Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Pondering Romans 8:5-8

Book-of-Romans“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on  the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on  the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set  the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is  hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law;  indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. “(ESV)

We have choices to make everyday:

We can choose death or we can choose Life.

We can choose hostility towards God or we can choose peace with God

We can choose to disobey God or we can choose to please Him.

The war that is fought for our hearts  is won or lost in the war room of our mind. The flesh vs. the Spirit. Everyday we make choices as to which of these combatants we are going to arm for war. If we choose to arm our flesh then our flesh will be victorious. If we choose to arm the Spirit then the Spirit will be victorious. If we desire to live according to the Spirit then we MUST think on the things of the Spirit. Purposefully, willfully, ardently – set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

Thinking! It is a lost art. We do not take much time to think. We more often than not let others do our thinking for us. Thinking takes time. It takes solitude. It takes intentionality. Question – when is the last time you took an hour to be quiet and reflect on your life or meditate on what Scripture says or  consider what God is doing around you?

And its not just that we must take the time to think but we must also think about the right things. As Philippians 3 says, things that are noble and true and pure and lovely and admirable. This is why I love pondering passages of Scripture – because it forces me to think with intentionality about the right kind of stuff. And blogging is just my way of thinking out loud.

So as long as we are talking about thinking, take a few minutes and think about these quotes about thinking.

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.” ― Henry Ford

“He who thinks little errs much…” ― Leonardo da Vinci

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” ― Albert Einstein

“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.” ― Thomas A. Edison

Thinking time is not wasted time. It may very well be the most important time of your week. With that in mind here is another great passage to think on…

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 8:9-17
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-16

Pondering Extras on Romans 8:1-4

“For the law of  the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:2

Back in the nineteenth century our sixteenth president realized something radical must be done about slavery in our country. Unwilling to look the other way any longer, on September 22, 1862, he presented what came to be known as the Emancipation Proclamation, an official document condemning human slavery. Abraham Lincoln, realizing that slavery is completely against human dignity, officially abolished it from the United States on that day. Tragically, little changed in the daily life of our nation, even though the slaves were officially declared free. You know why; you’ve read the stories. The Civil War was still going on. The plantation owners never informed their slaves. The vast majority of the former slaves couldn’t read, so they had no idea what the news was carrying. There was no mass media then to announce those kinds of presidential pronouncements. And so for the longest time, slavery continued even though it had been officially brought to an end. The war ended in April 1865. Do you know when Lincoln’s declaration was officially enacted? When the people finally began to leave their enslaved lives and make their way toward freedom? December 18, 1865—more than three years after he first released his proclamation. Lincoln had been dead for months. The word traveled out of the streets of Washington and down into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, across the back roads of the Carolinas and into Georgia, then Alabama, then Mississippi, then Louisiana, then Texas, then Arkansas, announcing what had been true for more than a thousand days. Even then the word somehow either wasn’t believed or wasn’t acted upon. Those officially emancipated people, thinking slavery was the way they were condemned to exist, continued to live in bondage though they had been declared free men and women since the fall of 1862.

Now if you think that seems shocking, let me tell you something equally as shocking: believers in Jesus Christ still live enslaved to the domination of a power that no longer has power over them. What has freed us is the great Emancipator, Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross set us free from the law of sin and the fear of death. Like an Emancipation Proclamation, it was made known to the world at large: Satan is defeated! Sin is overwhelmed! Death no longer has its sting! (Charles Swindoll from Embraced By The Spirit)

 

Pondering Romans 8:1-4

Book-of-RomansMany people consider Romans to be the jewel of the New Testament. If this is true then Romans 8 is the crown jewel. It is jam packed with theology, doctrine, and practical application. For the next 5-6 weeks this is where we will be pondering. If you have been memorizing and meditating on this chapter along with me this year then you may have a lot to add to the conversation. Please feel free to add your comments to mine. Let’s dig in to this great chapter by looking at verses 1-4.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.2 For the law of  the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (ESV)

(Several years ago when I first started pondering, I blogged about this passage. I am going to repeat those thoughts here because as I re-read them they echoed what jumps off the page at me now)

There are 3 words that scream out at me from this passage. I’m sure there are other words that scream at you from this incredible text. But my 3 words are “set you free” in verse 2. Here’s what that means for me…

I’ve been set free from an enslavement to sin – It’s not that I don’t sin it’s that I don’t have to sin. The power of sin has been broken and I am free not to sin.

