Thursday, March 31, 2016

Considerations ~ Choosing Whom we Will Serve

I found this passage of God's Book very challenging this morning:

“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”[1]

Notice the three parts.

Part one: "fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness," instead of serving idols. Church, deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Jesus, rejecting all advances of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Part two: "if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve". Notice that the "choose this day whom you will serve" no longer applies to the LORD, Yahweh, Jesus. This is now an exhortation to the people who have decided it is evil in their eyes to serve Jesus the Christ.

What choice are such people to declare? Which idols they will serve. Yes, the message is, if you reject the good news of life in Jesus Christ, be honest enough to declare your choice of idol (even if it is you).

Part three: "But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." It would be nice if everyone would return to our Creator and receive his gift of salvation. Many consider it evil to do so, and are willing to be held accountable for serving their own gods. No matter what anyone else does, there is this tremendous example to be clear that we ourselves, and the households we lead, will live in “sincere and pure devotion to Jesus the Christ.”[2]

While this testimony is a few millennia old, the issue is as current as today's news. I would be happy to help anyone say yes to part one and three.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Joshua 24:14-15
[2] II Corinthians 11:3

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Devotions: Our Freedom in the Gospel

The present theme of my morning time with God is still that the weapons of our warfare “have divine power to destroy strongholds” (II Corinthians 10:4). We have strongholds in our lives and church, they need to be destroyed, and we already have the weapons to do the work.

Today I was reminded that our starting place is our own inability. I think that one of the strongholds causing so much damage in churches is the curse of self-reliance. Self-protection is only an expression of that sarky belief that we can do things ourselves. We then become hopeless in our efforts to do good for God, rather than hope-filled as we rely fully on the power of the gospel to save us.

Admission: We need to come to the heartfelt experience of what Paul expressed:

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7)

1.     Admit we are wretched
2.    Ask who will deliver us since we are unable to do so

Answer: Not us, but God.

25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7)

If you are unfamiliar with the contrast and conflict between the flesh (sark) and the Spirit, read Romans 7:1-25 for an overview. Once you read that I hope you will be able to say “Amen” to the fact that it is God who will deliver his children from the power of the flesh, and he will do it through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Battle: There are two laws working against each other in the lives of Jesus’ disciples.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Romans7)

1.     There is the law of God we delight in in our inner beings
2.    There is the law of the flesh waging war against the law of our minds

The Predicament: In ourselves, we are stuck serving both laws.

25 So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7)

This has been a huge revelation for me this past year, that these two programs are both running in the Christian’s life, and we cannot escape this fact in this earthly lifetime.

Encouraging Observation: When we look at Paul’s example of pursuing the righteousness, joy, and peace, of life in the Holy Spirit[1], it was not that of a man who had no battle going on within him. Rather, it was as a man who, in himself, served the law of God with his mind, but served the law of sin with his flesh.

In other words, everything about victory in Jesus Christ is WHILE both these programs are running. The victory of faith is as we live by faith while our flesh wants to serve the law of sin. In this lifetime, it is never that we are free of this law (just as we are never free of computer viruses, malware, etc, that are trying to sabotage our computers), but that we are liberated from the power of this law as long as we run the life in the Spirit.

How God delivers us from this body of death: He sets us free!

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8)

What is so liberating for me right now is the realization that, when Paul talks about the law of the Spirit of life setting us free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death, he does not mean that the law of sin and death are removed from the flesh. It is that we are now given the law of the Spirit of life as well, and this law triumphs over the other.

The Three Phases of Freedom: Remember these three doctrines of our salvation.

1.     Justification by faith frees us from the condemnation and power of sin.
2.    Sanctification by faith frees us to keep growing up to be like Christ.
3.    Glorification by faith will complete God’s work of fully restoring us to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ

Application: none of us needs to wait until the law of the flesh is no longer at work in us (we need to be in heaven for that!). INSTEAD, we “walk… according to the Spirit”;[2]  we “set their minds on the things of the Spirit”;[3] we experience the “life and peace” that comes by living according to the Spirit.[4]

Emphasis: But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness”.[5]

Paul says, “But if Christ is in you”, as the one requirement for victory in the Holy Spirit.

