Remember

 Therefore remember
that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision”
by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands—
remember that you were at that time separate from Christ,
excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise,
having no hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus
you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:11-13

The focus of these verses is to remind us of what we were without Christ.  We were separate from God and could not receive all the promises of God.  We had no hope.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world,
according to the prince of the power of the air,
of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh,
indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind,
and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Ephesians 2:1-3

These verses give us a dismal, but true, picture of ourselves when we were without Christ and were controlled by sin.

But God, being rich in mercy . . .
Ephesians 2:4
But now in Christ Jesus
Ephesians 2:13

Remember! We have been provided an incredible cleansing from sin through Jesus.  We should have no desire to sin as we did before or desire to see how much like sinful people we can be without being totally like them or desire to follow man’s thinking which is likely to be wrong.  We were corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit (Ephesians 4:22) – the deceit of the great deceiver, Satan. 

But God, being rich in mercy . . .
Ephesians 2:4
But now in Christ Jesus
Ephesians 2:13

Because we have been forgiven so much we should quickly and joyfully follow our great Saviour.

 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
  that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self,
which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self,
which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Ephesians 4:21-24

Remember why we should do that.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions,
made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
and raised us up with Him,
and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace
in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
  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.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Ephesians 2:4-10

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Blessings

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,
that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
Ephesians 1:3-4

He chose us – we chose Him.  Both aspects are part of our becoming Christians, being declared His.  His choosing isn’t random choice.  He chooses with a purpose in mind that isn’t just so we can have the label of “Christian.”  He chose us so “we would be holy and blameless before Him.” He chose us and has a purpose for us, “according to the kind intention of His will.” (v.5)

Because of His kind will He has “freely bestowed on us” grace (v.6).  He redeemed us and provided us an inheritance (vs 7 and 11).  He revealed His will to us (v. 9).  God did this because of “His grace which He lavished on us” (vs.7-8).

These verses give us a picture of a great loving God who gives lavishly more upon more.  All of this provides us what we need to accomplish His purpose for us.  That purpose is to “be holy and blameless before Him.”

When you read Ephesians 1, you will notice a repetition – in Christ, in Him, through Jesus Christ, in the beloved, in the Lord Jesus.  Jesus is the key to these blessings.  Because Jesus chose to obey His Father and to died on the cross for our sins, these blessing are possible for us.  When we accept Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for our sins then these blessings are ours.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ
Ephesians 1:3

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Me First!

You have probably heard someone say, “Me first!”  Children often say these words or similar to show their desire to be first, have the most, or be recognized in some way.  I have often reminded children to let others go first and to not push ahead.  I have reminded them that Jesus said to do to others what we would them to do to us.  Since the child doesn’t like it when other people push themselves in front, he should not demand “me first” now but wait patiently instead.

I am not talking about “Me first!” in that context.  I want to talk about a time that we need to put ourselves first.  There actually is a time that we should make ourselves be first.  That time has to do with sin.

It is easy to see sin in another person.  We notice it and think about it and talk about it.  Sometimes we talk to the person in an attempt to help.  Sometimes we talk to the person in order to be critical.  Sometimes we talk to other people so the person discussed looks bad to others.

Instead what we need to do is look at own sin.  The problem is that it is so easy to ignore our own sin.  We have ways of justifying what we do or explaining it away.  What we need to do is to be the first one in a relationship to take care of sin – our own sin.

We need to pray for ourselves first – about our own sin and our own need for forgiveness.  Ask God what we have done wrong, what we have done that has not helped the relationship.  When the Lord brings to our minds what that is, then be quick to admit that God is right in calling it sin.  Don’t argue with God; He knows what is sin and He is always right in His assessment.  Then we need to be quick to ask for forgiveness.  It is amazing to see how taking care of “self” helps relationships.

 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye,
but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
 Or how can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
and behold, the log is in your own eye?
  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:3-5

The verses above were spoken by Jesus, and they remind us that we need to take care of ourselves first.  When we have experienced the wonderful joy of God’s forgiveness for our own sin, we will be better able to guide others to Him as well.

So when it comes to taking care of sin, it should be “Me first!”

 

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A Traffic Lesson

I was on the island of Grenada recently, and I observed the traffic.  There is a lot more traffic on the main island of Grenada than on our little island of Carricaou.  The  traffic flowed smoothly.  The vehicles went around the roundabouts and turned into their desired roads with no horns blowing [at least none that I remember].  People walked in the pedestrian lanes, and all the vehicles behind waited quietly until the first car moved.