I’ve been set free from a fear of death – Because my dad died so young I used to fear death. Now I can stare it down because I know that the best is yet to come.

I’ve been set free from life without purpose – I’m not just aimlessly drifting through life trying to make it from start to finish. My life has purpose as I follow God’s directives and choose to live according to His ways.

I’ve been set free from joyless living – Because of what Christ has accomplished for me on the cross I can live each day with “the joy of the Lord as my strength.” Even in difficulty and desperation there is still joy because He walks with me.

I’ve been set free from meaningless relationships – When you are free in Christ relationships take on a whole new meaning. Instead of trying to take what you can you try to give what you can. Instead of using others, you love others and seek to help them discover how to experience freedom and joy in Christ.

I’ve been set free from oppressive worry – I have never really been a worrier. But I know people who are worriers and it can be very oppressive. Better I think to to be a warrior than a worrier. In Christ we have an arsenal at our disposal to combat worry so that we can experience the peace that freedom in Christ brings.

With freedom as our birthright we can do battle against the enemies that want to destroy our faith and demolish the foundation that we have in Christ. As Braveheart cried out upon his execution, let “FREEDOM” be the clarion call that drives you this week to live out the gospel in real life.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 8:5-8
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-15

Pondering Extras for Romans 7:7-25

PonderingExtrasD. L. Moody once said…

“When I was converted, I made this mistake: I thought the battle was already mine, the victory already won, the crown already in my grasp. I thought the old things had passed away, that all things had become new, and that my old corrupt nature, the old life, was gone. But I found out, after serving Christ for a few months, that conversion was only like enlisting in the army–that there was a battle on hand.”

In Our Daily Bread we read about how we can’t but He can – A young boy was at the barbershop for a haircut. The room was filled with cigar smoke. The lad pinched his nose and exclaimed, “Who’s been smoking in here!”

The barber sheepishly confessed, “I have.”

The boy responded, “Don’t you know it’s not good for you?”

“I know,” the barber replied. “I’ve tried to quit a thousand times but I just can’t.”

The boy commented, “I understand. I’ve tried to stop sucking my thumb, but I can’t quit either!”

Those two remind me of the way believers sometimes feel about their struggle with sins of the flesh. Paul summed it up well by crying out,

“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

His spiritual battle might have left him in despair if he had not found the solution. Following his agonizing question, he declared with triumph,

“I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Ro 7:25)

Are you struggling to break some stubborn habit? Like Paul, you can be an overcomer. If you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior, victory is possible through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Confidently affirm with Paul,

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Php 4:13)

Pondering Romans 7:7-25

Click HERE to read the passage.

This passage tells me a lot about myself. It also tells me a lot about the Apostle Paul that I can really appreciate.

Paul was not a “holier-than-thou” Christian – He was a saint. A sinner saved by grace – just like you and I.  Not a super-saint. Not a holy man. Just a man who wanted to know Christ and serve him whole-heartedly. He didn’t ever try to come across as “I’m a better Christian than you.” He wanted to live a holy life but he failed again and again. Just like you and I do.

Paul struggled with sin just like I struggle with sin – And he was man enough to admit it. He was being real. But it was a real struggle. A struggle he faced every day. The life that he wanted to live he found he was not capable of living. He just wasn’t strong enough by himself to overcome the sin that was living inside him. This passage is an indication of the fight he faced but also an indication of a cry for help (v.24)

Paul took his fight with sin seriously – He recognized that he was in a war and he was willing to fight. He was willing to engage the enemy. He was not going to be content with letting sin get the best of him. Too many believers tuck their spiritual tails between their legs and give in without putting up a fight. Paul loved his Savior too much to let that happen. He was willing to “own” his sinful nature. He never used the excuse “The devil made me do it.” And he didn’t let his sinful nature keep him from becoming a Spirit filled, Spirit fueled man. But it was a fight every step of the way.

Paul knew his only hope was Jesus – Verse 25 is the refrain of Paul’s life – and it should be of ours as well – “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul knew what you and I need to learn and re-affirm every day. That it is only through Jesus that we can fight sin. It is only through Jesus that we can come into the presence of God. It is only through Jesus that we can pursue a life of holiness. It is only through Jesus that we can too can be Spirit filled and Spirit fueled. It is only through Jesus that we can experience the joy of the Lord. He is our only hope!

