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Archive for August, 2009

True Unity

August 31st, 2009

For this is what the high and lofty 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 spirit of the contrite:”

Isaiah 57:15

 

The wonderful word “Revival” is written over the verse above. These inspired words, so rich and full in meaning, narrow down the matter to one single issue: humility before God.

 

This also applies to Christian unity in churches and Christian ministries. Real spiritual unity, the kind that is seen and written about in the Bible, is only possible for those people who are contrite and humble before the Lord. Unity in spirit under the Lordship of Christ is impossible for any people who are proud and stubborn in heart. As James 4:1-3 states:

 

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.   

 

We may be right on an issue of lesser importance to the Holy Spirit, but wrong on the matter of our pride, and be out of fellowship with the Spirit and, thereby, with the way He is seeking to unite and lead the church body. If there is to be a united core of people in any church or Christian ministry, these must be people who find their unity in Christ first, who are humble through and through.

 

The word in Isaiah 57:15 translated “contrite” is one of the most interesting constructions in the Hebrew of the Old Testament. Scholars through the centuries have written volumes on this verse alone, not in disagreement but in attempts to explain the richness of the original text. Literally it means “to be ground to dust” or “to be pulverized.” The specific construction in Isaiah carries the idea of one humbling himself, and not merely that he has been oppressed by others alone. Moses used the word in Psalm 90:3, saying to God, “You return mankind to dust,” the word “dust” is this same word for “contrite”.

 

To be contrite in spirit means to admit our spiritual poverty before God. Our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Our wisdom is like foolishness before God (1 Corinthians 1:20). Our brief life span is less than a mere drop in the bucket of eternity (Psalm 90:1-12).  Our strength is as weakness compared to God (Isaiah 40:12-17).  God is the Creator of the ends of the earth, even the farthest reaches of the galaxies. His understanding, holiness, power, and eternity are beyond our comprehension. He is holy and lives in a high and holy place, beyond the corruption and weakness of this world.

 

Yet God makes an exception to where He dwells. He also dwells with the contrite and lowly in spirit. As water flows to the lowest place, so the Spirit of God rushes to fill the most humble. The New Testament used the imagery of dying to sin and self, and living for Christ, as Paul wrote,

 

I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

 

This is the life to which God has called us. Let God deal with your heart issues: your pride, your stubbornness, and anything in your life that goes against His will. As humble yourself before the Lord and He will fill you and lift you up.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, we admit our weakness, our spiritual poverty before You. We confess our sins and our pride and humble ourselves. Lord, open our eyes that we may see ourselves more clearly. Reveal to us our need for You and assure us of Your love for us. Assure us by Your Spirit that we are accepted fully in Christ Jesus. Unite our Christian fellowships and churches under Your Lordship. Come and cleanse our hearts and fill us with Your Spirit. Amen.

 

THE CROSS GOD’S WAY, written by Miles Stanford

It was on the cross of Calvary that God, in Christ, dealt fully and finally with self, the nature from which all our sins flow. “We know that our old (unrenewed) self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that (our) body, (which is the instrument of sin), might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6 Amp.). The reason there is no other way for self to be denied is that God has done the work in this way: our identification with Christ Jesus in His death and resurrection! It is done; now ours to believe.

“The ‘flesh’ will only yield to the cross; not to all the resolutions you may make at a conference, not to any self-effort, not to any attempted self-crucifixion; only to co-crucifixion, crucified together with Christ (Galatians 2:20). It is not by putting yourself to death, but by taking, through faith and surrender, your place of union with Christ in His death. That is the blessed barrier of safety between you and all the attractions of the flesh, and that makes the way open to do the will of God.” –G. Watt

The cross of Calvary resulted in the death of the Lord Jesus, both for sin, and unto sin. In that He died unto sin, He died out of the realm of sin, and He arose into the realm of “newness of life,” eternal life. And our identification with Him on Calvary took us into death; down into the tomb; up into “newness of life” (Romans 6:4). First, Romans 6:3 — “Baptized into his death”; then, Romans 6:4 — “buried with him”; then, Romans 6:5 — “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection”; also, Colossians 3:3 — “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God”; therefore, Romans 6:11 — “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Praise the Lord! it all happened at Calvary: our sins were paid for, our sinfulness was dealt with, and both by the ultimate — DEATH. And we receive the benefits of the work of the cross simply by reckoning on, believing in, the finished work of the cross. First, through the Word, we find out what God did about our problem. Then, as we become thoroughly convinced of the fact and begin to understand it clearly, we are able to agree to ‘reckon’ it true. And as we exercise faith in God’s fact, we begin to receive the benefits of that finished work in experience. Was it not true in the matter of our justification? Yes, and we will likewise find it to be true in the matter of our emancipation from the slavery of the self-life.

