Isaiah opens with a condemnation of the Children of Israel. As Isaiah described what the nation was like because of their sin, we get a picture of a people that knew nothing of the ways of God. In verse 11 Isaiah mentioned the worthlessness of their sacrifices; he stated that their traditions and worship were vain because they tolerated and lived in sin, didn’t judge the wicked or support those in need. Because of this the Lord threatened to exterminate them. “‘But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’ Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” This warning was to people who supposedly were children of God; the Children of Israel. But He gave them a way of redemption if they made their ways clean, put away their sin, “‘[learned] to do good, [sought] justice, [reproved] the ruthless, [defended] the orphan, and plead for the widow.'”
How well does this warning apply to the Gentile Church today? In a church culture of raising arms in fabricated “worship” at a christian rock concert, or accepting what God calls an abomination – what kind of wrath does God have on that church? However, “‘wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight….. though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.'”
There is hope for the Church!
As a man of God I should pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. I should fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which I was called; keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Taken from 1 Timothy 6:11-14
Last Sunday morning I went to my old church in Princeville, had lunch with some friends and ended up going back to the evening service with them. The evening’s sermon wasn’t so much a profound teaching from scripture as an exhortation about health – a reminder that my body, as the Holy Spirit’s temple, should be maintained both through physical exercise and healthy eating.
Now, it’s pretty common for my mind to start wandering in church… I’ll hear one thing that’ll trigger a thought that leads to another, and before long I’m on a totally different subject. It’s usually an equally edifying subject, but still different. That happened last Sunday; I heard “body,” and started thinking about how the body correlates to the soul.
In the beginning God created; first animals, then people. But he created them different from each other. While the animals only have a body, humans are made of body and soul. Shortly after being created humans rebelled against God. The consequence for this rebellion was death – for the body it was physical (it’s ultimate destination is six feet under), and for the soul it was spiritual (never-ending separation from God).
Over the years laws were put in place to try and redeem the body – but despite people’s best intentions and attempts they always fell short. It wasn’t until Jesus provided a way for the soul to be redeemed that people could truly be reunited with their Creator.
So, while both the body and soul are doomed to die, the soul can be redeemed. But until the body dies the soul must fight the temptation of the body, which cannot be redeemed (though it can be given new life – Romans 8:11).
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
“Man knows good and evil, but because he is not the origin, because he acquires this knowledge only at the price of estrangement from the origin, the good and evil that he knows are not the good and evil of God but good and evil against God. They are good and evil of man’s own choosing, in opposition to the eternal election of God. In becoming like God man has become a god against God.
“This finds it’s expression in the fact that man, knowing of good and evil, has finally torn himself loose from life, that is to say from the eternal life which proceeds from the choice of God. ‘And now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever . . . he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life’ (Gen. 3.22 and 24). Man knows good and evil, against God, against his origin, godlessly, and of his own choice, understanding himself according to his own contrary possibilities; and he is cut off from the unifying, reconciling life in God, and is delivered over to death. The secret which man has stolen from God is bringing about man’s downfall.
“Man’s life is now disunion with God, with men, with things, and with himself.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Ethics, chapter 1 pages 23 and 24
I just got my annual blog report this morning. My post from 2011, “The Strongest Trees”, was the most popular post of 2012. I reread it, and decided that it’s worth a repost.
The weakest trees grow by themselves. The strongest trees grow in the forest. The weakest trees will bow and break when strong winds blow. The strongest trees, because they are surrounded by other trees, will be able to stand strong winds.
Today my boss, Fedi Davidovics, talked to me a little bit about my life as a Christian. He stated that we have two enemies – the physical, and the spiritual. If I, as a Christian, try to fight the spiritual battle alone, when the worst assaults come I won’t be able to stand as strong as if I have surrounded myself with a host of other Christians.
The weakest Christians stand by themselves. The strongest Christians stand with other Christians. The weakest Christians will bow and break when strong winds blow. The strongest Christians, because they are surrounded by other Christians, will be able to stand strong winds.
How we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit will determine the course of our life. Our response to the Spirit’s work in our life is the reason we see Him working in power, or the reason we’re frustrated in our walk with Christ. It’s the determining factor in whether we’ll experience the blessing of the Lord or His discipline.
The Holy Spirit desires full and complete control of our lives. Every ounce of our being must be fully surrendered to Him, so He can fully do the Father’s will through us. The smallest part of our life not yielded to Him may derail His work to accomplish the Father’s will. This may be why the Bible employs such terms as being “filled with the Holy Spirit,” and “baptism [meaning total immersion] of the Holy Spirit” to impress upon us how He must have complete control of our lives.
When we fully realize that God, through His Spirit, is actively at work in our lives, we ought to respond with a holy awe. There ought to come over us a trembling that we might upset the Holy Spirit. Paul said, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
Henry Blackaby – What’s So Spiritual About Your Gifts?, “Our Response to the Gift” p.59-60
I came to realize for the first time that the many references in the New Testament to “Christ in you” and “you in Christ” and “Christ our life” and “abiding in Christ” are not figures of speech but literal, actual, blessed fact. Before that August morning in 1910, I’d always known Christ was my Savior, but I had looked upon Him as an external Savior, one who did a saving work for me, from the outside, always ready to come alongside and help me by providing power, strength, and salvation. But now I knew something better: Jesus Christ was actually and literally within me. And even more than that, He Himself constituted my very life, taking me – body, mind, and spirit – into union with Himself, while I retained my own identity, free will, and full moral responsibility.
It meant I need never again ask Him to help me as though He were apart from me. Instead I could ask Him simply to do His work and His will in me and with me and through me. My body was His, my mind His, my will His, my spirit His. And not merely His, but literally a part of Him.
He was asking me to recognize this truth: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus Christ Himself had become my life.
Charles Trumbull – Victory in Christ, “The Life that Wins” p.27-28