God Is Our Reward

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” -Hebrews 11:24-27

Being raised as the son of Pharoah, Moses had everything he could possibly want. He had wealth, a good education, high standing and comfort. He would not have been in need of anything. Yet he left it. He had an encounter with God and it caused him to turn his back on all the wealth of this world. Moses had everything but he also came to realize that all that he had was temporary. He came to realize that the Savior was far better than any riches he had possessed before. Not only was God better, but He is eternal. Moses could have chosen to ignore God as many do today. He could have lived life free of the burdens he ended up carrying as a result of following God’s call. God used him in astounding ways and we look at Moses’ story today as one of the greatest miracles in all of scripture. But for Moses it wasn’t easy. He faced ridicule, he faced doubt, he faced rebellion by the very people he was leading to freedom. He spent years and years in the wilderness far removed from all of his previous comforts. Yet he CHOSE to be mistreated. He CHOSE the reproach of Christ over wealth and riches. How? He looked to the reward. He believed and trusted that God was his reward. “He endures as seeing Him who is invisible.” What would happen if we really believed that all we have in life is temporary? We know in our minds that life won’t last forever. But what if we really grasped it each time that next temptation came? The pleasures of this world and of sin can be incredibly enticing. Yet what if we lived as if we saw Him who was invisible? We may suffer if we refuse the things of this world. If and when we do, let us remember all those believers who have gone before us in the same manner (see all of Hebrews 11). We are not alone. Today there are many other brothers and sisters in the faith being persecuted a thousand times worse than we will ever know. In other countries our brothers and sisters have chosen to cast off the pleasures of this world which are temporary and to be horribly mistreated for the name of Christ. They are thrown in jails, beaten, starved and abused in many ways. Yet they trust that their reward is not here on this earth. Their reward is the eternity they will spend with the God who has saved them from their sin and has lavished His love on them. Let us also remember the abuse that Christ suffered. Rejected by His own, forsaken by His own and betrayed by His own. The God of this universe died at the hands of His own creation. At any minute He could have summoned as many angels as He wanted and He could have saved Himself. He didn’t. He suffered for you. He bled for you. He died for you. God broke himself for you. He was then raised for you so that you do not have to be held captive in death but can have eternal life with Him. If you reject the pleasures of this world, it will very likely lead to hardship because this world is the opposite of God’s Kingdom. Draw strength from the hope others have found in Christ, and draw strength from Christ Himself, knowing that He sympathizes with you and will help you. He is your reward. Mourning may last for the night, but joy WILL come in the morning. Your hope will be realized fully on that glorious day when you see Jesus face to face. On that day you will not regret a single pleasure you gave up. Hold on to Jesus Christ and keep the faith.

God Our Savior

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”- Titus 3:4-7

This passage is such a great layout of what the gospel of Jesus Christ is and how it should affect our lives. If you look before these verses in verse 3 you will read about all the things that the Christians being spoken to once were. They were foolish, they were disobedient, they were slaves to their own pleasures and sought to look out for themselves, they hated other people. Any one of us can identify with some or all of these things. Before Christ captures our hearts we all live life for self and we are all enslaved by doing so. We must protect us. We must satisfy ourselves. We must get what we want, do what we want, go where we want. We compete with others and we become envious of others and we can be angry at others who have what we don’t. This sin in our hearts can be acted out in any number of ways. But then there’s this phrase. “But God…” “But when the goodness of God our Savior appeared He saved us.”
God has made a way for us to be saved from our sin. God has become our Savior in the person of Jesus Christ. As we believe in Him and trust in Him He washes us and renews us. This means that He cleanses us from all our past sins so that they no longer stand between us and God, and then by the power of the Holy Spirit He renews us and makes us a new creation so that we will no longer walk in our old ways. He does this not because of anything we have done, but because He alone is righteous, and in His grace He has given us the righteousness of Christ. We often want to earn our salvation and we want to be able to say that we must have done something to gain it. It is hard to accept that it is a completely free gift of God but no works of ours could ever be enough, no matter how righteous those works are. We simply cannot measure up against God who is forever holy and just. But be assured that this free gift removes the burden of having to earn anything. It means we have nothing to prove. We need only let the Spirit work in our lives and we need only rest in the grace and love of Christ. Our good works and our changed life is proof of our salvation, but they come about by the Holy Spirit working in us. Rest in the mercy of Christ today and contemplate the work He did for you on the cross and the work He does in you even today. And if you haven’t done so already, ask Him to cleanse you of your sins and to show you who He is, that you may hope in His endless love and grace and be His forever.