But notice the TWO things that are in place in all those who have Christ dwelling in us by his Spirit.

1.     “although the body is dead because of sin,”
2.    “the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

Instead of living in defeat because we know “the body is dead because of sin”, we have the Holy Spirit who is our life because we have been justified in the righteousness of Jesus Christ by faith, not by working to defeat the flesh.

Right now, today, every one of us can live a victorious Christian life by faith. It all has to do with where we choose to “set” our minds.

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8)

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Romans 14:17
[2] Romans 8:4
[3] Romans 8:5
[4] Romans 8:6
[5] Romans 8:10

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Weapons That Win the War

While the world is going from bad to worse, just as God wrote in his Book, those who come into his kingdom through the gospel of Jesus Christ have this great encouragement:

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (II Corinthians 10)

Because “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh”, they are not powerless like our flesh is powerless. Because “the weapons of our warfare… have divine power to destroy strongholds”, they will accomplish all that God has sent them to do.

To help understand both the “not of the flesh” and the “have divine power” side of our spiritual weaponry, I decided to consider these things in a journey through Romans 7 and 8[1]. It is exceptionally encouraging to see how God has guaranteed the victory of the children of his kingdom.

  • The weapons of our warfare have none of the sark’s “sinful passions” (Rom 7:5)
  • They are not “aroused by the law” as the sinful passions of the flesh (Rom 7:5)
  • They have none of the sinful passions of the flesh working in them “to bear fruit for death” (our death, that is. They do have power to work for the death of the enemy!) (Rom 7:5)
  • The weapons of the kingdom are given to those who “are released from the law”, those who have “died to that which held us captive” (Rom 7:6), which means we are no longer POW’s living in hopeless prison camps of sin
  • They are given to those who “serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom 7:6)
  • They are not given to those who are “of the flesh, sold under sin” (Rom 7:14), hence they themselves are “not of the flesh”, and not in any kind of slavery to sin
  • Our weapons are not characterized by handlers who “do not understand my own actions” (Rom 7:15)
  • They cannot fail to do what they want, or do the very things they hate (Rom 7:15)
  • These weapons have no sin dwelling within them making them do the sin they hate (Rom 7:17)
  • They have no residue of the “nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh” (Rom 7:18)
  • They do not have a powerless “desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom 7:18)
  • They never fail to do the good they want to do, and never do the evil they do not want to do (Rom 7:19)
  • There is no sin dwelling in these weapons causing them to “do what I do not want” (Rom 7:20)
  • Neither do they have a “law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin” (Rom 7:23)
  • These weapons have no need to be delivered “from this body of death,” since they are not of the flesh (Rom 7:24)
  • The kingdom-weapons are in the hands of the uncondemned, “those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1)
  • We are no longer POW’s, “for the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2)
  • We are Victors because “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do” (Rom 8:3)
  • Our victory is eternal because, “by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom 8:3-4)
  • Our victory is applied to daily life because we “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:4)
  • Because we are not those “who live according to the flesh”, we are not those “who set their minds on the things of the flesh” (Rom 8:5), hence “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh” (II Cor 10:4)
  • Because we are “those who live according to the Spirit”, who “set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Rom 8:5), “the weapons of our warfare… have divine power to destroy strongholds” (II Cor 10:4)
  • The soldiers of the kingdom of God “live according to the Spirit”, and so they “set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Rom 8:5)
  • Because we do not “set the mind on the flesh”, we have no fear of death (Rom 8:6)
  • Because we do “set the mind on the Spirit,” we are assured of “life and peace” in the kingdom of God (Rom 8:6)
  • The soldiers of the kingdom of God do not set their minds on the flesh, therefore there is never any hostility towards our Commander in Chief (Rom 8:7-8)
  • The children of the kingdom of God “are not in the flesh but in the Spirit,” as evidence by the fact that “the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Rom 8:9)
  • Because “Christ is in” the soldiers of the kingdom of God, “although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom 8:10)
  • Because “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in” the sons of the kingdom, “he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11)
