Weight of Glory

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Light afflictions are but nothing in the grand comparison of the “exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17) which we will see when we are in God’s presence. All earthly pain will cease, all joy will be eternal, all knowledge and peace will be perfected. Life in the heavenly places is a reality, but so are trials on earth. But who allows these “fiery trials” to occur? Our LORD. The same Almighty God who perfects, establishes and strengthens us (1 Peter 5:10) for His eternal glory is the one who places us under great trials to test our faith (James 1). If this is the Truth of the word then why do so many Christians crumble to trials? Why does the very thought of hardship surpress them into intimidation and fear? We are afraid to act because we are in fear of what will happen to us. We are afraid of pain (to a degree). We are terrified of change (when conditions seem fine). We naturally seek comfort, but God seeks our perfection, instead. There is no comfort in perfection (Matthew 8:20).

What comfort is there truly to seek in a perishing world? There is no tangible entity in this life worthy or strong enough to give us the comfort our hearts truly seek. Everything is fleeting; everyone is self-seeking. God placed this desire of comfort in our hearts for the purpose to freely give comfort away to those who need comforted (2 Corinthians 3, 4). To be filled by such comfort we must seek and worship God alone; to know that He is our only source of true comfort. But why do we really seek comfort? We seek it to escape the hardships of life. We can easily pervert the beauty of God’s comfort by focusing it inwardly and thinking only of ourselves in the matter, turning a holy comfort into a worldly one. However, to cover the hardships of this world with a worldly comfort is like coating an open wound with antiseptic, expecting it to close and heal the lesion.There is nothing worldly, even comfort, that can take away our hardships. But thanks be to God for the life to come, for an “exceeding and eternal weight of glory” awaits. It will overshadow all trials. It will crush all barriers. It will shine eternally brighter than all pain that had briefly darkened us.

God is forever seeking our good. he does not want us to avoid trials. He knows that to avoid trials is to live in a false reality of a sin-ridden earth. We are not called by God to live blissfully ignorant of the sin and pain around us. We are called by God to walk boldly into it. We are called to stand firm in love in order to show those who are lost and full of darkness the Light of Jesus Christ. God has called us to love those who will hurt us. As Christians we are set up to be wronged, hated, persecuted, outcasted, blamed, laughed at, spit upon, abused, and the like. We endure this all so that we can show love to those who have no clue what love through grace and forgiveness is.

Of course we are to go through trials unsurprised (1 Peter 4:12). This is the “narrow” path to glory. Few travel this path. However, many walk the wide path beside it, on comfortable level ground, believing they are on the rough path to glory. If we do not place ourselves under the loving chastening of God and trials then nobody is going to hear about Jesus. We’ll be left seeing the believers we’ve been so close to for years in the church up in the heavenly places with us while so many friends, family and forgotten souls are scattered in hell. Start denying yourself in the uncomfortable trials and situations that will change you to be glorified with Christ. As you suffer you will suffer with Christ. These light afflictions can never compare to the weighted glory of being identified with the Holy One. For in His greatest trial and affliction, which was seen through His bloody death on the cross, He was was soon resurrected for eternity with all glory and dominion added to Him. Satan “bruised [Christ’s] heel” for only a moment, but Christ delivered the fatal blow to Satan’s “head” to destroy him for eternity (Genesis 3:15). Let us be encouraged to know that these trials cannot destroy us. They will bring pain, but that pain can never overpower the beautiful glory that is surely coming soon.

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Bodies of Death

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“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”-Romans 7:24

In Romans 12:3 Paul instructs his readers, “not to think of [yourselves] more highly than you ought to think, but… think soberly.” Oh, how easy it is to say that we do not need this instruction for ourselves. We are Christians. The basis of our faith is built upon the structure of humility. As we look to our great Lord Jesus Christ we know that we are now reborn into His likeness. You are right, my beloved, but I must ask you where these thoughts truly derive from. Do they derive from the Spirit or from your own heart? For to have these thoughts spewed from your heart is nothing more than vomit on the street. It is a defilement to our faith to say with our own understanding and our own self-aware heart that “we are humble.” Romans 3:12 (originally found in Psalm 14:3) says, “There is none who does good, no, not one.” When you read that, Christian or not, do you believe that you are above that statement? My beloved, I say this not to beat you down, but to open your eyes to the sin that is within us all: we are that statement.

Even Paul, the great writer of over half of the New Testament, did not consider himself to be good. He knew how good Christ was to him, thus allowing him to continue to do good works for His Kingdom. However, in Romans 7:14-25 Paul describes his current life as a believer, as well as speaking to other believers in these passages. At first, it seems as though Paul is contradicting himself, for he spent the previous chapter explaining how we are no longer enslaved to sin, and now he is writing that we are “sold under sin” and have “nothing good” in us. Despite what it may seem, Paul is only reinforcing what we as believers must know about ourselves by sharing his own testimony of the sinful nature that still resides in his unredeemed flesh. Far from bringing Christians down, Paul articulates the concept that a believer does “desire to obey God’s Law and hates his sin. He is humble, recognizing that nothing good dwells in his humanness; he sees sin in himself, but not as all that is there; and he serves Jesus Christ with all of his mind” (MacArthur Bible Commentary, 1528). So you see, it is a matter of understanding the difference between your new nature and the old. We cannot say of ourselves that we are good without then recognizing that we are utterly awful in our flesh. That is the nature of sin. It keeps the Christian back from being all that he can be for Christ. It is as Peter writes, “for he who has suffered (died) in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1). The only way to remove this wretched sin in us is to be dead.

