Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Resurrection Words Day 13: Kingdom

 


Day 13: Kingdom

"For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves." Colossians 1:13

One of the many blessings that comes to those who live the resurrection life is that we are now a part of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the reign He brings about on earth through Jesus Christ. When Jesus began his earthly ministry, he proclaimed, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near". Jesus Christ came to earth to fulfill the prophecy of the Old Testament. Through Him God's presence is in and with His people. In His person and ministry the kingdom has become a present reality.

Because God has brought us into the kingdom through His Son, we are now kingdom people.

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."  1 Peter 2:9-10

"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:11-14

As kingdom people, we are, therefore, called to a particular way of life. We see this in the passage above from the book of Titus, where we are called to live "upright and godly lives". When? In this present age. For the kingdom of God, while it is present in and among us through Christ, it will not reach its fullness until Jesus returns. As Paul says in the passage above: we are called to live godly lives now while we wait "for the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I am fascinated with the already/not yet nature of the kingdom of God. It is already present, but not yet fully arrived. We, who are in Christ, are already holy, yet we will spend out life becoming holy. 
"For now, Christians live in a great theological tension: we already possess every spiritual blessing in Christ, but we do not experience the fullness of these blessings yet. In one sense, we are already adopted, redeemed, sanctified, and saved; in another, these experiences are not yet fully ours. Underneath this theological and practical tension are the two comings of Christ. In his first coming, he inaugurated the last days; in his second coming, he will complete them. In the meantime, we live for now in “the overlap of the ages." David Briones, NT Professor, Westminster Theological Seminary

Professor Briones continues,  "If we are to live biblically in between the times, we must trust the indicatives and obey the imperatives. Biblical indicatives are another way of expressing the already: 'You are holy!'. Imperatives express the not yet: 'Be holy!'."

"...What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him." 2 Peter 3:11-14

Paul reminds us "to live lives worthy of God who calls you into his kingdom and glory". 1 Thessalonians 2:12

We are to live as kingdom people, with the Spirit of God in us, in anticipation of His Second Coming when we will experience His kingdom in all its fullness and glory.



Share your response to today's word and Scripture readings in the 
Words Art & Faith Challenge Group on Facebook. Or share on social media with #resurrectionwords. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Resurrection Words Day 12: Freedom

 


Day 12: Freedom

"Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 22 Corinthians 3:17

"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:15-23

"So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released [set free] from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." Romans 7:4-6

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." Galatians 5:13

I'm going to ask you to do something a little different today. I'd like to ask you to read through the above passages, slowly. 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead provides freedom from the condemnation and guilt of sin for those who believe in the Son of God. This is good news for those who think they can never be good enough, holy enough. This is good news for those who try harder and harder to earn God's approval by pleasing Him with good behavior. This is good news for those who feel like their sin is so bad they can never draw near to God, let alone be loved by Him. This is good news for every single one of us.

Now, read through them slowly again. Meditate on them. Pray through them. Let them sink into your hearts. Rejoice in the freedom we have in and through Christ.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17), so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." )John 8:36)

And as Paul told the Galatians: Use that freedom to go and serve one another humbly in love. 


Share your response to today's word and Scripture readings in the Words Art & Faith Challenge Group on Facebook. Or share on social media with #resurrectionwords. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Resurrection Words Day 11: Transformation

 


Day 11: Transformation

"And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." Romans 8:29

"My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you." Galatians 4:19

The goal of living the resurrection life is to have our lives transformed into the image of Christ; that we become more and more like Him as His life and character are formed in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let's first be clear that our transformation is totally the work of God through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our teacher, advocate and counselor (John 15:26, 16:13-14). He is the Spirit of Truth who gives us God's wisdom and the mind of Christ (John 16:13, 1 Corinthians 2:9-16). 

