Friday, March 25, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 11: Formed

 


Week 11: Formed

This week I didn't have a lot of time to dig into Bible study in order to have a word for today's theme. I was originally thinking about simply skipping this week with an apology, but as I was leafing through my spiritual formation art journal this morning I came across a page I made at the beginning of the journal. It contains a quote from a book by Dallas Willard that captures for me what spiritual formation is and the purpose of being intentional about what forms us as Christ-followers.



"Spiritual transformation into Christlikeness is a process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it takes on the character of the inner being of Jesus himself, The result is that the outer life of the individual increasingly becomes a natural expression of the inner reality of Jesus and his teachings. Doing what he said and did increasingly becomes a part of who we are." Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart.

Being a Christ-follower means that we are on a life-long journey in the process of growing more and more like Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatian church, "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you..." Galatians 4:19

To the Ephesians he stated the goal this way, "to become mature, attaining to the whole measure the fullness of Christ" and "we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." Ephesians 4:13 & 15 

To the Romans he wrote, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likenessof his Son..." Romans 8:29

To the Corinthians he said, "We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness, with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18

Williard explains that, "The human spirit is an inescapable, fundamental aspect of every human being; and it takes on whichever character it has from the experiences and the choices that we have lived through or made in the past. That is what it means to be 'formed'." He goes on to say, "That spiritual place within us [the heart] from which outlook, choices, and actions come from has been formed by a world away from God. Now it must be transformed...as our spiritual dimension has been formed, so it also must be transformed."

As we grow in the knowledge of who Christ is, how He lived, who He calls us to be, how He calls us to imitate His life, then we become increasingly formed into His likeness. But it is a life-long process making those who are in Christ life-long learners. It requires of us a dedication to reading and studying the Word of God. But, thankfully, it is not solely dependent on us alone. This is the great mystery of God; "Christ in you." (Colossian 1:27). God gave us His Spirit. "For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philiipians 2:13) The Spirit of God works in us and in conjunction with our will. It's a holy partnership!


Share the journey of being formed by the Word with me. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.





Friday, March 18, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 10: Prayer

 


Week 10: Prayer

As I have mentioned before, my intent for this weekly post is mainly to take words from my studies and use them as a way to be formed by God's Word. I can think of no better means of spiritual formation than to be saturated and filled by the Word of God. For the past year I have been studying 2 Corinthians with a friend. We have moved through it very slowly, taking any rabbit trails that come along. And it has been so good. So here we are 15 months into our study and we have just completed chapter 7. We decided to reconnect ourselves with the first seven chapters before moving on, and as I was doing so this week I was struck by the significance of a few verses that I didn't really catch the first time. I love and appreciate that God's Word is living and active. Each time we engage it, we can see totally new things; things that may have a different significance based on what our current circumstances might be.

So, the passage is 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and the verses that connected with me in a different manner this time are verses 10 and 11.

"He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many." 2 Corinthians 1:10-11

While I chose prayer as today's word, I specifically want to focus on intercessory prayer. What I clamped onto when I read this the other day is the word "as" at the beginning of verse 11. Paul directly connects his hope in God continuing to deliver him from the trial he is facing to the prayers for him offered up by others. As pastor and author J. Hampton Keathley says, "God has chosen to use our prayers to accomplish his purpose." This elevates the need to be faithful in intercessory prayer. It also elevates the need to make sure that we are bringing others into our needs and struggles, so that they can pray for us and appeal to God on our behalf. 

 "God has chosen to use our prayers to accomplish his purpose." ~J. Hampton Keathley


Let me dig into these vereses a bit more and then draw some conclusions from the context of the larger passage they are connected to.

