Need to check out a church, a bible study, or a community group and you’re not sure what they’re teaching is even in the bible? Take this book with you!
In Ephesians 3:17 Paul prays an extraordinary prayer for the saints there. It’s not about what we usually pray for – physical healing, finances, success at work, and the ever demanding burdens of our relationships. Nor is it a prayer for success in ministry.
Listen to what he asks God: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” That’s the secret to every Christian, to have Christ settled down in our hearts, a permanent resident, who delights in our company.
With Christ at home like that he becomes our source of everything we need in this life. No longer do we need to look outside to others for the answers to our needs. Everything we need is as close as our next breath. Not only do we need to know this on a personal level, but on a corporate one, too. Our church body needs to take hold of this truth.
Paul goes on to pray that we may know the love of God in Christ, the immensity of it, and to be filled with all the fullness of God. It’s breathtaking!
This type of praying is fit for a big God. These are large petitions. And because they are there for us in the bible, we have the confidence they are God’s will and therefore he will answer them.
I don’t know about you, but I want to pray prayers that God will delight in and answer.
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How do you know you are born again?
Some people think it’s because they said a prayer. Or they raised a hand in a service. Or they called out to Jesus in the midst of turmoil in their life.
So many people are trusting in the church. Their leaders. The sacraments.
All of these things spell trouble.
How to know you’re born again is simple: you believe in Christ.
You believe in him because you are born again, otherwise he’s the furthest thing from your mind and heart.
Faith that believes that Jesus is the Christ produces love for God and love for others.
But love for others is the difficult part. People are a problem. Let’s face it, some Christians can be boring, depressing, unattractive, wet blankets, repellent, and pains in the neck.
And then throw in the devil, the world and your flesh and the mix will keep you from loving others. Culture becomes more important than Christ. Popular opinion, too. Laziness sets in. And narcissism takes over.
But loving others is sweet when you know God wants you to do it. And he will give you the heart for it.
The truth is we’re all depraved. We share an equality in guilt. And an equality in grace.
The one place where everybody is equal is at the cross. Even the cool people.
If you don’t have a love for other Christians, especially inside the church, then you’re presuming you love God. You can’t love God without including his people.
Ask him to give you his love for the family. You’ll be glad you did.
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I don’t know about you but I’m not very good at the loving your neighbor thing. If I’m honest, I much prefer my own company, my own thoughts and my own projects. Putting others first is like asking a zebra to switch its stripes to polka dots.
But there it is. Jesus said to love one another, and John said it too. In fact, John said something else that’s disturbing. If we don’t love other believers it’s proof we’re not Christians!
And not just believers we like, or share the same doctrine with, or understand life in similar ways. We’re called to love our brothers and sisters in Christ who are totally different from us. Those whose politics we hate. Those who barely read the bible. Those who relate to God in emotional ways.
So why such emphasis on this love thing?
Because it’s like God. God is love. After all, he loved us when we were unlovable. He loved us before our sins were forgiven. He served us in our misery and wretchedness. He gave us Jesus before we knew we needed him.
God is always loving, even when we’re not. Jesus suffered the wrath of God for us. He satisfied the justice of God. Jesus is the ultimate proof of how much God loves us.
We do not love well. But Jesus loved his Father and us, his children perfectly. And that perfect record is ours by faith in Christ. Knowing that, we can go out and love others not so well, knowing Jesus covers all our imperfections.
That’s another gift we don’t deserve, but it’s ours because God loves us.
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Christ died so we could be justified. We have all our sins forgiven. He has made us new creatures in our union with Christ, and now God sees us like we had never sinned or had a sin nature. This change allows us to come home to the Father, where we stay forever. God never kicks us out.
Now, as wonderful as this is, I still had a nagging question: Why couldn’t I trust these truths about me? Why couldn’t I settle into God’s love and stay there? What happens to me when I sin again, which I do all the time? Does God stop loving me? Is he disappointed in me? Does he pull out my picture from his wallet and tear it up?
I asked the Lord these questions recently, and this is what the Holy Spirit brought to mind:
If God held even one of my sins against me, he’d be declaring the blood of his Son to be insufficient to cover and blot out that sin. God can never go back on his Word because then he’d be saying his Son’s sacrifice was not good enough, that there was something lacking that I would have to make up for. And he cannot do that. It cost the Father everything to send Jesus to the cross where all of God’s wrath for sin and sinners was poured out on him. The Father crushed Jesus for me. Everything I deserved from God’s hands was put on Jesus. How then could God hold any sin against me?
Not believing this with my whole heart is the greatest sin. It reeks of unbelief. My flesh wants to participate in self-salvation strategies. It wants to contribute to my salvation. It wants me to despair, fear and struggle. It delights in doubt.
But faith says otherwise. The greatest act of faith is to believe God and the Son he has sent! He is the solution to our estrangement from God. He is the answer to our love problems. The longing of our heart is fulfilled in accepting what the Father says of us – we are his beloved children.
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I’ve been writing about the upside-down kingdom of God. Losers will be winners, the last will be first, and the marginalized will fit in.
The biggest loser in the history of this world is Jesus Christ. He was poor, rejected, beaten, buried in a borrowed tomb, but now he is seated on the throne in heaven directing the affairs of this world and waiting for us to come home.
In the meantime, what are we to do?
For starters, we shouldn’t look down on people. We don’t have a full picture of their lives and kindness goes a long way to lifting them up a bit.
Everyone lives on God’s grace, sinner and saint alike. God’s blessings fall on both the righteous and the evil doer. We’re all takers. The only thing we’ve earned is the wages of sin.
Be grateful. We once were alienated from God, but now we have been drawn near by sheer grace. God set his love on us, not because we were great human beings and deserving to be in the family, but because he chose us, pure and simple. We’re just as nasty as the next guy.
Tell others about this wonderful God we love and serve. That’s our reason for living. To glorify God and enjoy him forever. There’s nothing that gives more joy than witnessing for Christ. Even if we do it badly, it’s worth it, and God takes the mistakes and turns them around for good. So forget about feeling like a failure. There are no failures if you’re telling someone about Jesus.
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As we read the gospels we soon run into the parables of Jesus. Why did he teach that way? Even the disciples wondered about that.
Jesus said that parables were meant to hide the truth from those who didn’t want to hear it, but revealed to those who belong to God.
The most famous of the parables is the one about the seed and the four soils. It’s message is relevant for every generation.
Was Jesus really talking about soil that gets under your fingernails and green shoots poking out of the ground? No, these were pictures of spiritual truths. The seed was the gospel, the Good News about Jesus taking our place for us in order to bring us to God.
The sower was Jesus, the Son of Man, a king who shared in the humanity of his people and who carried the image of God.
Jesus with a bag of seeds.
What were those seeds producing? Wheat, lettuce, figs? Or some intellectual understanding or religious insight?
No, they were producing believers.
Of course the enemy was right there working his evil in people as they listened. But notice Jesus didn’t interrupt him. He let him be. Only the fourth soil produced good fruit. The other three soils were left in enemy hands.
Jesus knew the harvest would be gathered in in spite of the enemy’s tactics, that’s why we, like him, can go about spreading the Good News of Jesus knowing with confidence God will be at work producing believers.
Makes being a sower a joy, doesn’t it? And you’ll always be surprised at God’s work in people. It’s the best assignment on earth!
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