Posts Tagged ‘salvation’

In Romans 11:22 Paul says, “note then the kindness and the severity of God . . ..” He goes on to speak of God’s severity toward those that walk in unbelief and sin, but kindness to those who choose God’s way.

I want to focus on two things: I want to show you the danger of walking in sin. It’s dangerous because of the severity of God’s judgment on us when we do, not just on the final day – but even now. I want to show you why you should fear sin, even dabbling with it. But I also want to show you the depth of God’s kindness and mercy to those who turn from their sin to walk in God’s way. I want to encourage you to turn from any sin in your life and come to God so that you will know this kindness.

First –

God’s severity

There are seven stages in a downward spiral of judgment and destruction on us when we continue in sin.

1. Our sin separates us from God. As Jesus says in Mark 7:23, our sin comes from our heart’s wrong desires and when we act on them, we are defiled. We become filthy and unfit to be in God’s presence.

  • As Ephesians 4:18 says, we are “alienated” from God
  • Isaiah 59:2 says, “your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear you.”

Our relationship with God is broken.

2. God gives us over to the power of sin. We see this in Romans 1. It says several times that God “gave them up” to their sin. This is our judgment. God says, “You want sin? You can have it! And that’s your judgment.”

Just like the Israelites of old, when they desired to be like the nations around them and worship their gods. God gave them over to those nations and their gods and they suffered greatly under them.

So it is with us. Jesus said in John 8:34, “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” In Romans 6 Paul portrays sin as a “power,” a god or a master that enslaves us so that we do its will.

When we sin, we think, “I can do my own thing! I’m free! All those ‘rules’ God wants to put on me . . . not anymore!” But in fact, sin masters us, just like a drug addiction. It rules us and it ruins our lives under its tyranny. Romans 7:15 portrays this well. Here, even though the person wants to stop sinning, they can’t. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.” Sin becomes our master.

3. The spirit of Satan comes into our lives. When we remain in sin, we grieve the Spirit of God. We quench the Spirit. We drive the Spirit of God out of our lives. But not only that, we open our lives to Satan to work in and through us. We are in effect saying, “Satan, I agree with you and your way; the way of rebellion.”

Judas is our example here. Just before he betrayed Jesus it says, “Satan entered into him” – John 13:27. Ephesians 2:2 says that Satan is “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” This refers to anyone who walks in sin. As 2 Timothy 2:26 says, we are held captive by the devil “to do his will.”

4. We suffer brokenness and pain. The power of sin and Satan gradually destroys us in one way or another. Sin is like a vicious, malignant cancer in our inner person that brings destruction and death to every part of us.

We lose our wholeness:

  • Our soul is wounded and disfigured.
  • Our physical and mental health suffers.
  • Our relationships with others become broken.

This is the irony of sin: we choose it because we think it will make us happy. We think that God’s way is too hard. Sin is easier; our way is better. But in reality it makes us miserable and destroys us.

Now we come to the lower end of this downward spiral of judgment and destruction. When we cling to our sin in rebellion against God . . .

5. Our minds are darkened. We come to think that our sin is a good thing; even though it’s destroying us. We become deluded in our thinking and blind to the truth. This is a fearful judgment from God!

Several texts describe this reality: Ephesians 4:17-18 says, “you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God.” Romans 1:21 says, “for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.”

God makes fools out of us! We who think we are so wise that we can choose our own way! We come to think that good is evil and evil is good and laugh at anyone who disagrees with us. We think the very thing that is destroying us is what we need.

6. God hardens our hearts. God gives us an obstinate heart that desires more and more sin. Ephesians 4:19 speaks of those with a hardened heart. It says, “they have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”

We become stubborn in our sin. No one can tell us that what we choose is wrong. When we walk in the flesh we become hostile to God’s way – Romans 8:7. We can’t stand to listen to God’s word to us.

This is also a fearful judgment from God because it keeps us in our sin so that, if there is no intervention, we will be destroyed.

7. Finally, we receive eternal death. Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” James 1:15 says, “when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”

Don’t even begin to think that this doesn’t apply to you because of this or that. It does. There are no exceptions to these Scriptures. If you continue in your sin you will die.

On that final day, we will hear from Jesus, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)

Behold the severity of God! Realize the danger of sin. Fear it! Don’t even dabble with it.

But also recognize –

God’s Kindness

 – so that you might turn to him and be saved.

When we continue in our sin we are separated from God. But the kindness of God is this: 1. God provides his Son to reconcile us to himself. We can be cleansed and forgiven so that we can be in relationship to God. Romans 5:10 says, “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

When we continue in sin we are given over to the power of sin. But the kindness of God is this: 2. God delivers us from the power of sin. As Jesus said in John 8:35, “If the Son sets you free you are free indeed.” And there is no power of sin that is more powerful than the Lord Jesus. He can set us free!

When we continue in sin the spirit of Satan comes into our lives. But the kindness of God is this: 3. God fills us with his own Spirit. Luke 11:13 says, “The heavenly Father (will) give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” This is what God does for his children.

When we continue in sin we suffer brokenness and misery. But the kindness of God is this: 4. God brings us wholeness and peace. Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is (about) peace” that is, shalom or wholeness. Not everything is fixed. There are remaining scars from our sin. But God is merciful and helps us with our weaknesses and one day we will be fully made whole in the resurrection.

When we continue in sin our minds are darkened. But the kindness of God is this: 5. God enlightens our minds to know his way. We receive what 1 Timothy 2:4 calls, “the knowledge of the truth.”

When we continue in sin our hearts are hardened. But the kindness of God is this: 6. God strengthens us to do what is right. Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

When we continue in sin we receive eternal death. But the kindness of God is this: 7. God gives us eternal life. Although the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23 says, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We will hear these words from Jesus on that final day, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34)

Let me end with these words from Ezekiel 18:30-32, that speak of both the kindness and the severity of God and is an invitation for each of us to deal with any sin in our lives:

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”






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Series: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

We’re back into our series on the Gospel of John. And I would like for us to focus on the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman for the next few weeks, and really dig in and see what it can teach us.

Last we saw, Jesus he was in Jerusalem talking with Nicodemus. From there he went into the Judean countryside where his disciples were baptizing people who responded to Jesus’ preaching. Then he decided to go up to Galilee, but he went through Samaria to get there. And he ended up staying in the village of Sychar in Samaria for a few days.

Let’s look at –

John 4:4-15

“4And he (Jesus) had to pass through Samaria. 5So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there . . .” Although some Jews avoided going through Samaria, many used it as a path between Jerusalem and Galilee because it was faster. However, when John tells us that “he had to pass through Samaria” it isn’t because Jesus was in a hurry. In fact he stayed there for a while. The “had to” points to the Father’s leading.

As you will remember, the “Samaritans” came from the remnants of the northern tribes of Israel from the time of the Assyrian conquest centuries before (721 BC) who intermarried with those settled in the region by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:24-41).

At this time Sychar, modern day Askar, was probably the main Samaritan town (because Shechem had been destroyed). Jacob’s well was a ½ mile or so from Sychar. The land that Jacob gave to Joseph is mentioned in the Old Testament, but not the well itself (Genesis 48:21-22; 33:18-20; Joshua 24:32).

Jacob's well now covered by a church building

Jacob’s well now covered by a church building

“ . . . so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.” So it’s 12:00 noon which means it’s really hot. And we get a good picture of Jesus’ humanity here – he is tired and, as we will see, he is thirsty.

“7A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)”

It was the role of the disciple to take care of the teacher. So the disciples have gone to get food. And they would have gotten him water if they were still there. But Jesus asks her for water.

In doing this, we need to recognize that he is crossing several social boundaries:

1. The first has to do with gender. It was not generally acceptable in this day for a man to talk to a woman in private that he didn’t already know. John highlights this by noting that Jesus’ disciples were absent. There were a number of Old Testament stories about men talking with women at wells, but these ended with marriage. (Genesis 24:11-28; 29:4-18; and Exodus 2:16-22; but see 1 Kings 17:8-16). That this was unusual is apparent when the disciples come back in v. 27. John tells us that “they marveled that he was talking with a woman.” According to the framework of his day Jesus is stretching things here.