“The powerful effect of the cross with God, in heaven, in the blotting out of guilt, and our renewed union with God, is inseparable from the other effect — the breaking down of the authority of sin over man, by the crucifixion of self. Therefore Scripture teaches us that the cross not only works out a disposition or desire to make such a sacrifice, but it really bestows the power to do so, and completes the work. This appears with wonderful clarity in Galatians. In one place the cross is spoken of as the reconciliation for guilt (3:13). But there are three more places where the cross is even more plainly spoken of as the victory over the power of sin; as the power to hold in the place of death the ‘I’ of the self-life; of the flesh (the outworking of self); and of the world (2:20; 5:24; 6:14). In these passages our union (identification) with Christ, the crucified One, and the conformity to Him resulting from the union, are represented as the result of the power exercised within us and upon us by the cross.” — Andrew Murray

As we learn to stand upon the finished work of Calvary, the Holy Spirit will begin to faithfully and effectively apply that finished work of the cross to the self-life, thereby holding it in the place of death — inactive — resulting in the “not I, but Christ” life.

 

 

 

Evening Devotionals , , , ,

Great Commission Christians

August 28th, 2009

The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20

 

 

Churches are commissioned by Christ to bear witness to Him in the world, among all nations. The word “nations” is ethnos in the Greek of the New Testament and means not just political boundaries but the ethnic groups that exist within nations. We are to share the truth of God’s love with a world that is in desperate need of both absolute truth and unconditional love.

 

Notice the command was given in the atmosphere of worship. Doubt was present among some of the apostles, as they saw Jesus the crucified one resurrected before them and had trouble grasping this reality. But faith can exist amid doubt, and worship can be real among those who have weaknesses. In fact, this includes all of us for who among us has not doubted or come to worship without some weakness plaguing our personal commitment? Our faith and our witness stands in the strength of Christ, not in our own strength without Him.

 

The central part of the command was to make disciples and this was to be done in three ways: by going into all the world, by baptizing these disciples in the name of God, and by teaching them to obey what Christ had commanded. The beautiful simplicity of these words is coupled with their specificity and clarity. Christ made the focal point a change in people’s lives, that we are to carry out our witness with an end to have people reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and this involved repentance of sin and faith in Christ. We were also to take those who had accepted Him as Christ and baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Spirit. Notice the word “Name” is singular but it is shared with the Father, Son, and Spirit. This is one of the most profound yet simple verses in the Bible about the doctrine of the Trinity: one Name, one God, three Persons.

 

The command ended with the application of the truth. Just as our proclamation was to produce disciples, so our teaching was to lead to their obedience, and not just to their increased knowledge. They were to obey what Christ had commanded and not just come to be informed. When we keep these simple matters clearly before us we will find God’s blessing is upon our work.

 

The passage ends with the assurance of Christ’s enabling, empowering, encouraging, guiding, and transforming presence among us through the age as we worship Him and bear witness to His grace.

 

How committed are you to the Great Commission.

Is it evidenced by your prayers? Do you pray for lost people to be converted, for people to respond to God’s call to go and tell, and for mission fields to be opened?

Is it evidenced in your actions? Do you share the good news with others? Have you learned how to share and witness? Do you take time to bear witness to God’s love?

Is it evidenced in your giving? Do you give to the expansion of the gospel? Have you sacrificed anything for the sake of Him who sacrificed all for you?

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, we worship You and thank You for your love to us. Take us in our weaknesses and transform us. Give us your burden. Lay some soul upon our hearts, even the needs of the world. Take our time, our talents, our finances, our relationships, and our opportunities and use them so that the world might know of Your love. Amen.

 

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