Paul is confident in God's deliverance of whatever trial he is facing because 1.) He has deliverd us. Paul can look back on his faith journey to date and draw deeper faith and encouragement from the times that God has delivered him in the past. 2.) Because Paul knows that God is faithful, he can trust that God will deliver him again now. And 3.) Paul says he has set his hope on God that he will continue to deliver him. Paul is confident that God has, will, and will continue to deliver those who are in Him. Again quoting Keathley, "Paul's perspective of life  is to live with his hope firmly fixed on God alone as his deliverer." Why can Paul have this perspective?

This is where the full context (2 Cor. 1:3-11) of the passage these verses are in come into play. Paul has learned to have a proper biblical perspective on suffering and trials because Paul sees God the Father as "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort" (1:3). Through faith and the circumstances of a life that is devoted to following God, Paul has learned that suffering and trials have a purpose in the lives of those who are in Christ:
  • The comfort we receive from God in our trails and suffering enables us to comfort others who face affliction. (1:4)
  • Trials and suffering help us to rely on God and not on ourselves. (1:9)
  • Trials and suffering help us set our hope on God, our deliverer, and not on other things in the world or ourselves to deliver us. They train our eyes on hope, so to speak. (1:10)
  • God's deliverance is closely connected with others praying for us. So we must bring others into our suffering and trials to enable them to pray for us and implore God to work on our behalf. (1:11)
  • Thus, prayer binds us together and initiates the comfort of God. We cannot receive comfort as God intends unless we let others know of our needs. God's comfort is for the one who is suffering and for the ones who are praying.
  • Finally, when we share our trails and sufferings with others who then pray for us the result is thanksgiving, praise and glory to God. (1:11)  In all things the ultimate goal is glory to God. 
Let me end with a word picture from the Greek words used in verse 11.  The NASB says "so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf".  The Greek word used here for persons is "prosopon" it literally means face.  So we have the image of many faces lifted up toward God in prayer. What a great picture of intercessory prayer.

I mentioned earlier that sometimes we will see a verse or passage in a different light due to circumstances in our own life.  Currently both my husband and my pastor/boss are facing health issues - these are the two most important men in my life. In light of this and the Russian invasion of Ukraine I am struck by God's deliverance coming "as" we help others by our prayers. May we bring comfort and be comforted as we turn our faces to God in prayer on behalf of others.



I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 9: Virtue

 


Week 9: Virtue

I came across a quote recently that I have been mulling over.
"The way to get rid of the defects is to cultivate the virtues." ~Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones was a Welsh minister of the Westmintster Chapel in London. He was also an author of  many Bible commentaries, and is one of my pastor's favorite authors. The quote above comes from a larger quote:

"Indeed, as I have already said, you cannot truly deal with the negative unless you are at the same time doing the positive. The way to get rid of the defects is to cultivate the virtues. To use a well-known phrase of Thomas Chambers, what we need is to apply the :Expulsive power of a new affection". I use a simple illustration. The way the dead lives of winter are removed from some trees is not that people go around plucking them off; no, it is the new life, the shoot that comes and pushes off the dead in order to make room for itself. In the same way the Christian gets rid of all such things as bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and evil speaking and all malice. The new qualities develop and the others simply have no room; they are pushed out and they are pushed off."

The trees Dr. Lloyd-Jones mentions are some varieties of Beech and Oak trees. Our neighbors behind us have a huge Oak tree that holds onto its brown, dead leaves all winter. It always seems strange to me to see those leaves still attached to the branches. I like this analogy he uses for spiritual growth. If we simply focus all of our energy on trying hard to eliminate the negative things in our lives, it is simply that, us trying hard in our own strength. This usually does not produce much change. But it does produce much frustration and ultimately leads to feelings of failure and hopelessness.

On the other hand, putting our energy into cultivating the virtues requires that we grow in our knowledge of God, and as we do so, He provides the power in us to develop the virtues He desires. It requires action on our part and Divine power on God's part. We see this throughout the scriptures.

