Monthly Archives: March 2019

The Firsts: Hebrews 1 – Inheritance

NLT Hebrews 1:1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

“Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets.  And now in these final days…he has spoken to us through his Son.”  This is it folks, the absolute truth that has lasted through such a long history that it’s beyond our calculation of time.  Christ is “the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised.” [Hebrews 9:15]  

God has promised you a changed life for today and an inheritance for all eternity.  We have this inheritance because “in these final days, he [God] has spoken to us through his Son” not because of all the do’s, dont’s, could’s and should’s we cling to.  “When he [Christ] “cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven” to celebrate your inheritance with you…got it?

The Firsts: Philemon 1 – Grace and Freedom

NASB Philemon 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.9 yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you—since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—10 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment,
16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Philemon is clearly the wronged party in this story of slavery and freedom.  The slave Onesimus has effectively stolen his “property” simply by running away from him.  Onesimus ran away hoping to find freedom in the crowded city of Rome. God had a different plan to teach him about a different kind of freedom from a man “now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”  The Apostle Paul writes of “my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment.” Onesimus found his freedom in the faith of Christ from a man in chains.

God led Onesimus to Paul in that crowded city.  It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for him to return to the master he’d run away from.  It was receiving grace and freedom that made it possible for Philemon to accept Paul’s word that Onesimus has become part of the fellowship of faith and “more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.  

What began as a story of slavery and freedom God turned into a blessing of grace and freedom for both Philemon and Onesimus.  

The Firsts: Titus 1 – Practice Purity

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,…15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.  In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. [NIV]

The life in which Jesus has chosen to live again for the world to see is ours!      “The hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” is critical to our life today because “to the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.”  The conscious need of those who love Jesus to practice purity in their daily life is the hope of a transformed world view!

We live in a world where we are bombarded on almost every front by impurity and yet the Apostle calls us “to be pure.”  Life in Christ as William Barclay says, is “the offer of God’s power for our frustration, of God’s serenity for our dispeace, of God’s truth for our guessing, of God’s goodness for our moral failure, of God’s joy for our sorrow…we can do nothing except receive.”  

“Now at his appointed season he [God] has brought to light” the reality of our need for purity. Mark 7:15 says “It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.[NLT]”  Isolation isn’t the answer to fighting the impurity of the world around us; choosing to live in Christ and practice purity in it is!  We have Jesus, we have the wisdom of the Scripture, we have the promises of God, and most practical of all we have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us practice purity.  Practice makes perfect.

The Firsts: II Timothy 1 – Fly!

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,… 3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day…. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Long before I recognized Jesus as “Savior” I believed he was the Son of God.  Those two things are very different but even in those early days I knew enough to ask: “how can you overcome that life teaches you to build a protective shell around yourself?”  That reminded me of this short video.  It’s a visual picture of what’s at the heart of evangelism; the desire to nurture the vulnerability of new life with “the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.“ It’s also a lesson about what the heart of an evangelist looks like; prepared, persistent and present.

Do you remember when you were freed from your protective shell you were stuck in?  Do you remember how helpless and exposed you felt? Was there an “evangelist” who maybe looked like a neighbor or friend who was prepared to nourish you with their “prayers night and day…by the will of God…according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus?”  Maybe today, you’ll have the chance to be an evangelist for someone longing to break out of their shell. This is your reminder: “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard…” Fly!

The Firsts: I Timothy 1 – Victory

MSG 8-11 It’s true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that the law code isn’t primarily for people who live responsibly, but for the irresponsible, who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, lif, sex, truth, whatever! They are contemptuous of this great Message I’ve been put in charge of by this great God.

This is probably the toughest “first” chapter so far for me.  I struggle with the use of the law.  I want to understand the law as a standard for correction that results in the victory of restoration not a cattle-prod of control but when push comes to shove that’s pretty hard to live out. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “hate the sin but love the sinner.”  That’s the ideal.  That’s easy to believe but that’s also where all the confusion about the use of the law comes into play.   

I found this quote in a commentary: “The demands of the law exceed our ability, and the knowledge of our sin that comes from these demands leads us to repentance.”  That quote revealed some truth to me about my use of the law.  My limited ability to understand the use of the law is as big an issue for me as it is for that sinner.  The reality is the sin the law reveals in someone else has an impact on me.  My response to the law and that sinner makes their sin my issue.  God has planned for the law to correct the sinner, but wait…there’s more.  The revelation of their sin that’s meant to lead their sinful heart to repentance and the use of “that moral guidance and counsel needed” that  “exceeds” my ability…is meant to change my heart too.  The law is not “us versus them.”  Repentance for the inability of my heart to empathize with the needs of another heart is the victory God desires from His law.  Lord, work that victory out in me too please.

The Firsts: II Thessalonians 1 – Simple Addition

TLB 
11 And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you the kind of children he wants to have—will make you as good as you wish you could be!—rewarding your faith with his power.

MSG
11 …we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.

NIV 
11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.

God + Prayer = You
– as good as you wish you could be 
– fit for what he’s called you to be 
– made worthy of his calling
– with faith rewarded with his power
– with good ideas and acts of faith filled with his own energy
– with every desire for goodness and deeds prompted by faith brought to fruition