Friday, January 30, 2015

NTDS (57): Speaking The Truth In Love

Eph 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. NIV

Beginning in Chapter four of Ephesians, Paul lays out many instructions on Christian living. In this verse, he indicates that we are to “speak the truth in love.” I am positive that there have been many sermons on this topic, but I wonder if we really get it.

I think, to have a fuller understanding of this verse, we need to dissect it carefully. It starts with the word instead. Instead of what? Going back to verse fourteen, we see that Paul says instead of being tossed about by false teaching and the craftiness of men.

If you follow what Paul is saying, you realize that there are those who do just the opposite of speaking the truth in love. Think about what that means. It means that they speak “untruth,” they speak “without love” or both. Let’s examine this.

The phrase “speaking the truth” here, not only has the idea of what is being said must be accurate, but that nothing is concealed. You might think of it as “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Often times, hiding part of the truth is just as misleading as being completely dishonest. If I am filing my income taxes and it asks for all income to be listed, is it enough to just list that amount that has been reported or do I need to list unreported as well? Full disclosure would be a good way of thinking of Paul’s instruction here.

What does it mean to speak truth without love? It is when something true is spoken, but the motivation is to just hurt another person or to get satisfaction for one’s self. It often comes from a heat of pride. It is not meant to help the other person. Some people take pride in “always being brutally honest,” however it is only intended to make themselves feel better.

In context of this passage, Paul is speaking about unity in the church (v3). He first encourages those who are gifted and called into leadership, to prepare the rest of the body to fulfill their own call to “good works (v 11-12).” When this happens, unity occurs in the body (v13). This means that the call to speak the truth in love goes out first to the leaders of the church, especially teaching pastors.

If that is occurring, then the body will not fall to the lies and scheming of deceitful men (v14). So then all of the members in the body can speak the truth in love, one to another. We can all lovingly encourage each other with the truth of the scriptures. We can help restore one who has fallen (Gal 6:1). We can exhort each other to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24). We can “correct, rebuke and encourage one another with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Ti 4:2).

What is the result of this? Look at the second half of our key verse. …”, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
In other words, we mature in our relationship with Jesus. Can you now see the importance of speaking the truth in love? It may not always be an easy thing to do, but the end results are worth it.

There are two more important points we need to know. You cannot speak the truth if you don’t know it and you cannot speak in love (agape- selfless, unconditional), if you don’t have it! That’s why we need to sit under teachers who teach the absolute truth contained in God’s word and then, be like the Bereans, studying the Word ourselves to confirm it. Then we must be submitted to the work that the Holy Spirit does in our hearts, changing them from a heart of stone (Eze 11:19) to a heart filled with the love, grace, mercy and compassion of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

If you are not in that place, it’s time to get there! If you are a believer in Christ, God wants you to fulfill your part in His body. Learn the truth and surrender your heart completely to Him, so that you can help the entire body of Christ reach full maturity!

God bless you


Thursday, January 29, 2015

NTDS (56): Heavenly Places

Eph 2:6-7 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. NIV

Three questions should come to mind when we read these verses. What does it mean to be “raised up?” How are we seated in the “heavenly realms?” When and how will He show the “riches of His grace?” The answer to these questions, help us to understand the remarkable position we hold as believers in Christ and how closely we are identified with Him.

It is important to understand, that right now, these expressions of our identification with Jesus, are to be understood in a spiritual sense. In other words, what happened to Jesus, physically, happens to us spiritually.

First, God raised Jesus from the physical death to physical life. He resurrects us from spiritual death, to a new spiritual life in Christ. Eph 2:1-2 "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air," … Eph 2:4-5
 "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions"… 

We were spiritually dead. We need to let that sink in. Without Christ, we had no hope of being “alive to God.” That is why Jesus told Nicodemus that He needed to be “born again,” We all need to be raised by Christ, in order that our spirits may be alive.

Second, if we look around, it’s easy to see that we are not physically seated in the heavenly places (or realms, the word was added for understanding. It is not there in the original language). So we must understand this as spiritual for the time being. Why is it even important? When Jesus was resurrected, after a period of time, He ascended to His Father in heaven and was seated at the right hand, Luke 22:69 “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." (Also see Mk 16:9, Acts 7:55-56, Ro 8:34, Eph 1:20, Col 3:1, Heb1: 3, 12:2)

The right hand of a throne, in ancient times, was the seat of power and exaltation. This is why James, John and their mother came to Jesus asking if one could sit at His right and one at His left when He came into His kingdom. So think for a moment if you will, that in the spiritual sense, we are already in that place! It is a place of honor and authority. It is a place that denotes a close relationship. This is the place we occupy spiritually.