"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. 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:3-11

Here in 2 Peter is the "formula" to living out the virtues of God. God has given us "His divine power". For what purpose? To live a godly life. How do we live this godly life? Through our knowledge of God, "him who called us by his own glory and goodness". Through God's glory and goodness he has given us great and precious promises which enable us to participate with God through his Holy Spirit. Therefore, we are called to make every effort - work to participate with God - to grow or cultivate the virtues that please God: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. Why? Because growing in these virtues leads us to growing in Christlikeness and living a godly life.

Some other passages to ponder:

"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.: Galatians 5:16-17

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9

"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

This is not about just using "positive thinking". A line from an old Bing Crosby song comes to mind here, "You got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative...". Positive thinking alone will not take us very far in removing our vices and negative thinking. We need to act in conjunction with the power of God that comes to us through our union with Jesus Christ. Without that Divine power, it is simply positvie thinking. Eventually the negative creeps back in and no true change in behavior and lifestyle results. To cultivate virtues we need to grow in our knowledge of jnjnGod through His Word, which in turn enables us to partner with His Holy Spirit in getting rid of the defects (vices) and living a godly life.



I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.





Thursday, March 10, 2022

February Art Journaling

 February Art Journaling

This year for The 100 Day Project I am making #100daysofminicollage. Here are days 1-15:

These mini collage pieces are being made in the corners or along the page edge in my daily art journal or in my Spiritual Formation journal. This way they adorn my pages for other projects.

Other projects I am working on or participating in are: Making pages for the Rhythm of My Daily Life (my weekly or monthly pages of life stuff), my weekly Formed By the Word project each Friday on my blog, documenting my word of the year (formed), and I joined Hope Wallace in her Patreon group where we get prompts for each month connected to personal growth and creativity.








I post the pages I make for Formed By the Word each Friday, but here is one of the pages where I used my mini collage from the 100 Day Project along the page edge and then one in the corner for Ash Wednesday.




I hope you had a creative February!

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 8: Ashes ~ Ash Wednesday 2022

 


Week 8: Ashes - Ash Wednesday 2022

Formed By the Word is being published today instead of Friday because today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lent Season, and I wanted my word this week to reflect that. Today we begin a journey of reflection and sacrifice, mourning and celebration, abstinence and engagement. Today we begin a journey that leads us to Good Friday and Easter. We set aside this season of Lent as a time of remembering the sacrifice of Christ, and in turn committing to sacrifice ourselves as well, following in His steps. We practice spiritual disciplines, not as a way to gain God's favor and holiness, but as a way to mourn our sinfulness, lest we take for granted the gift of grace through salvation in Christ. Today, if we participate in an Ash Wednesday service, we will receive ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross to remind us that there, on the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sin to redeem us.

"For you are dust and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:19


Throughout the Bible ashes or dust are used symbolically of mourning, death and repentance. 2 Samuel 3:19, Esther 4:1-3, Job 42:6, Ezekiel 27:30-31, Matthew 11:21 are just a few examples of how ashes/dust are used. Author Ruth Haley Barton explains the significance of Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent:

"Ash Wednesday initiates a season of acknowledging our sinfulness. In very intentional ways, we invite God to search us and know us and (eventually) to lead us into resurrection life. The ashes marking our foreheads carry the same meaning contained in the Old Testament practice of covering oneself with ashes: they are an outward sign of an inward repentance and mourning as we become aware of our sin. This, too, is good for us because we live in so much denial. Facing our sin in the shadow of Christ’s cross and impending resurrection is the healthiest way to deal with our sin."

Ashes are a sign of repentance and humility. Ashes remind us that we are dust, we are mortal, and we are not God.  The journey begins with and is sustained by repentance. 

"From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17

Martin Luther said in the first of his 95 Theses, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent," He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

The journey of Lent also reminds us that the way to life is death. 

"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."  Galatians 6:14

The movement of the Ash Wednesday service moves from repentance to ashes and, finally, to communion. In this movement the ashes remind us of our own mortality, and communion reminds us to celebrate the grace of God, who through faith in Jesus Christ grants eternal life to sinners.