A verse came to my mind:  “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” Ephesians 5:21.  “Be subject” has the idea of making a way for the other person to go ahead of you.

Philippians 2:3 helps us to know the attitude that we need to have in order to let others ahead of us.  “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves”   Humility is the attitude that makes it possible to let another person be first.

A virtue that needs to be guiding us is found in Galatians 5:13.  “ For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”  Love should be the underlying virtue that makes this humility possible.  

The purpose that we should have for allowing others to be ahead of us is revealed in Romans 12:10-11.  “ Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;  not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”  This humility, these demonstrations of love, this letting others going first is a service to God!  I think that remembering this can be a great help to us so that we are willing to let others be first, so that we are ready to serve others.

The drivers I observed were probably giving way to others in order to prevent accidents.  Accidents are more likely to happen when a driver decides that he wants to get somewhere first and he drives without considering other drivers.  Many frictions in our personal relationships are caused by our wanting to be first, our preferring our own ways instead of others.   When we remember that letting another person go first, rejoicing in another’s success, serving someone else instead of ourselves is a means of serving God, we should be able to do it more easily and joyfully.  After all, Jesus gave up everything for us.  He let our needs come ahead of His and was willing to die on the cross for our sins.

So whether we are driving or just watching the cars pass by, let us remember:
and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” Ephesians 5:21.

With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men
Ephesians 6:7

 

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What to Do After Sinning?

This Easter Peter caught my attention.  At the Last Supper when Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet, Peter spoke up and said, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” (John 13:9)  Later at the meal Peter also said to Jesus, “I will lay down my life for You.” (John 13:36)  These statements of Peter’s give us the impression that Peter was devoted to Jesus and desired to please Him.

Sadly, a few hours later Peter sinned against Jesus, the One he loved.  Peter denied that he knew Jesus.  Not once, but three times.  How could he go on after such a sin?

After Jesus’ resurrection, we find that Peter went back to fishing – fishing for fish.  Three years previously Jesus had called Peter to fish for men – to lead people to Jesus.  I wonder if Peter thought that he was not worthy to serve God anymore because he had sinned.  How is a person, a Christian in particular, able to serve God after sinning?

While Peter was fishing, Jesus was on the beach preparing food for His disciples.  Jesus took Peter aside to talk with him.  Here is where I started to see the answer to my question.

First, we see the mercy of God.  Jesus cared for His disciples, even though they were doing futile work.  They didn’t catch any fish until Jesus came. (John 21:1-11)  Jesus took Peter aside which demonstrated that He cares personally for His own.  Jesus will work with us to help us to change, to do right.

Second, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him.  Love is the key to serving God any time, even after sinning.  This love is more than nice feelings towards a person.  It is a self-sacrificing love that follows the guidelines of I Corinthians 13.   This love will enable us to serve others.

Lastly, Jesus said “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15).   Jesus asked Peter to fish for men three years ago, but Peter went back to fishing for fish – his old way of doing things.  There is no mention in Scripture from this point on of Peter doing any more fishing for fish.  He made his decision,  and God blessed him.  You can read about how the Lord used Peter in Acts and in the two epistles that Peter wrote.  God would love to use us as well, if we are willing to make a decision to leave our own way behind and to serve God instead.

Forgiveness of sin is possible because Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  Because He rose from the dead, we can serve and keep on serving Him.  Having a living and loving Saviour helps us to make a decision to follow God’s way.   Jesus will help us, as He helped Peter.

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Prayer

Prayer is our means of communicating with God. The Lord’s Prayer is a good place to start learning how to pray.  The Lord’s Prayer is a pattern for us to use.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

  1.  We should pray for God’s name to be revered.  Mainly we should pray that we would learn to recognize God’s holiness and to show reverence to Him.

Thy kingdom come

2.  We should pray for Jesus’ return, His second coming.  We should pray that we would long for His return.

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

3.  Pray that God will accomplish His will on earth.  Pray that He will be able to fulfill His purpose on earth as freely as He can in heaven.  For God to do that we need to be willing to be used by Him.

Give us this day our daily bread.

