Pray for One Another-Apr. 29, 2012

Pray for One Another-April 29, 2012

Ephesians 3:8-21

In this series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we have heard Paul talking to this Gentile group which he himself believed he was called to share with the Gentiles the grace of the gospel.  In verse 8 he considers himself to be the least of the saints (believers) this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.  This is a grace Paul knew all to well, for it was Paul who persecuted this believers in the way.  Paul set forth on a mission to destroy all those who worship Jesus to have the brought in legally and put to death.  In one journey to attack a group of believers Paul was stuck blind in his tracks and heard a voice saying to him, “Why are you persecuting Me?”  Paul then says, rightfully so, “Who are you Lord?”  The response, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”  I shutter to think at that moment the fear that may have overcome Paul to acknowledge that this great power upon was the Lord only to find out his energies had been misdirected, that he had in fact, been persecuting the Lord in persecuting Jesus.  What grace is there that God would take one like Paul and mold him into one of the greatest missionaries of all time.  It is truly for God’s glory, but Paul truly understood grace.

As the scripture continues there is a revealing of who Christ is, it is the mystery which had been hidden in ages past is now being revealed.  The language is grand as if we are at the cusp of a turning point.  Jesus is the pivotal point of history.  For us to look at the larger picture for a moment, prayer is key and will be key it is how we have access to God through Jesus Christ, it is in this growing maturing into him that we also allow that prayer to draw us together as the people of God.  So that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities.  The wisdom of God is not carried through a ruling line or political channel but through the church to the world.    This was God’s purpose carried out in Jesus and in him we have boldness, and confident access through faith.  Don’t be discouraged by what you are going through but look to it as a way to give glory to God.

Paul tells this church that he prays for them the God would grant them, according to his riches to be strengthened with power His power through His Spirit in the inner man.  Paul prays for others, and it is not just prayer for their bodies (the outward man) for our bodies (outward man) is always in decline and decay.  We strive so much in our country to preserve our looks, health, youth, and energy by our own power.  It is not to say that we should neglect or do harm to our bodies, but scripture in another place puts it this way, do not be worried as much by that which can destroy the flesh but by that which can destroy the soul.  In our world and country we are trying to keep up the appearance of youth and health, while the spirit within is in decay and dying.

Paul prays that they would be strengthened in the inner man, that even though our bodies may be in decay our strength, life, and beauty come from the inner man.  Paul continues, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.

We do and should pray for the physical needs of our people, but we need to pray even more for the inner life of the person to be strengthened, it is this Christ that dwells in hearts producing, deep roots so when the trials come we are able to withstand, and as we grow, we can grow up if the foundation isn’t secure.  Grounded and rooted so that we can understand with other believers the how deep, high, long, and wide is the love of Christ which is really beyond us to understand.  It is revealed to us more and more through the strengthening of the inner man, and as it continues to be revealed in the life of the body of Christ (the church) today.  Prayers are the ligaments holding together the body of Christ.  Being filled up with the love of Christ to the fulness of God.  Many times when we are full in this world we are miserable, in the fulness of the love of Christ we are satisfied and find a quite confidence, a calm assurance, and a boldness to trust Him more day by day.

He is able to do far more than we can even comprehend according to the power that works in us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations.  For all God is and all He can do, His is worthy of worship, honor, praise, and yes glory.  The glory of God is revealed in the body of Christ (the church) and the Holy Spirit that dwells in the members of the body, and in Christ Jesus, this is for this time and each generation, will we be faithful to help others to seek Christ and be filled in the inner man.  What a blessing, honor, privilege, and responsibility for the church as the body of Christ.  May He find us faithful.

Basic 2: Follow Jesus-Apr. 25, 2012

Basic 2:  Follow Jesus-Francis Chan-April 25, 2012

What does it mean to you to be a Christian?  What does it mean to be a follower of Christ?  Being like Jesus should be our goal, and following Him is the path to get there.

Matt. 4:18-22-Come follow me…

It is easy to follow the leader, but is can also cost you everything.  By imitating another person you are giving up your plans and/or desires for yourself.  It all depends on who you are following.  What do we do when the leader is Jesus?  Is it easy to follow Him?

A Christian is a follower of Christ.  However it seems in our culture that most of the things Jesus did were nice and we think they are good things, but most do not want to get too carried away with it.  It is difficult to deny ourselves in this land of plenty, or love our enemies, sacrifice our comfort for someone else’s.  Being a Christian is not a subculture, following Christ is countercultural.  When we find someone following Christ, it seems that there are others who are trying to talk them out of it, or at least they want the person to tone it down a bit.

Think if you will about other professions.  You learn by studying and theory, but the greatest learning comes in the applied part.  This is usually done by watching and observing others do the same things and then under leadership or supervision the individual begins to learn the skill or trade.  How many would want a doctor who had read the books but had no experience, or a pilot without experience, or mechanic.  You get the idea.  It is the best way to learn.  This is also true in our Christian walk.

