Friday, April 21, 2017

NTDS 87: Fellowship with God

1Jn 1:3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

One of the most amazing aspects of the Christian life, is the reality of having fellowship with God. I imagine that since you have become a believer, you have heard this term, “fellowship,” many times. It could be considered synonymous with the phrase, “personal relationship.”

If it is true that we can have fellowship with God, then it would be of the utmost importance to know just what that means and how it comes about. Chapter 1 of 1st John is a great place to find out.

The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. It is used four times in this chapter alone. It comes from the root word koinonos, which means “a sharer”. It is translated 12 times in the New Testament as fellowship, twice as participation and three times as sharing and twice as contribution. The Greek scholar, Thayer describes it this way, "fellowship, association, communion, joint participation, intercourse(socially).”

Looking at the many descriptive English words used for fellowship, helps to give a fuller understanding of what it entails. You can see some common characteristics that describe true fellowship. What are they?

          It involves some type of sharing
    It involves participation
.       It will involve some contribution on your part
     There will be a need for communication

So, by definition, we see that we can share, participate, communicate and contribute to this fellowship with God. And in turn, He does those same things with us!

Notice here that the fellowship spoken of is with the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, but we also have fellowship with the Holy Spirit, (2n Cor 13:14). This shows us that God is triune in nature, one God in three persons and that we have fellowship with all of who God is!

Now, there is a requirement to having this fellowship. In verses 5- 7, we are told that since God is light, we must be walking in His light, in order to partake in this fellowship. That begins with our confession of faith in Christ for salvation, but it does not end there. The word “walk”, literally means to tread all around or figuratively to live. It is a continuous action.

We know that we will not always be walking perfectly in the Light. John says in verse 8, that we will still sin. But the key to getting back into fellowship is found in verse 9. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Isn’t it wonderful that God not only provided the means to fellowship with Him, by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, but He also provides the way to stay in fellowship, by forgiving us and continually cleansing us!

There is another important aspect to this gift of fellowship. Not only do we get to have a beautiful relationship with Him, but we get to have that with each other as well (v.3). In fact, it is the very way God has designed us to live in this world. He has made His church one body of believers (Eph 4:4-6). We are constantly urged in the New Testament to live in peace, unity and harmony with fellow believers and be known as Christians by our love for one another.

This is what true fellowship is all about. It is walking in His light, speaking and listening to Him, sharing and participating with Him. He should be such a part of our lives, that we literally do nothing apart from Him. It naturally follows that we will then be sharing and participating in life with other believers as well. What a beautiful design God has for His church! Let’s determine to walk closely in fellowship with Him and each other. We will be blessed!

God bless you,

Coach

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

NTDS 86: Looking Forward

2 Pet 3:13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

Have you ever looked around at what is happening in the world and wondered, “Is there ever going to be a time when there will be no more bad news to think about? A time where there will be no more evil, no more tears and sorrow, just good things.” The bible gives a resounding and positive answer to that question. The answer is YES! Peter says so in this very verse.

This time will come after the Lord returns. He will destroy the old heavens and earth and He will bring forth a new heaven and new earth. That is promised right here in this chapter of 2nd Peter, as well as other places in Scripture. (Is 65:17,66:22) In fact, in the book of Revelation, chapter 21, we find that the apostle John is privy to seeing this whole event happen before it actually takes place! It comes in a prophetic vision and since over 300 prophecies of the Bible concerning Jesus’ first appearing were literally and precisely fulfilled, I think we can be certain that this prophecy will be as well.

Many times, Christians are castigated for looking forward to this time. We are told that we should be focused on what is happening here and now and not be bothered about what and when this will all take place. It has been said that we become “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.” Well if it was true, that we never did anything but daydream about what was to become, we would hardly be carrying out the “great commission,” to make disciples of all nations. 

Yet, Peter tell us here, that we should be looking forward to that great day. In fact, in verse 12, he says that we should even be hastening it’s coming. How could we do that? Can we make Jesus come sooner than later? Well, I personally believe that God has set the time for this. The Greek word used for hastening means to “urge on.”  Remember when Jesus taught His disciples to pray? He told them to pray this, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Mt 6:10) That is our part in hastening His coming. We urge God in our prayers to bring this to pass.

Look closely at what our key verse teaches us about this time. It says that righteousness dwells. That means that the new heaven and new earth will be the place where righteousness makes its home. It will live there. Can you imagine how wonderful it will be, to know that everything that happens from that time on, will be RIGHT! In contrast, nothing that happens will be wrong. That is why there will be no more sorrow or tears (Rev 21) but only joy!

