The Mentality and the Centrality of the Christian Faith

This is not a second part to our last post but again, we can interchange “the Christian Faith” with “the Gospel.”

The Christian faith is the effect of “the gospel” on the mental state of a follower of Christ.

Every religion has its power over the human mind. We see this example in those who are willing to destroy themselves while destroying others.

The  Gospel ~ the good news of Jesus Christ ~ has the power to change the mind and enables a person to think differently. A person who is brought under the authority of the Word of God changes their direction from the natural state of destruction to a spiritual state of  an abundant life here and forever ~ a new life we desire for others.

The gospel  ~ read and preached from the Holy Bible ~ changes the whole mindset and fixes it on Jesus Christ.

Every religion has a figurehead, someone who instigated and orchestrated the religion according to his beliefs.

None make the same claims as Jesus Christ and they are too many for us to copy for this post. Reading God’s Word reveals these claims; and should the Spirit of God move in the heart of the reader or the hearer of God’s Word, their hearts and minds will be changed.

The same power of the Spirit that inspired its writing is the same power that works in the reader and hearer.

 “For prophecy never came by the will of man,
but holy men of God spoke 
as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 
2 Peter 1:21

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world,
but the Spirit who is from God,
that we might know the things
that have been freely given to us by God.”
1 Corinthians 2:12

It is the Spirit of God that reveals what was written centuries ago.

We have no power of our own to change our minds or our lives. We must have a new heart and a new spirit that accepts the new power of the Spirit of God that turns the mind and the life in a new direction.

When Jesus said, ““Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” he was drawing on the promises from the Old Testament.

 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh
and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26.

“I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; 
and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Jeremiah 31:33

Reading from God’s Word moves the meaning of the words from the page to the mind. The mind then works to bring the actions of what is written.

None of this is new. What any person watches, listens to, and reads will shape their minds and their behavior. Their lives witness to what they know and believe.

Such is the mentality of those whose lives are shaped by the reading and hearing of God’s Word.

As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 2:13,

“These things we also speak,
not in words which man’s wisdom teaches
but which the Holy Spirit teaches,
comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

The Centrality of our Faith
The Christian faith is centered on Christ. The centrality of the gospel is Jesus Christ. Because He was the power of creation and in person revealing the kingdom of God, He is the power to reveal Himself and draw us to Him. Because He is now ruling in power at the right of God, He is the power to give us eternal life; to turn us from our own evil nature to follow Him.

Because He lives forever, He has the power to keep us now and forever with Him. His Spirit is His power here on earth to finish the work of redemption for, in, and through His people.

We cannot be too emphatic when we say that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is powerful to change our whole being. By the way we think, we live. When our minds are filled with the truths of Christ we become new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17)

We are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Roms. 12:1-2) and have the mind of Christ (Phil. 2). We have divine power to bring every thought in obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

We must read and pray for the Holy Spirit to move in our hearts to keep us in His Word, seeking His kingdom and His righteousness.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly
above all that we ask or think,
according to the power that works in us,”
Ephesians 3:20

Dear Father in heaven, we praise you for the power of your Spirit to draw us to your written Word and through your written Word to reveal Christ your Son. Do your work today in the hearts and lives of your people. By your grace, make us a channel of blessing to others for your glory and our joy. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Suggested Reading: Free eBook First Things that Last Forever
The Garden of God’s Word ~ The Purpose and Delight of Bible Study
What the Holy Bible Says about the Word of God

 

Riveted and Radical

Beyond a Mere Christianity ~ Chapter 20

R & R, an abbreviation for “rest and relaxation,” is the end to which most spend their lives. For those devoted to Christ – desiring the most from our relationship with Him in this life and for eternity – R & R means more than time out from our normal labors. Our calling and our work for His kingdom here on earth require a complete and indisputable loyalty to Him.

We know what rest and relaxation look like. Everyone works for it and welcomes it whenever possible. It requires a total giving of ourselves to nothing but ourselves.

But there is a rest beyond this world – beyond a mere Christianity – promised to the followers of Christ even before this life is finished. We are in preparation for that eternal rest while engaged in the work of the kingdom, here.

rivet (Merriam-Webster) A rivet is a fastener that holds something closed or down, and something riveting keeps you glued to your seat and grabs your attention; having the power to fix the attention; engrossing, fascinating.

To be riveted (Cambridge English Dictionary) To not be able to stop looking at something because it is so interesting or frightening.