2.The second has to do with morality. Women usually came in groups to draw water in the morning or evening when it wasn’t so hot. Since this woman came alone, in the heat of the day it indicates that she was likely not accepted by the other women of the village. As we learn later, but Jesus already knows, she is sexually immoral. So just as in the first three Gospels, Jesus is relating here to an outcast and someone who would be labeled a notorious or public sinner.

3. The third has to do with religion/culture. Jews considered Samaritans to be a breakoff group that opposed Judaism with their similar but at times quite different faith and practice. They were considered unclean. The woman herself, aware of this boundary, questions Jesus – ‘Why would you ask me for a drink?’ She comes across to me all throughout this story as feisty; she is not afraid to question or challenge Jesus and he is fine with this.

John adds the explanatory comment “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” That is, in general they didn’t interact. Indeed, there was a lot of hostility between the two groups. (This assumption is a part of the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10).

“10Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’” She has challenged Jesus, ‘Don’t you know who I am – a Samaritan – and you want me to give you, a Jew, water?’ Jesus turns it around, ‘If you knew who I am, a Jew, yes, but much more, you could ask me for a much better kind of water.’ He defuses any animosity between them by noting that he is willing to give her much more than what he asks of her.

Here we learn about Jesus’ identity. Jesus is the one who gives “the gift of God” also called “living water.” Living water has a double meaning here. It can mean running or fresh water as opposed to stagnant water, or it can also represent the Spirit. For instance in John 7 Jesus talks about being thirsty and drinking and he talks about how he will give forth rivers of living water. And then John tells us that “this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive . . ..” – v. 39. So living water refers to the Spirit. And this is “the gift of God” that Jesus gives to those who ask him for it.

“11The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’” She misunderstands Jesus in an overly literal way thinking of running water. She observes that he can’t get it from Jacob’s well because it’s deep, in fact, it’s a 100 ft deep still today – and he has no rope and vessel.

She refers to Jacob or Israel, the father of the 12 tribes, the common ancestor of Jews and Samaritans. Notice she says, “our” father, finding commonality. She is saying, ‘Jacob gave us good water. It was good enough for him, his sons and his animals! Do you have a better water supply than what Jacob knew of? Are you greater than Jacob?’

“13Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”

Jesus makes the contrast:
• Jacob gave water to the 12 tribes, that doesn’t quench true thirst.
• Jesus gives water, not just to Jews, but also Samaritans and thus the 12 tribes, that cures true thirst. (There is almost certainly a reunification of Israel theme here.)

Jesus’ water is better. But it is a spiritual water that quenches a spiritual thirst. He gives the living water of the Spirit. And as he said, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” As Jesus also said in John 6:63 – “it is the Spirit who gives life.” The Spirit is like a spring of water within us that results in “eternal life.”

And the presence of the Spirit and eternal life within us fully satisfies and fulfills us spiritually. We will thirst no more. So, in answer to her question – yes, Jesus is greater than Jacob.

“15The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’” Again, she takes him overly literally. She wants to drink this mysterious water that will relieve her physical thirst. She doesn’t fully understand, and we will have to wait until next time to see the progress she makes. But she is open to what Jesus has to say. She is asking for the water Jesus gives.

As I worked with this first part of our story this week, two questions came to mind by way of challenge to us:

Have you asked Jesus for living water?

As Jesus said to the woman in our story, ‘If you knew who I am, you would ask me for living water.’ Well, we know who Jesus is. As we have just learned he is the one who gives the Spirit who brings new life to us. And as he said to her, if you asked “he would have given you living water.”

In the same way if you ask Jesus for living water, he will give it to you. Let me say it again, if you ask Jesus for living water, he will give it to you – the presence of the Spirit within you who brings forth eternal life and fully satisfies any spiritual thirst that you might have. If you ask, he will give this to you. Ask him today! Why would you wait? Ask him right now!

Finally –

Are you a part of God’s mission?

God is always reaching out seeking people that they might come to him. Are you a part of this activity of God? As we learn in this story this includes several things:

1. Divine appointments. Why did Jesus “have to go through Samaria”? Because there was a woman that the Father wanted him to talk to. And Jesus was always in tune with the Father and did just what he wanted.

So when I ask are you a part of God’s mission I’m not talking about going on a mission trip, I am talking about your everyday life. Are you looking for divine appointments? Are you in tune with what God wants you to do? Are you open to this? This week? This is my challenge to you – look for these this week. I will be praying for you that God will work through you.

2. Crossing social boundaries. In our story this had to do with gender, morality and culture/religion. Don’t let these stand in the way. One of you shared last week about the young man with an offensive tattoo – well, God wants to reach all kinds of people no matter how different they are than us. Don’t just be shocked, look for the opportunity to relate even if it stretches you. God wants all people to come to know him and worship him. And so we should expect to come across people that are different than us, some so different that it blows our minds. But God loves them just as much as us and wants them to be blessed with the gift of God.

3. A focus on Jesus. When the Samaritan woman raised the divide between Jews and Samaritans – which was meant to kill the conversation, Jesus focused on the living water that he gives to all; that supersedes the divide. In like manner, we are to keep things focused on Jesus as we are a part of God’s mission. When division come up because of differences speak of the gift that Jesus has for all of us.

My challenge is be open to how God wants to work through you this week as he seeks people to know and love him. Be open to this; get tuned in. Let God fulfill his mission to the world through you. And I will give you a chance to share next week what God has done.

William Higgins

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When you read the Gospels there are two things that stand out in how they present Jesus to us. First, Jesus is supremely giving. He is full of compassion and love. You constantly see his concern and care for people as he serves and blesses others; as he teaches, heals and delivers.

Second, Jesus is clearly demanding. He speaks the truth with clarity; he speaks radically and absolutely in terms of what God requires. He makes bold claims on every part of everyone’s lives.

This is an interesting mix of qualities – he is fully giving and he is fully demanding. Sometimes we get ourselves in trouble and misunderstand and distort Jesus when we emphasize just the one side or the other – Jesus is only giving or Jesus is only demanding. But Jesus is both, at the same time. This is who Jesus is. He is fully giving and at the same time he is fully demanding.

I want us to look at this and we begin with –

What Jesus gives

1. He gives freedom from our old lives. This includes forgiveness for our sins – all the self-centered, hurtful and even shameful things that we have done. Through his death on the cross Jesus provides for our forgiveness. As he said in Matthew 26:28, “my blood . . . is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Our sins can all be wiped away! We can be clean and pure! We can leave our shameful past behind!

Freedom from our past also includes deliverance. Jesus sets us free from all the powers of Sin and Satan and anything that would seek to keep us back in our old lives and away from God. As he said in John 8:34, 36, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  . . . (But) if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Jesus frees us from our old lives so that we can start fresh with a new beginning.

2. He gives us new life – even now. Jesus said in John 7:37-39, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit . . ..” The Spirit is the life, power and presence of God. Jesus gives us the Spirit so that we can have new life.

We only have to ask, as he said in Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

And we are not just made new within:

  • He gives us a new identity and purpose. We are now followers of Jesus, who are gifted to serve him (Matthew 25:14-30).
  • He gives us a new community, the church, which is his new family (Mark 3:34-35). A community where we love, care for and support each other.

Jesus gives us the gift of new life.

3. He gives us life in the age to come. Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” He gives us the gift of eternal life with him in the kingdom of God forever.

Jesus is full of love and compassion. And gives us everything that is good; he gives us new life.

Now we look at –

What Jesus demands

1. He demands our total allegiance. “Jesus said to them, ‘. . . who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” – Matthew 16:15-16. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, the one anointed by God to rule and have all authority.

And Jesus wants all of us to acknowledge him as the Messiah. As he said in Matthew 10:32, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven . . ..” If we acknowledge him now as the true Lord over all, he will acknowledge us then before the Father on the final day.

Jesus demands our full and complete allegiance to him as Lord of all.

2. He demands our total obedience. We are to do God’s will just as Jesus teaches us what this is. As he often said, “You have heard that it was said, that is by Moses, but I say to you.” (Matthew 5). And he also said in Matthew 23:1, “You have one instructor, the Messiah.” Jesus guides us into God’s perfect will.

