WALKING BY GRACE

One of God’s favorite words, it seems to me, is the word “Walk”.  If one simply made a list of all the ways God challenges us to walk in the Bible is would require a great deal of space.  Many of these would be repetitive in that God often tells us to “Walk by faith” or “Walk in love”.  Just in the Book of Ephesians he said we are created in Christ Jesus to walk in good works, walk in a manner worthy of our calling which involved an attitude and teaching that produced unity, to not walk as the Gentiles in futility of the mind, and to walk in love, in wisdom and in light.  Always the idea is that these are to be a way of life and some translations change most of the uses of “walk” to “live”.

I want to focus on one that isn’t specifically commanded as a way to walk but is taught in multiple ways and that is walk in grace.  There are at least two ways we desperately need to walk in grace in our efforts to be pleasing to God.  The first is with regard to our relationship with God.  There is no question that God wants us as his children to live in confidence of our salvation and relationship with Him.  The primary theme of the Book of I John is on how we can know that we are right with the Lord.  John actually offered many ways for one to know they are right with God and ready to face him in judgment.  He said, “By this we can know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”  He also declared that we could know by the Holy Spirit that is within us.  He noted that if we walk in the the light of God he will keep us clean so we can be sure of our relationship with him.  He even mentioned that our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ demonstrated our being right with God and if we claim to know him and don’t love our brothers and sisters we aren’t really right with him at all.  One of the best examples of this confidence in our relationship with the Lord is Paul as he discusses his impending death in 2 Timothy 4:6-8. He said the that the time of his departure was near.  He had fought the good fight, kept the faith and finished the course, therefore the crown of righteousness is laid up for him and not to him only, but to all those who love his appearing.  Earlier he had said, “I know him in whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep what he has committed to me against that day.”

God wants us all to know we are right with him.  Yet it is extremely common to meet people who are trying all the time to live right and please God who have no real confidence in their own salvation.  Why is that the case?  Usually it isn’t any lack of faith or love for God.  Instead it is because they have accepted the notion that I must somehow deserve salvation and heaven if I’m to be accepted in when this life is over.  Now it is tragic when a person believes they are right with God when they aren’t living right at all.  Jesus pictured those in Matthew 7:21-23 as saying “Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in your name, in your name cast out demons and in your name done many wonderful works and then the Lord tells them, “I never knew you.”  He said that it wasn’t those who said to him “Lord, Lord” but those who “Do the will of my father in heaven” who would be saved. As long as we depend on our own ability to do right and live up to God’s will in everything to have confidence in our salvation we will not have any real confidence.  Our confidence needs to be in God and His grace, love and kindness through which we are saved, not in ourselves.  If I could earn my way into glory I wouldn’t need grace or forgiveness or the blood of Christ constantly cleansing me of my sins.  We are saved by grace, through faith and that not of ourselves.  God’s grace doesn’t simply bring us to the point of salvation and leave us there to make it from there to glory on our own.  Think of Jesus working with the twelve all through his ministry.  They were failing him from day one to the day he ascended to the father.  But his love and grace continued with them all the way.  It does with us as well.  Our challenge is to be faithful even to dying for the Lord, not be perfect and never mess us.

The Second part of walking in grace is in our relationships with other people.  If I demand of myself complete perfection to be right with God, I will do exactly the same with everyone else.  If I know I’m saved by grace I tend to demonstrate the same grace to others.  People who are hard on themselves are hard on others and people who realize grace makes the way tend to be graceful to others.  One of the worst tragedies among followers of Christ is when we see God as hard, judgmental and difficult to please, we become like that ourselves.  But if we see God as merciful, full of grace and kindness toward us we tend to have the same heart toward others.  Paul challenged the Ephesians to “Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ sake has forgiven you.”  If you walk in grace toward others you look for the good things in their life and ways to encourage and build them up in their service to God.  There are all kinds of people out there ready to tear us down and tell us what all is wrong with us.  The world needs people of grace who love us and reach out with compassion toward us no matter what we have done or what has happened to us.  Jesus demonstrated just such a heart when he came as the friend of tax collectors and sinners.  He came to help the sick and hurting not the healthy.  If I walk in his footsteps I will be that person who loves the failure, the hurting and the struggling and not just those who seem to have it all together in life.  Walk in grace and see the difference God can make in others lives through you.

