Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Inexpressible Joy

I Peter 1:3-9

3(A) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!(B) According to his great mercy,(C) he has caused us to be born again to a living hope(D) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to(E) an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and(F) unfading,(G) kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded(H) through faith for a salvation(I) ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by(J) various trials, 7so that(K) the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes(L) though it is tested by(M) fire—may be found to result in(N) praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8(O) Though you have not seen him, you love him.(P) Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining(Q) the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Do you realize that you have inherited something that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading: your salvation through Jesus Christ. In fact, it is guarded in heaven by GOD!

Are you rejoicing today in your fiery trial? Do you see how it is testing your genuineness in the faith?

Your response to trials is to be 'praise and glory and honor' at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ---no, you don't have to put on a fake smile and act like your trial does not bother you: you are to look at it in the perspective that Christ matters more and that no matter what is taken away from you in this life---Christ remains!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Marks of Jesus

I myself don’t have a tattoo nor do I plan on getting one anytime soon but for those of you who do have one, I am 99% that you selected that tattoo with the intentions of sharing a message. Even if the tattoo was somewhat a spontaneous rebellion, it was done with the intention of proclaiming some aspect of yourself and maybe, even a subliminal declaration of your independence. What about scars? Do you have scars from when you first started riding a bike? Getting burned by a sparkler at the 4th of July? Or slipping on a grain cart and bumping your chin? Ok, that last one is totally mine. But even though we didn’t voluntarily receive those scars, they are on our skin with a message or a story of some point in our life. Maybe some of those scars were voluntary during a discouraging and dark time in your life. Perhaps those scars are ones that you didn’t do to yourself and that others did to you both externally and internally. Marks on our bodies, regardless of how they got there, are visible signs of an instance in time that is permanently displayed on or in them.
In Galatians 6, Paul is closing out his letter to the church of Galatia starting in verse 11:
“Not Circumcision but the New Creation
11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to[b] the Israel of God.
17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen. “ NIV www.biblegateway.com

In this text, Paul begins by addressing outward impressions and how often the church would do things simply to appear as though they are religious and doing good works. Circumcision was a big deal and therefore the religious leaders of the day desired for you to be circumcised so that you could boast in your flesh and your own good works. Paul goes against these teachings and says: ‘No! I won’t boast in anything but Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.’ He, Paul, was not going to be controlled by ritualistic marks of the flesh; Paul desired the mark of a new creation that comes through Christ and the crucifixion to this world. Verse 16 describes Paul’s desire for people to follow peace and mercy who indeed are people of God, the Israel of God.

ESV commentary says that this ‘Israel of God,’ is equal with the church. “ Which sense is best here must be decided with reference to the larger context of Paul’s thought, both in Galatians and in his other epistles, Israel of God. That is, in contrast to the children of the ‘present Jersusalem’ (4:25), the true people of God are the believing children of Abraham (3:7,29), who belong to ‘Jerusalem above’ (4:26-27).”
In verse 17, Paul says, something significant to our discussion: “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Paul was persecuted on numerous accounts throughout his life and ultimately, died for the sake of the Gospel. 2 Corinithains addresses these marks of persecution that Paul received as well;

“23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. “

Ha, our short list of injuries at the beginning of this devo is nothing in comparison to Paul’s list of persecution is it? Yet, notice that Paul didn’t say, “I bear the marks of persecution for Christ,” but rather “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” On one level he was indeed using his marks to prove his commitment to the Lord, displaying the persecution, however, His marks also refer to the ‘new creation’ component of his life. We may or may not ever have scars from persecution or physical abuse for what we believe in: even though that may make you appear ‘more Christian,’ and is actually very honorable to endure through sufferings like Christ, it still doesn’t make you ‘a new creation.’ You are a new creation when you are crucified to the world and the world to you. When you surrender your life to Christ, you bear his mark! You are no longer marked by the world nor do you have the need to have religious rituals as signs that you are committed to Christ. Now, signs and displays of your inward commitment to the Lord may surface, but again, Paul tells us not to boast within those things but only boast in Christ!

“2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. “

2 Corinthians 3:2-4 www.biblegateway.com NIV

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Outside the Camp

Image from:

I don’t know about you, but I am so thankful that we as Christians do not have to present animal sacrifices anymore! Can you imagine trying to sacrifice an animal in your Sunday best? Yikes! I say this half-joking and half-serious. Maybe in a way, it would be good because we’d relate with the true sacrifice of Christ a little better. I don’t normally find gory things such as sacrifices as something of greatest interest until I was reading in Hebrews and came across this passage:

“ 9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

So technically it was the priest that did the sacrificing on the behalf of the people—but still: imagine your pastor carrying into your church, blood from an animal that was just thrown in the parking lot: so different isn’t it? So different, yet I sense this strange similarity in the way we live our lives. This portion of scripture starts off in verse 9 and presents the point for us not to become swayed with false doctrine and teachings. I am not a Bible scholar, but it sounds like the author was addressing a topic of accepting grace rather than following rituals. It goes on in verse 11 to describe the process of offering sacrifices and then draws a parallel to Christ himself and his sacrifice, outside the gate. Outside the gate. Throughout all of the Old Testament and history of the Israelites, the Tabernacle is the Holiest of Holies where priests would present sacrifices. Yet, when Christ came, the sacrifice was not even in the realms of the temple, but outside the city gate. Verse 13 calls us to go outside the camp and bear the disgrace he bore. Does this mean we are to sacrifice ourselves? Of course not, well, not physically---the ESV commentary makes a good point with this passage:

“Go to him outside the camp speaks metaphorically of leaving behind the love of this world and desire for its approval, and embracing the reproach of Christ, emulating Jesus’ response to his shameful sufferings (see 12:2-3). Moreover, such Christian endurance is founded on a realization that this world is a mere temporary dwelling (no lasting city) en route to an eternal abode (cf 11:14-16; 12:22-24).”
There: Does that make sense? It’s a metaphor: asking us to leave the concept of ritualistic religion and go to a place of understanding the sacrifice and nastiness of our sin. Not that we cannot worship in a temple and fellowship with other believers, but we shouldn’t emphasize that as our ‘enduring city,’ or what will save us in the end.
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
“Through Jesus,” not through “going to church x-number of times,” or even “praying the prayer,” do we find salvation. It says that we are to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise,” THROUGH JESUS. Aka, the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. The fruit of lips refers to the good things that come from our mouths: praise, gratitude, encouragement and words of love for something or someone. When you’re in love with someone, there is something special about saying his/her name. They say that saying a person’s name in an endearing way is equal to professing a kind of love towards that person. In the same way, we can glorify God just by merely professing his name to everyone. Verse 16 does mention that we are to do good and to share with others—not to earn salvation, but as a way to please God. In the Old Testament, scripture talks about the aroma of sacrifices pleased God and in the same way, when we give and share with others in Jesus’ name, we too have a sweet aroma that is emitted. Not just giving out of wealth, but out of need too! So often we give when it doesn’t cost us anything, but there are countless examples of Biblical characters giving EVERYTHING they own. Ha—you have no idea how nervous I get writing on the topic of sacrifice because I know that the LORD will very shortly, ask me to do what I am challenging others: rightfully so! But again, we do it out love for the Lord THROUGH Jesus. So although you don’t have to necessarily get your Sunday best dirty, maybe focus more on how to present yourself, your devotion, your words, and your gifts, as a form of sacrifice both in your place of worship and outside the walls of church: go to Christ outside the city gate.