God has provided everything we need for this transformation to take place:
"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." 2 Peter 1:3-4

While God provides all we need for transformation into Christ-likeness and godly living, and is the work of His Holy Spirit, we do have a part in this process as well. Our part is where the imperatives or commands throughout the Bible come to play. Transformation requires total commitment to following Christ and to living the resurrection life. We make the decision, over and over, to participate in our transformation by dying to self (moving away from self-centered living) and living for Christ (turning to Christ-centered living). 

Remember this is our call as Christ-followers:

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

In Christ we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), our new self is created to be like God (Ephesians 4:24), to be conformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18), with His character formed in us (Galatians 4:19), to "become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13). The other thing we need to remember is that spiritual transformation is a process. In Colossians 3:10, Paul reminds us again that we have taken off our old self and "have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." Our new self in Christ is being renewed - transformed. It is an ongoing process of our commitment to Christ-likeness, our daily decision to die to self and live for Christ, and our continual practice of renewing our mind in the ways of Christ and the will of the Father.

Let me leave you with my favorite definition of Spiritual transformation, which comes from Ruth Haley Barton:

"Spiritual transformation is the process by which Christ is formed in us for the glory of God, the abundance of our own lives, and for the sake of others."

And a quote:

“The way to spiritual wholeness lies in an increasingly faithful response to the One whose purpose shapes our path, whose grace redeems our detours, whose power liberates us from crippling bondages of the prior journey and whose transforming presence meets us at each turn in the road.” – M. Robert Mulholland 


Share your response to today's word and Scripture readings in the Words Art & Faith Challenge Group on Facebook. Or share on social media with #resurrectionwords. 


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Resurrection Words Day 10: Mindset

 


Day 10: Mindset

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Colossians 3:1-4

Today's passage is one I have been working on memorizing because it describes the mindset needed for living the resurrection life. A mindset, by dictionary definition, is a fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretation of situations. It is a way of thinking that determines how we look at and respond to things and situations.

Resurrection living requires a specific type of mindset. It requires that we look at our life here on earth through the lens of heaven. Paul says in Philippians 3:20 that as Christ-followers and children of God our actual citizenship is not here on earth, or in a particular country or state, "but our citizenship is in heaven". In 2 Corinthians 5:20, he calls Christ-followers "Christ's ambassadors", again pointing out that wherever we reside it is not our true place of citizenship. Ambassadors live in one country while representing the views, beliefs and values of their home country. 

Therefore, we must learn to have a heavenly mindset, a mindset that represents our true place of citizenship. Our Colossians 3 passage above, describes this heavenly mindset and shows us how we acquire it. 

1. For starters, a mindset involves the mind and the heart. How we think and where we set our passions and values determines our mindset. Paul says we are to set our hearts and our minds on things above and not on earthly things (vs 1 & 2). And what is the reason for doing so? Paul says it is because of our position as those who have been raised with Christ. By saying this, he reminds us that as those who are living a resurrected life, we have died to our old self and its way of living and  we now live a new life with a new way of living. We cannot live a new life with a mindset from the old life. We need to continually remember who we are in Christ. We do this by reading and studying and memorizing Scripture. The thing about a mindset is this: you don't get into situations and then figure out what mindset to have. A mindset is a learned way of thinking and seeing in order that when you get into the situations that life throws your way, you are prepared to face them with the mindset of Christ that has been shaped in you by His Word.

2. Therefore, gaining a heavenly mindset requires discipline and training. Paul uses the word "set" in verses 1 and 2. When we set our hearts and minds on something we focus on it with intention and intensity. 
"Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest." Hebrews 3:1

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:18

We must set our minds and our hearts on Jesus, learning His ways, in order to live the resurrection life with a heavenly mindset. We are able to do this as we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. 
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

3. Learning the ways of Jesus and following His example means our former way of life must be transformed into our new resurrection way of life. Again, our reason for doing this is pointed out by Paul by remembering who we are in Christ:
"For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:1

A few more passages remind us of our crucified position in Christ:
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

"For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been set free from sin." Romans 6:5-7

4. Our new life is now hidden with - secure in, wrapped up in - Christ. We, therefore keep focused on our crucified  position in Christ, continually dying to our self-centered ways and embracing Christ-centered ways. And we do this by maintaining a heavenly perspective, knowing that this life is preparation for an eternal life with Christ.