 

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WHAT WE SEE

Isn’t it amazing how our thoughts about a person, group of people or even a team affects how we see the things done by that person, group or team?  Think about how we react when different children are being particularly loud in a public place.  If it is my great grand children then I’m sure everyone will enjoy whatever cute and sweet things they say or do.  But if it is some stranger’s kids, I sometimes wonder what they are thinking when they just sit there and allow their children to go wild.  There may not be any difference between the actions or even the volume of noise going on.  The difference is in how I see the children.

I was watching the Arkansas – Kentucky basketball game after church yesterday afternoon.  Of course it was frustrating to see Kentucky run away with the game and when the Arkansas boys became so frustrated that they misbehaved near the end of the game it was very understandable to me, even though I wished they hadn’t done so.  But when the goofy announcer kept on going and going about their behavior and it being a reflection of the team, the coach and their training, it wasn’t the team that bothered me nearly as much as it was the announcer, whose bias was showing all over the place.

The thing about how we see things and it relating to our feelings about the people involved, is that it isn’t limited to a few aspects of life.  It runs right through our lives and even when we try to be unprejudiced and see everything fairly, it will still shine through to the degree that others may be amused at what they observe in us.

Think about an incident described by the Apostle Paul in the Book of Philippians.  Paul was writing this church that he loved dearly and had a very special relationship with, from a Roman prison where his only crime was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.  It had started back in Jerusalem where Jews that despised the gospel of Jesus had him arrested.  After spending three years in jail at Caesarea he had appealed to Caesar to keep from going back to Jerusalem to appear before the Jewish leaders.  It had been a tough trip from Caesarea to Rome involving a huge storm and shipwreck that had destroyed the ship but didn’t have any loss of life.  Inside the Roman prison Paul writes the people who had raised money to send to the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.  Notice what he said beginning in verse 12 of chapter one.  “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.  And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

I would certainly think that the people in Philippi saw Paul’s being thrown into prison first in Caesarea and then Rome as a major tragedy.  Why would such a good, godly man who was intent on preaching the good news of Jesus to the world, be thrown into prison?  They likely knew many who had committed real crimes but who had never gone to prison for a single day.  Yet here was Paul the man of God and preacher of righteousness who was behind bars for carrying a liberal contribution back to his home town to help the poor among the saints of God’s people.  Yet, it is Paul the prisoner who they felt was being treated unfairly, who was writing this letter to them to encourage them.  He wanted them to know that instead of this being a tragedy, it was really turning out to be a great thing.  Many of those who had met Paul were searching for the truth of the good news of Jesus.  They wanted someone among the Converts to Christ to tell them this story of grace that was being preached in the name of Jesus to the world.  Paul may well have been the first person they had met who was a true believer in Jesus and they looked to him to learn what it all really meant.

Notice the two ways that him imprisonment had turned out to be a blessing while others were thinking it was a curse.  First, many of those in Caesar’s household had been able to hear the gospel for the first time and had given their lives to Jesus.  Right here in the very place where Paul would be stating the message of good news.  Some of those in Caesar’s family had given their lives to Jesus.  That was amazing.  Here in the palace among the people that would have him put to death by an unstable ruler, stood Christians, saints in Caesar’s household.  So the fact converts to Jesus had been made was reason enough to say that something good was happening.  Second, he said “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.  Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

Would you have considered imprisonment in Rome a blessing?  What if you saw some give their lives to Jesus because of your witness?  What if you heard that some people you loved were now preaching that had before been unwilling before you were arrested?  What if you heard of some people who had always opposed you were now preaching Jesus and you knew it was out of envy and jealousy?  It is difficult to say how we would react.  I hope I could say with Paul, that things had turned out for good.  But it would have been a huge challenge to feel good about those preaching who simply wanted to add to my affliction in jail.  It demonstrates that much of how we see things either for good or bad, is determined by our attitude.  I long for that kind of attitude shown by Paul here.  I hope you do to and maybe together we can get there.