By way of summary he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Matthew 22:37-39. We are to love God and love and serve others.

Here a just a few specific examples:

  • only worship God – Matthew 6:24
  • love your enemies  – Matthew 5:43-48
  • remain faithful in marriage – Matthew 19:3-9
  • be generous with the poor – Luke 12:13-34
  • don’t condemn others as beyond God’s mercy – Luke 6:37-38
  • accept social lowliness – Luke 14:11
  • serve God in the work of the kingdom – Matthew 25:14-30

We are to give our complete and total obedience to Jesus.

3. He demands that we put him above all else. Our allegiance and obedience to him is to be above even what we give to our family. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

And our allegiance and obedience to him is to be above even regard for our own lives. As Jesus said in Mark 8:34, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” To take up a cross is to die.

As we saw before, Jesus gives everything, but as we see here, Jesus also demands everything.

Several observations before I give you a chance to respond. First, notice how –

This is a summary of the whole message of Jesus

Mark 1:15 tells us that Jesus preached, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” “The kingdom of God” is a way of talking about God’s coming salvation.  Jesus is saying that it has begun; the time is fulfilled. The kingdom then, is what Jesus gives – freedom from our old lives, new life now, and life everlasting in the resurrection.

To “repent” is to have a change of heart and mind that leads you to do God’s will from now on. This then, is what Jesus demands – our total allegiance, our total obedience, and our putting him above all else. What Jesus gives and what Jesus demands summarizes the message of Jesus to us.

Notice also that –

This explains the place of Jesus’ cross and also our cross

Jesus said in Mark 8:31, “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be . . . killed” speaking of his cross. Jesus’ cross is what provides all that Jesus gives us – freedom from our past, new life now and the resurrection

But Jesus also said in Mark 8:34, “take up (your) cross and follow me.” Our cross is all that Jesus demands from us – our total allegiance and obedience to him above all else.

And then finally,

Mark 8:35 brings this all together

– and shows the relationship between what Jesus gives and what Jesus demands. “For whoever would save his life will lose it . . .” If we refuse Jesus’ demands, we will lose our lives in the coming judgment of this world and its evil.

“ . . . but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” If we lose our lives, that is, give Jesus all that he demands, which is everything, then we will save our lives. We will receive all that Jesus has come to give us.

Where do you stand this morning in relation to what Jesus gives? Have you received his gifts to you? Where do you stand in relation to what Jesus demands? Have you given him everything?

William Higgins

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Let me share with your briefly as we get ready to receive the Lord’s Supper. We talked last week about how each of us have power in different areas of our lives and at different times in our lives, whether it be physical, economic or social power. And the point was that how we use the power we have is a test that reveals what is in our heart.

  • When we use our power to take advantage of, dominate and put down the weak, it reveals that we are unrighteous.
  • But when we use our power to help, stand up for and honor the weak, it reveals that we are among the righteous.

Now, this all has to with various kinds of earthly power that we have; that God gives us and we are stewards of. But today we focus on another kind of power; what I am calling “true power” – which is the power of God working in us and through us.

Let’s start with –

How God’s power works

It begins in a place of human lowliness. We might be lowly because of our weakness; our lack of earthly power. Or we might be lowly because we use our earthly power to serve and sacrifice for those who are weak. Or we might be lowly because we refuse to use earthly power out of love for God and others – for instance in the case of loving our enemies. However we get there, it begins with lowliness.

Next, we rely fully on God in faith to take care of us. We pray, we trust, we look to God and we wait on God. And then God acts for us in power to raise us up and take care of us.

That’s it! That’s how God’s power works in and through and for us. It is as simple as this.

Now, it works this way, because this is how God works. 1 Samuel 2:8 says, The Lord “raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.” But it goes both ways. Psalm 147:6 says, “The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.”

So there is a double reversal. Those who lift themselves up are brought low and those who lower themselves are lifted up by God. As Jesus said in Matthew 23:12 – “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Let’s look at the example of this –

God’s power in Jesus’ ministry and death

1. Jesus lowered himself to serve and to sacrifice. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said that he “came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.”

Philippians 2:6-8 says, “Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of humanity. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He made himself nothing first be becoming our servant and then by dying a shameful death on the cross for us.

Look at the table here today. The broken bread represents the broken body of Jesus. The poured out wine represents the poured out blood of Jesus on the cross. Here we see Jesus in all his brokenness and lowliness. He gave up his power and used it to bless in our weakness and need.

2. He trusted in God. He did this throughout his life and ministry as God worked through him. And when his time came, he trusted God with his life. In Gethsemane he prayed, “not what I want but what you will” – Mark 14:36. On the cross he prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” – Mark 15:34. This is a quote from Psalm 22 and he is alluding to the whole of Psalm 22 which is one long prayer for vindication. Act for me God!

3. God acted for him. In his ministry God worked by the power of the Spirit in healings, miracles and casting out demons.

And he God acted in power after his death by raising him from the dead and seating him at his own right hand, vindicating him and glorifying him. Philippians 2:9-11 says, “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.”

Since Jesus lowered himself and trusted in him, God raised him up. And this was a double reversal. Jesus was lifted up and those that opposed and killed him were put down.

So Jesus shows us how God’s power works; the power that God is using to make all things new. If God could have transformed the world and our lives by earthly power he would have. If God could have transformed the world and our lives without sening Jesus to the cross, he would have. No, Jesus went to the cross to show us that this is the way that God works.


God invites us to experience this transforming power in our lives

The lowliness of the cross was not just for Jesus. He calls us to take up our cross and follow him – Mark 8:34. We are to follow in his footsteps, as we serve and sacrifice for God and others. He calls us to be lowly.

And then he goes on to say in Mark 8:35 – “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” If we cling to our earthly lives and the strength and power we have, we will lose it all. But when we give up earthly power and become lowly, we gain what only God’s power can give – true life; eternal life. God will act for us and raise us up.

When we do this, like Jesus, we will see God work in and through us. As Jesus said in John 12:24 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” We have to die! It is when we give it all up and become lowly serving and sacrificing for others that God acts in us and through us to bear much fruit.

Hear Paul’s testimony. He was one who knew about lowliness and also about having God work in power in and through him. He was dealing with a physical weakness and the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ . . . (so Paul goes on to say) For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. When we are weak and lowly – then God can work in power through us as well, to change us and to change the world.

Let’s remember this as we come to partake today.

William Higgins

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We are finishing up our “series within a series” on Jesus’ interactions with Nicodemus. As we get started here today I would remind you that last week we discovered how it is now possible to be born of the Spirit or receive eternal life – through Jesus’ being lifted up on the cross and then on into heaven and pouring out the Spirit. 

By way of introduction today, let me say that I take verses 16-21 to be the words of John, the Beloved disciple, the writer of our Gospel. John is here, I believe, reflecting on the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, especially vs. 14-15. (Most writers agree).

Let’s take look at our first set of Scriptures –

John 3:16-18

And we begin with the well known v. 16. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his beloved (only) Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

There are three key themes in this verse – God’s love; God’s purpose to save the world through Jesus; and the role of faith in Jesus as the means of salvation. I believe the reason this verse is so popular has to do with these basic and essential themes, and the way they are brought together in a concise and understandable way here.

First, the theme of God’s love. (The other two will be developed more in vs. 17 and 18.) 1) We learn that God’s love is sacrificial. “God so loved . . . that he gave his beloved, Son.” The extent, the depth of God’s love was such that he was willing to do what it took to save us. It cost him. He sacrificed for us.

Notice the echo here of Genesis 22:2 and the story of Abraham offering up his son Isaac:

  • In Genesis, God told Abraham, “take your son . . . and offer him as a burnt offering . . ..” In v. 16 we are told that God gave his Son on the cross as a sacrifice.
  • Abraham’s son is called “your beloved son, whom you love.”  In v. 16 God’s Son is the Father’s “beloved” Son.

Now Abraham did not have to go through with it, God provided a ram. But it presents a picture of what God himself has now done for us and his sacrificial love for us.

