Resolutions – Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2 ESV

 

New Year’s Resolutions, many people tend to make them. The top ten New Year’s Resolutions this last year were diet, exercise, lose weight, save more money and spend less, learn a new skill or hobby, quit smoking, read more, new job, drink less alcohol, and spending more time with friends and family. We tend to look at New Year’s resolutions as a form of self improvement goals, things we want to do for ourselves either to fulfill our desires or to make ourselves appear better in some for or another. Now I am not saying there is anything completely wrong with New Year’s Resolutions, I mean half of them are regarding living a healthier lifestyle. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is how many people actually stick to them? I mean the big joke is if you want to start working out at a gym, start in February after those who made resolutions have quit and the gym becomes less crowded.

 

The question is do we often take a similar approach to our spiritual life? We make promises that we will do things to improve ourselves spiritually only to give up on them after a short amount of time. How many of us made a resolution to read the Bible through in a year, or to do a daily devotional? How many of us have actually stuck to that resolution? One thing I will state New Year’s Resolutions it is said that 80% fail by February and only 8% of people actually achieve their resolutions.

 

The thing is what Paul is getting at here in this verse goes so much deeper than the concept of a resolution. In fact if you look at verse 1 we see that this is a daily intentional decision. To be transformed and not conformed is not something we can do on our own; but it is done by daily giving ourselves to God. It is humbling ourselves before God, looking to Him and seeking His desires, which in turn eventually become our desires as we are transformed. You see being conformed to the world is asking what can we do for ourselves, how can we make ourselves look good; even the most giving person if they are not following God their motives are purely for their own purpose. On the other side to be transformed is to rather ask what can I do to make God look good, what can I do to bring Him glory? You see the reason in the previous verse Paul states we need to present ourselves daily as a living sacrifice is that in order to be transformed we need to kill our selfish desires and humble ourselves daily, as pride is something we all struggle with  and it is turning from our selfish desires and looking towards God and seeking His desires that results in the transformation. One verse I like to look at regarding this is Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Not in that God will be a genie and give you what you want, but as you look towards God, He will change or transform your desires to line up with His desires; or He renews your mind so that “you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Glory to God Alone – Episode 32

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:13-14

Soli Deo Gloria or to the glory of God alone, the last of the five sola statements of the Protestant Reformation. This is a concept that on the surface is instilled into many Christians. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is what is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Paul in his writings alludes to the fact that our lives and actions should be bringing glory to God, in fact he is the one that penned the verse, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Although I might mention that while a good application of this verse that use does take it a bit out of context, and I would feel uncomfortable applying it in such a way, I blame my seminary professors that hammered in good hermeneutics through exegesis.

So on this fine Christmas day, I figured what better verse to use for talking about to the glory of God alone than the proclamation of the heavenly host to the shepherds that first Christmas morning. You see in God’s plan for salvation the purpose was for His glory. You see this proclamation comes right after the first angel gives the shepherds the good news that a Savior has been born, who is Christ the Lord. This good news is why glory is to go to God, as some might say glory goes to the victor, and since the garden of Eden and the first sin man has been at war with God. It is funny that the Jews in Jesus’s day were looking for a conquering king for a Messiah and got instead a suffering servant. I however believe Jesus did come as a conquering King, it is just he didn’t conquer in the sense they were looking for. They wanted a king that would defeat Rome and reestablish an earthly kingdom for Israel, Jesus is a King that came and defeated sin and brought forth peace between man and God.

Glory is not only a form of honor but also praise and worship. You see in Christ coming as our Savior, he came not to defeat Rome but to bring peace between man and God, before this all mankind was at enmity with God. We were in all out rebellion and wanted nothing to do with Him. Christ’s actions on the cross reconciled the world to God. It opened the door to allow God to offer us grace which we respond to in faith, which without grace we would be unwilling to do. It is once we understand that our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, and due to the work of Christ alone, that we then realize that our praise and worship, all of the glory, goes to God alone. So remember, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Christ Alone – Episode 31