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JESUS AS GOD

From the first words of the Gospel of John to the last sentence in the Book there is a clear message about Jesus being God who pitched his tent among us for a period of time.  John pictures Jesus on numerous occasions taking the self-portrait of God in his meeting Moses in the burning bush and applies it to himself.  When Moses asked God his name that he might share it with the people to demonstrate it was really God who was sending him to lead the people, God told him to say, “I Am who I am.  Tell them ‘I Am has sent you.”  Jesus not only took the “I Am” phrase and used it seven times with a description of himself but on seven other occasions used it as his singular statement of himself.  Notice the seven uses to describe himself were: I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, I  am the gate, I am the good shepherd, I am the resurrection and the Life, I am the way, the truth and the life and I am the true vine.  Try to imagine for a moment what it would have been like to be a Jew living in the time Jesus was walking in Galilee and Judea and how you would have reacted when you heard him take the holy name of God, Yahweh and applied it to himself.  Would you have fallen before him to worship him?  Or would you have been like many of the other Jews of the time who picked up rocks to throw at him because he was a man making himself out to be God?

John never used the word “Miracle” to describe the amazing actions of Jesus.  Instead he used the word “Signs” to describe the amazing events in Jesus life.  These signs were there to demonstrate his identity.  In chapter 20:30-31 John wrote, “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.  These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God and that believing you might have life in his name.”  He turned water into wine at the wedding feast to demonstrate he was master over quality.  His was the best wine that had been saved to the end.  He healed the noblemen’s son without going to where he was to show he was master over distance.  He could heal wherever he was or wherever the person was in need.  He healed the man lying at the pool of Bethesda who had been invalid for 38 years to show he was master over time.  It didn’t matter how long it had been he was in control.  He fed the crowd of over 5,000 people with a little boys lunch to show he was master over quantity.  He walked on the water to go to his disciples to show he was master over the elements.  He healed the blind man who was born blind to show he was master over heredity.  He raised Lazarus from the dead, after four days to show he was in control over death. Then the greatest miracle of them all was when Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to the disciples, even to Thomas to bring him to faith.

But how would you have reacted to all these miracles?  Would you have declared that truly this is the Son of God and our place is to worship Him?  Or would you have doubted the whole thing?  Would you have been in the crowd who looked for a reason to crucify him as the deceiver of the people?

Imagine being in the crowd in John 8:48-59.  Jesus had just given the speech about one being a real disciple if they continued in his word and they would know the truth and the truth would make them free.  He had noted that the unbelievers were following their father the devil who was a liar and murderer from the beginning.  In verse 48 they say, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”  Jesus responded that he didn’t have a demon and was seeking to glorify the Father while they dishonored him.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”  This brought on greater accusations.  They asked who he was making himself out to be since even Abraham was now dead.  “Are you greater than our father Abraham who died?  And the prophets died!  Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus again points to his effort to bring glory to God the Father and declares that if he denied knowing the father he would be a liar like them.  “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day.  He saw it and was glad.”  The Jews responded, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?  Jesus said to them.  ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  They began to pick up stones to stone him to death.  What would you have done?  Jesus took the very words God used to identify himself to Israel and to Moses and applied it to himself.  Logically there are only two possible responses.  Either one falls before him to worship him as God or you stone him as an imposter.  Which would you have done?

Sometimes you will hear people say that Jesus was a great man, a great prophet but just a man but if you really read the gospel accounts that is a ridiculous statement.  Jesus either is who he claimed to be, Yahweh, the I AM or he is the world’s biggest liar and fraud or he is mentally ill and having visions of grandeur.  I choose to believe he was all he claimed to be as God in human form and one I worship regularly.  What is your choice?

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INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE

I know it is fashionable for people to declare that Scripture is man made, full of error and not at all what it claims to be.  Quite often such charges reveal much more about the person making them than about anything relating to Scripture.  There are two statements in Scripture that seem to me to be tremendously helpful on the whole topic.  The first is in Hebrews 1:1-4 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.  After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”

The Book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who had grown up under the Old Testament Law but learned of Jesus and turned to him.  Now time had passed and many were questioning their choice and wondering if they had made the wrong move.  This book is given to demonstrating how much better the New Covenant is than the Old and how much superior the way of Jesus Christ is over that of the Law and the prophets.  If one reads the whole book it is amazing how many times he will use the word “better” to say that Christ is a better Savior, better law giver, better high priest, better offering for sins and gives us a better reward for following him.  Notice in introducing the whole book he declared that God was the one speaking through the prophets in the Old Covenant as he is the one speaking through Christ now.  During the Old Covenant he spoke in numerous methods and with many people but it was God that was the spokesman then and now.  He delivered that law through the mediation of angels but it didn’t change the reality that it was from God.