2) God’s love includes all. Who does God love? “The world” – speaking of every single person who has ever lived or will live. Who can receive of God’s love? “Whoever” or as it can be translated “everyone.” It is available to every single person. This is not talking about a sub-set of humanity. It is emphatically talking about all people.

3) God’s love blesses us greatly. God acts for our good, to help us in our need, which is what love does. We are in danger of perishing, but God gives us “eternal life,” a gift of inestimable value. 

God’s love for us is so amazing and astounding, especially given our lack of love for God.

v. 17 picks up and expounds on the second theme of v. 16, God’s purpose in giving Jesus is to save the world. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

We have two purpose statements here, one negative and one positive. God’s purpose is not to condemn; “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world.” Positively stated God’s purpose is to save; he acted “in order that the world might be saved.” Again, “the world” is all the people in this fallen world who are in danger of perishing (v. 16).

This teaches us that it is not God’s will to condemn anyone in the world. God’s purpose, God’s choice, God’s will, is the salvation of the world.

  • As Ezekiel 18:23 says, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”
  • As 1 Timothy 2:3-4 says, “God our Savior . . . desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
  • As 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, the Lord does not wish “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

It is not from God’s end that people are not saved. There is no limit in what Jesus has done on the cross (1 John 2:2). There is no choice he has made that hinders anyone. He loves all and gives his Son freely for all. If it were left to God, all would be saved. His choice is clear. No, the difference has to do with us; what happens on our end.

v. 18 then, picks up and expounds on the third theme of v. 16, the role of faith in Jesus as the means of salvation. 18The one who believes in him is not condemned, but the one who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the beloved Son of God.”

Now, all of salvation is from God. And without God’s love and initiative, and without Jesus death and resurrection, none would be saved. Not a single person. But as this verse makes clear whether we receive the gift of salvation, or not, has to do with whether we put our faith in Jesus, or not. In this respect our faith in Jesus, or lack of it, is the difference.

God doesn’t force his grace on us; he doesn’t choose for us. The one who believes is saved and the one who does not believe is condemned – v. 18. (They remain under the condemnation they already had. As it says here, “is condemned already” (see also 3:36).

So as I said, the problem is on our end. If we are not saved it is because when we hear the good news of Jesus, we choose not to believe.

But then, why do some choose not to believe? Why don’t they accept of God’s love and gift of salvation? If it is not God’s purpose to condemn them, why are some still judged? This is what our next set of verses speak to.

John 3:19-21

19And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” He is saying, this is how judgment works. They don’t believe and they don’t receive because, despite God’s love for them, they “love the darkness.” And they love the darkness because they hide under its cover so they can continue their evil deeds. This is what they want.

John goes on similarly in v. 20, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” They not only love the cover of darkness, they hate being exposed by the light of God so that their wrongdoing is made know. They know that what they do is wrong, but they want to hide this.

So how does judgment work? It is a self-judgment. They choose to reject Jesus because they like their situation and want to keep it. This is why they don’t believe.

But then we have the other side. 21But the one who does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” Some have already responded to God’s light prior to the coming of Jesus. They do “what is true.” God has already been at work in them. As it says, their “works have been carried out in God.” And so when the light of Jesus comes, they believe in him. They are not afraid of exposure. The light simply shows that God has already done a work in them.

[Notice that this last section of verses parallels the first section – 2:23-3:2. (See the literary structure handout). The first section of this passage has Nicodemus comes to Jesus, the light, “by night.” And here the light of Jesus comes into the world and people come to him.]

The language of these verses echoes chapter 1, which provides a framework for understanding what’s going on here. Chapter 1 tells us that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:5); and that this light “enlightens everyone” (1:9).

God’s light has always been shining in the darkness; in the world enlightening everyone. But then, as 3:21 says, “the light has come into the world.” Chapter 1 spoke of “the true light . . . coming into the world.” (1:9). And this light has now come into the world in the person of Jesus.

  • So some, having already rejected the previous light of God and God’s work in their lives – reject the further, brighter light of Jesus. As John said, they need the cover of darkness to do what they love; and they don’t want to be exposed.
  • Others, having already received of the previous light of God and God’s work in their lives – receive the further, brighter light of Jesus. As John said, so that it may be clearly seen that their works have been carried out in God.

Now, this is not to say that those who love the darkness can’t at some point repent and respond to Jesus as his light continues to come to them. Think of the Samarian woman in chapter 4. No, John is simply laying out in general terms why some don’t believe in Jesus; why they are judged despite the fact of God’s love for them and his purpose to save them.

As you hear the good news of Jesus and as God’s light shine forth – Where are you at? Are you open to God? How will you respond?

The message for you today

God loves you deeply. Every single one of you! No exceptions. And he has sacrificed greatly for you.

And God’s purpose for you is salvation, not judgment, but rather that you be born of the Spirit; that you receive eternal life.

And this is what you need to do – believe in Jesus! Believe that through his lifting up on the cross there is no more condemnation and that through his ascension into heaven he pours out the Spirit upon us to give us new life.

Will you believe? Will you receive of this gift of new life today?

William Higgins

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We are continuing on today exploring Jesus’ interactions with Nicodemus in John 3. As you will remember Nicodemus was a devout and serious Jew, and he was a religious leader.

We also saw last time how Nicodemus represents a person with mere “signs faith.” These are people who see the miracles that Jesus performs, but don’t see what they point to about Jesus’ true identity and purpose. So they “believe” in a sense – there’s something special about Jesus.

  • But they don’t get who he truly is, the eternal Son of God. He is something less than this.
  • And they don’t get what he has truly come to do, bring eternal life. He does something less than this.

Nicodemus himself says to Jesus in v. 2, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” He has some measure of faith in Jesus, but for him Jesus is only a teacher, who perhaps has some special teaching from God. So he has come to Jesus, by night, to see what he has to say.

Let’s look at our verses:

John 3:3-8

3Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” The phrase “truly, truly” means this is very important. “Listen up!,” Jesus is saying.

The word for “born from above” (anothen) can also be translated as “born again.” Born from above is the best translation overall in the Gospel of John (see 3:31), but it does have a double meaning as we will see, which includes the idea of being born again.

To be “born from above” is another way of saying “born of God” which John talks about in chapter 1. “From above” is a reference to God. “Born from above” also means the same thing as “born of the Spirit,” a phrase that is used three times in our verses (vs. 5, 6, 8).

Where does this idea come from? Well in the Old Testament there were many promises that God would one day pour out his Spirit on his people. For instance Ezekiel 36:26-27 says in part, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new Spirit I will put within you. . . . And I will put my Spirit within you . . ..” So Jesus is saying, the promises are coming true ! This is the age of the Spirit that was foretold and this is the new birth I am talking about.

This fits also with the language here of seeing and entering the Kingdom of God (which is quite rare in John and is usually replaced with the language of eternal life). That’s because it is when the kingdom comes, that the Spirit is to come.

So Jesus isn’t saying that Nicodemus should have already experienced new birth. This is the new thing that Jesus has come to bring – the kingdom of God, the time of the Spirit, when all can be born of the Spirit.

Notice that Jesus takes the last part of Nicodemus’ statement in v. 2 and uses it to make his point here. Nicodemus had said 1. no one is able (translating more literally); 2. to do these signs that you do (that he has seen); 3. unless God is with him.

Jesus reworks these phrases. 1. no one is able (same word for able, with a negative); 2. to see the kingdom of God – what Jesus is really about, not signs but the coming of the kingdom and the Spirit; 3. unless one is born from above. It’s not about Jesus being authenticated by miracles as a teacher. The signs point out that Jesus is the one who brings the new life of the kingdom of God.

4Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a person be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’” He takes Jesus’ word here as “born again,” and in a natural sense, as another physical birth later in life. (Is he being sarcastic? It is hard to hear the tone in a written document).

This is a common mistake noted in John. People misunderstand Jesus in an overly literal way.

5Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’”

Jesus responds that it is another birth, or second birth, that comes after our physical birth (so it is being born again). But it is a birth of the Spirit, not a physical one.

  • Our physical birth is represented in v. 5 by the phrase, “born of water,” the idea is that a child comes out of the waters of the womb. We all have this. But not all are born of water and “born of the Spirit.” This is another, different kind of birth.
  • Again, our physical birth is represented in v. 6 by the phrase, “that which is born of the flesh” (in parallel with “born of water”). We have all been born of the flesh. But not all are also “born of the Spirit.” This is another, different kind of birth.