Matthew 28:19-20a.  Would you say that following Jesus has been a consideration in how you have set up or oriented your life?  Jesus tells them up front that to follow him will be costly.  Luke 14:25-30 asks us to consider the cost.  What does it mean to follow Jesus and what is the cost?  Luke 6:46-It is the cost that actually narrows the road (Matthew 7:13-23) and helps us to understand that it is not because we call Him Lord, but if we follow Him in obedience.  As the group narrows because following Jesus is hard, we find this account in John 6:66-69.  Where or to whom will we go, you have the keys or words of eternal life?  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.

Some may think it would be easier if Jesus were here, but Jesus actually told his disciples it would be better for them when he left because then the Holy Spirit would come (John 16:7).

One of the greatest obstacles to following Jesus is ourselves.  It takes a constant reminder that it’s about Jesus-I’m living for His calling, His mission, and His glory.  Sometimes it may be that we worry what others may think about us.  What or who may slow you down from following Jesus?  Luke 9:57-58 says that Jesus has no place to call home, the cost can be great to follow but Christ is worth it.

What happens when trying harder doesn’t work?  The answer may first be found in the question of have we fully surrendered to following Jesus, and to do so will require the help of the Holy Spirit.

Is it more difficult in our modern technology driven world to follow Jesus than it was when roads were no more than dust paths?  Another invitation to follow was recorded in Mark 10:17-31 the rich young ruler was asked to leave power, pride, position, and wealth to call another man master.  He walked away.

If it is so difficult then who can be saved?  The short answer is with man it is impossible.  It is not in reality just difficult, it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  In following Christ whose strength are we relying on?  Following Jesus is more than a mental exercise or an obligation to church services, but it is lived our each day in our lives.

We get so caught up in the world as we see it, but Jesus invited them to see the world as it really is.  Trying to hold on to our life we will lose it, but if we lose our life for Christ, then our lives will be saved.

With such an impossible task God sends blessings.  One blessing is people.  God placed people also on this journey to help us follow Jesus.  You may not like everything about those people (or perhaps very little), but you are an essential resource for them, and they are an essential resource for you.  Another blessing is the Holy Spirit.  He works within to change our desires, and gives us strength to follow.

John 10:27-My Sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Additional Scriptures:

Ephesians 2:8-10

John 12:26

Matthew 16:24

Matthew 10:38

Matthew 10:28

John 8:12

John 15:20-23

Matthew 19:28-29

Mark 10:21

Growing Pains-Apr. 23, 2012

Growing Pains-April 23, 2012

In my conversation with an old friend we talked about how our relationship with God should affect our relationship with others.  These relationships are a complicated mix of family, friends, coworkers, people at the check-out counter, fellow church folks, those we have disagreements with, and even our “enemies.”  The Bible speaks of how we are to deal with others and so my friend makes this comment:

“It has been my practice to deal with those who have hurt me our hurt my family cordially because that’s what I thought God wanted from me.  Now I am realizing more each day that God doesn’t want me to deal with them cordially only but redemptively as well.”

The work of Christ is a difficult work, and becomes more so when we do not allow Christ to work in and through our lives, as if we know better than him.  Relationally speaking it’s always about bringing people to Christ in a real and redemptive way.  The church as “the body of Christ” must also be doing the work of Christ or else it may still be a body that exists but exists without purpose, calling, or direction and will continue to grow lifeless because it has not the life of Christ to offer the world.

It may be far easier to treat others cordially and continue to harbor resentment or a grudge towards them.  In treating them cordially other observers may say we are good or nice people for doing so.  However, relating to others in a redemptive way brings glory to God.  As a church grows toward maturity in Christ and relationships become redemptive, and in so doing it is not us that gets the praise but God working this great thing in our lives receiving the glory.  A mature people and church seek a redemptive pattern in their relationships, not because we have not been wronged or hurt but because of Christ in our lives.  Redemptive living doesn’t happen with human strength but by God’s help.  It is more than just tolerating another it is the working of Christ in us.

God’s kingdom work is about more than doctrine it is about relational living.  Living that draws others to Christ to mend their lives and relationships to others through their relationship with Christ.  Redemptive living is not a work we can do, it is a work that God does through us.  What we can do is surrender.  Surrender our right to ourselves or our right to hold a grudge by what someone has done to hurt us.  This doesn’t mean that we won’t experience hurt, but rather allow the Lordship of Christ to reign in our lives and give us peace in those circumstances so that redemptive living is possible.  In doing so, it won’t be a work others praise us for but it gives glory to God.

In our faith journey we need to seek more than just to be born again, but rather that we would grow to the full measure and maturity in Christ.  In maturity, there is less of us for our sake and more redemptive living through Christ for God’s sake and the sake of His glory.  How we live, do business, relate to family, church friends, difficult people, and yes even “enemies” will say far more about our relationship with the Lord than it does about these others we tolerate cordially rather than trying to embrace redemptively.  These are some of the growing pains of becoming mature in Christ.