It is important to notice his identification of Jesus Christ as creator of the world and the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of his nature.  Jesus is the one who not only created all but the one who upholds the universe by the word of his power.

The other passage that is extremely significant on this topic is 2 Peter 1:19-21  “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  Earlier in the chapter Peter points out that many times as the prophets discussed what God was revealing to them they would go back and study, searching to find out what God was revealing in the message he had them deliver to the people.  God wanted us to know that while he spoke through people, it wasn’t just their ideas and dreams.  They were being moved along by the Spirit of God as to what they should write.  In I Corinthians 2 Paul said that no one can know the mind of a person except their spirit within them and no one can know the mind of God except the Spirit of God who then reveals that mind to inspired people to put down for him.

God’s inspiration of Scripture was not dictation so that the personality of the writer didn’t get into the message at all.  Inspiration means God was moving through the thoughts, ideas and vocabulary of the person who was writing.  If one dictates a letter to a secretary who then writes it out and sends it to others, the secretary’s personality shouldn’t shine through but the personality of the one who dictated it.  But if he said to the secretary I want you to write a letter to this person telling them what we have decided to do about their project and the secretary wrote it out in their own words their personality would come through.  Inspiration is far more like telling the person to write out what God wanted on some subject in their words and thoughts.  Sometimes what is inspired is a matter of revelation.  In Ephesians 3:1-5 Paul explained that by revelation God had made known to him the mystery that had been hidden through the years that God would save all kinds of people in the church.  It wasn’t just inspiration but also revelation and Paul said when we read we can understand his knowledge of the mystery in Christ.

God’s inspiration isn’t just something that gives one a desire or talent in an area.  I’ve heard people say that inspiration was the same as when an artist is inspired by a scene they observe to paint a picture of it.  That isn’t the same thing as what the Bible describes as inspiration. Literally, inspiration means “God breathed” and indicates that God is guiding in what is said on a particular matter.  The result of the Bible being inspired is that the word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword that separates joint from marrow and can divide soul from spirit (Hebrews 4:12).

It is easy to set ourselves up as the judge and jury of the Bible and go through declaring that this can be believed but another teaching can’t be trusted.  While I know there have been some mistranslations at times and we don’t have the original manuscripts of Scripture it is the height of arrogance to think we can decide to believe what we want and throw the rest aside.  James said it was the wise person who looked intently into the word that is able to save our soul and continues in it, not being a forgetful hearer but a doer of the word.  So, be careful how you handle the word of God that is even said to be the mind of the Lord by Paul.

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WHO DO YOU TRUST?

It is much easier to carry a coin saying “In God we trust” than to really trust God in all aspects of life.  It is much easier to talk about someone being a trusted friend or companion than to really put full trust in that person even when what they say or do doesn’t sound right.  Is it just me or does it seem that trust is in short supply in our world? Think of how many times you have heard someone say, “I wouldn’t trust him or her as far as I could throw them.”  I saw a survey a couple of days ago on who or what people trusted in the United States.  Some of the things they questioned people about were: News media, Congress, the President, the internet and churches or ministers.  Now I’m sure you could find all kinds of surveys that would have different results but this one was telling in many ways.  The lowest on the trust scale was the new media.  Their trust level was so low that one has to wonder why anyone pays any attention to what they say?  The next lowest on the list was Congress.  It was obvious the different respondents represented different parties by the comments made, but no matter what party they were part of their trust of Congress and what they said was pathetically low.  The next was the President.  More people trusted what he said than either the news media or Congress but it was still far below 50% of the people who felt that what the President said was trustworthy.  What was put on the internet ranked right alongside the news media so I suppose the people saw them as much the same thing.  Churches and preachers had the highest trust factor in the survey but it was a far cry from being something to brag about.  Even with the church and preachers the trust factor was only a little above the 50% mark.