John has already made this point in 1:12-13. “12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” This is a birth that is of God, not of the flesh.

Why can’t one “enter” the kingdom without new birth? The kingdom of God has to do with the life of God by the Spirit. Mere physical life is inadequate to experience this life of the kingdom. It is of another order and kind of life. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:50, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”

Only those who have the life of God in them now, and are a part of the kingdom begun, will be bodily raised on the last day to have eternal life in the fullness of the kingdom.

7Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You (all) must be born from above.’”

“You” is plural, which is why I have it as “you all.” Here we see that Nicodemus represents a larger group or groups.

  • Even though he has signs faith it is inadequate. He, and all those like him, must be born from above.
  • Even though he is a Pharisee and religiously devout, he, and all those like him, must be born from above.
  • Even though he is a ruler and leader among the people of God, he, and all those like him, must be born from above.

And of course, Jesus has already made the point that “no one” can see or enter the kingdom of God without being born from above. That’s why it is a “must” or as it can be translated, a “necessity.” Everyone must receive the gift of new life that Jesus brings.

He then comes back to Nicodemus’ how question. As he just said, “do not marvel,” that is, don’ get caught up trying to figure out how it happens.8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

There is a wordplay in these verses. The same word is used for wind and Spirit, in both Hebrew and Greek. Like the wind, so the Spirit.

  • The wind is mysterious. You hear it, the effect of it, but there’s a lot you don’t know about it – where it comes from and where it goes.
  • So the Spirit is mysterious. You can notice the effects of the Spirit. But there’s a lot you don’t know about how the Spirit works. (“where it comes from and where it goes” sounds like what Jesus says about himself in several places in the Gospel)

When he goes on to say, “so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit,” he doesn’t mean that we are mysterious, but that how we are born of the Spirit is mysterious. Those born of the Spirit can’t explain everything, but they can see and know the evidences of the Spirit’s work in their lives.

The point

These verses teach us that Jesus is not just a special teacher from God, come to give some special teaching – although he does this in our passage. Nicodemus and the other signs faith believers have it wrong. Jesus has come to bring the new birth of the Spirit; he has come to bring in the beginning of the kingdom of God.

Jesus’ message to us is a straightforward challenge –

Are you born of the Spirit?

Jesus is saying to each one of us, “You are not an exception!” As he said, no one can see or enter the kingdom unless they are born from above.

  • You can be a good person. Nicodemus was. But he didn’t have it yet.
  • You can be deeply religious. Nicodemus was. But he didn’t have it yet.
  • You can be a part of the church or even a leader. Nicodemus was. But he didn’t have it yet.
  • You can think that Jesus is special and sent from God. Nicodemus did. But he didn’t have it yet.

There can be no exceptions, because it is an impossibility that we are dealing with. Flesh alone cannot possess the life of the kingdom. This is why it is absolutely necessary that you be born of the Spirit.

If you want the new life that Jesus brings, you must believe that he is the eternal Son of God who has come to give this to you. You must believe and then act on this belief by receiving the new life that he gives.

William Higgins

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Series: How to overcome sin

Our focus is, ‘How to overcome sin in our lives.’ We have been looking at five key steps in this process, that we learn from the example of Jesus as he overcame his test of the cross. And tonight I want us to move into looking at some deeper concerns that can trip us up in our quest to overcome sin.

But first, here’s a very brief review of the five steps, using the example of unrighteous anger.

Step #1: Understanding what God’s will is, acknowledge your weakness to do what God says. The Word says in James 1:20, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” This is anger that is according to the flesh which hurts and tears down others. Jesus likens this to murder in Matthew 5, or verbal murder, when our words destroy others.

God gives us anger to stir us up to act when a wrong has been done. But so often, once stirred up, we act in the flesh and not according to God’s will. We return harm for harm and tear down those who have wronged us or those we love. Rather than this, we are to trust God with our grievances and desire for justice, so that we can be free to focus on being Christ-like as we address the wrongs that have been done –  with love and gentleness (Matthew 5:44; Galatians 6:1). If you struggle with unrighteous anger, you need to humbly admit this, so that God can help you.

Step #2: Remain alert in prayer for testing and temptation in this area. Since Satan will seek to pressure you in your area of weakness, pray to be spared people and situations that might trigger your wrongful anger. Maybe that someone won’t slander you so that you become enraged. Or maybe that someone doesn’t start an argument with you on a particular topic that would trigger your anger. But if God allows you to be tested, at least you will be ready and know what is going on. It’s not that this person is trying to start an argument with me – this is a test from Satan!

Step #3: In a time of testing – Keep your mind focused on God’s truth. Rebuke Satan as he tempts you and offers up rationalizations to give in to your anger. “Hey that person who wants to argue with you – he needs to be put in his place!” Tell him to go away. You can respond by countering with the Scriptures – “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” And “the fruit of the Spirit is love . . .patience . . . gentleness . . . and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23.

Step #4: In a time of testing – Receive strength from the Spirit to do God’s will. Pray for the Spirit to fill you and help you. In this way you can put to death your desires to engage in wrongful anger and respond to every situation with love for others.

Step #5: Endure the test. Continue on until the testing and temptation passes – keeping your mind focused; receiving strength from the Spirit.

My point this evening is that sometimes, we work hard at all this and still consistently fail. And when this happens we need to look at some deeper concerns in our lives.

Here are six things to check:

1. Are you double-minded?

To be double minded means you are torn between two things; you have two minds on an issue. You know, you want God to help you with one problem in your life, but not others. For instance, “God help me overcome my anger issue, its destroying all of my relationships!” But you don’t mention your sexual immorality, because you happen to like this sin.

We have to stop playing games. If you’re only trying to stop sinning in one area of your life, while knowingly continuing in sin in other areas, God can’t help you. James 1:7-8 tells us that a double-minded person “must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

We find God and his help when we seek God with our whole heart, not part of it. Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “you will find the Lord, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

So if you are struggling with anger and calling out to God for help and no help seems to be coming, check your heart. Be rid of any double-mindedness and give your whole life over to God. Then you will seek and find the help that you need.

2. Are you the cause of broken relationships?

If we don’t act to deal with relationships that are broken by our sin, this will break our relationship with God and cut us off from God’s help. Our horizontal relationships with others affects our vertical relationship with God. These can’t be separated.

So, if you have sinned against someone, make it right. Jesus said, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, (that is, you have sinned against him) leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24. The broken relationship with the brother or sister must be dealt with before we come to God in worship. Why? Because this affects our relationship to God. Now, we can’t control whether they are willing to reconcile with us, even if we come in repentance seeking to make things right, but the rule is ‘do what you can from your end’ to restore the relationship and then you will be free to come before God in worship and to receive his help and grace.

Also, if someone has sinned against you and seeks forgiveness, forgive. Don’t keep the relationship broken through the choice to withhold forgiveness. Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15. If we don’t forgive, this breaks our relationship with God.

With both of these situations, if you have caused broken relationships, seek to make things right. And then your relationship with God will be right, and God can help you, for instance with your weakness in the area of anger.

3. Do you expose yourself to stumbling blocks?

According to Scripture we are not only to stop sinning, we are to separate from what leads us to sin. This is what a stumbling block means – something that trips you up and gets you off the path. It is not a sin in itself, but something that leads you to sin.

Jesus says in Mark 9:43, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” What this means is that we are to create righteous boundaries that keep us away from sin. And we must do this even if what is cut off is precious to us, like a hand.

Now these boundaries are different for each of us, since we all have different weaknesses and triggers that can lead us to sin. For instance, if debating certain topics triggers your wrongful anger response, you need to avoid these for the sake of righteousness. Or if working in a certain job environment causes you to give in to sinful anger regularly, seek a new job. This job might not be a problem for someone else, but for you it is.

The rule is – ‘separate from whatever encourages you to sin’ – relationships, activities, jobs, personal freedoms, whatever. Even if the item isn’t a problem for others, if it causes you to stumble, cut it off.