When Life Hurts…

Sometimes life hurts. Christianity isn’t a magical fix for that. But God is Comforter, He is Counselor, He is Father. He is loving and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy. He who is all powerful and all knowing is also so gracious so as to be humbled to the point of death on a cross for us. To save His creation who outright rejected and rebelled against Him. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.” (John 1)

But to all who do receive Him He gives “the right to become children of God… born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
And to all of these He promises… “I am with you always, to the end of the age” and “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

And in our pain, God has told us to come to Him and cast our cares because He cares for us.

So “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8)

Our Refuge

Sometimes life can be so difficult. And sometimes during those difficult times we can start to think that God isn’t real or He is distant if He doesn’t help us. But God is real and He is near. And He is our Help. God is good through all of the pain that life can throw at us. He is a shelter to us. He is the good Shephard who will never leave us or forsake us. He is our comfort and our hope. We can run to Him and find consolation in His word and in His promises. God does not promise us an easy or pain free life. In fact often times our lives are just the opposite. But He does promise us an enduring hope that can never be shaken if we only believe and trust in Him. Jesus Christ has conquered death for us and He now sits at the Father’s right hand making intercession for us. We cannot be separated from Him. And in the midst of life’s trials we can run to the Giver of peace and find a shelter unlike anything this world has to offer.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted on the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

~ Psalm 46

Some Implications of the Resurrection

Today we celebrate the day that Christ rose from the dead. This is the pivotal moment of our faith. In 1 Corinthians 15:14-19 Paul says that if Christ was not raised from the dead then our faith is in vain and we are still in our sins and we are of all people to be pitied. The truth of the resurrection is what solidifies our faith and gives us assurance. It impacts every area of our life and our relationship with God.

So what are some of the implications of the resurrection?

1. The resurrection could not happen without the crucifixion.
This takes us back to Good Friday for a brief moment, but it is important to realize that Christ did indeed experience death. This in itself has several implications, two of which are important to mention in light of the resurrection.

For one, Christ’s death on the cross was ordained by God to absorb the wrath for sin. This is huge. God’s love for us is so immense that He literally delivered up His own Son to experience the judgment that we ought to have received! In doing so, we are now freed to have a relationship with Him by faith through grace, no longer having to be in fear of the judgment because Christ already took it upon Himself for us.

Secondly, it means that Christ knows what it is to suffer. He experienced more suffering on that cross than any other human being will ever experience. It was not just physical suffering but spiritual and emotional suffering as well. The Father literally turned His face away. Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46). The Trinity broke Himself to restore rebellious sinners to Himself. That is love.

2. The resurrection is proof of the finality of Christ’s work.
1 Timothy 1:15 says “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” We know that the crucifixion was God’s judgment poured out on sin. Jesus’ last words on the cross were “It is finished” (John 19:30). There was nothing left to be done. 1 Corinthians 15:17 says “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” The resurrection of Christ shows the finality of God’s work in defeating sin. We have forgiveness in Him!

Finally, Philippians 2:8-11 says “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

3. The resurrection means that Jesus Christ is truly with us for all eternity.
In Matthew 28:20, Jesus appears to the disciples and gave them this promise: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The catch? This was after the crucifixion. These weren’t just idle words. This was a promise given to all of us, proven by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. He is still very much alive and with us as He calls us to take His gospel to all people. He is with us through suffering, persecution, ministry, everything. Jesus Christ is risen. He is alive this very moment. And He will be with us for eternity!

4. The resurrection means that we have an eternal hope, assurance of eternal life, and that we too will be risen with Christ.
Christ is eternal! Death could not hold him down. Acts 2:24 says “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” 1 Corinthians 15 describes the resurrection that we will experience if we are in Christ. Because Christ overcame death, He will raise us with Himself in the last day. 1 Corinthians 15:22 says “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” We will all taste death, but to those are in Christ Jesus death has lost its power because we are forgiven and made alive with Christ. He will literally raise us up to eternal life. It is for this reason that Paul can write “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

5. The resurrection means that we have a God who has seen us in the deepest pit of our sin, has reached out to us and paid the ultimate price in taking our judgment, and then defeated death in order to restore us to Himself.
Think of the love this takes. John 1:10-11 says that Christ was “in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” Jesus came to His own people that He created and yet they wanted nothing to do with Him. In fact it was at His own creation’s hands that He was tortured and killed. Christ could have called thousands of angels to deliver him at any given moment. (He said so himself when Peter tried to defend him before the soldiers took him in Matthew 26:15). In John 10:18 Jesus said that no one could take his life from him, but that he was laying it down of his own accord. His love for us was so great, that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Christ willingly paid this price. The resurrection is proof of that work being finished. It is proof of God’s great love for us. It is proof that God is not far removed from us but rather near to each one of us!