Christ has broken the chains of sin. He has beaten death. We are aware of this and we live our lives in gratitude towards our Savior. But we still celebrate this truth within bodies that are unredeemed. Paul says, “I am carnal, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14). It is important to understand the inflection that Paul makes in this comment so that we can understand our own nature as well. Carnal literally means “of flesh.” This means that as we are still mortal, we live with carnal flesh. But Paul does not mean to say that he is still in the flesh, but the flesh is in him. When we were in the flesh we were sinners without Christ. Now as the flesh is in us, we are a new creation in Christ and we deal with this mortal, carnal flesh that our redeemed spirits temporarily reside in.

So as redeemed spirits living in unredeemed flesh in an unredeemed world around carnal lusts, passions, debauchery, unlawfulness, drinking parties, etc. we face a dilemma in our walk with Christ. It is natural to say that we are fine because we have Jesus near us, but again, that is out of ignorance towards the absolute sin that resides within us. To say that I am good is to compare myself to someone with a sinful nature, a sinner, and that in itself is a sin of judgement. We sin so much that we do not even realize all of them. David prayed for God to forgive him for his conscious sin as well as his secret sin (Ps. 19:12). Paul was right in lamenting the law of sin, that what he wills not to do, that he does. He says, “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:17). Paul is not rejecting personal responsibility for his sin. On the contrary, he is fully aware of his sinful nature (v.14). He is saying that no matter how much he sins (which he knows he will), he will never approve of it in his new Christ-like nature.

As Christians, neither shall we approve of our sin, nor lie to ourselves that we are well off. I leave you with this image to exemplify our walk. Paul laments, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (v.24). Tradition has it that an ancient tribe near Tarsus, where Paul grew up, tied the corpse of a murder victim to its murderer, letting its spreading decay to slowly infect and execute the murderer (MacArthur Bible Commentary, 1529).

Perhaps Paul is using this metaphor, perhaps not. But this is an image that we as Christians must constantly reflect upon so that we can see the sickening, devastating effects of sin on our lives. This “body of death” will be attached to us until we are dead and we find ourselves being taken up into the perfection of heaven. But because of Jesus’ intervention in our lives, we do not have to live with this dead body’s infectious decay spreading onto us. The Holy Spirit in us is the doctor, but Jesus is our cure. We have a Savior who has given us protection over the decay and death of sin, and He is cutting the bonds that tie us to this body of death each day as we come closer to being with Him. Be humbled in these unredeemed bodies. Be gentle in all your conduct and remember that we would not be any different than those flaunting their sin if it were not for Christ, and Christ alone, who has saved us. We are a new creation, but we are not yet a perfect creation. Keep living for the will of God and continue to humble yourselves before His grace and mercy, for without it we are nothing more than a body of death with no value.

Au Hasard

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In 1966, French director, Robert Bresson released a spiritually charged film titled Au hasard Balthazar. The story followed a donkey named Balthazar as he objectively watched the townspeople live out their lives. From being a young donkey during a family’s prosperity, to growing old and being beaten by a greedy scrooge, Balthazar had been tossed every which way into these peoples’ lives. He was disciplined while younger and then violently beaten for no apparent reason as he grew up. All the while, this donkey did not even let out a single cry as he was kicked, whipped, hit with logs, his tail lit on fire, and also shot (which caused his death). What’s more, Balthazar silently watched as the lives of ones that he loved were destroyed by evil.

The donkey’s owner, Marie, was a pure girl growing up, but after being raped by a very rebellious boy in town (Bresson does an amazing job at insinuating this without revealing a hint of explicit content), she loses all purity inside. She loses all hope for life as she aimlessly looks for true love, but she keeps ending up giving herself to the rebellious boy. As I quietly watched I began to realize why this film was so important to me spiritually. I understood why another French director once stated that “Au Hasard Balthazar is everything you need to know about life in an hour and a half.

Balthazar represents Jesus Christ, being “oppressed and afflicted [by an evil world], yet he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). The townspeople portray the evil (lust, greed, pride, etc.) caused by fallen mankind. Finally, Marie represents the innocent life tainted and destroyed by the broken world; the unexplainable and horrific acts that so many of us cannot understand. Some may say that Marie caused her own despair because she gave herself away to the town, but this was because of the shame and brokenness that the world had caused her. The only pure and genuine love she had was between her and Balthazar because the donkey was the only example of purity left in her life. This film tells the story of all mankind, but it takes an extensive breakdown to understand this…

This film opened my eyes to the brokenness of this world, but at the same time it still allowed me to focus on the power of hope. As ridiculous as it may sound, Balthazar shows us that better way of life. As a maturing foal, a yoke was put around his neck in which he was then disciplined by wearing it. He was beaten while disciplined (Hebrews 5:8), yet these owners did not mean to cause him harm. However, later in Balthazar’s life he was whipped and beaten by other owners who did not care for him (Luke 22:63), thus they did not care what harm was caused because Balthazar did not truly belong to them. Yet, Balthazar did not let out a single cry and he faithfully took all the lashings.

As is our lives, we are owned by the Lord and disciplined by the Lord. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten” (Hebrews 12:7). On the other hand, we also live in this world, but the world does not treat us as their own for “[we] are not of the world” (John 17:14). We are beaten down by them, yet we are not to grumble and become weary. We are to be like Balthazar and faithfully carry on our duties, no matter how hard we are whipped or kicked; all the while we are to look for the fullness of our blessings from the Lord, not from the world.