  • The brothers of the kingdom “are debtors,” but “not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” (Rom 8:12)
  • The weapons of the kingdom are not bound by the law that, “if you live according to the flesh you will die,” (Rom 8:13) since they “are not of the flesh” (II Cor 10:4)
  • Rather, because the soldiers of the cross, “by the Spirit… put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13)
  • The soldiers of the kingdom of God “are led by the Spirit of God” as the “sons of God” (Rom 8:14)
  • The handlers of the kingdom weapons “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” (Rom 8:15)
  • Instead, we “have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom 8:15)
  • As the soldiers of the kingdom take up the spiritual weapons of our warfare, we have the constant encouragement of the Holy Spirit who “himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16)
  • No matter what the battle looks like by sight, the children of God are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:17)
  • No matter how much suffering the soldiers of the cross endure in the warfare of this lifetime, we “consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18)
  • The soldiers of the cross are encouraged along by “the creation” that “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19)
  • The sons of God put their hope in the fact that “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:20-21)
  • At the same time, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23)
  • The soldiers of the kingdom know that our hope in the coming grand finale of our adoption does not come from what we see, and so we do not grow impatient with circumstances. Instead, because “we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom 8:24-25)
  • Because “the weapons of our warfare… have divine power to destroy strongholds” (II Cor 10:4), the sons of the kingdom do not become despondent over our own weaknesses while walking “in the flesh” (II Cor 10:3), because “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8:26)
  • Although, in the midst of battle, we may “not know what to pray for as we ought”, we have the constant presence of the Holy Spirit who “himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom 8:26)
  • While the soldiers of the kingdom may feel that there are glaring gaps in communication between ourselves and our Commander in Chief, “he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27)
  • No matter what things look like in the battle, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28)
  • Our confidence is not in our own ability to fight the battles of life, but that “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:29)
  • The ultimate victory of the children of God’s kingdom is that “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son… And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:29-30)
  • Along with the divinely powered weapons of our warfare, the children of God’s kingdom know that, “if God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom 8:31)
  • Our confidence is that, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:32)
  • As we face constant attack from the world, the flesh, and the devil, we know that no one can “bring any charge against God’s elect”, for “it is God who justifies” (Rom 8:33)
  • Not even “the accuser of our brothers” (Rev 12:10) can “condemn”, since “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom 8:34)
  • Even in the fiercest of battles, the sons of the kingdom know that no one “shall separate us from the love of Christ”, even though they attack us with “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (Rom 8:35)
  • Even when God’s children seem to be “killed all the day long”, and “are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Rom 8:36), they still cannot be separated from the love of Christ
  • No matter what the soldiers of the kingdom face, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37)
  • The victory cry of the army of God is this: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39). 
And in conclusion: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”[2]

Let us use them accordingly!

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Romans 7:1-25; Romans 8:1-39
[2] II Corinthians 10:4

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Death That Wins the War

The death of Jesus the Christ is not mocked and derided because it lacks historical verification. Neither is it denounced because it is some failed rescue mission of an incompetent mythological deity.

Rather, the death of Jesus Christ is maligned, and insulted, and attacked, and denied, for one very simple and deadly reason.

The death of Jesus Christ attacks the most important person in the world: ME![1]

God’s Book makes much of the death of Jesus Christ because of its magnificent achievement. For those who receive it, we can confidently testify, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”[2]

However, it grates on the mind of the prideful self of man to admit that such a rescue mission is required. If we celebrate a victory in which the domain of darkness is defeated, and all the POW’s are brought into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, we must admit that the best any of us have ever done is handle our prideful little lives in the domain of darkness.