We have an eternal hope in our risen Savior, Jesus Christ! Let us praise Him as we celebrate this day, and let us remember all that He has done for us in His great love. To God be all the glory!

The Word (Short thoughts on John 1:1-5)

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5

This passage tells us so much about Jesus Christ. It leaves no room for anything but His deity and it leaves no room for us to go anywhere else but to Him for eternal life.

In the beginning the Word was with God: Jesus existed with God in the beginning and Jesus was God. God is triune. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They exist in perfect fellowship.

All things were made through Him: There is not one thing that was created which was created without Him actively making it. This takes out any sort of notion that Jesus was a created being. Jesus Christ is the Creator. Again, Jesus is God.

In Him is life: Later in this chapter we will see that anyone who turns to Christ in belief and receives Him as He is will be reborn of God. He literally gives us eternal life. We who were previously headed to eternal death can now find abundant joy and abundance of life eternal at the feet of our Savior!

He is the light in the darkness: Jesus stepped down into His own created world, to His own created people, He was rejected, He was despised, He was brutally beaten and hung to die on a cross. But the darkness of sin and the darkness of death could not overcome Him. He resurrected and is still living to this very day.

Jesus has no beginning and no end. He was and is and is to come. He is eternal. To all who rest their hope on Him, their joy and hope are unshakeable  As God, as Creator, He holds all power and all wisdom. This is the same Jesus who promises to never leave us or forsake us, who tells us that in this world we will have trouble but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. This is the same Jesus that calls us friend. This is the same Jesus that will act as judge. And this is the same Jesus whose blood has covered us and sealed us through His spirit for the day of redemption. Put your hope on Him who is Sovereign, immortal, who dwells in unapproachable light. Recognize His power and realize He is worthy of our worship.

The Contrite Spirit

“For this is what the high and holy One says- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me- the breath of man that I have created.’ ”
Isaiah 57:15-16

This passage tells us so much about who God is and what He does for us! First thing to notice is that He is the high and holy One. He lives in high and holy places. The bible says that God is so big and so great that even the highest heavens cannot contain him (1 Kings 8:27), and that there is no place a person can go to escape his eye (Jeremiah 23:23-24).

This passage shows us the depths of God’s love and the depths of His grace. Look at who God is (the high and lofty one who lives in a high and holy place), and then think about who we are. As humans, the bible says that we are unclean; that even our most righteous acts are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). Our lives are but a breath, we are here and then we are gone (Psalm 39:5). We have all broken the law of God (James 2:10 and Romans 3:23). These are extreme opposites that make up who God is and who we are. It is humbling to look at who the Lord is and then to look at how small we are, how short our lives are, and then to further meditate on the fact that we have broken the laws of such a great God.

After spending some time thinking about our sin, it is pretty understandable why the Lord would be angry with us. But look at the amazing truth in this verse… “I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry.” God is so powerful, so huge, that He knows if He were to remain angry with us, no man could stand. But He does not desire that we grow faint underneath His anger. Rather, He desires that we would turn our hearts to Him in repentance. Such a great God desires to live with us and to save us! What an amazing truth! But He does require us to be contrite, and lowly in spirit. For it is the humble that the Lord will lift up.

What He requires is repentance; a godly sorrow over our sins. James 2:9-10 says, “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Isaiah 66:2 says, “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” The Lord desires hearts that are genuinely saddened by their offenses against Him. Hearts that have been laid low before the Lord in submission and sorrow. It is this godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Cor 7:9-11). God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). If we can come to the Lord contrite and lowly in spirit, we have the promise that He will revive our hearts.

The Lord, so great, so huge, so holy, in His rich mercy lowered Himself to the lowliest of humans as Jesus Christ. God, the Creator, who even the heavens cannot contain, was beaten beyond human recognition and hung to die on a cross, all with the goal of restoring us to Himself. In His great love for us, God asks us to come before Him in repentance, that we may be saved.

Who could pass up such a beautiful relationship with the Creator?