build upon it. For us to have real effectual faith, we have to receive Jesus Christ as our own. Not through our parents or our church or our religion, but ours alone—faith that is real, relevant, and personal. Our faith and knowledge in Christ must be received initially, a move that the Spirit enables us to do.

Questions to ponder:

1. What does it take today to tell people to trust in Christ so they can receive His rich blessings?

2. How do you show God’s unfailing love and faithfulness? How can you do a better job at showing others that Christ is available to them?

3. Christ is the One who holds all things and who holds us. How does this help you in your faith and in daily life?

4. The question inlayed in this passage is what will you do now? How then shall you live? What are you going to do to play your faith forward?

Read more here:

The Word becomes Flesh!

Read John 1:6-18

God sent John the Baptist as a forerunner to Christ, to be a herald and sign that the Messiah had come. This was so that people might see and believe that Jesus Christ would come, He was the Light to the world, and He would come to save the lost. Then, John calls for people to repent, to embrace righteousness, to trust and obey, and to become God’s child, purging the grip of darkness forevermore. John was not the Light; rather, he was a witness of the Light, a testimony of the new covenant of grace from God to us. Even though Christ made the world and all things, darkness corrupted everything. Sin blinded people from the Truth so they needed His light to know God and to live. John’s witness is so that people may now see the Light, the hope and love of God, accept His saving grace so to become the children of God, and be reborn—all of which can come only from God. To prove and make this happen, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, became a man and lived amongst us. He remains pure and His Light shines to show us the Love and plan of God. John passionately points this all out to the people so they may change their ways, telling them someone greater than he (John) is coming so that all we who trust in Him can receive His rich blessings. God’s unfailing love through the faithfulness of Christ is available to us and we can see God by seeing Christ.

Grace and truth! This means the covenant that God has with humanity and His steadfast purpose to keep and fulfill it. “Truth” refers to the reality and relevance of God for us now. It also refers to the Law and God’s patience with and mercy for His people who were not keeping it, bearing it, or respecting it. Now Christ comes to fulfill the Law and bring us God’s grace. This is a key principle of our Christian faith that means we are holy in Christ; He sets us apart for a reason and a purpose. Our life has meaning and value; therefore, Jesus wants that meaning for our lives to be infused by Him so that the purpose becomes to glorify Him, enjoy grace and fellowship in Him, and share it with others. This is also what the Westminster Catechism states, “What is the chief purpose of man? Man’s (all of humanity who proclaims Christ as Lord) chief end (objective) is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” (Gen. 24:27; Ex. 34:6; Psalm 25:10; 26:3; 73:24-28; Prov. 16:6;John 17:21-23; Rom. 1:6-7; 11:36; 1 Cor. 10:11; Eph. 1:5-8; 2:7; 1 Thess. 3:11)

In context, this also means the Lordship, Supremacy, Sovereign Ruler, and the Holiness of God as a reference to Who He is, requiring our utmost and highest respect and our call to give Him praise for His glory. “To God alone be the glory” was a critical and important slogan for the Reformation (that must be held to by any serious believer) that life and all purpose is to give God glory (1 Kings 8:1-11; Matt. 17:1-8; John 17:5)
Grace is free and can never be implemented by human achievement, yet there is a call for us to receive it. He gives us the faith but we have to take it and work it and grow it (Eph. 2:8-10).

Questions to ponder:

1. How should someone who is filled with grace and truth treat other people?

2. What does it mean to you that God is now one of us? How would you communicate to someone that God lived amongst people, personally conveying His Love by personally giving us His grace?

3. How can Christ be more within you as the ultimate purpose and meaning of life and all things we are to do?

4. What does it mean to you to repent and embrace righteousness? How and when did you first start to trust and obey? What does it mean to you that you are God’s child? How does this help you now to escape the grip of sin and darkness?

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Jesus Christ is The Word!

Read John 1:1-5

Jesus Christ is the Word, the eternal, always-existing, One and only true God who created everything and gave us life. He is the life source and reason for the universe Who will defeat darkness. He is not a god, but The God!

What Christ speaks into the universe is done in the universe!

The question becomes is He speaking in you? If so and He is, do you hear His Word? Does His Word move and mold you? Or is darkness your comfort? When one becomes a Christian, he/she is in right relationship; a deep, unbreakable bond is formed with our living Lord, Jesus Christ. We also have His insight and reason to help us know Him through His Holy Spirit and the Bible. The Bible is the platform that contains His Message, Word, and Plan. By this, we are enabled to live unto God, to know and trust Him, to have His spiritual light so darkness does not surround or influence us. We do not have a relationship to the Bible, but the Bible is our guide to our path that is what Psalm 119: 105 states and is also personified in Christ and why we chose this as our ministry name and theme over 30 years ago.

In the Hebrew, the “word” (Heb. dabar) here refers to the Scriptures and Law of God. His “written word,” God’s principles and commands, is our “sustaining source,” our illumination guide that we need to cling to Him and His Word for direction on the path of our lives. Thus, Thy Word in the Old Testament refers to God’s Holy Scriptures that point to Christ who embodies and fulfills it…but we are still called to trust and Obey Him and His written Word. This is so we have His information and insights for righteousness and can avoid the darkness of sin and bad choices so that we do not stumble. This Word is also personal and effectual and refers to the Bible and then to Christ Himself, which is now fulfilled. The point is that if we have life by Him, then we accept Him. We should then love Him, demonstrated in how we follow His precepts.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Do you realize Who Jesus Christ is? If so, has His transcendence transformed you?
  2. How is Jesus your life source and reason? How can He help you be a light in darkness?
  3. How is Christ your Life? How does this affect how you live and the choices you make? How can this determine your longevity and effectiveness?
  4. What is your chief goal in the Christian faith? What does it need to be? How can you better commit your obedience to your faith and practice with joy and passion?
  5. What do you need to do to take your life more seriously? What is the application of your duty from this passage?
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