4. Are you dealing with an ingrained sin?

By ingrained I mean something that is firmly fixed; a sin that is deeply rooted in your life. We practice some sins for so long that they become a part of us as negative character traits. You say, ‘Yeah, I’m a hot-head,’ because you have made a practice of outbursts of anger for so long. It’s a part of how you think of yourself now. And some sins even create physiological addictions, like drug and alcohol abuse.

These kinds of sins are difficult to break. You may well need to take drastic measures, and in the case of addictions seek medical help.

One thing that can really help is intense accountability from other disciples – who can check with us on a regular basis. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We all need this kind of fellowship to be strong. But this is especially needed with ingrained sins.

If you know that at any time someone will be asking how you are doing in your area of struggle, it can make a real difference. Both to encourage you and certainly to keep you accountable.

5. Are demonic powers involved?

When we allow sin in our life, we open up our lives to Satan and his demonic powers. They can gain a foothold, as it were. Sometimes this is just a general influence, but sometimes we can come into bondage to demonic powers in areas of our life. Our sin is energized by a supernatural evil power.

If this is the case, the demonic power must be sent away by the authority of Jesus. Say something like, “Evil spirit, I break your power over me in the name of Jesus. Leave now!” Jesus tells us, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy . . .” – Luke 10:19. Then submit that area of your life to God, so that the Spirit of God is filling every part of your life.

I’m not saying this is a common thing, but if this is a part of your struggle, for instance, with anger then you need to act. I would just add here that it might be wise to seek the help of a mature believer or a Pastor as you work at this.

6. Is your sin connected to inner brokenness?

By inner brokenness I am thinking of mental illness or just the inner woundedness that comes from life experiences of pain, heartache and tragedy. And inner brokenness can make it much harder for us to do God’s will. For instance if you want to overcome anger, but have borderline personality disorder that leads to expressions of intense anger, this is a much more complicated situation.

If you are struggling with these kinds of weaknesses, pray for God’s healing so that you can do God’s will. But if there is no relief (I Timothy 5:23), learn to manage these issues through treatment so that you can do God’s will.

Once again Jesus’ words in Mark 9:43 are relevant. Our inner brokenness is not itself a sin. But if it leads us to sin, we must cut it off by seeking reasonable treatment – counseling or medication. In either case, through miraculous healing or treatment, seek healing for your inner brokenness so that you can do God’s will. This is a matter of Christian faithfulness.

So these are six additional factors that you may well have to sort through as you seek to overcome sinful habits and areas of failure in your life:

  • Are you double-minded?
  • Are you the cause of broken relationships?
  • Do you expose yourself to stumbling blocks?
  • Are you dealing with an ingrained sin?
  • Are demonic powers involved?
  • Is your sin connected to inner brokenness?

My point tonight and the underlying theme of all of this is that we leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of doing God’s will. We must do whatever it takes.

William Higgins

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Series: How to overcome sin

I want to share some teaching with you this week on – “How to Overcome Sin” in our lives. Our focus is how to grow in our faithfulness to God and specifically how to get rid of our sinful behaviors and habits which keep us from experiencing all that God wants for us; which enslave us, make us miserable and destroy our life with God.

This is a crucial topic because you can be sure that there will be no renewal among God’s people until we take sin seriously. And I don’t mean looking at other people’s sins, I mean focusing on and dealing with our own failures and transgressions.

Perhaps it is:

  • Anger – where this has come to control you and it harms those around you.
  • Bitterness – where you allow resentments to poison your heart, so that your life is full of complaining, criticism of others and unforgiveness.
  • Sexual immorality – where your sexual desires have led you to act wrongly in thought and deed.
  • Dishonesty – where you come to depend on lying, deception or half-truths to get what you want or to get yourself out of trouble.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse – which you think is no big deal. You’re just having fun with friends. Or you think it will bring some relief from your problems, but it only enslaves and makes things so much worse.

And there are many other areas that could be named and we will look at some of these. Whatever your struggle, the message this week is the good news that: Jesus has provided for our freedom. Freedom from the slavery, misery and destruction of sin.

The point today is that before we can experience the freedom Jesus brings, we have to hear and respond to the call to stop sinning; to stop giving in; to stop excusing it in our lives. We have to recognize how serious sin really is. It’s not something that can be put off, ignored or dealt with another day. It must be dealt with even now as God speaks to us and challenges us! As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “now is the day of salvation.

But someone might ask –

“How can we stop sinning?”

“We’ll never be perfect!” And that is certainly true. We will fail, and we will continue to be involved in sins of ignorance – doing what is wrong without even knowing about it. So we don’t need to worry about the question of perfection. That’s not what this is about.

The call to overcome sin, so that we stop sinning has to do with sins that we know about, and yet choose to do anyway. This is what has to be dealt with. And, brothers and sisters, this will keep us more than busy! And then we can trust that in time God will show us other sins, that we are not aware of yet, so that we can deal with these as well.

The call to stop sinning isn’t about being ‘perfect.’ It’s about walking in the light you have and then getting more light as you go along.

Now, let’s hear the clear and consistent call of the Scriptures to –

Stop sinning!

  • Jesus tells us to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – Matthew 4:17. The word “repent” means that you have a change of heart and mind that leads you to do God’s will from now on.
  • Jesus told a man he healed, “Sin no more” – John 5:14.
  • Paul said – “Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more” – 1 Corinthians 15:34.

This is clear enough, right? It only needs to be said once to demand our agreement and obedience. But sometimes repetition can have its own persuasion. And I’m trying to make an impression on you this morning. So in that spirit, let’s continue on.

  • Hebrews says, “Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely and let us run the race that is set before us” – Hebrews 12:1
  • Peter says, “You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” – 1 Peter 4:3. Any amount of time is enough already! As he says in v. 2, we are now to live the rest of our lives not by “human desires, but by the will of God.”
  • Paul asks, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” – Romans 6:2
  • Paul says, “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” – Romans 13:14

The call to stop sinning is consistent and clear.

The seriousness of this call is confirmed when we look at –

What happens if we don’t stop sinning

These Scriptures speak for themselves. “The person who sins shall die” – Ezekiel 18:20. “The wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23. Both tell us that sin leads to death.

Paul says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption” – that is, eternal death – Galatians 6:7-8. James says, “Sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters.” – James 1:15-16. Notice these two Scriptures have the phrase, “do not be deceived.” That’s because we always think there will be an exception for us; that we are special; we are different. But you’re not special in this case, and there will be no exception for you or for me. If you indulge your sin, it will destroy you.

Paul says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – Galatians 5:19-21. If you indulge your sin it will exclude you from the eternal kingdom.

And then finally, “If we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” – Hebrew 10:26-27.

These Scriptures are numerous and clear, and could be greatly expanded. And if we have any sense, they should cause us to fear allowing any sinful pattern to take root in our lives and to act with speed and determination to get rid of any that have already taken root.

But someone will ask –

“How can we stop sinning??”

“We’re simply forgiven sinners!” What we need to realize is that grace isn’t just about having our past sins forgiven. Grace also transforms our lives so that we can now do God’s will. We can’t do it in our own strength, in the power of the flesh. But God can enable us to do this.

As Peter says, God’s “power has given us everything needed for life and godliness” – 2 Peter 1:3. Nothing is lacking. As Paul says, “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you to will and to work for his good pleasure” – Philippians 2:13.  God can empower us to walk in such a way that we please him.

And this is what this series is about, learning how to do this from the example of Jesus. And when we do this –

We can be free!

Free from our sinful habits and behaviors. Jesus said, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” We know what this is about. But he also said, “if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed” – John 8:34, 36. Do you know what this is about? Have you experienced this?

Paul said to his converts, “you . . . were once slaves of sin.” We have all experienced this. But he also said, “. . . having been set free from sin, (you) have become slaves of righteousness.” – Romans 6:17-18. Have you experienced this? Do you know what this is about?

Jesus can set you free! He provides you with God’s power and grace through his death on the cross. And he teaches you how to put this into practice through his life example.

This is the good news of the gospel. Are you struggling this morning? Is life hard for you? Are your despairing? There is hope because of Jesus!