I haven't done a Lent Words Challenge in a few years as I found this time of year to be too busy for me to keep up with a challenge. But if you are interested in a guide through the Lent season, I have a link to the outline of Lent Words and Scripture passages that we used in 2018. You will also find devotions written by myself and some guest contributors. If you make art during the Lent season please share in the Words Art & Faith Challenge Group on Facebook or on social media with #LentWords2022.

Lent Words and devotions here.


Friday, February 25, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 7: Indicative

 


Week 7: Indicative

This past week I have been working on a project for a meeting on Saturday where we will go through Colossians 3:1-4 and look at its implications for spiritual formation. So I thought today's word would focus on a pattern found in this passage that is very popular with Paul in his writings.

"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

Paul has a grammactical pattern that he uses which expresses his theology of sanctification. Paul likes to lay a foundation with indicative statements before he tells us what to do or how to live (imperative statements or commands).  An indicative states a fact or a reality. In the New Testament an indicative states something that God has done, is doing, or will do. Indicatives generally tell us who we are as a result of something God has done, is doing, or will do. So, we could also call these identity statements for those who are in Christ. Paul uses indicatives - telling us who we are -  before he gives us imperatives - telling us what we should do or how we should live. Why this order? Well, if he gave us the imperatives first, then we would be operating out of a works-based gospel. Paul instead communicates with this pattern of indicatives preceding imperatives that doing flows out of being. Another way to say this is, what we do or how we live is a response to who we are in Christ, a response to what He has done or is doing or will do. Who Christ is and what He has done for us is our motivation to live for Him.

We can look at this passage in Colossians 3 and see examples of this. The passage begins with "Since, then" which is another way of saying "If, therefore". This means we need to look at the context. In chapters 1 and 2 of Colossians Paul has written to address false teaching taking place in the Colossian church where they are trying to combine Jewish thought and traditions and Greek  philosophy and wisdom teaching with the teachings of Christ. We call this syncretism, where different forms and practices of different religions are fused together into one. 

So to combat this false teaching, or heresy,  Paul exalts Christ. In the first two chapters of the book Paul describes who Christ is - His deity, His supremacy, His power, His authority - he describes what Christ has done for us - redeeming us, forgiving us our sins, reconciling us to God through His blood - and finally, he describes who we are in Christ - made alive with Christ, holy and without blemish, those who have Christ in us, the hope of glory. Paul lays a foundation that is rooted in the truth of Christ and firmly establishes who we are in Christ.

Then he tells us that since all of this is true, and that we "have been raised with Christ" (indicative #1), then we should "set our hearts on things above (imperative #1), where Christ is seated at the right hand of God".  Also, we should "set our minds on things above, not on earthly things" (imperative #2). Why? Because "you died, and your life is now hidden (secure, kept safe) with Christ in God." (indicatives 2 & 3). He then follows this with a promise. "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear (indicative #4) with him in glory."

The indicatives in this passage tell us what Christ has done on our behalf - you have been raised with Christ, you died. They tell us what He is doing now - your life is hidden with Him, you are safe and secure in Christ because Christ is in you. And they tell us what He is going to do - you will appear with him in glory. The pattern seen in these indicatives point us to the truth that is foundational to them being true of us - "with Christ/Him". These indicatives are what identify those who are in union or in relationship with Christ through faith in who He is and what He has done to redeem us and to reconcile us with God. Then we are called to live the resurrection life, the way of Christ. We do this by having a heavenly mindset. We are first and foremost citizens of heaven who are guided by "the things above" while we journey through this life on earth. This is how we grow in Christlikeness, and the rest of Colossians goes into how we practically set our hearts and minds above and live as Kingdom people.

So when you see an imperative (a command about how to live or what to do), look for the indicative pointing you to your motivation for doing and living the kingdom way - what Christ has done, is doing, or will do.