4.  We need to ask God to meet our daily needs.  We can have confidence that God will readily and suitably meet all of our needs.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

5.  We can ask God to forgive us of our sins, but there is a condition.  He will forgive us of our sins as we forgive others.  He will forgive us of our sins as we forgive others.  He is not looking for us to be the leaders in forgiveness nor is He vindictive in His attitude.  God is looking to us to be Christlike and obedient which is seen in our forgiving of others.  We need God to forgive us of our sins, so we should also have a forgiving attitude towards others.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

6.  Pray for deliverance from temptation.  Pray for the Lord’s protection from those things that will turn us away from Him and His will.  God does not want us to sin, so He will gladly help us to avoid sin if we allow Him to help.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

7.  Recognize the greatness of God.  Our prayers are not to a human but to the almighty, eternal God.  He does hear, and He does answer.

All too often our prayers focus on ourselves.  The pattern given in the Lord’s Prayer is more focused on God than on a list of needs.  This is a perfect pattern.  It is intended to help us to align ourselves with God better.  Our sinfulness keeps us from being always in God’s will.  This pattern helps us to see the need to depend on God and not on ourselves.  Although our praying will not be perfect here on earth, we should not feel hopeless.  As we pray and keep praying now, we will be improving our relationship with God.  An improved relationship with God will make our time on earth more blessed and will prepare us for the glories of heaven.

An observation:  In the NASB the Lord’s Prayer is written in poetry form.  In the Old Testament God often stated some of His serious words of judgment in the form of a poem.  I see that as a reminder of God’s love.  He chooses to take His time and put His words together in a beautiful form instead of speaking harshly, as we humans are inclined to speak.  Putting this prayer in a poem is a reminder to us that our carefully chosen words to God can be beautiful as well.

The Lord’s Prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13

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Verses for Weeks 27-29

Week 27

Pursue peace with all men,
and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14

This verse indicates that peaceful relationships and sanctification are things to be pursued.  They also need to be part of our lives if we want to see God.  I was struck by the seriousness of this verse. If I want to see God, I need to work on my relationship with others and be working on removing sin from my life.

It is so easy to think that the other person should be kind and considerate of me; yet this verse points out that it is something that each of us should do.  The word all adds another difficulty.  There are some people who are easier to get along with than others.  But God, who loves all people, has asked us to work on peaceful relations with all the people we interact with.  I need to humble myself and be willing to trust that the God who loves all and who I have chosen to follow will help me to improve relationships with others.

Peace was the part that I was focusing on, but sanctification is important too.  Ask the Lord to show you sin in your life.  Agree with Him that it is sin and ask for forgiveness.  Also ask Him to help you to avoid doing that sin again.  He will help because sanctification is what He wants for us.

Week 28

Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God,
being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today,
the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.

All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you
if you obey the Lord your God
Deuteronomy 28:1-2

Deuteronomy 28 lists the blessings that God will give if we obey Him and the curses or punishments that will come if we do not obey. Verses 2-14 list the blessings and verses 15-65 are the curses.  This seems very unbalanced, more curses than blessings.

I think God cannot list more blessings because they are so wonderful that our language cannot express that level of greatness.  Maybe also because our minds cannot fully appreciate and understand how wonderful the blessings are.  What God states as a blessing is better than anything we picture it to be.

The long list of curses probably has to be so long because we humans have a tendency to look for loop-holes and exceptions.  God is making clear here that sin will bring serious consequences.  This chapter is specifically directed to the Israelites of the Old Testament, but God hates sin no matter whose life is exhibiting the sin.  When things do not seem to be going “right,” it would be good if you and I asked God if there were any sin in our lives that we need to confess and forsake.  If we make that a habit of life, we won’t experience the curses; we will receive the blessings.  When we are surrendering our lives to God, we will start seeing how blessed the blessings are. We will be so thankful that we were willing to turn from sin.

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
Psalm 32:1

Week 29

. . . Indeed, has God said . . .
Genesis 3:1

Genesis 3 is the chapter that records how sin entered into the world.  It seems that sin has on my mind that past three weeks.  Actually during this week what I was thinking about was how easily Satan deceives us.  How can we help ourselves not to fall for his deceit?  The main way is to fill our minds with God’s Word so that we know, understand, appreciate, and love what God has to say then we won’t be tempted to follow Satan’s lies.  I would also add reading The Holy War by John Bunyan.  I am reading that book to my students.  The book is a story of how Satan tempts and how people respond.  I have found the book to be helpful to see more clearly Satan’s tactics and the biblical ways to combat his tricks.  The Bible is our strong defense against the devil and the temptation to sin.

These verses were a help to me months ago.  Considering the events of recent days I pray that they will be a special help to us now.  God’s Word is true and worth following and obeying.

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