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:12-14 ESV

Solus Christus or Christ Alone, it is the concept that the only work required for our salvation was done through Jesus’s death on the cross. There are many places throughout the New Testament that makes this point. Paul tends to put it so bluntly as to state that while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us, just read Romans 5 or Colossians 1. The Old Testament also points forward to this, while the Jews of Jesus’s day, especially the religious leaders, missed it many of the prophecies pertaining to Christ’s first coming show a need for Him to be the suffering servant. However, if I just had to pick out one book of the Bible that drives home the point of Solus Christus it would have to be Hebrews. The entire book was written to believers in Rome during a time of great persecution where many were considering leaving the faith, the author seeing the problem wrote to encourage them and illustrate that Christ is far greater than any other option.

The author spends a great amount of time comparing Jesus to the priesthood, pointing out Jesus’s superiority and how the sacrifices offered up by the Levitical priests are not sufficient to cover our sins. The problem is that the Old Testament sacrifices were not perfect sacrifices offered by a perfect priest, therefore they were flawed sacrifices. This required regular trips to the temple and frequent sacrifices to cover one’s sins.

Then Jesus came along, the perfect Lamb of God, he lived a perfect life free from sin and died on the cross serving as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Not only that but in doing so he also took on the role as our High Priest to stand before God in our place acting as our advocate and interceding on our behalf, covering those who have faith with his righteousness. That is why the author of Hebrews can state that those who are being sanctified are perfected once and for all through Christ’s sacrifice, because the blood that was used to cover our imperfections was the perfect blood of Christ applied by a perfect Priest and not the blood of earthly sacrifices applied by earthly priests. It is this sacrifice that makes God’s offer of grace possible; and without grace there would be no faith, and with no faith we would have no hope for salvation. So we have now seen that we are saved by grace, through faith, because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Scripture Alone – 2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16

Sola Scriptura or Scripture alone, this is one of the foundational statements of the Protestant Reformation. It is the concept that Scripture is the ultimate authority on how a Christian should live and believe. The Bible is the measuring stick by which we are to measure all of our beliefs as well as what we are told. It is to be the final say in our moral compass directing our paths and actions. You see the reformers and even some of those that came before them such as Wycliffe and Huss saw a discrepancy between what Rome was saying and what the Bible stated and rather than side with the pope and the church they took the stance that the Bible should have the final say.

This verse explains precisely why the Bible is important. The first thing that Paul mentions in this verse is the importance of the source of Scripture. I know when writing research papers there are different types of sources, where the professors want you to use as many quality sources as possible, sources that are accurate and reliable as opposed to the random rants of someone on the internet. What he points out is that Scripture was inspired by God, or as we see in some translations that it was God breathed. What this means is that what we see in the Bible was in a way dictated to the authors by God; but in a way that was more in terms of thoughts and concepts, as God’s truth flowed through the minds, souls, hearts, emotions, and personalities of the various authors. This is seen by each writer having their own style and presentation; Paul uses a different vocabulary than James, and Luke writes to the Greek mind while Matthew speaks more to the Jews. It all however, is God’s truth breathed into the writers.

The next thing we see is that not only is the source of Scripture important, but the uses of Scripture is important. Paul gives a list of ways that the Bible is to be used by stating that in each of these areas Scripture is profitable, it brings about the best results. The four areas in which Paul lists Scripture as being profitable all work together in helping the believer grow. First is that of teaching or in fancy terms doctrine, it is learning what is right. That is followed up by reproof, or telling us what is not right. So with these first two aspects Scripture tells us what we should be doing and what we should not be doing; what our goals should be and what we should try to avoid. Then there comes correction, this is where Scripture helps to tell us how to get right; especially when we fail, as we all will do at one point or another. Finally Scripture is profitable for training in righteousness, or how we are to stay right. These last two go together because as we are shown how we have failed and how to get right with God, we then are shown how to remain that way. This is not a one time deal, it is a lifelong process that we must all endure; and that is what Paul is getting at with how Scripture is profitable to us. It brings us to salvation, to faith in Christ, but then leads us through maturing in our faith.