And, our prideful and selfish little selves do not like that!

Which is another reason that God’s children celebrate how completely Jesus’ death has set us free. Not only does it offer salvation from sin and death, but it graciously delivers us from the prideful self that has no ability to see the good in such a deliverance.

Yes, every child of God knows this, that it is by the gracious favor of God, his loving initiative on our behalf, that he puts to death our prideful selves in the death of his Son, and gives us, “the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”[3]

In other words, the death of Jesus Christ not only gave us the sacrificial and substitutionary death of our Redeemer, but it presented us with the death of our pride, and the death of our blindness, and the death of our darkness, and the death of our ignorance, and the death of our arrogant belief that we are simply okay without him.

This is why Jesus introduced the characteristics of his kingdom by declaring, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”[4] It would not be the proud of spirit who entered his kingdom, for their prideful selves would always be blind to the true condition of their sin. Instead, the grace of God would bring prostitutes, and drunks, and tax collectors, and sinners of all kinds, to admit their tremendous need (the same need as the proud who are too blind to see what is wrong), and to enter in to Jesus’ comfort.

Jesus continued, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”[5] This identifies the fact that those who arrogantly denounce any sense of their deadly condition before God will only have the temporary reward of whatever meager happiness they squeeze out of their self-centered life experiences. On the other hand, those who mourn what is wrong with them experience the full comfort of salvation out of sin, and deliverance into the comforts of God’s love.

When Jesus added, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,”[6] he identified that it would not be the strong and self-dependent who would inherit all that belongs to the Savior who created the heavens and the earth. Rather, it would be those who admitted in their hearts that they do not have the wherewithal to fix what is wrong with them, who would receive the gift of God’s grace,[7] the adoption as sons,[8] and the inheritance that is laid up for us in heaven.[9]

And, when Jesus declared this glorious promise, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,”[10] he denounced those who were so satisfied in their own good works that they felt no need of him, and declared eternal hope over everyone who would hunger and thirst for the righteousness they saw in the gospel of their salvation.

The ones who would admit they did not have this righteousness in themselves, but saw it freely offered to them in Jesus Christ, and so hungered for it, and thirsted to experience what the gracious gift of a righteous soul could feel like, would be fully satisfied in their souls with the righteousness they longed to know.

As an example of the way the death of Jesus Christ puts the prideful self to death in order to give us the life that grace alone provides, God’s Book tells us about a man named Saul. If ever there was someone who would have earned his way to heaven by good works (were such a thing possible), it was this man. In terms of human achievement, he had every reason to be proud of his accomplishments.[11]

However, on one particular day, Saul was met by the most gracious appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ proving once and for all that Saul was just as sinful as all the rest of us, and that the gift of salvation could cover this man’s sin as well as that of any other.[12] The transformation was so drastic, that God changed Saul’s name to Paul, the man we have come to know as a great servant of the grace of God.

Paul’s testimony about himself was, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”[13] Paul wanted it to be very clear that, while he was living the life of a very good person, he was actually “the foremost” of sinners. He did not want anyone to think he was a good man who came to prominence in the kingdom of God because of his good works. Everything was by the grace of God taking hold of the life of the most sinful of men.

This is why he would add, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”[14] Paul testified that, because the mercy of God was fully capable of saving the foremost of sinners, his testimony stands as a timeless example of the perfect patience of God towards sinners.

In other words, are you uncertain whether God can save a sinner like you? Well, Paul was the foremost of sinners, and God saved him.

What about if you think you are too good to need the death of Jesus Christ to deliver you out of your sin? Well, God took hold of Paul, a man who had a much higher pedigree than any of us, and showed that he was the foremost of sinners in need of salvation as much as the prostitutes, and drunks, who came into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.