Obviously we have a trust problem in this country.  By the way a few days earlier I read another such survey that asked two different groups of people how trustworthy they felt the professors were in the college they were most loyal to.  They asked students who were in the college and had the particular professors and they asked their parents how much they trusted the things that the professors were telling their children.  The students had a far better trust level for the professors than their parents did.  Interestingly the parents tended to offer very different comments on the whole trust thing.  Many said they felt the professors were undergirding the principles they had tried to instill in their children in growing up.  But about the same number felt the professors were destroying the foundations they had tried to lay in their children’s lives.  Sadly, the trust level wasn’t really very high from either the children or their parents.

Why is trust suffering in our time?  What has happened that led to people not trusting others?  Are people less truthful and trustworthy today than in previous times?  I suspect that we become jaded by all the efforts that are made to sell us something that we really don’t want all the time.  How much trust to you have in a telemarketer who calls to get you to purchase an extended warranty on your car or to offer you a vacation in Florida?  If you are like me it is somewhere below zero.  I suspect the trust level has decreased as people are quoted on some issue they obviously don’t know any more about than you do or perhaps even less.  The fact that our media seems to think that anyone who is famous in any area of life should be seen as an authority in all kinds of matters lessens our trust for what anyone says.

What difference does it make?  If we don’t trust anyone we tend to see everyone we meet as a crook who is trying to take advantage of us in some way.  It makes life miserable.  Certainly we can go too far in trusting everyone about everything and become gullible.  But don’t become a cynic that thinks everyone is trying to take advantage of you in some way.  Most people are trying to be honest in life.  It is far better to have the attitude “I will trust a person until I have solid evidence that they aren’t trustworthy” than to have the attitude “I won’t trust anyone until they prove to me that they are trustworthy.”  Remember the Golden Rule to treat others the way you want to be treated and in doing so we will trust and be trustworthy.

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SHOWING LOVE

It’s a day when expressions of love are far more natural than at other times.  Frankly, I think it is worthwhile to take advantage of any opportunity to express the love we have for each other, whether in marriage, in the family, among friends or in the spiritual family.  The whole human race is in desperate need of love.  The one consistent expression of overwhelming love for all people comes from God.  “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life, for God didn’t send his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).  That is the Scripture that we tend to hear more often about God’s love for us.  But let me share a couple of others that give a different angle and may help us to see somethings that aren’t so obvious.  In Romans 5:6-8 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  The other one is in I John 3:1-3  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

Lay these three Scriptures alongside each other and notice some powerful truths about God’s love for us.  First, God’s love is unlimited.  He loves the world, meaning everyone in the world.  His love isn’t limited to those who are already trying to do what he wishes.  Even while we were in rebellion to him he demonstrated his love in giving Jesus his unique son to die on our behalf.  Second, his love is active.  It is easy to express love.  It takes more to demonstrate it.  I have no idea how many times I’ve sat with a couple and heard a husband say, “I tell her I love her regularly” only to have the wife respond, “yes, you tell me you love me but your actions and your eyes make it seem like empty words.”  God demonstrates his love for us by the death of Jesus.  “Greater love has no one that this to lay down his life for his friends.”  Third, God’s love for us has a clear goal in mind.  It isn’t to get something from us or give bragging rights to the Lord.  His love is for the purpose of salvation.  Sin has invaded every life.  Sin pays very high wages since Paul will later say in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death.  God doesn’t want anyone to perish or be lost but longs for all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9).  His love strives to move us in the direction of what is the very best for us.  Think of how much you love your children.  Because of that love you long for the best things to happen in their lives.  God loves us even more that we can even imagine and has better desires for us than we can possibly have for those we love.  Fourth God’s love is deeply relational.  He shows that love by making us family.  He calls us his children and wants us to call him “Father”.  He adopts us into his family.  Because of the family relationship that he initiates in us he tells us that while we are his children now, the day will come when we are raised from the dead and we take on the same kind of resurrected body that Jesus has since he was raised from the dead.  When we are raised we will see him as he is.