I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.




Friday, February 18, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 6: Imitate

 


Week 6: Imitate

Last week we looked at two passages that showed how we are to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus. We looked at what His attitude looks like in Philippians 2:5-8 and then we looked at how Paul modeled the attitude of Christ in Philippians 3:7-9. What becomes clear from these passages is that the way we have the same attitude or mind as Christ is to imitate Him and to imitate those who imitate Him.

Jesus gave us clues to the need to imitate His life throughout the gospels:
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24
Jesus is very clear about the cost of following Him. It requires a life of discipleship, where we cease to make ourself the object of our life and actions, instead becoming totally committed to Christ and to His way of life. The cross is the symbol of total commitment to Christ for us. When we "take up our cross" we imitate Christ who denied His own rights for our sake and who made himself nothing. (Philippians 2:6-7). We sacrifice our rights in order to serve others as Christ did. This is the cost of discipleship.

"Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:38

"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." John 13:15

"Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." John 13:17

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Matthew 7:24

"Take my Yoke upon you and learn feom me..." Matthew 11:29

Jesus was clear that following Him meant imitating Him.

Paul, then, took the words of Jesus to heart, and continued His message in his writings.
"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1

"Therefore I urge you to imitate me." 1 Corinthians 4:16

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:9

"You became imitators of us and of the Lord..." 1 Thessalonians 1:6

"Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1-2
The way of imitating Christ is to love and to sacrifice through service to others.

Peter and John take up the same call in their writings:
"Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." 1 Peter 2:21

"Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6

My art for today is something I actually made back in September for a different post (check it out here.) but it fit so well here that I didn't see a reason to make a new page.







My focus this year in being "Formed By the Word" is to explore what the Bible says about spiritual formation in Christ. More and more as I study, I'm struck by how much our spiritual formation in Christ is focused on how we view and serve and relate to others. A thread we will need to continue to explore.


I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.




Friday, February 11, 2022

Formed by the Word Week 5: Attitude


Week 5: Attitude

Spiritual formation is often on my mind. I often ponder what it means and looks like to grow in Christ's likeness, for this is the calling - the purpose - of everyone who professes to be in Christ. Every one of us is called to this. I started reading a book by a French pastor, Michel Bouttier, called "Christianity According to Paul". In the opening pages of this book, Bouttier points out something in the book of Philippians that I had not noticed before, even though I have studied Philippians numerous times. In chapter 2 of Philippians Paul shows that conducting oneself in "a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil 1:27) will manifest itself in a life of love and humility (Phil 2:1-4). In Christ we have the supreme example of this type of life, and so, Paul calls us to have the same attitude as Christ, which he shows in 2 Philippians 2:5-8. But here is the thing I did not notice before. While Paul gives us Christ's example, he goes on in Chapter 3 to show us his own example of having the same attitude as that of Christ. Paul lives out his admonition to "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1), and in doing so shows us how to live in a way so as to have the same attitude of Christ.

First, let's look at Jesus' attitude revealed to us in Philippians 2:5-8.
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with
God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death -
even death on a cross!"

Jesus Christ was in his very nature, God. He had God's divine privilege and position and status. Yet, he did not consider - regard or view - his equality with God as something to be grasped - held onto, clung to selfishly, used for his own advantage - or, in American terms, he did not exert his right to his equality with God.  The New Living Translation (NLT) translates verse 6 with this tone: "Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God."

Instead, verse 7 tells us, he made himself nothing. The word "made" implies that this was a vouluntary action on Jesus' part. He voluntarily made himself nothing - in other words, he emptied himself of his privileges and rights and poured himself out. How? By "taking on the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

Jesus said to his disciples, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28. A servant is submissive to the will or needs of someone else. They voluntarily put others needs before their own (Phil 2:3-4). The cross is our example of Jesus putting our needs before His own and being a submissive servant to the will of the Father. How might we put others first and serve them as the Father wills it?