That should put us in awe of the love, grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior. Even though, as Ro 5:10 says, we were enemies of God, He chose to reconcile us to himself and place us in this position.

Third, when and how will He show the riches of His grace? The language here, ”coming ages,” denotes a future time. The verse says that it will be expressed in His ‘kindness” towards us. This means that all creation, in the future will see how kind God was in redeeming us. 

Dr J Vernon McGee puts it this way, “Angels will go by and say, ‘see that fellow McGee. He was lost and not worth saving, but he is here in heaven today.’ ” Insert your name in his place and you get the picture. Verse 10 of Ephesians 2 says that we are God’s workmanship (poiema- creation, work, action). This work will be on display so that God’s mercy, grace and kindness will be evident.

What an amazing amount of truth is contained in these two verses. How blessed we are, to know how much the God who created all things, cares about us. God’s grace, mercy and love, know no bounds. He deserves our honor, praise and obedience. Let’s join with King David today and declare, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Ps 8:1)

God bless you

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

NTDS (55): Hope, Riches and Power

Eph 1:18-19 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. NIV

Hope, riches and power. Sounds like a mini-series, doesn’t it. Well, in a way it is. The apostle Paul, when he says, “eyes of your heart be enlightened,” simply means, “I want you to really see and understand!” What is it that Paul is deeming so important to understand?

There are three truths in these two verses, that He wants the Ephesians and us to take hold of. Understanding and accepting these three realities will bring an enormous depth to your relationship with Christ.

One: the hope of His calling: The word hope here is not used the way we usually think of hope but it means to anticipate or expect. What it really means, is that we await a promise, knowing that it will come to pass. What is this hope? It is the promise of eternal life with Jesus (Ro 1:6). It is the knowledge that we have victory over death (1 Co 15:55-56). As you contemplate that knowledge, it should relieve you from all fear in life. When you know the end of the story, you need not be afraid of what happens in the middle of it.

Two: the riches of His inheritance: Six times in Ephesians Paul will use the term “riches.” What are these riches? Just as a son or daughter might inherit money or property from a parent, we receive an inheritance from God (Ro 8:17). In this case however, Paul is saying that we are the inheritance! We are God’s glorious inheritance. Have you ever thought of yourself that way before? When you can grasp this, it should forever relieve you from thinking you have no worth. You are so valuable to God, that He calls you a glorious inheritance. What does it matter what man may think of you, when you know how God looks at you?

Three: His great power for us: How great is this power? Look at verses 19-21. “That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

His power, which is available to us so that we may live our lives for His glory, is greater than any other existing power. It is the ultimate power, beyond any comparison. Look at the verses again. You must understand that this is the power He gives to us! I know that many of you might be thinking that you do not ever see this power working in your lives, so you are not sure this is true. This is God’s word and God cannot lie. If you are not seeing this power in your life, you must go to Him and ask Him to show you why.

Let’s be clear on this. The power is available, but it according to God’s will and purpose. That is what Jesus meant when he used the term, “in my name.” (Jn 14:13,14, 26, and more) We know that it is God’s will for us to live our lives in obedience to Him, so when we ask for His power to do that, it will be granted. It’s possible that the reason we do not see it as often as we should, is because we do not ask or we ask with wrong motives (Ja 4:2-3). We should continually be asking the Lord for His power to live the life He has called us to live, and trust that He will provide that power!

Like Paul, I pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will have the eyes of your heart enlightened to these truths, that you will receive them with joy, and that they will transform your lives. I pray that they will help you to walk closer with our Lord Jesus Christ than ever before!

God bless you

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

NTDS (54): Waiting Eagerly

Gal 5:5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.  NIV

Patience is a word we do not like very much. In the fast paced society we live in today, patience might mean you are willing to wait three minutes for your fast food order, rather than get upset when it isn’t there in two. Or, it might mean that you waited more than sixty seconds to get the reply to your text message before you texted back asking, “what’s the matter, don’t you like me anymore?”

That seems to be the concept most of us have when it comes to patience. We have a very difficult time waiting for anything. The Bible is full of encouragement to learn patience. In Galatians 5, the apostle Paul is teaching that there is something we are eager to have, but that we must wait for it.

What is it that we eagerly await? Righteousness. Wait, this doesn’t make sense. Isn’t righteousness something that we should all desire to have as soon as possible? Don’t we want to do “right” in the eyes of the Lord all the time? Why would we want to wait for something that is so good for us to posses?

