Obedience can be hard sometimes. It can be hard to forgive someone who has wronged you, and it can be even harder to forgive them “seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). It can be hard to love enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). It can be hard to show patience and kindness toward people (1 Cor. 13:4) – especially when they do not deserve it. Yet God calls His people to do all of these things.
Though much could be said about this struggle, there is one thing in particular that we often seem to forget: these things are not struggles for God at all. Interestingly, many of the very commands God gives us are things God has already done Himself. He does not call us to act contrary to His own actions but rather to be holy as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16). Why does that matter? Because too often, our struggle is made more difficult by failing to realize the grace we have received. Obedience is fueled by meditating on the grace God has lavished on us rather than by simply focusing on the demands He has placed on us. So take a moment this morning to consider how God has loved you.
Continue reading God Is Not Like Us…Thankfully
Ephesians is a letter about the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ. Clearly, Paul wants every reader to understand the immense blessing that has come to everyone who is a “saint” (1:1). Beginning in chapter 2, Paul reminds us of the past. In order to drive home the good news of the gospel, he remembers the bad news that preceded it. In particular, in Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul reminds us of this vital truth: if we do not have Jesus, we are dead because we are slaves of sin and enemies of God. Only with that understanding can we begin to see the full glory of the gospel of Christ.
Continue reading Live By the Word (Ephesians 2:1-3)
This past Sunday we continued our journey through Revelation by looking at Revelation 2:8-11 – the letter to the suffering church at Smyrna. Notes and audio can be found here.
And in Sunday School, we looked at Mark 1:21-45 – a passage that puts the authority of Christ on full display. We see His spiritual authority, His healing authority, His preaching authority, and His purifying authority. Notes and audio can be found here.
If we are honest, each of us would readily admit that certain parts of the Bible seem “less exciting” than others. In particular, genealogies and lists simply do not spark the fires of our hearts as readily as other portions of Scripture. However, all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16) which means all Scripture – including its genealogies and lists – is useful and necessary. This is good to remember as we come to Genesis 10-11. Though the story of the tower of Babel is well-known and full of action, it is surrounded by two genealogies that are more probably skipped on a regular basis. But God saw fit to include them, so we should see fit to consider them. As we do so, it becomes clear that God has a purpose and point – namely: He does what He says He will do, and nothing can thwart His purposes.
Continue reading Live By the Word (Genesis 10-11)
Who is God? What is He like? Can we even know? Some people may consider such questions silly and impractical. But in reality, they are critically important. In light of the fact that we are called to love God and trust Him, do we not need to know something about Him? If we simply make things up about Him in our mind, can we truly love Him or will we simply love a “God” of our own making? Surely the latter, and that is a problem because God’s Word is clear that we are not to worship false gods. We need to be sure we are worshiping the one, true God. But how can we be sure of that? We can be sure because we have the words of God Himself, and in those words, God has made Himself known.
Continue reading God Has Made Himself Known (God, Part 1)
Where does love come from? The question may seem too philosophical for some people, but it is a legitimate question. Especially for a Christian, the question is essential because the most important commandments we have received are “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor” (Matt. 22:34-40). Those commandments alone make love a priority for Christians. So how do we get it? Where does it come from? Maybe you love God truly and faithfully but would like to love Him more. Maybe you know you should love Him but simply cannot seem to “work it up”. Maybe you desire to love other people more but struggle to know how to do that. If any of those are true of you, I pray that you would consider this truth: Love – at its core – is the natural human response to what we believe is most valuable.
Continue reading You Love the Things You Treasure
As we saw last time, Paul follows up His praise of God (1:3-14) with a prayer for his readers (1:15-19). He prays that God would grant them wisdom and “light” so they will know the hope to which they have been called, the riches of God’s inheritance for them, and the greatness of God’s power toward them. The first two items are simply listed, but the last reference to the power of God actually gets expanded. In Ephesians 1:20-23, Paul goes out of his way to actually help us understand and appreciate more of the very power of God that works on our behalf. Put simply: Jesus Christ has been given ultimate authority, and God has put Him – as the ultimate authority – over the Church for her good so that she will be equipped for her task. These words are intended to help us understand the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward us.
Continue reading Live By the Word (Ephesians 1:20-23)
The story of the flood (Gen. 6-9) is a story about wrath. Because of the wickedness of human beings, God pours out His judgment on the whole earth. At the same time, though, the story of the flood is a story of mercy and deliverance. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord and was a righteous, blameless man, so the Lord delivered Him from the judgment that fell. Both aspects of this story are important. As we saw last week, there is much we learn from the reality of God’s wrath – which is the main focus of chapters 6-7. There is also much we learn from the reality of God’s deliverance and mercy – which is the central focus of chapters 8-9. This last half of the flood story teaches us a great deal about God’s character while also reminding us again about the reality of sin and its consequences.
Continue reading Live By the Word (Genesis 8-9)
Alongside the fact that we need Scripture in order to be saved and know God’s will for us is the fact that Scripture is all we need in order to know the good news of Jesus and in order to know God’s will for our lives. Scripture is necessary, and it is also sufficient. The Bible “contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 127).
Continue reading The Bible is Sufficient (Scripture, Part 6)
According to the Bible, Demas was a man who professed faith in Jesus Christ and joined Paul as a “fellow worker” for the gospel. He (twice) merits mention at the close of Paul’s letters as one who sends greetings to the recipients (Col. 4:14; Philemon 23-24). Sadly, however, those are not the only times Demas appears in the Holy Scriptures. In 2 Tim. 4:9-10, which was one of the last things Paul ever wrote, Paul says that “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” The one who seemed to begin so well stumbled – forever or not we do not know, but the Scriptures are clear that, at some point, he walked away.
Continue reading Lessons from Demas