The death of Jesus Christ is not old news. Its only “best before” date is the return of Christ, at which time the offer of salvation will immediately expire, and the judgment of the lost and found begin.

While the commemoration of Good Friday is optional, the conviction that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,”[15] is necessary to life.

The tragedy and triumph of this good news continues to show in this clarification given close to two millennia ago, 
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.[16]

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] I do not mean that I am more important than you, or that I am even as important as I imagine. I mean that, for each of us, in our immaturity, and ignorance of God, we still believe we are the center of the universe, and everything revolves around us and our happiness.
[2] Colossians 1:13-14
[3] Ephesians 4:24
[4] Matthew 5:3
[5] Matthew 5:4
[6] Matthew 5:5
[7] Ephesians 2:8-9
[8] Romans 8:15, 8:23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5
[9] I Peter 1:4
[10] Matthew 5:6
[11] Philippians 3:4-6 is a summary of the personal attributes that put Saul above anyone else in his achievements.
[12] Acts 9:1-31 gives the account of prideful Saul encountering Jesus the Christ.
[13] I Timothy 1:15
[14] I Timothy 1:16
[15] Acts 4:12
[16] John 1:9-13

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Abiding in Christ and his Words

I began my time with God this morning by returning to these words of Scripture:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). And, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (vs 36).

First, it is so glaring in its simplicity: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”. 
“If you… you are…”
First there is an uncertainty, followed by a certainty.

The “if” is the uncertainty of whether we do abide in Jesus’ word, or we do not abide in Jesus’ word. The result of both is a certainty.

The certainty of abiding in Jesus’ word is that we are truly his disciples

The certainty of not abiding in Jesus’ word is that we are truly not his disciples.

That led me to John 15 for help in understanding how to abide in Jesus’ words.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1). With this imagery, we get a very clear picture of what it means to “abide”. We can also see that abiding in Jesus’ word, and abiding in Jesus, is the same thing.

The relationship Jesus speaks of is, “Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:4). How do we abide “in” Jesus, and Jesus abides “in” us? The way the vine and branches abide in each other. We abide in Jesus as branches attached to the vine, and Jesus abides in us as the vine pouring its life through the branches.

When this is true, it is also true that we abide in Jesus' words, and so we prove ourselves to be his disciples. We cannot abide in Jesus without abiding in his words. His words, and his Spirit, are as the sap that flows through the branches.

“As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). Here is the problem with many churches! We are not bearing fruit because we are not abiding in Christ. The disconnect people feel from him is exposed, and it also exposes what we do when we feel that disconnect. Some people draw closer to Christ to fill the void, and others turn to the world, the sark, and the devil, for that inner satisfaction.

It reminds me of what Paul told the Galatians.

  • “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (3:1)
  • “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (5:7)

Just as we wish we could get to the ones who have "bewitched" people into leaving Jesus’ church, and wish we could stop those who hinder people from obeying the truth, Paul was very clear in trying to find out who was causing the trouble in the Galatian church so he could confront and correct what was going on.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (15:5). Jesus makes it easy to understand both what it means to abide in him and his word, and why it is we do not bear much fruit.

“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (15:6). This is a severe warning! Judas lived among the disciples, and in such a way that none of the other disciples guessed he was not one of them. However, he was not abiding in Christ, and so he was living under condemnation, not under grace. The only way we can be sure this is not us is if we abide in Christ.

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (15:7). Once it is settled that we are abiding in Christ, here is more encouragement to persevere in this. It also explains why many churches are not known for answers to prayer. People want Jesus to answer their prayers because they showed up at prayer meeting, not because they abide in him. However, when we abide in Jesus, and Jesus abides in us, and we express our wishes to God in prayer, “it will be done for you”.

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (15:8). Jesus’ “Father is the vinedresser”, don’t forget. How is he glorified in his work as the vinedresser? By the fruitfulness of the vineyard.