Yet, so many people complain about work and fuss about being shorthanded and rebel when someone continues to take them for granted. Did our good Lord Jesus do any of these things even though he was in the same position as the Christians today? What’s more, Jesus was also taken full advantage of because he could heal and perform other miracles. The world ended up nailing him to a tree, not honoring him as he deserved. We, too, mustn’t look for acceptance from this world, for they will only expect more from you. However, the discipline of God fills us up with character, maturity, and integrity. The pain inflicted by His discipline is apart from this worlds, for He is faithful to fill us with love, encouragement, character, and the fullness of His grace when we need it most. Pain is pain, but discipline from the Lord is distinct from the world’s abuse.

If the Lord inflicts pain onto His own through discipline, does this mean that He enjoys causing pain? Certainly not! The evil of this world purposefully uses pain to torment and destroy. In the film, Marie’s life was tormented to the point of death because of the evil set upon her life. There were no regrets and no repentance by the abusers. Contrary, the Lord has purpose behind the pain. All those who are children of God know that trials produce perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-5).

Hope is not something that might happen. To the Lord, hope refers to something that is certain to happen, but it is not yet realized in the believer’s life. So when we are rebuked by the Lord, we can rest assured knowing that that pain will be used to build us, shape us, and bring us closer to the Lord’s presence and purpose in our lives. God’s true word does not lie when He speaks through Jeremiah and says, “though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:32-33). There is no willful abuse by our merciful Lord. If pain is to be caused in a believer’s life, then God will be sure to turn that pain in the night into joy when the morning comes.

However, there is pain in this world due to the fall of mankind. Au hasard Balthazar incredibly captures this piece of biblical truth. The evil characters in the film are real evil. I wanted the rebellious boy that raped Marie to have at least a reflection of mercy somewhere in him, but true to the evil that is in this world, there is no compassion in him. He is evil to the core and so are we as a world of fallen humans. Although we can say that we are good people, we are not even close to being slightly good. Due to the fall of man (Genesis 3) we are inherently evil and full of darkness. The True Light, Jesus Christ, came into this world to save us from ourselves, and because mankind was so full of darkness they were blind to such a pure and brilliant light. Men were so blind that others had to testify to the True Light coming to the world, and yet the world still could not see Him, nor receive Him.

This is broken mankind: “…the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Some enjoy their sinful lives and the pain it causes. Others live in sin and are unwillingly destroyed by it because their sin has blinded them from the True Light, Jesus Christ. However, all of mankind is a victim to “the prince of the power of the [world] (aka Satan),” (Ephesians 2:2). He has created this evil in which mankind uses to destroy each others’ lives. Marie was a victim of sin in Au hasard Balthazar, but that is because she was blind to the purity of love that was before her. She could feel it’s warmth, but she did not receive it because of the brokenness that sin had created in her heart; she had lost hope in such a pure thing.

This world and all its inhabitants are evil. “There is no one righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). However, there is One who has the ability to save us from ourselves. He stands by and oversees all things. He does not beg us to come, but he quietly knocks. Balthazar watched those he knew destroy their lives around them, yet, before each of them died they found solace in the donkey’s purity. If we have glimpsed goodness in this broken world, then let us also seek its source: Jesus Christ. Before we succumb to our own death into eternity, let us go to the One who has always been for us amidst brokenness and despair. Close your eyes and say “Good-bye old mate…” and rest your weary head on the one who will forever hold you up.

Psalm 22 (Part 2)

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As we continue along in Psalm 22 we press on in staring into the eyes of our Beloved Savior. Unlike His blood-sweat brow in Gethsemane, the blood that now sweats from His body is caused from the deep wounds of hatred and disgust inflicted by our Lord’s enemies. Jesus looks down at His own body and counts the bones in His chest (v.17). Emaciated and weak, our King looks to be the most helpless Savior to have ever disgraced this earth. Blessed are those who know the rest of this story. Like wings catching a breeze of a mighty wind, so may our low spirits also soar when we look upon our Lord at this very moment, not forgetting what has become of Him.

Patient in unbearable suffering, Jesus strained His head toward heaven and cried out for His Father to deliver Him. “Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed” (vv. 4-5).  Look to Jesus once again, distraught believer, for this is the epitome of love hoping in all things (1 Corinthian 13:7).  Do you find hope in God today, even though the stakes of this world pierce you down? Has not Jesus asked us to take up our crosses along with Him to Cavalry to be crucified to ourselves? Look past yourself in this moment and realize that it is only by self-righteousness that your worries can possibly overshadow the undeniable hope that we are to have in God.

While in Gethsemane, Jesus humbled His spirit to God in order to prepare Himself for the daunting task ahead. At the Cross, our Lord looked beyond His very life and handed over His body to be used as a sacrifice before God, allowing Himself to become the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18). If it were not for this incomprehensible sacrifice that Jesus had made for all of creation, we would not know the riches of being called the “brethren” of our Lord (Romans 8:29). He is our big Brother whom we look up to and do everything that we can to imitate. Everything that He speaks unto us, we look into His eyes, full of security and kindness, and say “Yes, Brethren.” So as He has asked you once before, may you take up your cross along with Him and deny yourself. Find the hope that our Beloved Brethren had found in our Father in His darkest hour and do not let it go.