Paul goes on describing Jesus' example in verse 8: "And being found in appeatrence as a man," - taking on man's characteristics and weaknesses, becoming just like us - "He humbled himself". How did he humble himself? "He became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" His obedience and humility were shown most gloriously on the cross. In Jesus' time death on a cross was the lowest and most disgraceful form of death. Yet for the sake of others - for us - and to be obedient to the Father, Jesus willingly went to His death on the cross. He humbled himself for our sake in order to redeem us from the power of sin and death.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." 2 Corinthians 8:9

So, now we look at Paul's example of having the attitude of Christ in Philippians 3:7-9.
"But whatever was to my profit" - Paul had listed some of the credentials that allowed him privilege, position, and status in Philippians 3:4-6. Of the people of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, a persecutor, legally righteous, faultless. In his day and culture his Jewish roots and his position placed him far up the hierarchy affording him rights and privileges others did not have.

But, he goes on, "I now consider loss." He willingly gave up all that he had. Why? (Vs8) "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared with the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."

Paul's sole purpose was "to gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness that comes from the law [i.e., earned by status, position, nationality, deeds, or rights] but that which comes through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." (Vs 9)

Paul lived his life for Christ, imitating Christ's attitude of service, humility, and obedience to the Father's will. It is because he had the attitude of Christ that he could then call others to "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1) 

Our call from God is to to spend our lives, for whatever length of time we have, growing in Christlikeness (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). Having Christ's attitude, living His ways, imitating Him. It can be hard to figure out what that looks like in our culture today. Our call is not to have the attitude of the world, the culture, our nationality or ethnicity, or of celebrities, politicians, authors, or political parties, or even of our families or parents. Our call is first and foremost, as children of God, to have the same attitude of Christ. To have His mind. So, like Christ, and Paul, we are called to live in ways where we yield our rights, our privileges, our position for the sake of Christ to serve others humbly, voluntarily, and sacrificially in obedience to the father's will.

As I pray about how to be Formed By the Word this year, this is the direction in which I am exploring. How to live out the ways of Christ; how to have His attitude; how to grow in Christlikeness. Praise God that He has given us His Word to guide us and to show us what Christlikeness looks like.

"Jesus Christ 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 2:14





I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.








Friday, February 4, 2022

Formed By the Word: Week 4 ~ Perspective: Eternal Eyesight

 


Week 4 ~ Perspective: Eternal Eyesight

Today is the final part in a series of Words challenge posts looking at Chapters 3-5 of 2 Corinthians. These chapters contain a lot of "perspective" words. Words such as seen/unseen, light, reveal, veiled/unveiled, display, show, reflect, sight, see, look, eteranl/temporary, blinded, regard, view, eyes. Paul's theology in his letters is that the right perspective is God's perspective. In these chapters in 2 Corinthians he shows that godly perspective impacts how we live, how we see others, how we view trials and suffering and the circumstances of life, and how we view eternity. So we will break these down and dig into them:

  • Week One ~ Perspective: Behold Christ.
  • Week Two ~ Perspective: Eyes Wide Open
  • Week Three ~ Perspective: Godly Perception
  • Week Four ~ Perspective: Eternal Eyesight

Eternal Eyesight

The last thing I noticed about having God’s perspective in chapters 3-5 of 2 Corinthians is that with His help we grow to see suffering and trials and the circumstances of life from His point of view. With our eyes focused on the “eternal glory” that far outweighs anything we experience in this life (4:17), we are able to “live [walk] by faith, not by sight” (5:7). We can recognize that the bodies we live in and the lives we live are simply God’s treasure in frail clay jars meant to reveal His glory and power (4:7). The trials and suffering, despair, and persecution, all help to build our faith in God and reveal the death and resurrection life of Jesus in us (4:8-11). These things enable others to see Jesus in us! God’s eternal perspective enables us to be renewed inwardly day by day, because in view of eternity they are “light and momentary”. “So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen [the trials, the suffering and despair, the circumstances of life] but on what is unseen [the eternal glory of God] since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (4:16-18). Eternal eyesight keeps us from “losing heart”, from giving into doubt and fear, because we know Whose we are and what His purpose is for those who are in Christ. “We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to Himself” (4:14). We have an eternal house in heaven (5:1) and “the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (5:5).