This knowledge should not make us less cognizant of our purpose here on earth, but more. Verse 14 of this chapter says that since we look for these things, we are to be diligent in our faith, to be spotless and blameless. If we are to be that kind of person, we will be following the Lord’s commands. We will be sharing the good news of the Gospel. We will be completing the good works that He has prepared for us before the foundation of the world (Mt 5:16, Eph 2:10, 1 Ti 6:18)

I encourage every believer to take some time to reflect on these things and to anticipate the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be reminded that this world is not our permanent home. We have a place, secured for us by Jesus Himself, which will be our home for all eternity. Now that is something to look forward to!

God bless you,
Coach

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

NTDS 85: Everything We Need

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. NIV

In  2nd Peter, chapter 1, beginning with verse 5, Peter strongly encourages his readers to add some virtues to their faith. These virtues are characteristics of behavior, that should be seen in the life of any believer in Jesus. He speaks of goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. He even says that if a Christian does not have those qualities, he or she is blind and has forgotten about the forgiveness and cleansing that has taken place in their life.

When you read that statement  does it encourage you or does it make you feel like you could never live up to the demands of this “Christian” life? I know that for many, it would do the latter. It seems impossible to be the kind of person described in those verses. Try as we may, we continually fall short. As much as we would desire to live this way, we just do not have the power within us to do it.

If you fall into that latter category, there is great news for you in our key verse. Verse 3 reveals to us, that we do not have to rely on our own power to acquire these characteristics. Instead, the necessary power is given to us by Jesus our Lord! The verse also informs us, that this power supplies everything we need to live the life we are called to live.This is a staggering revelation and it should free any believer from the bondage of “trying to be a good Christian” by the strength of their own will.

Notice that the power spoken of in verse 3 is described as “divine.” What does that mean and why is it important? The Greek word used here for divine is theios, meaning “godlike.” A non-believer, at the time this was written, would most likely have understood this word as a reference to the kind of supernatural power that the Greek gods possessed. It would speak to them of powers a mortal being would not have. It is certainly not without reason that Peter uses this specific word. Peter is telling the believers that it is Jesus Himself, who gives us a supernatural ability, to do anything that He requires of us. In fact, he says that the power has already been given to us!

If anyone would doubt the veracity of this statement of Peter, all they need do is look at the life of the man who wrote the words. Peter, when relying on his own abilities, failed miserably to represent His master. This is especially evident when he denied Jesus three times during His trial and crucifixion. But follow his life after the Holy Spirit (who delivers that supernatural power to all believers), begins to work in Acts, chapter 2. Peter becomes the leader of the church in Jerusalem, preaching the word, healing the sick, being used by God to do amazing things! Contemplate the fact that Peter spent most of his life as a fisherman, not a biblical scholar or theologian, yet he wrote this chapter as well as many others, full of deep doctrine and theology! It would be impossible for him to do this without the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit working within him.

If this is all true, why then does it seem that we still fail so often to reflect that power in our daily lives? Well, it is not because the power is not there. It’s that we fail to appropriate that which God has already given to us. Jesus, when teaching His disciples how to pray, told them that they should ask daily for the provision of God. “Give us this day, our daily bread,” means more than just physical sustenance. Remember how Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation to turn stones into bread to relieve His hunger (see Mt 4:4)? He said that man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. We need to come daily before the Lord, confessing that we do not have it in our flesh to accomplish anything of spiritual value. We need to ask Him every day for the provision of His divine power to be manifest in us, so that we may accomplish His will and purpose for us.

The list that Peter gives us in this chapter, is almost identical to the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. That informs us, that when we ask for the power of the Spirit to work in us, we can rest in the fact that He will work in us. It is not a matter of us striving, but a matter of us surrendering. Surrendering our will to His work. When we do, we will see this amazing, divine power working in and through us.

Now, there is one requirement for all of this to work. Notice in the key verse it says, “through our knowledge of Him.” In other words, in order to receive this divine power, you must know Jesus Christ in a personal way. The Greek word for knowledge here has the implication of being “fully acquainted” with something or someone. Are you fully acquainted with Jesus? It starts with acknowledging Him as your Savior and Lord, but it is more than that. It means that you spend time with Him, in study of His word and prayer, so that you may know Him more fully. You cannot get to know anyone without spending time with them, right?

The more time you spend with Jesus, the more your desire to obey Him will grow. As that desire grows, the more you will yearn for that divine power and thus, ask for it. 1 John 5:14-15 says, “this is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.” NIV

If you desire to see God’s divine power working in your life, so that you may live the way He has called you to, then spend time with Him daily. Ask for that power to be manifest in your life and you will have everything you need for a life of effectiveness and productivity in your walk with Christ!