Take hope all the more in the fact that the Lord has promised never to leave you, nor forsake you. In our Savior’s final moments of life, our God had not only left Him, but had also forsaken Him. This kind of wrath that our glorious King had endured is never to be upon His people ever again. Like the covenant made with Noah never to cut “all flesh…by the waters of the flood” (Genesis 9:11), our God has finalized His covenant of forgiveness upon His family through the blood of Jesus Christ. Like the rainbow that the Lord had set before Noah, the Cross is set before all believers to look to and know God’s lasting covenant.

Believe in the Savior’s final words, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Our King did not simply “give up His spirit” to death. No, He gave up His spirit to the Lord so that it could be turned into righteousness for all; so that Jesus could be set forth “as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God passed over the sins that were previously committed” (Romans 3:25). It was not His life that Jesus was giving up and crying out that it was finished in that last breath. It was all rules of principalities and powers, the loosening of the sinful chains that bound us, all doubt, all enslavement to evil; it was the finishing of Jesus’ triumphal procession and His victory over sin (Colossians 2:15).  Stand in God’s grace this very moment and thank Him for the victory that the Lamb has won over the wolf. Take on the hope that our Lord Jesus had on that cross, knowing that there is so much more than what we can see in our circumstances. “When weeping endures for the night…we lift our hands and our hearts to the One that we love and we sing.”

Psalm 22 (Part 1)

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A deeper look into the graphic nature of Psalm 22 opens the door to make a direct correlation between King David and the greater King, Jesus Christ. David’s writings become Jesus’ words, and his cries to God begin to emulate the Lord’s pain on the cross. This is the most personal and brutal account that I have read about our Savior’s last hours spent on the cross.

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Take in these words and let this first verse in the psalm cut your heart open. Search yourself and begin to place yourself in our Lord’s anguish. This is pain pouring out from between His blood-stained lips; His deepest heart’s cry to his Beloved Father. “Why have You forsaken Me?” We will never be able to understand these words. Interpret them as we may, we will still never know the wrath of the Father that our Lord Jesus had felt in the very moments He had mustered up this plea. These words mark the moment in which the Father had left His only Begotten Son. What a tragic, yet empowering moment this is to embrace as a believer. This is the moment where our Lord, who has been with the Father since the beginning of time itself, experiences something that He has never known. Jesus had went forty days without food and had rivaled all of Satan’s temptations, but at this very moment when He desperately utters, “Why have You forsaken Me,” He finally knew what life on this decaying earth was like without God. It was in this hour that our Lord Jesus connected with every unbeliever’s lonely and pained existence. It was here where Jesus felt what a believer suffers through moments of unbelief. A life without the Father is a forsaken life and this was the life that our Lord Jesus endured only hours before His final breath.

Our Beloved Lord’s pain continued on the cross for hours. He was beaten, flogged, spit on, ridiculed, His body torn apart, nailed to a tree, placed on a hill, and He still had not undergone the full wrath of His Father. The fullness of God’s wrath befell Jesus the moment that God left His Son’s side. As Jesus now had suffered every kind of physical temptation, endured every kind of physical pain, and understood the awfulness of life without His beloved Father, I say shame to those who say that we “do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses…” (Hebrews 4:15) Don’t you dare ever say that Jesus doesn’t know what you are going through. Humble yourself and realize that it is you who will never be able to sympathize with what our meek Lord has went through.

Look unto your King now and hold tight to the nail-pierced hands that embrace you. Follow His lead for He has endured more than what we will ever know. Not only has He suffered the full wrath of our God, but in those hours Jesus still chose to praise His Father. “But You are holy” (Psalm 22:3). Can we look at our own difficulties in life and still praise our Father in heaven for His Holiness? Do you crumble at the sight of the wind and desperately cry out to the Lord to save you (Matthew 14:30) or do you endure hardships and pain with much patience and give praise to our Father for His grace and holiness (2 Corinthians 6:4-10)? Our King, even in His deepest humiliation on the cross, chose to praise God even while feeling the fullness of His wrath! Who are you not to praise the Lord even when life is crumbling around you? You live a  life of knowing the fullness of God’s goodness during all tribulations, unlike Jesus who knew the fullness of God’s wrath during the hardest tribulation of all. You live free from shame and the weight of sin; the Messiah lived to be shamed by others on the cross while the weight of His body became sin.  No longer was He a Lamb in those final moments before the Father. Instead, He had become a Scapegoat for each one of us and the sins that we commit daily.

For those of you who say that the Lord cannot save you from your sin or that He cannot rescue you from your problems do not take the time to comprehend all that He truly took on during His time on the cross. Rome’s greatest symbol of fear has now become the world’s greatest symbol of hope. The earth’s most inhumane way to die became the most loving and humane act done for all mankind. Whether in need or in agonizing pain, take the time from your day to choose what our faithful Lord did through His anguish, and tell God how Holy He is. For if Jesus was forsaken on the cross by His own Father for our lives’ sake, how much more will God freely give to us in our hurt? (Romans 8:32)

A Fragrance For God

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Today we learn another lesson from the Holy Spirit. This lesson is not for our benefit, it is all for God’s glory. However, we will get to learn deep, heart lessons from taking this course. The course is on making a sweet-smelling fragrance for God. We will learn what the ingredients are, how we mix them into our lives, and lastly, how they are expelled into the world to give off that beautiful aroma that God finds so wonderful to His senses. I must warn you, though, that this concoction is not made without some mistakes and these mistakes will hurt you, but they will not harm you (if you follow closely to the Spirit’s teachings). Hard work and sweat are some of the main ingredients in making this fragrance. It is no easy task. You will be tested in your faith, as well as your deeds. Despite the hardships, this delicately made fragrance is sweet to God. And if it is sweet to God, it will be sweet to all those who share in God’s glory. Those who do not know God will smell it and compare it to their own decaying stench. These dead men and women who do not know this fragrance will find wonder in it. They will want it, but will not get it without God. This fragrance can turn the dead to living repentance, and the children of God into stronger saints for their Master’s glory. If you are prepared for the challenge of this task, then let us closely follow the Spirit’s teachings to make a fragrance for God.