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body [in this present age] or away from it [in the age to come – eternity]. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done in the body [in this present age], whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:9-10

Eternal eyesight keeps us from losing heartit produces endurance.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Finally, when we can see trials and suffering and the circumstances of life as God does, we will see these things as opportunities. God uses what we go through so that we, like Him, have compassion on others, and we, then, comfort them as we ourselves have received comfort from God. Most likely the comfort God gives came about through other people He used to bring us His comfort. God's purposes serve to enable us to praise Him and focus on and serve others. We reach back to the first chapter of 2 Corinthians to see this.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort." 2 Corinthians 1:3-7


A few months ago I did the page below, but it fits with today's study as well.




In being formed by the Word of God we gain God's perspective. We see Him clearly as we behold Christ through the Gospel. As we grow in Christlikeness our eyes are wide open to see ourselves as God's ministers, living godly lives. We gain Godly perception to see others, believers and unbelievers, as He does, through the lens of the Gospel. And we grow in the ability to see suffering, trials, and the curcumstances of life clearly with eternal eyesight

Thank you for joining me as I have explored and dug into these perspective words in 2 Corinthians chapters 3-5.

* * * * *

I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Formed By the Word: Week 3 ~ Perspective: Godly Perception

 


Week 3 ~ Perspective: Godly Perception

Today is part three in a series of Words challenge posts looking at Chapters 3-5 of 2 Corinthians. These chapters contain a lot of "perspective" words. Words such as seen/unseen, light, reveal, veiled/unveiled, display, show, reflect, sight, see, look, eteranl/temporary, blinded, regard, view, eyes. Paul's theology in his letters is that the right perspective is God's perspective. In these chapters in 2 Corinthians he shows that godly perspective impacts how we live, how we see others, how we view trials and suffering and the circumstances of life, and how we view eternity. So we will break these down and dig into them:

  • Week One ~ Perspective: Behold Christ.
  • Week Two ~ Perspective: Eyes Wide Open
  • Week Three ~ Perspective: Godly Perception
  • Week Four ~ Perspective: Eternal Eyesight

Godly Perception

When we have God’s perspective, we see others as He does, both unbelievers and believers alike. Our perception of others is seen through the lens of the gospel. In 5:16-17 Paul says,

So from now on we regard [view, see, consider] no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded [saw, viewed, considered] Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

I used verse 17 (new creation) in earlier posts regarding our position in Christ, and it is true, those who are in Christ are new creations. But the context shows us another way to view this verse. Let me break it down. It starts with “so from now on”. From when? We must look back at the previous verses. From the point when we were compelled by the love of Christ, recognizing that He died for all and we thus began a new life, we had our eyes opened that our lives now are to be lived for Christ (5:14-15). Before then we lived for ourselves by the world’s standards or point of view. That is, we lived with ourselves at the center of the universe. Our needs, our rights, our wants, etc. were more important than others, and even more important than God’s. This is what Paul means when he says that we once regarded Christ in this way (5:16) – we made no room for Him in our lives because we did not see Him in the right light – in God’s light.

But now that we are living as unveiled people in Christ, we live to please God (5:9) and are called to live by the standards, or point of view, that God calls us to, for we see His glory clearly now. Not only that, but Paul says, “we regard no one from a worldly point of view”, not anyone. This means we don’t even see unbelievers from a worldly point of view. We cannot hold them to God’s standards for living because they live with their minds dull, their hearts veiled, and their eyes unable to see spiritual things. We see them as they really are, as those in need of reconciliation with God, who need the opportunity to have their eyes opened to the freedom that comes form the Lord (3:17) by being freed from the burden of sin.

