Wednesday, February 4, 2015

NTDS (60): A Good Work

Phil 1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  NIV

This often quoted passage, is one of the most encouraging pieces of scripture I can think of. The Apostle Paul begins a personal letter to the church at Philippi, which had been established shortly after Paul visited the city on his second missionary journey. It is evident by verses 12-14 that he was a prisoner at the time he wrote the letter.

What you see in verse 5 is that the Philippians had partnered with Paul in ministry. How had they done that? One way was by sending Ephaphroditus to minister personally to him. Another way was by sending Paul financial gifts, to make his imprisonment a little more comfortable (Ph 4:14-19). They had done this on at least two other occasions.

This is a result of the good work that Jesus had begun in the Philippians. As you read through all of chapter one, you can see that the practical application of God’s spiritual work in the believers at Philippi, had stimulated great affection from Paul. Note in verses 3 and 4 how Paul prays for this group of committed believers in Christ.

When God begins a good work in your heart, it should also be demonstrated through practical application. In verse 9, Paul says that he prays that their love would abound more and more. That means that it must have already been abounding! When Christ comes into our hearts, the first change that we should see is that our love for Jesus is demonstrated in love for other believers (Jn 13:35).

This kind of love (agapee- love without conditions or expectation of anything in return) is a love that only Christ can give. It is visible proof of one’s relationship with God. This love must be the motivation for any good works. Without it, Paul says our actions gain nothing (1Cor 13:1-3).

Here is the best news of all. Look back at verse 6. Who was it that began this good work in these people? It is God. When did it begin? It began on the day that they received Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the day of their salvation. How long will it continue? It will continue until the “day of of Christ Jesus.” That means until He returns for His church or until your personal day of meeting Him face to face comes.

Remember, it is He who begins the work in you and He is the one who “carries it on to completion.” That means that no matter what is going on in your life, He is working. When you feel discouraged, beaten up by the world, He is working. When you are excited about life, He is working. When you can’t understand what is going on around you, He is working. He is always working to complete the work of love that He began in you and He will finish the job! Don’t ever let anyone, including the enemy of your soul, the father of lies, convince you otherwise. Be confident (convinced by argument), just as the Apostle Paul was, that this is the good work that God will do in your life (Ph 2:13). Give Him thanks and praise for His glorious works!

God Bless You

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

NTDS (59): Take Your Stand

Eph 6:10-11 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. NIV

This verse is probably familiar to most of you. Many great teachers have instructed believers on the “full armor of God,” breaking down each individual piece of that armor. That knowledge can be a great help to us, but only if we understand what that armor is actually for.

Look closely at the second half of the verse. This armor, is to help us take a stand against Satan and his “schemes.” The Greek word for schemes is methodeias. It is the origin of our English word, methods. It has the idea of of trickery or deception. So we see that the armor, which is mostly defensive in nature, is to help us stand against the deception and trickery of Satan.

Eph 6:12 explains this further, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

This doctrine is critical to our understanding proper use of our spiritual armor. I have heard these verses used to speak about our own struggle against the “lust of our flesh, or the desires of our sinful nature.” When people hear this, they take it to mean using the spiritual armor in fighting against such desires. This is incorrect and leads to a life of failure against the flesh. It is the wrong battle.

Look at Col 3:5-6 "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which idolatry." Also, Rom 6:11 “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” So you see, we are not to try and fight sin, we are to consider ourselves dead to sin. We win this battle by being, “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Ro 6:11).

The other mistake we make, is to think that any of our battles are really with people. They are not. These instructions come immediately after Paul’s teaching on relationships with people in the church. The battle, which requires spiritual armor, is a spiritual battle, fought with spiritual weapons, against the spiritual realm. It is not against any flesh and bIood. The verse could not be any more explicit about this.

It is we, “soldiers in the service of God,” versus Satan and his fallen angels. The verse indicates that these angels are formed into a demonic army that has a chain of command. It is organized and has a purpose. Satan wants destroy God’s work of reconciliation with man. He will try anything to negate the victory over death, that was accomplished by Jesus’ death on the cross. Paul is telling us here that we have a responsibility to “stand against” this satanic plan.

2 Cor 10:3-5 puts it this way, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Considering all of this, we should ask ourselves some questions. How much time are we spending fighting flesh and blood instead of recognizing the spiritual nature of our situation? How often do I feud and fight with people, not recognizing that I am falling into a trap set by the enemy?

We need to ask ourselves as a church, when we come across those who would oppose the gospel, do we see the problem as something wrong with them or do we understand the spiritual forces that are controlling them? Do we use carnal means to stand against them or do we use our spiritual weapons? Do we try to “destroy” them or do we use our weapons to “demolish a stronghold,” that might keeping them from coming to the truth of the gospel?

Let’s follow Paul’s instructions to stand against the “schemes of the devil,” with all the spiritual armor that God has given us. The belt of truth, not slander, gossip or false witness. The breastplate of righteousness, not revenge or anger. Preparation in the gospel, not the wisdom of man. The shield of faith, trusting in God’s power to do the work. The helmet of salvation, understanding that no matter what man does to us, our standing with the Lord is secure. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Bible itself, guiding us into all truth. Finally, Paul says to pray at all times, in tune with the Holy Spirit. He will lead and guide your actions, to be consistent with God’s purpose and plan, in every battle you face!

God bless you

Monday, February 2, 2015

NTDS (58): Darkness to Light

Eph 5:8-10 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. NIV

Did you read this carefully? Paul does not say that you were once in darkness (although elsewhere this term is used, Jn 12:46, Ro 2:19, 1 Th 5:4), but in this case, you and I were darkness. What that means is, that our very nature was darkness. We were once ruled by the darkness of our sin nature. This term, expressing what we once were, is accurate. The good news is, that now we not only walk in the light (1 Jn 1:7), but we are the light. Jesus said in Matt 5:14, "You are the light of the world.” (Emphasis mine)

The significance of this fact cannot be overstated. It means that we need to live out what we are. Anything other than that, is in essence, hypocritical. Look at how Paul describes that life. It is filled with goodness, righteousness and truth. He further states,  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Eph 5:11) He then tells us to “find out” what pleases the Lord. That is part of our living as light.

It is interesting that today, so many people seem to think it is hard to figure out how to live as light and how to please the Lord. It is not hard at all. It is all given to us in God’s word, the Bible. In fact, in chapters 4,5 and 6 of Ephesians, Paul enumerates dozens of things we should demonstrate and dozens of things we should not demonstrate in our lives. Will you please take the time to read those three chapters and find out what pleases the Lord?

It couldn’t be more clear, so why the confusion? Could it be that we do not always want the responsibility that comes with “living as light?” It is not always easy to live according to our “new nature,” because our old one does not want to let go. Yet, Paul says in chapter 4, verses 20-24,“You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Emphasis mine)

If Paul instructs us on what a life, of one who is light, should look like and what it shouldn’t look like, then it must be possible for one to live that way. It is not possible to be perfect, but the desire of our heart should be to live more and more closely in the new nature of light that we possess.

Is this the desire of your heart? Do you want to live a life completely pleasing to the Lord? As you read through the three chapters in Ephesians, to find out what pleases Him, take the time to ask God where you might be falling short. Ask him to help, by the power of the Holy Spirit living inside you, to make the necessary changes so that your light will shine.

Thank him in advance for what He will do and watch with joy as you see the changes He will accomplish in you. Jesus said that when we ask, according to His will, He would grant us what we ask for (Jn 14:14,16:24)). We know that it is in His will to live as light in this world, so we know we can count on Him answering this prayer!

God bless you