Wednesday, March 30, 2016

NTDS (81): Perishable and Imperishable

1 Peter 1:3-4 In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade… NIV

Three times in the first chapter of Peter’s first letter, he speaks of things that are either perishable or imperishable. It would seem that he is trying to make a point of emphasis to his readers.

In the above verse, Peter tells us that we have an inheritance that cannot perish. An inheritance that cannot be spoiled and will not fade. In fact, he says that it is “kept in heaven” for us.

It makes sense that it is not something kept on earth. Just by observation, we can see that earthly things perish. In verse 7, Peter uses gold as an example. Even though gold, especially after it has been refined by the fire, can last a long time, eventually it perishes. It is not eternal.

In verse 18, he includes silver as another example of things that perish. Why does he use these precious metals as an example? I believe it is because we think of them as precious or valuable. But even though we may consider them as very valuable, they do not last forever.

I think most of us would agree, that there is something even more valuable than any precious metal. Life, especially human life is as precious as it gets. But Peter will point out that life too is perishable. In fact, he says in verse 24 that men are like grass, their glory is like the flowers of the field. Both will fade and both will fall.

What is the point of all this? Why is this important? One word, perspective. Peter wants us to have a proper perspective concerning the things of this life, perishable things, as compared to eternal things.

We tend to get caught up in things that seem important, but ultimately have no value in eternity. We get so concerned about what clothes we will wear, what car we will drive, what house we will live in, but those things will only last a short time.

When Peter wrote this letter, Christians, were going through a great time of persecution and suffering yet Peter says that in spite of this, they greatly rejoiced in their eternal inheritance, salvation!

He encouraged them to continue to live holy lives (vv 13-15) and to set their hope fully on the grace given by Jesus Christ. That message is given to us as well. No matter what we are going through, no matter what our current circumstances are, one thing is certain. We, who are in Christ, have an eternal inheritance. Our salvation guarantees us life eternal in the presence of our Lord. It is an inheritance that will never fade; it will never perish!

The question is, are you setting your mind fully on Jesus today? Are you rejoicing in your eternal, imperishable inheritance or are you getting caught up in the day to day trials of this life? Jesus said this, Matt 6:31-34 "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?'  32 "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. NASU

In verse 7 of our chapter, Peter reminds us that the trials we face have a purpose. They test our faith. They refine us in the same way that gold is refined. They reveal to us whether our faith is genuine or not. If we have genuine faith, then we can rejoice in the fact that our trials here are only temporary, they will pass. When we lay hold of that fact and remember that we have an imperishable inheritance to look forward to, then we, will experience the same “inexpressible and glorious joy,” that those early believers did.

God bless you

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

NTDS (80): Power in Prayer?

James 5:16 The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. NASU

Prayer can seem to be a mystery to us. We know that God is sovereign so we wonder why should we even bother praying. We are not going to change His mind are we? He is always going to do what He chooses to do, right? If that is the case, why bother asking? Besides, even when I do ask, I don’t see an answer to my prayer anyway.

If you look at this verse in James, he would beg to differ with that type of thinking. In fact, just before the key verse, James tells his readers to call for the elders to pray for those who are sick. He says to confess our sins to each other and pray for healing. In verse 13 he says that if anyone is suffering, let him pray. Evidently, James believes that not only should we pray, but that our prayers bring results!

 Let’s look closely at verse 16. James says the prayer of a righteous man (or woman) can accomplish much. He prefaces that with the phrase, “effective prayer.” What does that mean? The word here in Greek for effective is energeo. It is defined as “to be active” or “efficient.” It is where we get the word energy or energized. The NIV puts it this way, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

So we need to know, who is considered righteous? Simple, one who has put their trust in Christ. His righteousness has been given to us in an exchange at the cross. He took the penalty of our sin upon Himself and placed His righteousness upon us. When we pray to the Father, He considers us as righteous because of His Son and thus, hears our prayer.

Lastly, James says that these prayers accomplish much. The Greek scholar, AT Robertson says that this could be rendered, "has much force." Think about that. It may not be that our prayer will accomplish exactly what we wanted, but that does not mean it does not have force or power. It just may not have been exactly what God wanted. But sometimes, God, in His foreknowledge, has an event planned out to match the exact timing and nature of our prayer and then we get to watch what He does. We get to participate in accomplishing God’s will. How amazing that is!