How does he create a fruitful vineyard? By bringing us branches to abide in his Son as the vine.

How do we “prove” to be Jesus’ disciples? By the fruit we bear as a result of abiding in him.

This makes so much sense of Scriptures like this:

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3)

What Paul describes here is the fruit of the church that abides in Christ. Said another way,

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5)

It is easy to puff ourselves up by looking at the faults in other people, preachers, and churches. However, it is time for each church to repent of every way we refuse to abide in Christ, and to let his words dwell in us richly as the sap of the vine flowing through our branches. We need to let God’s Spirit fill us up completely, the very life of Christ living in us.

Father, it is very clear what you are saying, what you are doing, and how we ought to join you in your work! Amen, so be it!

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Pride of the Brokenhearted (and the poverty that sets them free)

There is a kind of brokenheartedness that is of the prideful, childish, defiant, foot-stomping, variety, and another kind that is of the poor in spirit who mourn what is wrong with them, who meekly accept they cannot fix their bankruptcy of heart and soul, and so they hunger and thirst for what they see in Jesus Christ.[1]

Let me explain.

There are times that people read the beautiful expressions of God’s compassion for the brokenhearted and assume he is talking about them just because someone has broken their heart, so to speak. With their minds focused on their hurt feelings, they think these verses belong to them: 
  • “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit”,[2]
  • “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”,[3]
  • “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”,[4]
  • “he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted”,[5] 

Reading these expressions in the context of contemporary culture and meaning interprets them as though anyone who has a broken heart over anything at all can experience God coming close to them no matter what they really think of him.

However, the kind of brokenheartedness God is speaking about here is not that of someone who is nursing hurt feelings, or has just been abandoned by a loved one (although that may be involved in the process), or has had their hopes dashed, or has the “achy-breaky heart” of country music fame.[6]

A broken and contrite heart, or a crushed spirit, in the first part of God’s Book, is the same as the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness described in the second part of God’s Book.[7]

It is also the same as what Jesus was referring to when he called out, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”[8] He wasn’t talking so much about rest from sadness, or feeling heartbroken over being dumped, or the heartache of loneliness. He was talking about souls that “labor” to be righteous through the law (trying to be good enough for God), and realize that the impossibility of keeping the law leaves them “heavy laden” with the relentless burden.

Those who are brokenhearted means those who are brokenhearted over their sin (which may be as a result of so many other “heartbreaking” experiences). The contrite of heart are those who have come to the end of themselves and know they are helpless without the salvation Jesus offers. The wounds that need to be bound up are not primarily those caused by life’s disappointments, but those caused by our sin. The reason we are crushed in spirit is because everything we have ever tried to be good enough for God has failed, and now we hunger and thirst for what Jesus meant by the righteousness that is by faith.

This becomes clear when we see how Jesus continued his invitation. He said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”[9]

If you want to know if you are brokenhearted in the way God’s Book means, or just have a broken heart over something someone has done to you, just ask yourself if you are coming to Jesus on his terms or your own. Do you want him to look only at the heartbreaking feelings you are struggling with and make them all better? Or do you want to look in the mirror of divine revelation, see yourself as you really are, and learn from Jesus how you can find rest for your soul?

Those who only want a God who soothes their hurt feelings will not take Jesus’ yoke upon themselves and learn from him. They want Jesus to come to them and do what they think they need.

Those who want to know the God who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, will take Jesus’ yoke upon themselves, and learn how to keep in step with his Spirit. It is our sin and condemnation that burdens us to the point of brokenheartedness. It is the obedience of faith that yokes us to Jesus and leads us to rest for our souls.

© 2016 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Based on the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-6
[2] Psalm 34:18
[3] Psalm 51:17
[4] Psalm 147:3
[5] Isaiah 61:1
[6] Billy Ray Cyrus, 1992
[7] Matthew 5:3-6
[8] Matthew 11:28
[9] Matthew 11:29-30