Posted in 2Corinthians, Hebrews, John

Honoring the Son 

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:22-24

Honor means to give esteem, respect, and to place a high value on someone. Do you honor the Son? Does your life bring honor to His Name? To truly honor Jesus we must honor His position as our Judge, honor His word as the final authority in our lives, and honor His work as the only way to eternal life.

All judgment has been given to the Son. This means that at the end of our lives only One opinion of our thoughts, words, and deeds will matter, and that is the Son’s. Paul defines living in view of Christ’s judgment of our lives as the fear of the Lord: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord…” (2Corinthians 5:10-11) We honor Him by acknowledging His right to judge us.

In our text Jesus talks about the importance of hearing and believing His word. In fact, in John 12:48 He says that He won’t personally judge us but will only judge us by the word He has spoken. He has made His sayings known to the human race through the Bible. We cannot honor the Son without honoring His word.

The One who sent Jesus, the Father, sent Him to die on the cross so that those who believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) In fact, the reason the Father gave the Son the right to judge the human race was that He became a Son of man. (John 5:27) He is the only One worthy to open the scroll which brings the final day of the Lord because He was the Lamb who was slain. (Revelation 5:9) We honor His work on the cross when we put our trust in Christ for our salvation and trust Him for every need we have in this life. Because of His work, Hebrews 4:16 says we can come with confidence to a throne of grace whenever we have something we need help with. We aren’t bothering God when we ask, we’re actually honoring Christ’s work.

Posted in 1Corinthians, 2Corinthians, Psalms

Beholding the Glory of God

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2Corinthians 3:17-18

Whatever we behold we eventually become. If you behold, or “keep before your eyes,” your worries, you will become anxious. If you keep anger before your eyes, you will become bitter. If you keep pornography before your eyes, you will become lustful. But if you and I keep the glory of the Lord before us, we will be transformed from one level of glory to the next. It sounds easy but there are a few problems.

“As in a mirror” is a problem. The mirrors back then were made of brass and the image they gave was very dim. Paul says earlier in Corinthians, “we see in a mirror dimly.” (1Corinthians 13:12) Even though we have nothing between us and God (unveiled faces), in this current time we live more by faith than sight. Yet even now a glimpse of His glory will transform us. Are we willing to behold Him even if it isn’t always powerful or instantly rewarding? Are we willing to spend time in His Word and prayer seeking to behold Him even when it seems like He’s hiding Himself? Will we prioritize church over a thousand other things we could do on the weekend even though it’s kind of boring to us? The more we behold Him, the more others will be able to behold Him through us.

The other problem is the abundance of other things to look at. Hollywood and the internet are filled with images that you can easily behold without doing any work at all; excitement and entertainment at the click of a button. We were made to behold and our hearts will always behold something. Even as a Christian, the only way you and I will behold the Lord is if we make it our priority. The man after God’s own heart said, “One thing have I desired and that I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4) It isn’t enough to desire, we must act on that desire by actively seeking or something else will easily creep in.

Am I saying that it’s wrong to enjoy a movie, a game, or other legitimate pleasures? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that when we make beholding the Lord our first priority, everything else takes its proper place and won’t become an idol.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Acts, Matthew, Revelation

The Open Floodgates

“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2Corinthians 3:17-18

A few years ago I was part of a region-wide worship night and we were singing, “Let it Rain.” As the congregation sang: “Open the floodgates of heaven,” the worship leader kept singing, “The floodgates of heaven are open.” She had the words wrong.

Then it hit me. She was the one who had the words right. Sometimes the songs we sing are a reflection of the theology we are currently believing and not how it really is. I am familiar with the: “Open the floodgates”, theology; let me explain.

God wants to pour out His Spirit, in this view of things, but He can’t. If the church was repentant enough, prayerful enough, worshipful enough, and desperate enough, He then would open the floodgates of heaven and there would be a revival. This is a heavy message and produces Christians who strive harder and harder only to fail again and again. I know, I’ve been that Christian.