God bless you,


Coach

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas: The Glory of The Incarnation

As we come upon another Christmas season, our thoughts naturally go to the story of the birth of Christ. Many of us grew up in an era, when this season was a time of school plays, carols and pageants all centering on a baby in the manger. We learned about Joseph and Mary, the three wise men, shepherds in the fields and angels bringing a message of "Peace and good will toward men." 

There of course is another aspect to this season that puts the emphasis on the secular idea of Christmas. Santa Claus, reindeer, chestnuts roasting on an open fire and cold snowy weather (which of course, in Southern California we idealize, because we don't have to deal with the real thing). C'mon admit it you Christians, you like the secular stuff too, or are you planning on giving back all your presents this year?

We often lament in today's society, that we have lost the true meaning of Christmas due to commercialism and political correctness. I would agree with that premise. It is sad and ridiculous that we even have to engage in discussions about whether it is proper to celebrate Christmas in a public arena, when it is a national holiday. Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas? I don't think so! But, I will leave that discussion for another time.

Instead, I would like us to look at the meaning of the birth of Jesus, from a little different perspective. I want us to see the incarnation from a passage of scripture that is not usually associated with Christmas. It comes from the book of Philippians, chapter 2. Paul is asking the believers to have the same attitude as Christ and in describing that attitude gives us a wonderful insight into the meaning of the incarnation. Let's look at verses 6-11.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)

The first statement is that this baby, born of the Virgin Mary, is in His very nature, God. Some translations render it, "being in the form of God." I don't think that does the Greek word justice. The Greek word used here is morphe. In modern vernacular, it brings to mind the term morph (slang for metamorphosis), which makes us think of one thing turning into another. What is important to realize is, that though the form changed from spirit to flesh, the nature or essence did not. 

The key to understanding this concept is the word used for being. The Greek word, huparchoon, denotes His continuous state or condition. It is unchanging. Why am I getting so technical here? Because it is enormously important to understand that Jesus did not become half god and half man. He was, is and always will be fully God, even in His incarnate state. 

How then could Jesus be fully man as well? Paul explains this in the verses 7 and 8. These verses tell us that Jesus "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant." The NASB translates it this way; He "emptied" himself, which is a more literal translation. This brings up a question. What did He empty Himself of? It cannot be His deity, as we have just shown by the previous verse, so what else could it be? 

Although biblical scholars give some different answers, I think we can agree that Jesus emptied himself of some of His attributes. There is a verse in the book of John which I think is very telling. In the garden of Gethsemane, on the night Jesus was betrayed, He prays to the Father, "O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:5 NKJV) That would indicate that Jesus must have emptied Himself of that glory, most agree that it is the Shekinah glory. It is spoken about many times in the Old Testament. (Ex 16:10, 24:16-17, 40:34 are a few examples) We get another picture of that glory in Mt 17:5 where Jesus is transfigured. This is a glimpse of His pre-incarnate glory, which the world will see when Jesus returns. (Mt 24:30)

We also know that Jesus set aside His own will, in order to show Himself to be a servant, who always did the will of His Heavenly Father (Jn 8:29). In verse 7 it says He took on the nature of a servant (doulos), literally a bondservant or slave. Though we know that this word can mean a voluntary indentured servant or an involuntary slave, it is obvious by the context, that Jesus did this voluntarily. Why? In order to bring you and I into relationship with God. He accomplished that by His death on the cross for our sins.

You may be asking yourself why I chose to get into such deep theology in speaking about the birth of Christ. Well, I think that sometimes we focus so much on the miracle of the virgin birth and the stories associated with this birth, that we lose sight of the most important issue, the reason for His coming. It is not just about the way in which the baby Jesus was conceived. It is about who this baby is. This is the God who created the universe and everything in it. He is the God who created us, came down to live with us (thus the name Emmanuel), showed us how to live the life of a servant and though He was despised and rejected by man, gave up His life for us, because we could not live up to that standard. He did this out of His great love for us (Jn 3:16). How could we possibly not stand in awe of such a One? That is the true miracle of Christmas! 

The question is, what will you do with this Jesus? If you have already received Him as your Lord and Savior, are you conducting your life in a manner worthy of the gospel? (Php 1:27) If not, repent, ask forgiveness and renew your commitment to follow and serve Him. If you have never yet surrendered your life to Him, I pray that you would do it now. Look across this page to the right and you will see a section on How to Become a Christian. Don't put it off. Receive Christ as your Savior and you will experience the true joy of Christmas!

I pray that you have a truly blessed Christmas. 
God bless you and Merry Christmas, Coach