If you have any other questions about why Scripture alone remember that Scripture is the Word of God, and as John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Strength to be Content – Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

If you ask me statistics is an art form more than anything else, the reason that I say this is because one can take the numbers provided and just about make them say whatever they want them to. The same report and statistics can be used to argue both sides of a debate, so what does this have to do with Scripture and Philippians 4:13 specifically? Well it is said you can also get the Bible to say just about anything you want it to, the problem is that you often have to take things out of context to do so, and Philippians 4:13 is one such verse that is often used out of context.

So what does it mean when we state that we “can do all things through him who strengthens me?” Well first let’s look at what it does not mean. Well oftentimes this verse is used to encourage believers when they are about to face some large trial, such as athletes in sporting events; in fact there is a Christian clothing brand that specializes in fitness clothes that uses this verse for branding. Let me say right now I am not saying there is anything wrong purchasing such things, but we should also keep in mind what the verse is really saying as it means so much more than God helping us do what we set our minds to.

So what is Paul getting at? Well if you look at the verses preceding this one you see Paul talking about in generalizations stuff that he had been through; times of plenty and times of poverty, having food and looking for crumbs, and through it all Paul learned to be content because God would give him the strength to make it through whatever circumstance he found himself in.

You see it is not God helping us do what we have in mind, but God giving us the mind to work where He has us. The problem with verses like this is we often want to stress the part about ourselves rather than what God is actually doing in the verse. So no matter what your circumstances are, whether they are circumstances of blessing or circumstances of trials God will give you the strength and comfort to help you through and be content with where you are. So in all circumstances, whether it is those of blessings or those of trials give them over to God to help you be content with where you are, because we can easily fall into the trap of not being content with where we are at in any aspect of our lives.

By Whose Merit? – Zechariah 4:6

Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 4:6 ESV

How often do we blame God for when things go wrong in our lives but then when things go our way we tend to look at as being done in our own power? In this passage God through the prophet Zechariah is giving a message to Zerubbabel, the leader of the Jews returning to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. It is a reminder to the leader that it was not by anything the Jews did, it wasn’t due to being a stronger power, or even them defeating the Persians and Babylonians that allowed them to return and to also rebuild the Temple. God is reminding them that He is the one that brought it about.

How often do we find ourselves in a similar situation. We get a promotion. We purchase a new car or a house. We find ourselves in a position of being blessed. We tend to look at it being done on our own merit, or being our good luck rather than giving glory where glory is due. This verse serves as a reminder that no matter what no matter how we may be blessed, even if it is in a material way, no matter how we may prosper; it is not due to anything done on our own merit, but all because of God’s power.

So let me leave you this week with this question? Have you been giving glory and praise to God when things seem to be going right? Do you give God the glory when you seem to be getting blessed? Think hard about it, because often we tend to forget God when things seem to be going good.

Stop the Spiritual Fluff – 1 John 4:1

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 ESV

Who are you listening to? What preachers and speakers do you regularly follow? Do you take what they tell you as gospel truth or do you regardless test what they are teaching against the Word of God? John wrote to the early church warning them about false teachers and he wasn’t the only person to warn the church. Paul in his farewell address as well as when writing to Timothy warned against those that would come in teaching what people want to hear rather than teaching the Truth.

Today in the world of televangelists and mega churches we find ourselves in a similar situation. Crowds gather more to where they are being told what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. They want the what amounts to being spiritual sweets while neglecting the spiritual nutritional substances. The problem is much like with our own diet we cannot live on only cakes, pies, and ice cream as our nutritional intake, a spiritual diet of nothing but spiritual fluff is also unhealthy.

That is why we need to test the spirits. We need to be sure that our spiritual diet is healthy. We do this by making sure that the teaching we listen to is firmly grounded in the Bible and not taken out of context. We need to remember that just because it sounds good doesn’t make it true. So let me leave you with this, what does your spiritual diet look like? Do you test the spirits to make sure what you are taking in is healthy or do you just settle for spiritual junk food?

What Really is our Welfare? – Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

This is one of those verses we often look to when we feel to be facing hard times. We look at verses such as this and believe God will never let us suffer, in fact doesn’t this verse indicate that God will help us to prosper? So is this what this verse is actually telling us or is it something more? Is this even a promise that is universal that can be applied to all believers or was it given to just a specific group or person?