Those are all good questions, bringing up valid points. We should desire righteousness. We should want to do “right” things. It is certainly not wrong to aspire to be righteous before God. In fact, the desire to be righteous was uppermost in the mind of the Galatians, but Paul had to remind them over and over that their righteousness could not come from outward acts. It had to come by faith and by way of the Spirit working in them.

One of the most difficult things we deal with as Christians, is the battle we face in trying to be “righteous.” Paul says in Gal 5:17 “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

We see what the law of God requires, we desire to do it, but it seems the more we try the more we fail. Until we finally come to the realization that we will never, in our own power, be able to fulfill the law, we are doomed to a life of slavery to it.

So, Paul gives us the remedy to this dilemma. Gal 5:16, 18 “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature… if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.”

Our road to living a righteous life begins and ends with faith, not works. Faith for salvation and faith in Christ to fulfill His work in us, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Even with that, we will not attain full righteousness until that time when we come face to face with our Savior. That is the “hope “ Paul is speaking about in our key verse. The Galatians, who had begun “in the Spirit,” were now trying to be justified by works of the law. They had been led to believe that they could now attain righteousness by the keeping of the law. Have you fallen into that same trap?

Paul says instead to “keep in step” with the Spirit (v25). Doing that comes by faith. In verses 19 -23, he contrasts the difference in behavior of a person who is led by the Spirit and one who is not. The more you allow yourself to be led by the Spirit, the more you will see love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control working in you life.

It takes time to see that work of the Spirit done in one’s life. It happens as you approach each day as another opportunity to give control of your life to the Holy Spirit. We must also understand, that even though God sees us a righteous because of our relationship to Jesus, we will not always “act” righteously. We do not always do the right thing because we do not always allow ourselves to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Be patient. Wait eagerly for the time that we will always do the right thing. Our sanctification will be complete. We will sin no more! But for now, live in the glorious freedom that you have in Christ, walking by faith and trusting the Spirit with the reins of your life!

God bless you


Monday, January 26, 2015

NTDS (53): Don’t Be Fooled

Gal 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? NIV

Ouch! One of the last things I think most of us would like to be called is foolish. Isn’t Paul being kind of harsh here? And what does he mean, “bewitched?” What is going on here?

First answer is no, Paul is not being harsh, he is being blunt and honest because so much is at stake, not for just the Galatians, but for all of us as well. Why? Because the teaching that was bewitching (Strong’s says to “fascinate by false implication”) these people was a heresy that has eternal ramifications and the Galatians were falling for it. So much so, that it seemed as though they were under a spell.

What was this doctrine that so “fascinated” them? A group of men (Judaizers), had been teaching that “grace alone, through faith alone,” which Paul taught, was not enough for salvation. They taught that you must also keep the “Law,” in order to be saved. Paul is incredulous that those who had placed their faith in Jesus for salvation, would now be tricked into thinking that they still could earn that salvation by following the law.

He states in Gal 3:10-11, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."  Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith."And then in verse 13 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,”

This doctrine is so important that Paul will spend the next three chapters (3-5) explaining it. To help understand the consequences of buying into this false doctrine, Paul asks them three questions. I would suggest that we ask ourselves these same questions.

One: Gal 3:2 “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?”

Two: Gal 3: “after beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”

Three: Gal 3:5 “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

The answers to these questions become obvious. We receive the Spirit by faith in Christ. Once we have begun in the Spirit, the flesh cannot now sanctify us. The power of the Holy Spirit works in our lives through faith in Christ, not because of our ability to follow the law.

Why is this important to us? Well, have you ever thought, that even though you believe that Christ died to give you salvation, you still must earn your way to heaven by good works? Have you tried to earn God’s grace by keeping the law? Have you even heard teaching that might lead you to think this way? There are even those today, who after receiving Christ as Savior and Lord, have been led by false teachers into believing that they must then follow the laws of Moses to be truly right with God.

It is a trap that we are all susceptible to. Our flesh desires to exalt itself rather than God and we have an enemy just waiting to exploit that. Now, as Paul clarifies, this does not mean that the law is not good or holy, just the opposite. He explains it this way, Gal 3:23-25 “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”

I encourage you to not be fooled by anyone who wants to lead you back into bondage. Don’t be a prisoner to the law, but live in the freedom of the Spirit. When you walk in the power of the Spirit, freely given to you by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, you will automatically be fulfilling the law. Gal 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

God bless you