Now let’s look at what is true. “Let it rain, let it rain; the floodgates of heaven are open, let it rain.” We still must value and ask for the rain of God’s presence because He wants to be wanted and will allow us to do church without Him if we think we don’t need Him. (See Revelation 3:15-20) But we don’t need Him to open the floodgates of heaven, He already has. Jesus’ blood opened heaven for us, the veil has been torn down. (See Matthew 27:51)

God pouring out His Spirit in and through us is not a difficult thing; it’s the normal Christian life. As His favored sons and daughters, we have easy access to all the riches of His table and can easily drink from His river of delights, if we’ll only believe. The floodgates are open, and it’s His express purpose to pour out His Spirit on all flesh that we may speak of the glory of God as those who encounter Him regularly. (Acts 2:17-19)

This describes  the type of Christians we’re increasingly becoming.  Favored children, carrying His very presence, and reflecting His glory wherever we go. What a great adventure to be on!

Posted in 2Corinthians, John

The Need to Drink

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.” John 7:37-39

I want to share two dreams I received in March of 2013. In the first one, I’m in a discussion group where we are talking about the things of God and a man comes up to the group with an empty cup in his hand and is excited. He says to us, “I know what the problem is – we’re like this empty cup. We’re trying to give people a drink but we’re empty so there’s nothing to refresh them. The cup itself has to drink (be poured into) before it can give anyone else a drink.”

Over a week later I had another dream around the same theme. Two women, one middle aged and one older were receiving prayer and I was watching. Suddenly I knew what God wanted to say to them so I put my hand gently on the head of one and said, “This is the word of the Lord. The enemy’s strategy has been to wear you out over a long period of time. The Lord’s strategy is now to refresh you over a long period of time; first, by teaching you how to drink, and then by causing you to become addicted to His presence.”

I then looked up and she was on the floor basking in the presence of God. I looked over at the older lady and she was beginning to fall, so I caught her and eased her to the floor where she too was enjoying God’s tangible presence.

After I woke up I realized that what had happened to those women was just a fresh drink of the Spirit. But the plan was not about one drink; it was about a lifestyle of drinking. Think about this: every other addiction binds and restricts a life, but “where the Spirit of the Lord is (and only there) there is freedom.” (2Corinthians 3:17) May the Father teach us how to drink and then cause us to be addicted to His presence.

Posted in 2Corinthians, John, Psalms, Romans

The Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God

“The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17

Scripture is clear that one day the kingdom of God will come visibly on earth, but for now the way it comes is to human hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. If you and I want to live and grow in the kingdom of God we must look not to what we can produce in ourselves, but to what God wants to do in us through His Spirit.

The kingdom of God is righteousness in the Holy Spirit. It is appropriate that this is listed first as there will be no joy or peace unless there is first righteousness. The way into the kingdom is through righteousness, not our own, but the righteousness God provides for sinful humanity by the cross of Jesus Christ. The main sin that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of is not believing in Jesus as their Savior. (John 16:9) When we come to Christ our sin becomes His, and His righteousness becomes ours. “He made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Corinthians 5:21) Once we are in Christ the Holy Spirit leads us continually away from self righteousness and into the fruits of true righteousness only He can produce. 

The kingdom of God is peace in the Holy Spirit. Jesus said “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)  The world only gives you peace when every circumstance in your life is peaceful and under control. Jesus can give us peace through the Spirit in the midst of outward troubles and strife. It is called “the peace that passes understanding” because people that understand your situation can’t believe you have peace. True peace doesn’t come through being in control, but by trusting the One who is in control!