We start with a cup. This cup represents us; we are the cup. What we will have in our cup is wine. In the Old Testament this wine was poured onto the burnt offerings given up to God. After the wine was poured onto the burn offering, it would create a vapor that would be lifted up into the air towards God. This wine created a sweet aroma that filled the air and was pleasing to the Lord (Exodus 29:41; Hosea 9:4). This is the end result, however. This is not where we start. We start with a cupwe are the cup. So if we are a cup that pours out offerings to the Lord in order to create a fragrance for Him, we need to start with filling our cup. This is the first place of mistakes and hardships.

We want to fill our cup with sweet wine: the Word of God, good works, prayers of grace, forgiveness, etc. However, small amounts of bitterness enter into the wine’s taste as it is being fermented. It is part of the process, but with too much bitterness comes a terrible taste that ruins the wine. So we must take on this ingredient of bitterness with caution, for we still want to keep all the sweetness of God’s Word and good works in us. A bitter taste is not created without hardships, and it is how we deal with these hardships that will determine the amount of bitterness we let into our wine. We need it to be perfect if it is to be greatly pleasing to God. Listen closely, bitter taste is part of the process. Life does not taste sweet from soaking in all the rich juices of the grape. On the contrary, small amounts of a bitter taste must be added to give the right potency to wine. So welcome hardships and trials, for as they may taste bitter to you now, they will make for an excellent wine that will smell wonderful to God.

Stir in these hardships and trials into your cup along with the sweet wine of faith in God’s Word. The stirring of these two mixtures is very crucial, indeed. Properly stirring together trials and faith takes a long time, and mistakes are made. Lucky for us, when we stumble in our stirring, the Holy Spirit picks up the mixing rod for us and leads us back to the place where trials and faith make a most beautiful consistency. So keep stirring. The trials will keep coming, but as long as faith is continually stirred in with it, the wine will turn out wonderful.

Once the wine is properly mixed into our cup, we must not let it soak. If we let this sweet wine soak in our cup for a long while it will begin to tarnish and lose its purpose. We must not soak in the glory of this sweet wine. No, we are to pour it out as an offering to the Lord. Follow Paul as he says, “I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). We are not just taking communion with this wine, we are the communion. As we pick up our cross and follow our Lord Jesus (Matthew 16:24), we are to also pour ourselves out as a sacrifice just as the precious Lamb has done. Do not let the wine settle into your cup, for it will only rot. Pour it out on the heat of the fires and it will turn into a vapor of fragrance. We are so close to giving God the aroma that He craves from us.

Another very crucial part of the process comes as we pour ourselves out. Like making a short leap across a deep canyon, this process is not long, but mistakes will lead to serious consequences and some men will become too scared to take the leap. Pouring ourselves out as a drink offering unto the Lord is a risky process because it takes all we to make a sacrifice that will result in a denial of our own glorification. With any work that man sows, they want to reap the benefits of that work. This is not that kind of work. This is a lesson to please God, not man. So as we pour ourselves out, we must swallow the truth that we will not be glorified in this. Instead, we will be thinned out, worn out, and turned into a sweet vapor that the Lord will inhale. We will be pleasing to Him, and that is our reward.

So pour your cups, my brothers, and let yourselves be soaked upon the burnt offering. Be as Paul was to the Philippians (Philippians 2:17) and make God’s name great through the towns and cities that you reside in. Take this great sacrificial leap of faith and pour out everything you have labored over in Christ. Let your wine pour over the fires of hardships and pain. Let the wine sweat from your bodies and turn into vapor. Breathe in deep after expelling all of your energy and smell the freshly sweetened air. Then, and only then, can you rejoice and say, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14).

For to God we are a fragrance of Christ...” (2:15). If we endure the trials, find grace in the mistakes, become pleasing in our attitudes of hard work, rejoice in our sufferings as well as our accomplishments, and if we follow the Spirit’s close guidance through it all, we will become that sweet-smelling fragrance that God cannot get enough of. “To some we are a scent of death leading to death, but to others, a scent of life leading to life” (2:16). Your fragrance to God will be well-pleasing. To His children of life, you will give a fragrance of an even richer life. And to those who are dying, you will bring to them a fragrance so sweet that their decaying noses will not be able to comprehend. Their minds will not register its sweetness, for they have never known anything so wonderful. These dead men and women will become curious, and through God’s grace, this fragrance may open up an opportunity to make a dead man come back to life. This fragrance is well-pleasing. It is our life’s fragrance; it is our sacrifice; it is the vapor of our love for the One who has loved us.