James gives us an example of this in verses 17 and 18. He says that Elijah, a man just like us, not more holy or more spiritual, called for a halt to rain and the rain stopped. It stopped for 3 ½ years! Then he prayed for it to rain and it did. His prayer evidently had “much force.”

Jesus taught us that anything we would ask in His name (which means in His will), He would give to us (Jn 14:13,15:16). The key for us in asking for anything in prayer, is to first seek God’s will. We want our hearts to be aligned with His. That means asking Him each day, to lead and guide us in our prayer life by the power of the Holy Spirit. It means that we lay aside our fleshly desires and ask Him to place His desires in us. When that happens, we will see that our prayers are effective, that they will accomplish much because what we are asking for, is what He wants!

The apostle Paul tell us that we ought to pray constantly (1Th 5:17). James tells us earlier in his letter, that we should pray believing that we have what we ask for (1:5-8). Jesus told us over and over again to ask, in faith, for anything in His name. I want to encourage you to continually go the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to guide your heart, helping you to pray for His will to be done in every circumstance. If you do, then your prayers will be the ones that accomplish much and your faith will grow!

God bless you

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

NTDS (79): Faith or Works?

James 2:26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. NASU

Few doctrines in the Christian faith stir up people’s emotions like the debate over what part good works play in a person’s salvation. The question is, why? Jesus certainly never declared that there were any works you could do, that would save you. In fact, He said that whosoever believes in Him, shall have everlasting life (John 3:16). He did not put any other requirements on salvation. In Acts 2:21, Peter quotes the prophet Joel, who says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved, nothing about works contributing to that salvation.

Paul made it abundantly clear that we are saved by grace, through faith and not of works. Consider these statements:

Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Rom 10:9-10 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation

Rom 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

If you read all of Romans, you realize that Paul is explaining the gospel and how we are saved by grace through faith and not of works throughout that entire letter.

So why the debate, why the controversy? Well, it comes because of some statements that James makes in chapter 2 of his epistle. He says this, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him ?” (James 2:14) And then, in James 2:24, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

He then uses two examples from the Old Testament. One is Abraham. He says that when Abraham offered Issac up to God, he was then justified. Then he speaks of Rahab, who hid Joshua’s spies in Jericho and says that she was justified by her actions.

At first glance, this could seem completely contradictory to what the rest of the New Testament teaches. Some people have gone so far as to say that because of these apparent contradictions, James should not have even been included in the Bible! Is this true? Is this really a direct contradiction?

The answer is, not at all! James is not contradicting anything that is taught elsewhere in the New Testament, but rather, he is supplementing our understanding of what true faith is. Think about it, would one act of any individual, really be able to save them from God’s judgment? If that were true, wouldn’t we all be looking to find that one good deed, that would bring us into salvation? That would be ludicrous in light of what the Bible teaches. In fact, if that were true, then Jesus died in vain. There would have been no need for Him to pay the price for our sin.

If you read the entire passage, you begin to understand what James is really trying to teach us. You see in verse 18, he prefaces these examples by saying that faith is demonstrated by works. James is a no nonsense, show me don’t tell me, kind of guy. He makes it clear, that a person who claims that he or she is a believer, will show evidence of that in their behavior. Paul would completely agree with that. Immediately after Paul said that we are saved by grace and not by works, he said this, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph 2:10) So Paul and James are in complete harmony.

In our key verse, James is illustrating that before we came to Christ, our spirit was dead. When we received Jesus into our lives, we were born, not of the flesh, but of the Spirit (see John, chapter 3). The evidence of that new birth will demonstrated by good works. Not, should be but will be!

This is not meant to lay a burden upon us. We have no ability in our flesh to complete those good works. They come out of a heart of love for our Savior and by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. The closer you draw to Jesus, the more you surrender the desires of your flesh and allow yourself to be controlled by His Spirit, the more you will demonstrate the evidence of that faith by good works.

That is the message that James brings to us. Galatians 5 supports that teaching. Those who walk by the Spirit will not fulfill the deeds of the flesh but instead, demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. May you walk in the Spirit of God today and every day!

God bless you,