“For the love of Christ compels us …. that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:15-17

A radical Christianity is a life no one understands except those who know Christ as Lord and Master of all life – physical and spiritual. It is a calling by the power of the Holy Spirit for us to leave our nets and other collections to follow Him. It is the Spirit of Jesus Christ that captures our attention even as He embraces our hearts, our minds, and our beings. I use the plural pronoun because I am not the only one He has chosen to leave all for Him.

“Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” 2 Corinthians 1:22 (See also Ephesians 1:13)

To engage in the profundity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is more than we are able to imagine. It is a spiritual, divine, and supernatural way of life. This means that He, by His Spirit, has turned my life from self – total denial to the world – to undenied sacrifice to Him.

“The words of the wise are as goads,
and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies,
which are given from one shepherd.”

Ecclesiastes 12:11

To be radical for Christ we must first be riveted to Him – not just riveted on Him.

“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:37

“Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30
Notice that in addition to the good things, persecutions are promised in this life to those who are true disciples. We will consider suffering and persecution in the Christian life in the next chapter.

 When Jesus said,“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Lk. 9:23), He was using His conditional statement that begins with the word “if” – relating a difference in the ordinary and the profound – in the common and uncommon.

Even as in John 8:31-32, He was presenting the difference of a mere existence and the radical life seen in Him and His disciples. In my early Christian life, I used to pray that the Lord would “love me to death” so that He might “love me to life.” He has been doing this for over twenty years – drawing me closer and closer to Him.

 “A follower of Christ is radically oriented to a different world.”

Dr. Charley Chase wrote these words knowing the content of John 6, one of the three longest chapters in the New Testament. Reading, studying, meditation and memorization of the undiluted truth of Jesus’ teachings will either turn us away or draw us to Him forever. Those who stay riveted to Him – not just to His teaching – will be new creatures, radically following and living the true life of a Christian, not for this world, but for the next (Galatians 6:14-15).

During the three years of His earthly ministry, many followed Him for the food and the healing. But they could not stomach His preaching and teaching and were no longer interested in Him.

When these left, Jesus asked the twelve. “Do you also want to go away?

“But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” John 6:67-69

Eleven of the twelve remained and after His resurrection and ascension, continued His teachings and preaching of the gospel that we have today. We still have it, and like those few, we are few today who believe by the power of His Spirit and are riveted to Him, living a radical life in the face of adversity. Those who follow Christ live in light of the eternal life promised to those who are truly His disciples.

The religious leaders spoke of the apostles as ”These that have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

How did they do this? It was not of their own knowledge, authority or power.

“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Jeremiah 31:3

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44

 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” John 12:32

“Assemble yourselves and come; Draw near together, You who have escaped from the nations. They have no knowledge, Who carry the wood of their carved image, And pray to a god that cannot save.” Isaiah 45:20

The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.Jesus sent Paul in ministry to the Gentiles “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26:18
The same light given to Paul accompanied him wherever he went.

 Seek, See, and Set Your Mind on Him

“So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.   Psalm 63:2

“Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way. Psalm 119:37

“And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:1-3

We swim upstream — meeting and warning those on the path to destruction.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“To the end he may stablish your hearts
unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father,
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”

1 Thessalonians 3:13

Dear Father in heaven, your greatness is unsearchable. You have made the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ more powerful that we will ever know. By your Spirit you call us, you draw us by your grace, you turn us so that we may look, gaze and wonder at your Son. You have lifted Him through death and resurrection to sit at your right hand, to rule and govern a people for yourself, to call in each generation those who will give all to live for you. As we live in obedience of the living faith you have given us, display in us the same diligence and fervency of our Lord that sets us apart from this world that it may be turned upside down. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Fran

Image: Google

Indebted To Love

Although pilgrims in an alien land, we still must depend on those offices and laws that are part of this land. We own property according the rules that govern. We have the privileges that enable us to freely go about our daily business; although some of the these are being threatened. According to the apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 13:1-7 we must, while citizens here, live in respect and obedience, knowing that all is under the rule of our mighty God and King; and all things work for good to those who are His. Many Christians have problems with paying taxes and respecting those who rule over us. If we look back to Matthew 17:24 and Mark 12:13-17 we get a clear picture from our Lord Jesus Christ of this duty to earthly authorities.