May you be encouraged to fight the good fight this week as you find your hope in the Lord Jesus .

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 8:1-4
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-15

Pondering Extras on Romans 7:1-6

PonderingExtrasA prayer by John MacArthur on this passage:

“Father, we’re thankful tonight that we’ve been able to look into Your Law, say with the psalmist, “O how I love Your Law.” These are just basic, simple, foundational understandings, but so important for us. And for many of us through the years these are well-known truths, how important they are for those that are new in the faith, or those that have been unclear or untaught. We thank You for the greatness of our salvation and the full deliverance that is provided for us in Christ, deliverance from the law. We thank You at the same time that we’ve been delivered from the threat that it holds over the sinner. We have not been delivered from its goodness, its righteousness, its holiness, its spirituality, its blessings, its potential for…for fruitfulness, but rather we have been placed in a position by Your grace to be free from punishment by the Law and free to fulfill it by Your Spirit. We desire to be obedient and thereby to grow in sanctification to follow the path of Christ, consistently being made more and more like Him who perfectly obeys You. That is our desire. Sanctify us by Your Word and may we be useful to You in bringing honor to Christ, we pray in His name. Amen.”

Pondering Romans 7:1-6

Book-of-RomansOr do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Change is hard for a lot of people. People like things to stay the same. Change means adjustments. Change means learning new things. Think about what it must have been like for the Jews who had been used to serving God by obeying the Law. Now all of a sudden Jesus pops on the scene and says “there is a new sheriff in town” and its it’s not the Law – it’s the Spirit. And you’re going to have to learn how to listen to the Spirit. And you’re going to have to get used to this new way of serving God. The old way is now defunct. The new way of the Spirit is going to mean adjustments but once you learn this new way it will produce incredible fruit. You won’t like it at first because it means change, but you will love it once you get used to it.

As I apply this “principle of change” to my life and to our church I can kind of feel what the Jews must have felt. But I also know that even though change is hard, often times change is good. I don’t ever want to get so stuck-in-the-mud that I am not open to change – especially change that will be bodaciously fruitful.

Are you ready for change? Are you ready to change? I hope so, because change is a’coming.

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 7:7-25
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-14

Pondering Extras for Romans 6:15-23

PonderingExtrasAccording to tradition, this is how an Eskimo hunter kills a wolf. First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. He then adds layer after layer of blood until the blade is completely concealed by the frozen blood.

Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, harder and harder, the wolf licks the blade in the cold Arctic night. His craving for blood becomes so great that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue. Nor does he recognize the instant when his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. His carnivorous appetite continues to crave more until in the morning light, the wolf is found dead in the snow!

Don’t be fooled by the temptations of sin. Like the wolf, we can get away with it for a while. Eventually, however, its true character is revealed. Sin leads to death and destruction. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. (Romans 6:23)

Pondering Romans 6:15-23

Click HERE to read the passage.

We often make decisions by taking a “what’s in it for me” approach. As Paul pleads with us here in Romans 6 to live for Christ, he makes his appeal to our human nature – “…because you are weak in your natural selves.” His argument essentially goes like this:  Even when you think selfishly, the pros greatly outweigh the cons when it comes to living for Christ. No matter how you look at it, it is to your great benefit to give yourself wholeheartedly to Him. (vs 19-23)

So what are some of these benefits?

  • We are no longer enslaved to sin
  • We have been gifted eternal life – which has both a future and present component
  • Our sins are forgiven – we don’t have to live guilt-ridden lives
  • We are loved in a way that is almost incomprehensible
  • Our lives now have significance and purpose
  • We have the assurance of God’s presence
  • We have the promise of peace in the midst of the most daunting of circumstances
  • We are promised divine guidance through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us
  • We have access to the very throne room of God
  • We are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy
  • We can live our lives fueled by hope especially when facing heartache and despair
  • We are given a family made up of likeminded brothers and sisters

The list could go on and on. In fact, I’d love for those of you reading this to add some other benefits that you have experienced as you live for Christ.

When I was in college someone asked me: “If you found out that this Christianity thing was all a bunch of hokum what would you do?” My reply went something like this: “I would still live as if it were true because of all the ways that my life is better as a result of my faith.” Christianity is a good news/good news kind of deal. Not only does it work in real everyday life, but it also just so happens to be TRUE!

Next Week’s Passage: Romans 7:1-6
Memory Verses: Romans 8:1-13

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