Bearing With One Another

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Has anyone ever told you, “Walk a mile in my shoes?” Well I say let’s not just walk a mile in their shoes, let us walk a mile while helping them carry their cross, as well. Just like Simon from Cyrene, who helped carry Jesus’ cross, let us, too, help carry the crosses of others (Luke 23:26). Let us bear the weight of others’ burdens, not just sympathizing with their pain, but also empathizing with their pain. Jesus has told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him (Matthew 16:24). It’s no wonder that so many of us have to stop when our cross becomes too heavy. We never put it down! We never trudge it to the top of Calvary and allow ourselves to be nailed to it as Jesus was. Without placing ourselves upon that erected cross, we never complete what Jesus completed: bearing the burdens of the world.

We are made in the likeness of our Creator. Believers have been chosen by God to be in the likeness of His son, Jesus. This means that our character is to be in likeness with the Son of God, not our appearance. If Jesus was sent here on this earth to serve others and not to be served, then shall we not also serve one another in love? If Jesus gave up his divine nature and humbled himself to the position of a slave, shall we not also give up our rights to our possessions, pride, and promises in order to humble ourselves before others? Nothing was written in the Bible that couldn’t be done (without God’s help, of course). When Jesus says, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” he is not setting a certain standard, he is giving a bold command. So if Jesus sacrificed everything in heaven to come to a decaying world to bear our burdens, let us then model him and give our decaying possessions to bear the burdens of one another.

It starts with Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” This verse is the essence of burden bearing. Forget about yourself and take on the weight of those who are struggling. If your loved one has a broken heart, then pray until your heart becomes broken from even the thought of them shedding a single tear. If a friend is struggling from alcoholism, don’t just pat him on the back and wish him luck, find him help. “ Read James 2:16-17 and you’ll understand why faith without action is dead. That action may look different in each situation, but do something. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

It is not enough to just bear the burden, however. As we do it, we are to put on “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12-13). Those characteristics are required, but still not enough. God, in His unfathomable grace, has given everyone on earth some benefits of His goodness. He has given everyone common grace in order to receive temporal blessings; warning to repent, showing that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; and compassion, fitting us all with a sense of His great compassion for others. Even sinners can be kind to one another (Matthew 5:47).  But we, as believers in Jesus Christ, own a piece of God that no one else on this earth does: love. It is God’s love that “binds [compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience] together in perfect unity” (Col. 3:14). It is the same love that Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13. It is a selfless love that aims to edify one another, never ourselves. It is this love that allows us to possess the great compassion that our Lord Jesus had for the world on the night of his betrayal.

As we dispose of our old selves and put on the new, we are continually renewed in the knowledge of our Creator’s image (Col. 3:10). So let us truly follow the likeness of Jesus and do what he did at Gethsemane and Calvary. At Gethsemane, Jesus’ soul was “crushed with grief to the point of death…” He prayed so hard from such agony in his spirit that his sweat “fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” When was the last time that God had laid a burden on you? It will never compare to the burden that Jesus was faced with, so we must faithfully go ahead with our Father’s will saying, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” At Calvary he was brutally nailed to the cross and raised up to hang for hours in agony that no man can conceive. All the while, he bore our burdens and sin, crying out to God. This was a man of sacrifice. This was a man of love. He is our God. He is our model. Let us model him.

A Nation of Unbelievers

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“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

-Hebrews 4:11-12

Bible teacher John MacArthur comments on this passage by saying that “the Word of God is comforting and nourishing to those who believe, [but] it is a tool of judgment and execution for those who have not committed themselves to Jesus Christ… [The Hebrews] intellectually, were partly persuaded, but inside they were not committed to Him. God’s Word would expose their shallow beliefs and even their false intentions.” (MacArthur Bible Commentary)

Do you say that you believe in Jesus, but don’t practice because you think you’re doing enough? What if you do practice, but you often get caught up in denying what the Spirit is telling you? Are we not to deny ourselves and commit our lives fully to the One who fully committed His life to the Father for us? Unbelief doesn’t have to just be subjected to an unbeliever. Many Christians follow Jesus, but are blind to faith. Think back to Acts when Saul was met face to face with Jesus. He was blinded for three days without sight. This reminds me of what Paul later wrote in his second epistle to the Corinthians, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (5:7).  Just because we say we are walking with the Lord does not mean that we are walking in faith of the Lord.

It’s no easy task to be part of this world and persevere to have solid faith in all circumstances even when things seems to be falling apart. The author of Hebrews wrote in chapter 3 verse 14, “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” As partakers of Christ we are literally called to persevere until trials and pressures. We are to hold our confidence in Christ, by what we know God can do. If we continually neglect God’s power in our lives we will become “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

The Israelites were the “house” of God that Moses led during the Exile. This is the “house” in which the author is speaking of in the third chapter of Hebrews (vv. 2-5). The house had angered the Lord through their unbelief. The Lord says, “Your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation…’They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.'” (Heb. 3:9-10)

Imagine yourself being led through the desert by God’s chosen one, and just when you thought that you were all destined for death, God showed up and saved you. Again, you were on the brink of death from starvation and the Lord delivered manna to for the whole nation. Then all of a sudden, things started to look bad again and you cracked under the pressure. You then began to worship a false idol because it brought your senses instant gratification rather than fearful dependence upon the Lord. Think about this whole scenario. Is this not what we do still to this day? Bills that need to be paid, but not enough money is being brought it. Your children that need to be fed, but there’s not enough resources. Work that needs to be done, but your computer crashes. How do you react in tough situations? Do you start to look for instant gratification by confiding in others, getting angry, or just sweeping your problems under the rug? Is this not unbelief in God’s power over your life? Does he not want us to go out in daily desperation for Him? God said that, “[Unbelievers] shall not enter My rest.” (3:11) God has abundance rest for us. But “we see that they could not enter in [God’s rest] because of unbelief.” (v.19)

The author of Hebrews certainly knew the Old Testament like the back of his hand. He creates unique references throughout the book of Hebrews that makes such statements as “God’s rest” a reality. In chapter 4 the author cites that God’s rest is a promise that remains open (v. 1). After the Israelites reached the promised land they found earthly rest, but many did not receive the heavenly rest in which God spoke of in Psalm 95 (which is referenced throughout Hebrews 3 & 4). God’s spiritual rest remains open for us “Today” (Ps. 95:7).

