A Body for Christ

Why do you do what you do? Have you ever asked yourself that question in frustration after you did something that you knew you shouldn’t—or that, down deep, you really didn’t want to do?

Well, of course, the first answer to that question is that you are a sinner. Even if you have come to faith in Christ and have been saved you will continue to sin—even against your better intentions. There still is corruption in you.

Paul faced this problem himself. In the seventh chapter of Romans he deals with it. He says that he does the things he doesn’t want to do, and fails to do those things that he wanted to do. Not all of the time, of course, but frequently enough to speak in exasperation about it.

Paul located the problem in his body (which, of course, includes the brain—everything that dies and goes into the ground is body). Not in any Gnostic sense. Rather than think that evil is an essential trait of all things material, which the Gnostics believed was the source of such problems, he held it was the habituation of the body toward sin prior to becoming a believer that he carried over from his former life.

Paul speaks of having once become an obedient slave who yielded the members of his body to sin as a master over him. Then, when he was saved, he was freed from slavery to sin. But he found himself going back to the old ways that had become habituated in him. Now, he says that as he once yielded his bodily members to sin, he was learning to yield them to God for righteous purposes. He wanted his body to become an efficient, well-trained instrument in the Lord’s service.

As he prayerfully yielded his members to righteousness, the Lord enabled him to put off the old ways in order to replace them with the new ones. When he cried out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” he was quick to answer his own question—the Lord Jesus Christ will! He was now yielding to his new Master and asking Him for grace and mercy to develop a well-trained body that would be available for service to his new Master.

When you struggle with this problem, turn again to Romans 7 and 8 and find the solace and assistance necessary to put on God’s new ways. For further help in this matter, see my book, Winning the War Within.

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Wonder What He’s Up To?

Have you ever thought much about the way in which God works to bring about His purposes? Take the story of Joseph—what a chain of events to finally land him in the position by which he could influence all of Egypt and save his people!

Because he was unable to fathom where each event was heading, he might have become discouraged, turned his back on God, or complained bitterly as seeming misfortune after misfortune occurred. But, no. He handled each one with faithful integrity—much like Job did.

There is a lot to be learned from his story. I wish, however, to observe but one thing: today’s seeming tragedy may be only one stop on the route that leads to tomorrow’s glorious outcome.

Since God sometimes brings us to long term outcomes by means of short term stepping stones that lead there, we ought not complain if we get our feet wet in the meantime as we cross the streams that lie between!

Certainly, Joseph’s prison experience wasn’t pleasant, but it was the way God planned for him to make the important contact that moved him forward toward His goal for his life.

How do you not know that an unlikely event like his, may not be the key to some remarkable future blessing?

All I wish to observe is that if you are His, God presents His own with difficulties which, ultimately, are for their good. And, often, for the good of His church as well. Who, but He, knows what he has in store for you? Stop that whining and start winning!

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Your Brother, The Son of Man

From now on the Son of man will be seated on the right hand of God’s power.                                         (Luke 22:69)

When Jesus said this, He was making an incredibly strong statement about the place in the world that He would assume in the very near future as the God-man. When He stated this fact to the elders of the people, assembled as the Sanhedrin, He was officially declaring to them what they fully understood, that He was the One Who was about to fulfill the long-awaited prophecy of Daniel 7. That He was the Messiah.

To Him would be turned over “all authority in heaven and in the earth,” as He later explained to the Twelve when He charged them to disciple all nations. This reception of authority happened when He came with clouds to the Ancient of days to receive power and glory and authority to rule.

This was a stupendous claim—the Son of Man, a human being—raised to the ultimate place of power at the Father’s right hand! If false, He should have been convicted; if true He should have been worshiped. It is true, and means, therefore, that a human being-one of us—is at the right hand of God. Think of that astounding fact!

Jesus began reigning as the God-man upon His ascension and is reigning still. Indeed, He will continue to do so until He puts down all of His enemies-the last of which is death. If you have trusted in Him as Savior (see other blogs in the archives to understand the way of salvation), you have taken your place along with Him as a fellow heir to all the promises of God, one whom He is not ashamed to call His brother (Hebrews 3; 11).

He is the firstfuits of those who will be raised from the dead to eternal life. He is the One in Whom all that we were incapable of doing as sinners was accomplished perfectly so that, being “in Him,” we are counted (reckoned) to be just before the Judge of the universe since His righteousness is reckoned to us.
You have much to rejoice about, Christian. Sure things go wrong here-very much so. But in His time, all will be set straight. And, at that time, you will enter into all of the joys, privileges and love that will be realized when you shall see Him as He is. There is much to look forward to. Remember that fact when things get tough here.

