Tuesday, January 10, 2023

How Faith Fights Sin

This past Sunday at Meadowview we introduced our 2023 theme - "Increase Our Faith". Throughout the year we will be focusing on several general aspects of the Christian life and some specific aspects of the Meadowview life in which we need  greater faith. 

As followers of Jesus we know faith is important - crucial for our salvation. Sunday we read several passages that teach the necessity of faith (belief, trust) in Christ. 

So we know that faith in Christ is necessary for our justification,  but how does faith help us fight sin in our day to day lives? How does faith help us make progress in our sanctification? 

To answer I invite you to consider these verse from Romans 6:5-14:

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

It is our ongoing faith in the gospel that enables and empowers us to use our lives for righteousness rather than unrighteousness. These verses challenge us to develop a faith (by the grace of God) that "knows" and "considers" the truths of our union with Christ to be true; a faith that believes that when Jesus died so did the dominion of sin in my life; a faith that trusts because Jesus rose from the dead I am now fully alive to God in him. 

When sin seems to have the upper-hand in your life, spend some time meditating on Romans 6:5-14 and plead with the Lord to "increase your faith". 

Thursday, July 7, 2022

The Richness of Colossians 3 and Life in Christ

Over the past two days my Bible reading plan has had me working through Colossians 3 and I am freshly  overwhelmed with the richness of the text. 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

(5) Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

(12) Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This is the difference that Christ can make in a persons life. This is the difference Christ is making in my life (although my sinful stubbornness slows this process down). The gospel is powerful. We must zealously and boldly invite others to experience the richness of life in Christ.  

Monday, July 4, 2022

The Agony of Discipleship

This morning I was encouraged by Paul's heart for the Colossians and Laodiceans.  

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for those who have not met me face to face. My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ... (Colossians 2:1-2)

First, Paul describes his "struggle" for them. The word here means "to agonize". He thinks about them; He prays for them; He works for their good. 

Next, Paul lays out his goals. He struggles in prayer and service to these ends. 

  1. He desires to see their hearts knit together in love. This is a great picture of what a church is supposed to be. 
  2. He desires for them to be encouraged. They are facing challenges and trials and need encouraged. 
  3. He desires that they would know and live out of the fullness Jesus Christ. This is the glorious fulfillment of the gospel. 

As I consider this list I am challenged to be a better Pastor; a more faithful discipler of others. This is Paul's heart. These are Paul's goals. How does Paul's heart challenge you? 

Friday, July 1, 2022

A Necessary Distraction from Today's To-do List

I am a prideful person. So often I begin my days like a race horse bursting from the shoot. Full of energy. Full of goals. Ready to start checking things off my to do list. And today was no exception. 

You see today I have a significant to do list: lessons to write, t-shirts to pick-up, a baptistry to fill, people to contact, a sermon to review, etc. So why I am posting a blog for the first time in a few years? Well, first on my to-do list is my daily bible reading. I am usually pretty good at quickly navigating through my bible reading, checking those boxes and moving on. By the way my reading is four separate boxes so eliminating four items off my list is a great way to start my day! Are you seeing the "prideful person" problem yet? But this morning as I was racing along Psalm 123 slowed me way down. It slowed me down enough that I clicked on my "dusty" blogger link and I started typing. Here is Psalm 123:
(1) I look up toward you, the one enthroned in heaven. (2) Look, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female servant look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes will look to the LORD, our God, until he shows us favor. (3) Show us favor, O LORD, show us favor! For we have had our fill of humiliation, and then some. (4) We have had our fill of the taunts of the self-assured, of the contempt of the proud. (NET)
As I read through the Psalm verse 3 grabbed my attention. The Psalmist pleads for "favor." Tired of humiliation. Tired of the taunts of the arrogant, the Psalmist is asking Yahweh to intervene, so he pleads for the favor (grace and mercy) of the LORD. Immediately my mind raced forward to one of the last things on today's to-do list: Our churches participation in the Have-a-Blast community event tonight. I prayed a silent prayer, "Father, show us favor." 

From there my mind jumped forward to Sunday. What this Psalmist pleads for is exactly what our men plead for every Sunday morning at 8am. We gather to ask for the favor of the LORD to be on our 10am worship gathering. I prayed another silent prayer, "Father, show us favor." 

Then as I glanced over at my open to-do list - still no checked boxes - I was reminded that I need the favor of the LORD for ALL of these tasks. As I looked back at the Psalm again the opening declaration made more sense: "I look up." The Psalmist owns his position - he is low; he is on the earth; he is weak BUT the LORD is high; the LORD is in the heavens; the LORD is enthroned in power.

He then offers a pair of helpful metaphors. Like a servant looks to his master; like a female servant looks to her mistress that is how the Psalmist looks to Yahweh. Cutting through the distance of culture, time, and geography how does a servant look to his master? IN COMPLETE DEPENDANCE - "Our eyes will look the LORD, our God until he shows us favor." 

As I pondered this I was reminded of a powerful quote by Charles Bridges from his commentary on Proverbs: “Pride lifts up the heart against God and contends for the supremacy with Him.  How unseemly moreover is this sin?  A creature so utterly dependent and so fearfully guilty, yet proud in heart.”  

Psalm 123 was the truth I needed today. Psalm 123 is the truth I need everyday. Psalm 123 stands up to my arrogant pride. Psalm 123 slows me down and helps me gain perspective in regards to my weakness and my Father's strength. Psalm 123 is a ready-made prayer that I hope becomes a regular part of my daily and even hourly routine. 

What about you? What is on your to-do list today? The Psalmist invites you to join the prayer: "Father, show us favor." 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Psalm 16 - He is Our Refuge

Psalm 14 is famous for its opening line, "The food says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" From there the Psalmist goes on to describe the troublesome outcome of living as if there were no God - no authority, no good. 

They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt, there is none who does good, not even one. 4 Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD?

In verses 5-6 the Psalmist introduces the collision that comes when the wicked who profess there is no God interact with the righteous who know and love God: "There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. you would shame the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge."

There are two points of encouragement for the Christian (the righteous) that I would like to point out from these verses. 

First, even though we live in a world filled with those who do not fear God, God is with the righteous. When the Psalmist declares that God is "with" the righteous he means that God is "for" the righteous or you could say God is on the side of the righteous. 

Second, when the wicked rise against the righteous, attempting to "shame the plans of the poor" verse 6 teaches us that the LORD is our refuge. That is, Yahweh protects the righteous from the attacks of the wicked.; Yahweh protects the righteous from the attacks of the enemy. HE is OUR REFUGE. 

These are beautiful and comforting promises to consider today. He is for us. He will defend us. This brings us to the final verse where the Psalmist hopefully longs for Salvation to come. With this coming Salvation the LORD will restore the fortunes of his people. Jacob will rejoice and Israel will be glad. 

The hopeful longing of the Psalmist was fulfilled with the coming of Jesus. In Jesus fortunes are restored, we can rejoice and be glad. 

Yet here we - the righteous (who are righteous only in and because of Jesus) - like the Psalmist are waiting for the completion of our Salvation. We wait among people who do not know our God; people who reject his authority and sometimes, somedays this can be hard. We get discouraged. We feel beat down. We may even want to give up. But in those moments we must remember he (our God) is for you and he (Yahweh) will defend you. 

In this we rejoice and are glad.