Let me end today by encouraging each of you to be honest and identify an area of struggle in your life – name it. Let the Spirit work in your heart. Humble yourself. Be honest. Where are you failing? Remember not to compare yourself with others. Compare yourself with Jesus. He is the goal toward which we are all moving.

And then as we move forward in our meetings to come, I encourage you to put into practice what you learn, so that you can experience the freedom that Jesus brings.

William Higgins

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Series: Paul to the Thessalonians

We are continuing to let 1 Thessalonians guide us each Sunday, so that whatever Scripture text we are up to is what we will talk about, trying to understand carefully what Paul has to say. And today Paul is teaching on the topic of  –

The day of the Lord

This is an ominous teaching, often spoken of in the Old Testament. It is when God breaks into history to judge sin and set things right. It is a time of darkness, despair and destruction. Let’s look at a few Scriptures to get a sense of this:

  • Isaiah 13:6, 9 – “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; as destruction from the Almighty it will come! . . . Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation . . ..”
  • Jeremiah 46:10 – “That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, to avenge himself on his foes.”
  • Ezekiel 30:2-3 – “Thus says the Lord God: Wail, ‘Alas for the day!’ For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations.”
  • Joel 1:15 – “Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.

So this is a terrible time of judgment. [Now, whenever God breaks in to judge a nation, this is a day of the Lord event. For instance Isaiah 13 is talking about the destruction of the Babylonian empire. But this also foreshadows what will happen at the end of the world itself.] 

But there is another aspect to the day of the Lord which is what Paul highlights here. Just as there is judgment on the unrighteous, the day of the Lord is a time of deliverance and salvation for God’s people. For instance in Zechariah 14, when the Lord comes with all his holy ones, as we talked about last week, God’s people are delivered (also Isaiah 14:1-2 following chapter 13; also in 13:9 the destruction is against “the sinners” in the land; Joel 3:18.)

Perhaps they need to hear this part of it, having been scared by the despair, doom and gloom. Or perhaps they are anxious about how to be ready for such an event, if it can come at any time. Paul’s message to them here is one of reassurance. Although for the world it will be a time of judgment and destruction, for the people of God, it will be a day of salvation.

The day will not overwhelm you

“1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

The phrase “times and seasons” refers to the when question. He is basically saying that they know that no one knows when the day of the Lord will come.  If in the previous section on the dead in Christ they needed some additional teaching, here they know this truth that it will come suddenly and unexpectantly like a thief in the night.

As we have already seen, Paul had taught them Jesus’ Olivet discourse about the second coming and the resurrection. And he will continue to refer to this in our verses today talking about the day of the Lord. In fact, much of what he says is a mash-up of the teaching at the end of the Olivet discourse found in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 about being ready. You can see the handout that illustrates numerous points of contact.

The “thief in the night” is a parable from Matthew 24:43-44 (also 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; 16:15). It teaches that Jesus could return at any time, therefore we need to be ready at all times.

So the Thessalonians know this and can be alert. But the world does not know this. So they are not ready. “3While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” This is very much in tune with what we saw above. The day will be a time of judgment. Paul uses the word “destruction.”

The phrase “peace and security” was actually a Roman slogan for what the empire and its armies gave to its citizens. So what Paul is saying is that precisely when people think things are good and peaceful – the day will come upon them. In other words, it is a false security that they have.

He uses the imagery of labor pains to say that it will come suddenly and with great pain. And, as with labor, there will be no escape.

“4But you are not in darkness, brothers and sisters, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5For you are all children of light, children of the day.” Although the world is unprepared, Paul is saying, you are prepared, so you won’t be surprised. You will be ready.

Why? Because they are children of light, children of the day. Paul is referring to the fact that they are Christians and live as Christians. They already desire and live under God’s rule and his way in the midst of a dark world. And so when the day comes to extend God’s rule to all the earth, they will be ready. (For similar language – sons of disobedience, children of light ,referring to behavior see Ephesians 5:8.) So he is giving them words of assurance. They need not fear.

Literally, v. 5 says that they are “sons” of light and “sons” of the day. Paul may well have the idea here that all Christians are inheritors of the blessings that will come on that day. Son-ship often carries with it the idea of inheritance, in this case applied to both female and male believers. Now we suffer, but then we will be blessed. (Inheritance language – 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:21)

Also notice how he plays off the words “day” and “night” in v. 2 to speak of two different conditions and ways of life:

  • The world is in a state of darkness/night, which leads to a way of life – they are not prepared/not doing God’s will.
  • Christians are of the light/day, so they are prepared/ doing God’s will.

And these differing conditions and ways of life lead to differing results:

  • The world will be surprised and will not escape destruction.
  • Christians will not be surprised and so will not be destroyed.

Now, Paul wants to give them assurance from excessive fear over the day of the Lord, but he also has to encourage them to –

Continue to be ready

“5We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober . . .”

Paul is saying, since we are not of the darkness, but rather belong to the day – let’s act that way! Don’t sleep or be drunk. Don’t fall back into the world, into spiritual darkness, into being unprepared, not doing God’s will.

Rather he tells them: keep awake and be sober. Keep doing God’s will; keep living the Christian life so that you are ready. (Both of these exhortations are from Jesus’ teaching. The first – “stay awake” comes from the parable of the thief, and the second, “be sober” is a deduction from the parable of the householder.)

“. . . having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” Here Paul further elaborates what it means to be awake and sober. Their lives are to be characterized by faith, love and hope.

Notice that Paul says that they have already put on this armor when they became a Christian. And he knows that they are still evidencing these virtues, as he pointed out in chapter 1:3. He is basically saying, maintain this armor of faith, love and hope, since you live in a hostile world. (Paul is most likely referring here to Isaiah 59:17a, where God “puts on righteousness as a breastplate and a helmet of salvation on his head.”)

– What does it mean to have “the breastplate of faith and love”? In both Isaiah 59 and Ephesians 6, where this is talked about, it refers to righteousness. Perhaps this image can be expressed in a phrase Paul uses in Galatians 5:6, “faith working through love” in our lives. That is putting our faith into practice by doing God’s will.

– What does it mean to have “for a helmet the hope of salvation”? It means to stay focused in our thinking about the hope of salvation we have in Jesus. And this is what Paul moves on to talk about –

Our hope

“9For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”

It is not God’s purpose for believers in Jesus to be judged by God’s wrath. That is for those who walk in darkness. Rather it is God’s destiny for believers “to obtain salvation” when the day of the Lord comes. This is our hope.

And this salvation is “through our Lord Jesus, who died for us.” Without this we are not saved. As Paul makes clear in chapter 1:10, it is “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

And then, picking up the language of 4:13-18, Paul talks about how, on that day, whether we are already dead in Christ or alive and remain – we will live with him. That is, we will be resurrected to live with him forever. This is the salvation we will obtain.

So Paul ends with strong words of encouragement. Although the day will bring judgment and despair on those who are in darkness and are not ready. For those who are ready, we have a glorious hope!

“11Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Life is hard for them. They are suffering persecution. And so keeping an eye on the future will give them the strength to keep moving forward. And they are to help each other in this.

First of all, this passage fills out the picture of – 

What takes place when Jesus returns

–  Jesus will come

– The dead in Christ will be raised

– Those remaining will be raised to meet him

– Then, we learn from our passage today, will come sudden destruction; wrath and judgment, just as the day of the Lord passages in the Old Testament indicate.

(Paul clearly connects the day of the Lord to the second coming of Jesus and the judgment of the day of the Lord. It is when Jesus comes that there is vengeance and destruction – 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10. Also in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 – “when he comes on that day,” the coming and “that day” are the same event. Jesus’ “coming” and “the day of the Lord” are also equated in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 – “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” This also follows the Olivet discourse in Matthew 24. First there is the coming of Jesus and the resurrection of the righteous – 24:30-31, and then in the further teaching and parables – there are descriptions of judgment, which Paul will allude to throughout our verses -24:36-51.)

We are also challenged to – 

Be ready!

Now the tone here is different than in the teaching of Jesus, where the emphasis is on warning that disciples who are not ready will be excluded from the kingdom (Matthew 24:51). Here Paul is confident that they are doing well, and so the tone is different, as long as they stay ready. His message is keep awake, keep sober, keep on your armor, continue in your faith, love and hope.