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“I Feel It’s So”

Can you give me even one good reason?

“No, I don’t need reasons—I just feel it’s so.”

That short exchange might take place many times a day between Christians. But it never should.

You may be wondering what the subject is that the two parties are discussing. It doesn’t really matter. I left it out for a good reason—to show the bare outlines of the issue.

The issue being, of course, how we know anything about God to be true or false.

There is no biblical precedent for basing the truth or the falsehood of any belief upon how one feels; yet many do so.

Our faith is one that can be objectively set forth—and has been—in a Book from which God expects us to learn what is/isn’t true.

What Jesus told us that Abraham said to the rich man suffering in hell was that people won’t believe even if someone rose from the dead (which, of course, He did). Experience and feelings won’t cut it! Instead, if a person wants to discover the truth he should turn to the Bible: “they have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them” Jesus said (Luke 16: 29).

It’s the same today-to learn the truth, and benefit from it—one must turn to the Scriptures. Stop listening to feelings; start listening to truth.

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Kudzu

Back in the days when the government first began to think that it had a right to think for the states and that it could solve all of the evils of the country by its paternalistic programs, it made a colossal blooper. In the 1930s, it introduced kudzu into the southeastern states as a conservation measure. What it didn’t know, but should have found out before taking action, is that kudzu is a plant which once rooted cannot be routed. In the fifty years since its introduction, it has all but overtaken the South.

Kudzu was brought to the United States from Japan. How they handle it there, I don’t know; but I can tell you from personal experience that it has gone wild in the United States. Kudzu is a vine with giant leaves and a propensity for crawling (not creeping) and climbing. It grows eagerly without the slightest assistance. The saying down here is that, if you stand still for five minutes, it will twine itself up one leg, around your trunk, and climb out your arm looking for new territory to conquer. You can almost see it grow. It covers everything in sight. It climbs to the top of 100-foot trees; it covers hills and fields; it will cover your house and everything you own if you do not continually cut it back. It is the most visible evidence of entropy that I know of.

You can only defeat kudzu temporarily. You can spray it, and it will recede for a time; but after a year or so it will have returned with new vigor and strength. It will not burn, animals will not eat it (I once staked out a goat in a huge patch of kudzu, and it wouldn’t so much as nibble on it, but it ate everything else in sight). It sends down roots every so often so that you would go crazy just trying to uproot it.

Kudzu will ever be the symbol of so many things to me. It is like sinful habits once rooted; it is a perpetual reminder of the ever returning effects of the mistakes we made in the past; it is like the nations Israel did not drive out of the land, which continually caused them grief. So many applications of the kudzu lesson spring to mind!

What is the kudzu in your life? Unlike the Southerner who vainly struggles with kudzu, Christ can root the most stubborn sin out of your life; He can replace sinful patterns with biblical ones (I have often wondered whether there is another plant with which to replace kudzu). He can take those past failures that come back to bother you and turn those liabilities into assets.

Is there a good use for kudzu? A local newspaper said it is edible, something like spinach. I can’t tell you; I haven’t tried munching on it. But there must be some use for the stuff. Whoever learns to harvest and use it will make a fortune. But one thing is for sure, nothing comes into a Christian’s life, even his mistakes and failures, that, handled by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, cannot be turned to good. He loves to make the wrath of man to praise Him. Others may complain and gripe; you, Christian, have the joyous challenge of demonstrating how the grace of Christ can transform the kudzu of your life into a blessing to the honor of His Name.

The Way

The first name by which the church was known before the word “Christian” became attached to it at Antioch, was the “Way.” You can read about it in Acts 9:2; 18:25; 19: 9, 23; 24: 14, 22 (and possibly 2 Peter 2:2).

“What is the meaning of that title?”

Well, no one is quite sure how it came about. The name just appears in Acts without explanation. As you can see, no point is made about it in the passages above. But many think it came from the words of Jesus When He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14: 3).

“But, if it came from that verse, what about the other two items—truth and life? ”

That’s a good question, but remember, Jesus went on to say, “Nobody comes to the Father except by Me” (6). And these words all occur in a discussion of the “way” to the place that Jesus was preparing for His followers (v.3). So, it’s quite likely that John 14 is the source of the name.

“OK. I can see that. But, then, our faith would be described, fundamentally, as the way to eternal life or something similar.”