The kingdom of God is joy in the Holy Spirit. You can do your Christian duty and make your children do theirs on your own, but no one can truly delight in God or in their Christianity apart from the Spirit’s touch. “In Your presence is fullness of joy…” (Psalm 16:11) Happiness depends on what’s happening in your life. Joy is much deeper, and depends on your relationship with God no matter what’s happening outwardly.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Isaiah

Glowing in the Dark

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2Corinthians 3:18

My little brother, Jimmy, and I (8 and 10 at the time) were so excited about the Glo-Balls someone gave us that we immediately scampered into our downstairs closet after freeing them from the package. What a horrible disappointment! These balls didn’t glow – alright, maybe a little – but certainly not what was promised on the box.

Apparently our disappointment was obvious because we were quickly informed that we had missed a step in the process. First, you have to hold balls near a light source because the balls weren’t lights themselves; they only had the capacity to absorb light. We kind of resented an additional step, but I remember holding that ball close to a light bulb willing it to absorb. The second time in the closet was thrilling! Now the balls were brilliant and really did appear like lights in the darkness.

We are not the source of light, but we can absorb light and then carry Him every day into this dark world. Isaiah 60:1-3 describes this beautifully: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”

Every time we look up and behold God’s presence we glow a little more. Just like those balls we eventually fade if we don’t continue to expose ourselves to His presence. But when we do behold Him, even if dimly as in a mirror (their mirrors were made of brass), we go from glory to glory, and many will be drawn to the Lord and His ways through us. Being His witness is simply glowing in the dark.

Posted in 2Corinthians, John, Matthew, Psalms, Romans

Satisfaction in God

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

Jesus knew what it was to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and the deep satisfaction that came when He did the next right thing the Father was calling Him to do. When He was at a well talking to a woman, the disciples offered Him food, but Jesus told them He had food they didn’t know about. When they asked about this, He replied, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” (John 4:34) When He was tempted in the desert, He told Satan that man lives on “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) The will of God and the word of God are how Jesus walked in righteousness and it’s how we experience the sustenance and life God gives today.

When natural hunger and thirst is satisfied by a delightful meal and beverage, it doesn’t mean that you’ll never be hungry and thirsty again. So it is with the will of God, the more you do it, the more satisfaction you have in it, and the more hungry and thirsty you are to have more of that which satisfies in the future.

But to do righteousness, you first have to be righteous. When we believe the gospel, God makes us right with Himself in Christ. He calls it the gift of righteousness. (See 2Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:17) From this place of right standing with God, we can now hunger and thirst to do righteousness.

The good Shepherd promises to guide us “in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3) He will always lead us to do the right thing (righteousness simply means doing what’s right) no matter what the circumstance. Even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death or find ourselves in the very presence of our enemies, we never have to fear; all we have to do is choose to do what is right. If we will be led by righteousness, God promises that “goodness and mercy” will follow us all of our days. Jesus said something similar, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

We aren’t driven by fear that we won’t have the things we need; we are confident that we only need to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and God’s abundant provision will follow us. Yet our satisfaction transcends our bills being paid, and our mouths being fed; we get to experience the joy of knowing God and doing His will.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Isaiah, Romans

The Righteousness of God

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:16-17

The good news (gospel) is that a righteousness from God is available to us today because of what Christ did on the cross. This righteousness cannot be earned but only embraced through faith; it is God’s gift to those who will receive it. God is so holy that even our seemingly righteous acts appear like filthy rags to Him, (Isaiah 64:6) so He sent His Son to do for us, what we could not do for ourselves. “God made Him who had not sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Corinthians 5:21)

God’s Spirit made this passage in Romans come alive to a young, miserable monk named Martin Luther while studying in Wittenburg, Germany in 1513-1515. Here are his words about the experience:

“I sought day and night to make out the meaning of Paul; and at last I came to apprehend it thus: Through the gospel is revealed the righteousness which availeth with God – a righteousness by which God, in His mercy and compassion, justifieth us; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ Straightway I felt as if I were born anew. It was as if I had found the door of Paradise thrown wide open. Now I saw the Scriptures altogether in a new light – I ran through their whole contents as far as my memory would serve, and compared them, and found that this righteousness was really that by which God makes us righteous, because everything else in Scripture agreed thereunto so well. The expression, ‘the righteousness of God,’ which I so much hated before, now became dear and precious – my darling and comforting word.”