However, there are believers and unbelievers, alike, who refuse to find God’s heavenly rest because they find a joy and comfort within the things of this world. Too often people will have a drink with others instead of witnessing to those drunk on the streets. So many times I see people sacrificing their beliefs by watching a movie that the world reviewed as “excellent.” These things are earthly and thus, will only bring an earthly rest. All the while, God asks us to give up these things and to seek Him through that which tries to blind us. Christians are sojourners to this world. Let us start acting like we believe that our true home is a heavenly one beyond this earth.

Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience” (4:11). What pattern do you live your life? Simply put, whichever pattern you live is the pattern you will follow. So I pray for your sake that it is a godly pattern in which you can find rest, even when everything in you wants to fight the urge to rebel. The author of Hebrews lists three important issues that cause a person to willingly be wrought with unbelief: rebellion (v.16), repeated sin (v.17), and disobedience (v.18). All three of these lead to the conclusion posted in verse 19: “they could not enter in [to God’s rest] because of unbelief.

In conclusion, we find God’s rest to be real and unbelief, between believers and unbelievers, to also be true. How must one make sure to stay in God’s rest and believe in His faithfulness? His Word. There is nothing else more powerful and satisfying than the Word of God. With this, Hebrew’s author followed up his comment about the “pattern of disobedience” (4:11) by guiding the readers’ attention to the Word of God: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” John MacArthur writes in his Bible Commentary that, “It is the Word which must be believed and obeyed and the Word which will judge the disobedient… We are accountable to the living, written Word and to the living God who is its author.”

There is no other way to look at it. The word is all powerful because it comes from an Almighty and all-knowing God. It is His life-transforming Word, and without following it we are deliberately choosing not to follow its Author, thus deliberately choosing to follow “the same pattern of disobedience” in which the world contends to. If we say we believe in the Lord with our mouths, then let us confess our faith in Him with the same mouth. Our God is bigger than our worries and our concerns. Let us not turn to unbelief for “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).

God’s “Spiritual” Blessings

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“What does love mean to you?”

A friend had recently asked me this question, and as I sat there pondering the many definitions that this world has created for  this particular word, I found myself giving him a one word answer: “Sacrifice.”

Too many of us see the word “love” and instantly think of it as an emotion that we possess as humans for one another or something that we, ourselves, long for. First of all, none of us possess love. It is impossible. We are a fallible creature. If you don’t believe me then talk to Paul. He cited at least eight solid pieces of of scripture in Romans 3 on how no one is righteous (Romans 3:11-18), and that’s just the start of his epistles. Second, love is supposed to be given, not recieved.

I hope you haven’t thought of me as being too brash and clicked away from this page already. If that is your case, then please hear mine. We have already received love. There was no other reason as to why an almighty, perfect God had sent His only Begotten Son to earth to die for the sins of useless, vile men such as ourselves unless it was in the name of love. We have received love in full. However, so often we look for this love in other people that when they fall short of our expectations, we look for it from God and feel that we’re even being shorted by Him. Brothers and sisters, this cannot be!

The cause of this epidemic, in my opinion, stems from the cardinal sin: pride. ALL of us are prideful. Remember, not one of us is righteous (Rom. 3:11). What I see so often, especially in the church, are people seeking God for their own glory and not His. Scripture such as the sacredly abused Romans 8:28, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” is quoted time and time again because people misinterpret it to mean that God works everything out for our good so that we can go live a happy life and always count on the Lord to be there to soak up His infinite blessings. I’m not saying that God isn’t going to be there, but if you decide to pray to Him concerning that six-figure salary job that you wanted so that  you can upgrade to a better-furnished three story house, then don’t expect God to “work for the good of those who love Him.” If you love God then you will follow His commands (John 14:15; 15:10).

God commands us to love others and not ourselves. But wait, I just said we don’t possess love. Yes, as a fallible human race we do not, but as a new creation in Christ we are given everything we need to love one another because we have been accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). Here is the point I feel most people miss about Romans 8:28. They find the first half of it so comforting that they close their Bible before going on! Here’s how it reads, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Ephesians 1:4 says that God “chose us” before the world was made to be adopted into His kingdom, being clothed not just with Christ’s riches and blessings, but also His very nature (v.5). We must understand the blessings of God in order to understand why God really chose us for His purpose. Ephesians 1:3 states that God has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing.” I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did when I first read this and think that we are just blessed materially. Then again, we are not just blessed immaterially, either. Pastor John MacArthur puts it a fine way, “But rather [spiritual blessings refer] to the work of God, who is the divine and spiritual source of all blessings.” (The MacArthur Commentary Bible)

When God “chose us” (Eph. 1:4), it is to mean that God chose us for Himself, for the purpose that we praise Him for His glory. When God blesses new believers for their obedience after they take big steps toward His kingdom’s purpose, such as baptism or a prayer of confession, it is a joy that they have never felt before. It is such a pure joy that believers will continually search for that same experience with God over and over again. That inevitably launches them into a take-take relationship with God. They forever want His blessings and not God. However, to love God is to love his commands, and to love his commands is to love sacrifice.