Right. And that wouldn’t be inaccurate. Surely the apostles who later on it seems dropped it, didn’t do so because they thought it was inaccurate. Luke, in Acts, freely described the faith by the term. It is a highly expressive title for our faith. Indeed, it might be interesting to revive it at times in certain circles to get people to think more about a prime objective of Christianity.

“Did the church eventually reject it or substitute the name “Christian” for it?”

There’s no record of its being rejected. It seems that the name “Christian,” in time, became the more popular designation, and the earlier designation just faded out.

“Then, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with using it?”

Not so long as you explained what it means. Otherwise, people might think you were describing some cult (there once was one that went by that name).

“Interesting.”

Quite. I kinda’ like the title. Wish it were more widely known, appreciated, and used.

“Me too.”

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Speaking God’s Words

One thing that you ought to know about those petty politicians (and others) who quote the Scriptures out of context, to impress people, or for any sort of personal gain, is what God thinks about it. Here are His Words:

But God says to the wicked: “what right do you have to recite My statutes; and to take My covenant on your lips?”                   Psalm 50:16 (HCSB)

Who is the sort of “wicked “person He has in mind? God goes on to tell us:

You hate instruction and turn your back on My words. When you see a thief, you make friends with him, and you associate with adulterers, you unleash your mouth for evil.

Know anyone like that? I’ll bet you could name quite a few!

But be sure the verse doesn’t also refer to you!

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Left Lanes

If you’ve ever driven in Europe, the first obvious problem is to learn to drive forward on left lanes. It’s so easy to go wrong—and even occasion an accident! How come? Because we Westerners (i.e.., those who drive west of the Atlantic ocean) are used to dong the opposite.

“Used to”—those are interesting words.  I suppose that they come from the idea of doing something regularly enough that it is what you do when you drive in the usual way in the USA.

Now, this “used to-ness” is a capacity that God built into us.  He did so for our benefit—so that every time we do something we would not have to learn the practice all over again. Now that would keep us from getting much accomplished. We’d spend most of the time trying to learn the practice which we would have to learn all over again.

The only problem is that we too often learn to do habitually lots of wrong things instead of righteous ones! It takes conscious effort to learn to do holy actions instead of, and –in addition to—regular practices (just like driving on the right side of the road).

Of  course, that’s the second factor—discovering which is the right side of the road—so far as God is concerned. Only the Bible can settle that matter. Other ideas are (at best) only guesses.

Cracked Cistern?

Let’s think of two ways in which we can fail the Lord. Jeremiah wrote:

My people have committed a double evil:
They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water,
And dug cisterns for themselves,
Cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.
—Jeremiah 2:13 (HCSB)

Sometimes we think only of one side or the other of our actions—what we did do wrong or what we didn’t do right—and fail to recognize both sides of the equation are considered by the Lord.

As a matter of fact, it is difficult to do one without doing the other. Man must have his satisfactions—his cisterns. He cannot abandon the Lord without digging some hole of his own in the ground. Of course, what he does, at length he discovers never “holds water.”

Why opt for that which does not satisfy when you can have an abundance of crystal clear water to drink? Why keep on searching for water where there is none? Your cistern is cracked!

God offers in Christ the refreshing water of life:

You let them drink from Your refreshing stream,
For in You is life’s fountain.
—Psalm 36:8, 9 (HCSB)

Why not drink and be satisfied?

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Perfected Love

Love that has been perfected casts out all fear.

That is to say, all fear except the fear of God!

The fear of God is a fear that involves love. An element in fearing God is the fear that we will displease Him. To have Him look upon us with dismay because of our faithlessness, our succumbing to temptation, our willful stubbornness, is in one sense to fear God.

We also fear His Fatherly discipline and chastisement, as I said in our previous blog. We fear His words of rebuke. We fear His threats to lose our rewards. We fear God because we want to love Him, and we want Him to love us.

So, think of this—all other fears mean a lack of the fear of God. We fear men because we don’t fear God enough—otherwise, we’d follow Him rather than giving in to men. We fear death because we do not have enough of a love and desire to depart and be with Christ. We fear ostracism because we fear losing the approval of others more than we fear losing the favor of God. Turn all of these things around and you can see what the love of God is. And how it casts out all other fears.

So, if we are to fear God, we need to perfect our love for Him and His Son Jesus Christ. Then other fears will not trouble us. Why? Because we will know that we are in the good graces of God Himself—what else could count as much?

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