Such love from God should have a huge effect in our lives.  If we really believe that God loves us so much and that he paid such a high price in order for us to be saved from sin and to have hope for eternal life in him, that hope should cause us to purify ourselves even as he is pure.  God is the great lover.  But he love is intended to have a response from us.  His love makes the way for us, but our love, faith and hope lead us to react to his love by turning to him in faith, loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and even loving our neighbor as ourselves.  When we have that kind of love for the Lord it naturally leads to our living obedient lives to him.  The hope we have in him leads to a purified life where our lives have a single goal or purpose.  Think of the fact that purity means unmixed just as when you purchase a product that is pure honey or pure sugar or pure olive oil.  The label is declaring that it is unmixed with other products or ingredients.  When God calls on us to have a pure heart it is to have an unmixed heart.  Paul was expressing this purified heart in Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  When our hearts are pure they are set on God’s call and God’s purpose for our lives.  When our hearts are mixed we have all kinds of goals and dreams that lead to us trying to go in all directions at the same time and never really getting anywhere that matters.

The more we understand the amazing love of God the more we imbibe the spirit of love in our relationship with Him and with other people all around us.  Speak love then show it in all you do.

 

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WHO YOU KNOW

You’ve heard it a thousand times, I’m sure.  “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts.”  The point that is being made is that if you have the right contacts you can get the job or the opportunity that others who are just as qualified or perhaps even more qualified won’t ever get.  I would add that who you know gets one opportunities but what you know makes the difference in whether one can take advantage of the opportunity.

But how does the whole “Who you know instead of what you know” work when we are talking about spiritual things?  It is certainly important for us to know the word of God and be able to apply it to our daily lives.  One of the reasons Jesus gave for sending the Holy Spirit when he ascended back to heaven was so that he could guide the apostles into all truth.  The result of the Spirit’s word was laid out by Paul in Ephesians 3:2-5  “Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.  In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.”  The inspiration of the Spirit that brought revelations to inspired men resulted in the word of God and when we read that revealed message we can understand God’s will just as those who were directed by the Spirit in inspiration and revelation did.  In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul laid out how God had given the New Covenant and it was unlike the Old Testament God had given through Moses.  He called that Old Law a ministry of death written and engraved on stones.  Now he has given to us the ministry of life in the New Covenant.  When we with unveiled faces read that New Testament we are able to see Jesus clearly and the Holy Spirits works in us through that study to transform or transfigure us into the image of Jesus Christ.  Our knowledge of the word should then result in a Christ like life on our part.

But it is vital to see that God doesn’t just want us to know his word.  In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 it is said that those who do not know God and don’t obey the gospel will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. In Galatians 4:8 he said “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.”  In I John 2:3-4 we are told how to test ourselves to see if we really do know God.  “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.  Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in that person.”  In Philippians 3:8-10 Paul described the huge transition that took place in his life when he really came to know Christ.  Before he had emphasized the importance of his birth, family heritage and his religious heritage.  But he had come to count all of that as refuge in order that he might know Christ.  He moved from that declaration to say, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, to share in his suffering and to be conformed to his death if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”  He told Timothy, “I know him in whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which he has committed to me against that day.”

So here is the huge point.  It is vital that  we know the word of God because through that word we come to know God, Christ and the Holy Spirit of God.  If we read and study the Bible continually but miss coming to know God then we have abused the whole knowledge of Scripture.  When Jesus confronted the religious leaders of his day he said, “You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have life, but they are they that testify of me.”  What was wrong with them?  They know tons of the Old Testament Scriptures but had missed the primary point of those Scriptures.  They had the laws, the regulations and the commands down pat.  They could tell anyone what was required of them in obedience.  But in all their study they had failed to see Jesus in the Scripture and had failed to really come to know God.  They knew lots of things about God, but didn’t know God.  The truth is we can do the same thing in any age.  We can learn the commands and know all the trivia of Scripture and never really get to know God or Christ to follow to life.

But the reality is that if I miss getting to know God, Christ and the Holy Spirit of God, I’ve missed the very things that matter.  We will have revelations from the Bible but never have the real change in our lives that result from knowing Him and following His will in my regular life.  So, while what you know is vital, who you know makes all the difference in the world.  It is only as I develop that personal love and relationship with God that I begin

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