But for those who are in Christ we need to see them as who they really are as well. They are a new creation in Christ. Everything that the Bible says is true of the identity of God’s children is already true of them – even if they don’t yet believe it or live up to it. They are a new creation! The old has gone, but still will need to be dealt with as we grow and mature and are transformed into the image of Christ in ever-increasing glory (3:18). So, we live as living epistles of Christ in order to help those who live veiled lives be reconciled to God, and to encourage those who are in Christ to fully live as transformed new creations in Christ’s image.


I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.



Friday, January 21, 2022

Formed By the Word: Week 2 ~ Perspective: Eyes Wide Open


Week 2 ~ Perspective: Eyes Wide Open

Today is part two in a series of Words challenge posts looking at Chapters 3-5 of 2 Corinthians. These chapters contain a lot of "perspective" words. Words such as seen/unseen, light, reveal, veiled/unveiled, display, show, reflect, sight, see, look, eteranl/temporary, blinded, regard, view, eyes. Paul's theology in his letters is that the right perspective is God's perspective. In these chapters in 2 Corinthians he shows that godly perspective impacts how we live, how we see others, how we view trials and suffering and the circumstances of life, and how we view eternity. So we will break these down and dig into them:

Eyes Wide Open

When we behold Christ and see Him in the right light we come to see things - the world, circumstances, people, etc. - from God's perspective. In a sense we have new eyes, eyes that are wide open to His will and His ways. This is a part of our spiritual transformation. As we grow in Christlikeness our spiritual eyesight will grow as well. 

Now that we see Christ clearly – as the glory of God – we must then see ourselves more clearly as those who are in Christ. In Christ we are new creations (5:17), He took our sin that we “might become the righteousness of God’ (5:21). Thus, we are called to live by God’s standards, growing and maturing, being transformed into the image of Christ (3:18).

How then does Paul call us to live in these chapters in 2 Corinthians? By being living epistles of Christ.

You yourselves are our letter [Greek = epistle], written on our hearts, known and read [proven by experience, seen, displayed] by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry [Paul made his life known to them and shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with them, turning their hearts to Jesus], written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone [like the old covenant] but on tablets of human hearts [The new covenant - God poured the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ into their hearts (4:6)].” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 

The prophet Ezekiel shared God's promise that He would bring a New Covenant with His people:

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:26-27

If you read last week's post these verses from Ezekiel fit right in. The heart of stone that God removes is the heart and mind that is veiled (2 Cor 3:13,14,15,4:3,4) and unable to see with spiritual eyes. But when we "turn to Christ, the veil is removed" (2 Cor. 3:16) and God's Spirit is in us through Christ. We have a new heart AND new eyes, which enable the renewing of our minds.

And, thus, Paul says we are living epistles. The gospel words are heard best when they are seen first in gospel lives – living epistles, displaying the character of Christ. We are called to live, to minister, to preach and speak, and to serve in ways that show God’s glory and reveal Christ. We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors (5:20) who are given the ministry of reconciliation (5:18), commissioned with the message of reconciliation – “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (5:19). He has called us to implore others to be reconciled to God – those who do not know Him, as well as those who know him but are not living for Him. For the love of God in Christ, who died for us, compels us to live for Christ and not for ourselves. 

"For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Our life in Christ comes with privileges and with responsibilities. We live, minister, speak, and serve so that others are drawn to “the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ” (4:4) and that His “grace may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” (4:15). We live for His glory!

So, with spiritual eyes we see ourselves more clearly - we are living epistles, ministers of reconciliation, Christ's ambassadors - all of us who are in Christ are called to these roles. They are to become a part of who we are in Christ, our identity. May we see clearly who we are in Christ!



I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.