God has allowed us to be sanctified in Christ for the purpose of His praise and glory (Eph. 1:12). We are not called to serve God and then be paid an allowance. Just as God had stripped Himself of His divine privileges and made Himself a slave for us when He came to earth (Philippians 2:7), so He also expects us to strip ourselves of all ambition and make ourselves a slave to His purpose. We must pray about such sacrifices, for such a call is impossible for us to take on by ourselves. We would never do it, and some of us never will because we focus on how God can please us, and not on how we can please Him. He is our Master, but He is a faithful, all-loving one at that. So don’t ever feel like you will regret sacrificing your life to God. His grace and love is enough.

Standing For Truth

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This world consumes us. When everything the world produces surrounds us, how couldn’t it? We are seemingly fit into the mold of society by the clothes we wear, the books we read, the movies we watch, and the things we eat and drink. This is not what God says. In John chapter 17, Jesus prays to the Father for his disciples in the world. In verse 16 he prays, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” We are surrounded by the world and all of its idols and material ethics, but take heart, Jesus has called us to him, he who is not of this world.

This leaves Christians left between a rock an hard place. If we are surrounded by all of these worldly things and God has called us to not be one with the world, what shall we do? Well I personally would love to be called out of this world and taken up to live with Jesus for eternity, wouldn’t you? But wait, Jesus also prayed to the Father, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one… As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”(v.15,18). Well there goes that idea. We are here to stay, folks. Get used to the people that you love (and those you don’t really want to be around), the commercialism, the advertisements, the false doctrines, and the sin. God isn’t calling us out of the world. He calls us to be here to bring his name glory: “Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth… Whom I have created for My glory.” (Isaiah 43:6-7)

Isn’t it great to know that even though we were called to be on this earth, Jesus Christ was praying for us to be delivered from its evil (John 17:5)? That brings me hope in the midst of all the evil sin that we are tempted and swayed by. This evil tempts us by the evil one’s hand. The devil will try to dissuade you of God’s power and truth as many times as he can in order that you fall into his traps to be tempted by the flesh’s lustful desires. Sex, drugs, beauty, beer, money, cars, diamonds, technology, six pack abs… the list goes on. Acquire these things in your life and be accepted into the elite club of the world known as the “in-crowd”: the popular, the rich, the famous, the sexy, the wealthy. “These things will not only make you become liked by all, but you’ll be happy as well,” says the world.

“O righteous Father! The world has not known You,” rebukes Jesus (John 17:25). The world doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Let me toss that out there for everyone to catch. The world tells us what we should look like, what we should wear, what we should find as beautiful, who we should associate with, what kind of salary to make, etc. It’s obvious that the world  does not know God. The world will never know God. God is too holy and too filled with truth for the disgusting lies of the world to become coherent of His word. God’s living Word (Jesus) was not known to the world even when he was walking before them! So the next time that you feel like you should buy something, look at something, drink something, eat something or even smoke something because those around you in the world are doing it, just remember that you’re jumping off of that bridge with them. It’s a long fall, but luckily God is there to catch us.

So we’re stuck in this world. We’re surrounded by its gadgets, its objects, its icons. In this, our body immediately lusts for them.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12 that “All things are lawful to me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” It’s not a sin to buy things in this world. It is sin to become attached or idolize the things that you buy in this world. What about sex (or pornography)? Paul does not exclude these things and says that they are indeed lawful to us. Again, he says that “I will not be brought under the power of any.” “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!” (1 Cor. 6:15)

Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Shall we fulfill fleshly desires like pornography or drunkenness just because our bodies are roused for a moment by them? We must become like Paul: “But I discipline my body, and make it my slave” (1 Cor. 10:27).

Paul teaches in Galatians 5:16 that if we “Walk in the Spirit, [we] shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” For me, it seems that as I walk I start to lose focus. And when I lose focus my eyes start to wonder. And when my eyes wonder, I start to see those desires the world is throwing at me instead of the truths God has set before me. Sound like you? When moments like these occur we must stand.

Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the ‘schemes’ of the devil.” Satan is certainly cunning and crafty. He knows the instincts and desires of humans. He’s been around them for as long as God has. Satan laughs when he successfully exploits our weaknesses, God shouts triumphantly when He glorifies Himself in our weaknesses. We all have weaknesses and we all need help from God. Listen to the truth of James’ words: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (v.7). As we stand before God the world sweeps fast around us, tempting and luring us with lustful desires, but in the midst of all that, God calmly asks us to submit ourselves fully to Him. As we stand and submit Satan flees. “What communion has light with darkness?” Satan cannot be near God’s goodness and God cannot be around sin. So stand and submit to good and watch Satan flee!

After Satan flees it only seems natural to start to walk again. Wrong. Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Let us be patient in our walk with God. There will be many stop-and-go moments whether we like it or not. Each time we stand before the world with its desires, we have a choice: to either submit to God or to the desire; to either make this moment a trial of perseverance or a temptation of death. Submit yourselves before the Holy God and Satan, with his lusting schemes, will flee from you. And after you’ve submitted, get up and stand. Just stand before God and praise Him that He has led you from temptation and strengthened you once more to become the obedient son or daughter that He has called you to be. God has all the time in the world, literally. Let’s not walk too fast.