"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." 1 John 3:2-3

"I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

So the mindset needed to live the resurrection life is to live today focused on the life that is to come. We live  pure, holy lives, imitating the life of Christ - loving and serving others, sacrificing our own needs, generously giving to those in need with our time and resources, being obedient to the ways and will of God, living out the Christ-like virtues of love, kindness, goodness, compassion, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, encouragement, etc. 

Paul reminds Timothy that those who live this way "will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." 1 Timothy 6:19

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21


Share your response to today's word and Scripture readings in the Words Art & Faith Challenge Group on Facebook. Or share on social media with #resurrectionwords. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Resurrection Words Day 9: Power

 


Day 9: Power

"And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you." Romans 8:11

We live in the resurrection power of God now. We live in this power because God's Spirit lives in us through our faith in His Son Jesus Christ. We live, not by our own power, but by relying on the power of God. Anyone who has tried to change a long held habit knows the truth of this. We do not transform and change by simply trying harder, but by relying on the resurrection power of God. His power in us enables us to say no to sin, it frees us from fear, it provides us with the power to live the life He calls us to live. We are never promised a problem-free life, but we do possess the power of God to endure, and not simply to endure, but to come out victorious.

We who are in Christ, possess this power. But we do not all connect with it, or maybe even believe we possess it. How do we connect with this resurrection power of God? Paul gives us an answer to this in Ephesians 1.
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." Ephesians 1:17-21

Paul's prayer for the Ephesians in this passage is, ultimately, that they would connect with the resurrection power that is theirs through the Spirit of God living in them. Whether or not we feel that power or feel like we experience it or see it in our lives is a matter of perspective. For if you are a Christ-follower the reality is that the power of God is within you, because God dwells in and through you by His Spirit. You already possess that power. Paul's prayer reveals how to connect with it.

Paul calls us to first pray for the Spirit's wisdom and revelation. This should be our prayer every time we read and study the Word of God, before every decision we make, and in every circumstance we face. This prayer is not for us to have more wisdom and to know more for the sake of knowledge itself, but to know God more, to know Him better. And again, this is not simply about head-knowledge but more about heart-knowledge. The word used for "know" or "knowledge" in the Greek language that this letter was written in is the word "epignosis". On a side note, this word group is what began my journey into wanting to learn how to dig into the Bible and learn to study for deeper meaning. Epignosis is not simply knowledge that gives you information. It is experiential knowledge. The kind of knowledge that brings the knower into a relationship with that which is known. It is experienced first hand by relationship with the knowledge revealed. This is the type of knowledge that has the power to change us, transform us. When we learn something our eyes are opened, but when we experience what we learn in a deeper manner our hearts are opened. This is heart-knowledge, and what Paul prays for us. This is why he prays for the "eyes of your hearts to be enlightened" (verse 18).

What is it that he wants us to know with our hearts? He wants us to know experientially the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance, and God's incomparably great power for us who believe. God has called us to salvation through Christ. He has chosen us and he loves us. We are His children. Our glorious inheritance is everything that comes to us in this life and the next through our relationship with Christ and our position as God's children. When we connect with this, we connect with the incomparably great power God has for us. The more we know God, the more we will know the power that is ours in God. Being secure in who we are, in Whose we are, and in the assurance of eternal life ignites the power of God that dwells in us. We can handle anything, stand up under any pressure, endure all things, and walk securely in His power. Paul continues in the rest of the passage to describe how God's power is seen most dramatically and perfectly in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. His resurrection from the dead gave us the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us and gives us access to God's power.


Share your response to today's word and Scripture readings in the Words Art & Faith Challenge Group on Facebook. Or share on social media with #resurrectionwords.