In Romans 13:8-19 we see the great debt that we owe. This debt is much greater than any physical debt that requires our respect and our money. The comparison takes us beyond the scale of even our nation’s debt. To owe nothing but to love each other seems a simple thing; and an easy thing to do. But, when we contemplate the true meaning of this debt we see that it is a debt that we cannot pay. We are not able, even as Christians, to love, as we ought. The first commandment, “to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength” is the commandment that we all break.

As I meditated on these verses after hearing our pastor’s sermon on this passage there was a realization that the love that we owe is like money that we don’t have.  To love as we are commanded to love requires a source beyond our own ability, is exhaustive, and one that supplies us every moment, every day. This only comes from a heavenly Father who loves, through His Son who came to give us this love, and His Holy Spirit who works this love through us supernaturally.

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New Love, True Love,
There is much in this world that is called love. The sons of God exhibit a different love that the world can never know except as they see it in us. We truly love, as we know this love, received by the power of the Holy Spirit. The new heart and new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26) are filled with this love.

In Christ this love is the expression of eternal life. It is the living water springing up within us to everlasting life. (John 4:10, 14)

By the birth of the Holy Spirit love, it is the flow of rivers of living water. (John 3:3; 7:38-39)

How can we not love, if we are recipients of God’s love?
The power of the gospel that Paul speaks of in Romans 1:16-17 is the power that saves us from the power of oppression, anger, and hate. The obedience of faith is the proof of God’s saving power ~ proof of our salvation ~ working in and through us. The righteousness that comes by faith expresses itself in all that we receive, beginning with the first fruit of the Spirit ~ Love.

The power of the gospel was first expressed in the omnipotent love that transcended the heavens and the earth; coming down in the form of God’s Son. Giving Him as our means of new life, through His righteous life and perfect obedience, we receive in faith the power of this love to love as He loved. It is not our own. We cannot pay what we do not have. “To love” begins with loving God and “loving each other.” He was writing to the Roman believers. Only believers can understand and express this love.

Resource
We must examine our resources. Many buy, in extravagance, things they do not have money to pay. We think, perhaps, that we have the resources of love that are commanded of us when in essence our hearts are bone dry, lacking the resources that we need.
It grieves my heart to think that those who claim the love of Christ, His suffering and His sacrifice show no sign of His love in their hearts and lives.

We are called to His Word to daily receive the abundance of love that is needed to live in this world. It is the resource that will lead us through this wilderness to the Paradise that is promised to those who are loved of God.

Do you know this love? Do you testify to it daily in your relationship to the heavenly Father? Does this love flow from a new and daily replenished heart and soul? Do you love freely in Christ; or do you hold resentments against others?

Paul in the latter part of this chapter points out the need to awaken; to cast off the works of darkness; to put on the armor of light. He lists the natural character of the citizens of this world, including quarreling and jealousy, which are the opposite of faith and love.

But, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (vs.14)

 There is a difference in the nature of the world and the kingdom of God. The love of Christ is the proof in us ~ Christ in you, the hope of glory ~ the witness of God’s love in us, that we are born of His kingdom. Love is His nature and practice in this world in preparation for the next. Both John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16 speak of this love.

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,”

 “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us:
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

 Dear Father, prove your love to us, in and through us. Make the light of your love the brightest, the greatest, and most powerful thing in each of us. This true love would light up this world. Thank you for the power of your love in us, through us, and to others. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

“O, The Deep, Deep, Love of Jesus”

Sheet Music

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O The Depths of the Riches of God

What a blessing it is to sit under the preaching of the word of God, especially these last several weeks, as we have heard about the power of the gospel that saves God’s people. Paul’s letter to the Romans is not easy to understand; and so, much of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge are lost. But, I have come to the end of chapter 11 with a better understanding than I had before hearing it preached.

At the same time we are studying this book we are continuing through the Shorter Catechism. This week’s question asks how God’s word is an effectual means to salvation. The answer is, “The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation.”

 The preaching of the word rooted in the new heart brings us to new awareness and desire to know; and the Spirit leads us to plunge into the depths of that which He still wants us to know. If all we experience is a “tickling of the ears” we will never know, or grow. It is when our own beliefs are challenged that we seek more of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge.

My purpose in these last several weeks is to document a little of what has impressed me in the preaching of Paul’s writing; to challenge you the reader to go deeper in your own study and meditation of God’s word, and to seek the preaching of the “whole counsel of God.”

 The Mystery of Salvation
Paul’s presentation of the power of God in the gospel to save His people is brought to an end in Romans 11. He has made known this wisdom of how God planned to save and does save His people of every nation. His explanation and exclamation end with all glory to God.