No religious effort or philosophical ideal can produce what God Himself has done for us in Christ. In Him we are righteous! Embrace it, speak it, and walk it out because this simple truth has the power to save everyone who believes.

Posted in 2Corinthians

Are You “All In?”

“He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” 2Corinthians 5:15

Our culture is fascinated right now with a game called, “Texas Hold ‘em.” There are tournaments in bars all over the world and ESPN regularly shows the big events entitled, “The World Series of Poker.” Why the craze, and why now? In a regular poker game there is a set limit on the betting, so there’s a ceiling on how much a person can lose in a single hand. But in Hold ‘em there’s no limit. Anyone can go “all in” at any time, so a player either has to match their bet or get out. If you lose after you’ve gone “all in” you’re out of the game. It’s all or nothing.

I believe there is something deep inside this generation that wants to go “all in.” They don’t want to do their “duty,” or give some minimal commitment to something that is socially acceptable, or that their mom and dad believe in. If it is real to them, they are ready to give everything. If it’s not, they don’t want any part of it.

God views the gospel this way. Jesus has died for you and me; He’s gone “all in.” The response can’t be a little religion to ease our guilt.  We must go “all in” as well or we won’t make much spiritual progress. God is patient so He gives us plenty of time to decide, but He won’t lower His wager because we think it’s too high. He gave everything for us and He expects everything from us.

If God gave us some dramatic way to show that we were going “all in,” I think many of us would be willing to do it. But the way we prove our devotion is by seeking to please Him in the midst of our everyday, ordinary lives instead of just living to please ourselves. It’s about our attitudes and decisions each and every day. Will we serve, or seek to control? Will we forgive, or hold a grudge? 

We can’t say we’re going “all in” on Sunday and take the wager back on Monday morning. He wants us to walk with Him 24/7. Because of our sin nature no one will ever do this perfectly, but God’s not looking at that. He’s looking at the attitude of our hearts: Are we holding back from Him, or are we really seeking to please Him every day?

Posted in 1John, 2Corinthians, Revelation

Overcoming the Accuser

“The accuser of the brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” Revelation 12:10b-11

The enemy of mankind tempts people to justify their sins and independence before they come to Christ, but when they become believers, he switches his strategy to persistent accusation. Notice in the text that he doesn’t accuse all people, but only those who call themselves believers. All believers succumb to accusation once in awhile, but it is possible to live overcome by so much accusation that there is no joy or sense of victory in our faith. God doesn’t want us to live under accusation so He tells us specifically how we overcome it.

First, by the blood of the Lamb. The power of Satan’s accusations is the truth in them. We have sinned and failed in the past. He can bring back something we did twenty years ago, or a bad attitude we’ve had recently, or a failure last week and make it seem like any victory is beyond us. It may be true that we’ve sinned in the specific way he is accusing us of, but that’s not the whole truth. The whole truth is that God loves me anyway which is why Jesus came and died for my sins, and now, His blood washes me completely clean when I confess my sins to Him. (1John 1:9) Remember the song: “Oh happy day, oh happy day, when Jesus washed, He washed my sins away.” That’s the other side of truth and must be what we agree with to find victory. Trying to defend yourself and your actions will only lead to deeper condemnation. The power to overcome is not in our righteousness, but in His. When we really believe in His cleansing, every day can be a happy day!

Second, by the word of their testimony. We must never lose the power of how our story intersects with God’s. His story is the gospel, sending Jesus to die for our sins. Our story is how we were drawn to Christ and became saved. Our testimony is a reminder of the new identity we have in Christ. The enemy will try to tie your identity to your old life in sin, but whenever we recite our testimony (to ourselves or others), we are reminded that our identity isn’t in our sin, but in His new life in us. 2Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”