And if you are doing well as a Christian today, walking in God’s will and finding forgiveness when you fail I would encourage you in the same way. Keep doing God’s will! Keep living the Christian life!

But if you are here today and you are not doing well as a Christian; if you are walking in known sin, then you need to wake up! You need to sober up so that you can be ready.

And if you are here today and you are not a Christian then you need to begin at the beginning with salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for you. Let him transform you and then begin to walk in God’s will for your life.

Finally, if you are ready –

Don’t be afraid!

Yes there will be judgment, yes there will be despair and doom. Think of the verses that were read about the day of the Lord. Amos 5:18 says – “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light.”

But not for Christians! Because of Jesus death for us, because we are now children of light, because we are now changed within, because we now walk according to God’s will – the day of the Lord is a day of salvation! We are assured of this.

And so we can pray, “Your kingdom come!” And we can boldly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Because this will be a day of rejoicing for those who are ready; a day of inheritance; a day of blessing.

William Higgins

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Series: Paul to the Thessalonians

We’re starting a series on Paul to the Thessalonians. Not sure yet if we will go on into 2 Thessalonians or not. For now I want us to look at 1 Thessalonians and break it down to see what it says, and see what we can learn from it to help us in our understanding and walk with God.

As we go through this I encourage you to read and meditate on this letter in your own times of study and prayer. Let’s begin with some background.

The city of Thessalonica

 – still exists today. It’s the second largest city in Greece. In Paul’s day it was also a very important city. It was the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia, a free city which gave it various political privileges and it was prosperous, with a good sea port, on the main east-west trade route and also on a north-south highway. Here’s a map:

As we’ll see most of the Thessalonians came out of idolatry, which was everywhere, as it was in all Gentile cities. They worshipped Aphrodite, Apollo, Kabirus, Zeus, Isis – just to name a few. And they were quite devoted to the worship of Roman emperors as gods.

Paul’s visit to Thessalonica

 – was a part of his second missionary journey chronicled in Acts 17. He traveled from Antioch in Syria, to the Galatian churches, to Troas and then over to Macedonia, to Philippi and then Thessalonica.

After he established a church, a great conflict broke out and persecution, so Paul had to leave quickly. He went on to Berea, Athens and then to Corinth. This caused real anxiety for two reasons. First, these new believers were left facing persecution alone, and second he wasn’t done teaching them all that they needed to know before he had to leave (3: 2,10).

So he sent Timothy back to check on them (3:2), and when he reported back to Paul at Corinth with good news (3:6), Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians as a response.

He wrote it around 50 AD, about 20 years after Jesus’ death. This was Paul’s second letter. And as such it is the second oldest New Testament document, after Galatians.

Let’s go through this a bit at a time.

The greeting – v. 1

“1Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.” This letter is actually from Paul, Silvanus and Timothy. “We” language is prevalent throughout. But at several points “I” language comes out and it is clear that Paul is the one speaking (2:18, 3:5, 5:26).

[Silvanus (known as Silas in Acts) was from the Jerusalem church. He went with Paul after Paul and Barnabas separated. Timothy was a disciple from the Galatian city of Lystra that Paul picked up near the beginning of this mission trip. Timothy, of course, came to work with Paul long term.

The word “church” means “a gathering of people” – specifically of the people of God, modeled on the assembly of the congregation of Israel in the wilderness. Here Paul specifies that he is addressing the gathering in Thessalonica  – “in God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This in contrast to other gatherings, for instance the political gathering under Rome in Thessalonica.]

He begins by wishing them grace or God’s favor (an adaptation of the Greek “greetings”) and peace or wellbeing from God (from the typical Jewish greeting “shalom”).

The rest of chapter one is focused on –

Thanksgiving to God – vs. 2-10

“2We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers . . .” All of Paul’s letters, except Galatians, have a thanksgiving section. In this case Paul is really thankful because they are hanging in there with their faith. He wasn’t sure what was going on. His thanksgiving even spills over into chapters 2 and 3 as well.

He says that he gives thanks for them “always” and prays for them “constantly.” Now I would submit to you that this is not some super spiritual ability to give thanks and pray always even while you do other things. It is rather a reference to his daily prayers – as was the common Jewish tradition. He is simply saying that each morning and evening he mentions them in prayer to God.

He gives thanks specifically for their Christian lives. “3remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ . . .”

“Faith, love and hope” is a common triad in Paul and it functions here as a summary of their Christian life. And it can for us too:

  • Faith has to do with what we believe and our trust in God for salvation
  • Love has to do with living the Christian life day in and day out
  • Hope has to do with what we look forward to when Jesus returns.

Paul is saying that their faith is producing works, their love labors and their hope steadfastness. They are doing well. And so he gives thanks for this.

He also gives thanks for God’s transforming work in them. “4knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

He notes God’s love for them and tells them that they are chosen, that is, they are a part of the people of God (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). They have been cut off from family and friends because they have turned away from their old lives, and they are being persecuted.

But they are “brothers and sisters” now; a part of a new group, a new family – the church.

How does he know this? Because God’s Spirit was really at work when he ministered to them, empowering Paul’s preaching and working in their hearts to bring them to full conviction of the truth. “Power” here most likely includes miracles. (Galatians 5:3, 2 Corinthians 12:12f, Romans 15:18-19)

Paul also gives thanks for their faithfulness in suffering. “5You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”

Paul is saying that they had just come from Philippi, having suffered for their faith and they were under threat in Thessalonica. And now the Thessalonians have imitated this example of faithful suffering for their faith.

There is actually a chain of imitation here: Jesus suffered for his faithfulness, Paul followed his example, the Thessalonians have now followed both Paul and Jesus, and now they are an example to others in Greece.

But not only did they suffer, they experienced “the joy of the Holy Spirit” in their suffering. Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you . . . Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Even in suffering you can rejoice because of the knowledge that you will be blessed and because of the work of God in you by the Spirit.

Finally, Paul gives thanks for their witness. “8For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.”

The story of what God did among them and their faith has  spread throughout Greece (Macedonia and Achaia). And even beyond – “everywhere.” Everybody is hearing about their story.

“9For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Paul is hearing from others about what happened in Thessalonica. Perhaps others from Philippi and Berea came along with Timothy to report to him at Corinth.

And again we have a description of their Christian lives:

  • They turned to God from idols
  • They now they serve the living and true God
  • And now they wait for Jesus to return

And Paul is thankful for this.

As Paul gives thanks for all these things, several things stand out for us to reflect on.

How are you doing in your daily prayers?

What do you give thanks for without ceasing? Who do you pray for constantly? Just as Paul was an example for them (and us) in the area of faithfulness in suffering, so he is a model for us of disciplined prayer. How are you doing?

The gospel message

What Paul preached comes out clearly in just a few words in vs. 9-10. “. . . how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Let me highlight some things from these verses: 1) It has to do with a person named Jesus; 2) he is the Son of God; 3) he died and has been resurrected; 4) he was exalted to heaven; 5) we are to wait for his return; 6) final judgment or “wrath” is coming. This is God’s just judgment on human sin; 7) but Jesus is our deliverer.

The same question that confronted the Thessalonians when they heard this gospel still confronts us. Are we going to receive God’s mercy to us by putting our faith in Jesus – who delivers us from judgment for our sin?

We also get a picture of what –

A true Gospel transformation

– looks like. Think about your own life as we go through this. 1) The Spirit moved in their hearts – v. 5. There is not coming to God without God first coming to us and working in us. 2) They turned from idols to God, which speaks to true repentance – v. 9. 3) They serve God with their lives – v. 9.  4)  Their faith is producing works – v. 3.   5) Their love for others is evident in their behavior – v. 3. 6) They have steadfast hope as they wait for Jesus – vs. 3-10. And 7) they do all this while suffering for their faith with joy – v. 6.

God aims through his gospel to transform every part of us in just these ways. What does your Christian life look like? If this isn’t a picture of your Christian life, I encourage you now to renew your faith in Jesus and to invite the Holy Spirit into your life to transform you.

William Higgins

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