Beginning in chapter 12 we will see the response of all people who are brought under the power of the gospel through faith unto salvation ~ the obedience of faith.

Briefly summing up, Paul has shown us how God at first chose a people, the people of Israel, through which He would save His elect from all nations. He could have chosen any other nationality, but He chose and made the Jews a special people for the purpose of revealing Himself and executing His plan of salvation.

We see from Paul’s writing ~ himself being a Jew ~ that there is a remnant of the nation of Israel that are elect; just as there are some of every nation who are elect.  He makes it very clear that not all of the nation of Israel will be saved. Whether we understand his meaning to be contemporary or for all time, we must let the text explain his meaning.

Romans 11:2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.”   In Romans 8:29 Paul speaks of those whom God “forknew.” The Jews are not set apart, but included in this category.

They are included in the “election of grace.” “

“Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” Romans 11:5

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” Romans 11:7

As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.” Romans 11:28

 All Men’s Disobedience and God’s Mercy
“For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 

“For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” Romans 11:30-32

Paul sums up the whole plan in these verses. Salvation came through the nation of Israel. Through all the years of their rebellion, finally to the coming of Christ, their rejection and hand in the death of Christ; and their continued rejection of the gospel, salvation has been made known to all nations (the Gentiles). Christ’s death and resurrection put the nation of Israel in the same boat with the whole world. They need mercy as much as all other people. They are included in the covenant of grace ~ not all, but like all other nations, as many as are of the “election of grace.”

Scan 143450000Gracious Father in heaven, we are not able in our own power to approach your throne of grace, nor do we merit your mercy, but we come at the invitation and initiation of your Son, Jesus Christ, on the authority of your word and the power of your Spirit, as sinners saved by your grace.  We thank you and praise you for the riches of your wisdom, the knowledge that is bestowed upon us, in us and through us, that brings us to you and keeps us until the day of redemption.  What a glorious day that will be to see the height of your glory revealed to us who are in Christ.  In His name we thank you and praise you.  Amen.

Turning Everything Heavenward

Having lost a sister-in-law and a brother-in-law in less than a month has brought me to think beyond my own state of existence to something higher than man and life here on this earth. Such is the case with recording my notes as we continue hearing the   preaching of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Again, Paul’s purpose for writing to the Roman Christians is to bring not just one or two, but, some from every nation, to obedience of faith. It is in the power of the gospel that accomplishes what God sent His Son to do; the Son of God with power (1:4) the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith. (1:16-17). We start with God and continue in a God-centered gospel through the book of Romans.

As we come to the most unpopular and unsettled passages of God’s word (for some) in Romans 9 we must, as Paul, let God speak for Himself. In chapter eight Paul begins writing on the doctrine of predestination. If that is not enough he drives the point home dramatically in the next three chapters, to the point of showing that God has the last word on the subject.  Getting through these we come to chapter twelve; to which we are brought in response to His mercy; to present ourselves, as living sacrifices to Him.

Not a Man-centered Gospel
A man-centered gospel cannot save anyone. It tends to bring God down to our own level and make Him what we want Him to be and to say what we want to hear.

Paul answers this kind of reasoning in his day, not by using his own understanding or his own words, but even as Jesus when He was tempted answered with the recorded word of the Father, words that had already been established centuries before.

In Romans 9:14-15 Paul states, in defense of God’s own choice of who He loves, “Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

Then in Romans 9:21 he puts man in the hands of a potter. A pot has no mind of its own, nor power of its own to decide what shape or for what use it is made.

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“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth,
but of God that sheweth mercy.”
Romans 9:16

As the creature we are at God’s mercy. Read the book of Romans and any part of God’s word, and our mouths will be shut, until we know His mercy and grace to us.
Then we will be thanking and praising Him for giving us a new heart and a new spirit. A new life beginning in faith and repentance will prove the power of God in our obedience to His word. The Lord our God leaves no room for argument, only the invitation and power to believe and live heavenward, to His glory and our joy.

“And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy,
which he had afore prepared unto glory.”
Romans 9:23

Sheet Music: I Sought the Lord

Gracious and merciful Father, thank you that we live today only as you give us the Spirit of your Son to accomplish the work for which you created and redeemed us. We praise you for your grace and yours alone that has saved us from your wrath and made us a vessel for your own use. Fill us with your fullness that you may pour out your grace and love through us today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.