When we look at verse 10 we see that this promise was given to the Israelites during the Babylonian Exile. This promise was made to them for after being in exile for 70 years and then being allowed to return to the Promised Land. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God was telling the Israelites that no matter how it may seem, He was not done with them. There would always be a remnant as He had plans for salvation to come through them, specifically through the line of David.

So does this verse have any application for us today? Well we can still gain some insight and value from it. The problem is when we try to put our desires into the meaning of this verse, for you see as a believer sealed by the Holy Spirit we can apply this promise to us. The problem is when we use our desires and understanding for welfare into the verse. We often want it to mean we will be financially stable, never face any hardships, and never suffer in any way. Our welfare is something completely different, it is our salvation and restored relationship with God. It is the offer of everlasting life provided to us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. You see our future and hope is not something in the here and now, but rather it is in spending eternity in the presence of God.

To Know God – Ephesians 1:17

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Ephesians 1:17

Do you know God? I don’t mean an intellectual knowledge of God; knowing and understanding the concept of God. To know God is not just stating that God is the creator of all, or even just to state that He exists or that He is our savior. As a Christian our knowledge of God should be something much deeper than just a surface level belief.

When Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians, he was not writing to unbelievers stating that he was praying that they would gain knowledge of God; but he was telling fellow believers that he was wanting them to gain a knowledge of God. In other words this was written to people that knew of God so far that they understood Him to be the one to offer salvation, what Paul is getting at is a more intimate knowledge of who God is.

We see this intimate use of knowing played out many times in our Bible, Adam knew Eve, Abraham knew Sarah, Isaac knew Rebecca, when Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of Christ she stated she never knew a man. While this use is more sexual in nature it drives home the point that a true knowledge of God is something deeper than just being a surface level abstract thought. It is a learning of His likes and dislikes, finding out what He desires and being obedient to those desires. It is having a relationship with Him; when we are born we don’t have just an abstract knowledge of our parents, we form a relationship with them and interact with them, knowing them on a deeper level.

This was Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church, and I will add probably his prayer for all believers; and it is also what God desires from us. What parent doesn’t want their children to have a relationship with them and know them? You can bet our Heavenly Father desires it even more so.

Healing Our Hearts – 2 Chronicles 7:14

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

If you have gone to any of our Becoming God’s Man conferences or remember the six month radio show we had at one time you are know this is a verse we use a lot, and there is a reason for that. This is one of those verses that says many things in a compact little package. Think of it as one of those little pills that you can get at the dollar store that when put in a glass of water turns into a sponge dinosaur.

So what is so significant about this verse, well if you look at it there is a promise from God, the only thing is that the promise is conditional. While originally written in context regarding the ancient nation of Israel the principles of this verse are just as applicable to today’s Christians. The first thing we need to take notice is that this promise is for the believer, whether it was the Jew back in the days of Solomon when the promise was given or a Christian today, we are all those people called by God’s name.

So what must we do in regards to this promise? The first thing is that we need to humble ourselves. This means we need to realize we are not the most important thing and place our focus rather than on ourself or our situation but rather focus on God. Then once we focus on God we can in fact fulfill the other conditions. That is because we won’t truly be praying or seeking God’s face if we are self absorbed. We also aren’t able to turn from our wicked ways either, as we usually fall into those ways because we are focused on self and how to best please ourselves rather than how to please God. In essence it is once we humble ourselves that the other conditions we need to fulfill will just naturally start to fall into place.

So what is being promised? God’s part of this promise is that He will forgive our sins and heal our land. What all does this mean, well with the second part in the times of Solomon agriculture was the source of income for many and if crops couldn’t grow financially many were hurt; but this is not saying that God will make you rich in material means if we fulfill our part. What it does mean is that God will make sure our needs are met, with the most important need being that of our salvation. You see the land that we need healed is none other than our hearts.

Does your heart need healing? Have you surrendered your life to Christ? We all need both, so what is keeping you from humbling yourself and turning to God in order to bring healing to your heart?