Have Confidence!

1 Corinthians 15 58

We have come to the end of I Corinthians 15, also known as the Resurrection Chapter. The last few days we’ve had chunkier denser passages but today we end with just one verse:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

Paul has explained a lot in the previous 57 verses, such as:

  1. The resurrection appearances of the Lord to many groups and individuals including Paul himself (3-8)
  2. The absurdity of denying the resurrection if you hold to the faith (12-19)
  3. Jesus being the prototype of those who have fallen asleep in him. Just as Jesus was raised, so too you and I will also at his return (20, 23)
  4. All those “in Christ” can and will share in the victories of Jesus and have life (22)
  5. Our bodies will be raised completely transformed and glorified and we will receive the gift of immortality. Because of this transformation through Jesus we are able to have access to God and entrance into his kingdom (42-50)
  6. At the resurrection event sin and death will finally and completely be defeated and those “in Christ” will experience victory made possible by God in and through Jesus (54-57)

Then Paul concludes, “therefore”. In light of the resurrection and its implications, this is how you you should live. Paul says four things: be steadfast, be immovable, abound in the work of the Lord, and know your work is not in vain in Jesus. I want to take a moment to look at each one briefly.

To be steadfast is to hold onto something tightly and to be without waiver. In light of Jesus’ resurrection, no adversity we face in this life should have the power to keep us from remaining in the faith and and stop us from being obedient. In the same vein, we should be immovable. Our hope and faith in Christ should be immovable with the reality of Jesus rising from the dead and God’s promise to those who are in Christ. The next phrase is a call for action. Because Jesus rose from the dead and is coming back we should strive to work for the Lord. One, because we want to share the good news with all people and disciple them, and two, he will hold us accountable for the works we have done in the body, “for we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (II Cor. 5.10). Lastly, Paul offers encouragement. Being in ministry can be a grind and sometimes you wonder if you’re making a difference at all. Sometimes you won’t see the fruit of your labor and someone else will. But you know who won’t forget or miss all the work you do and the fruit that comes from it? God and Jesus. Because God is faithful and Jesus is returning we can have confidence and assurance that our work is not in vain because even though no one may remember the work we did or see anything come from it, God and Jesus see it. And you will be rewarded as such when Jesus returns and you are given life.

Thank you for reading and live life in light of the resurrection reality.

-Jacob Rohrer

 

(Photo by Alice Railton of Lake Waubee at Camp Mack in Milford, IN)

 

 

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Resurrection, Transformation & VICTORY!

1 corinthians 15 52

Today’s section is over I Corinthians 15.50-57. In these seven verses there are two themes; transformation (50-53) and victory (54-57). Paul begins by stating that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” and then the next phrase clarifies the previous. The perishable (flesh and blood) cannot inherit the imperishable (the kingdom of God). What this tells us is that we, in our current bodies and untransformed state cannot behold the nature to something such as the kingdom of God. In fact for us to be able to enter the kingdom, we need to undergo a transformation which happens at the resurrection and is only available “in Christ”. Paul says this in the next verse – that we will not all sleep (a euphemism for death in the Bible) but we will all be changed and then he specifies what change will occur in verse 52-53. He states that when the last trumpet sounds the dead will be raised “imperishable” and be changed. It it this act of being transformed that allows us to be in the presence of God and Jesus in the kingdom of God. Verse 53 restates and says that this mortal must put on immortality. In other words, at the resurrection the believer will receive the gift of immortality and will be granted entrance into the kingdom of God.

There are two things I would like to point out. First, you may be wondering, why would I have to change or go through a transformation to be with God? Well I think the answer is a practical one. For example, say I wanted to explore the sun. I want to get really close to it to explore and study it. The problem is I wouldn’t be able to get very close to it because of the intense heat and radiation. It would kill me if I got too close. However, if I somehow was made of the same elements of the sun I would be able to approach it because I would be like the sun. In a similar fashion, God is holy, bright, and other wordly. There is nothing in our experience to compare him to, he is incomprehensible. For you or I to be in the direct presence of God, we would have to be like him in some way or else we would die from his glory and majesty. The transformation we need in order to be in God’s presence happens and takes place at the resurrection. Philippians 3.21 says that we will be transformed into the image of Jesus’ glorious body. And where has Jesus been? He has been enthroned at God’s right hand.

A second point is notice what Paul says in verse 53 “…this mortal must put on immortality”. To be mortal means the capability to die. Immortality means the incapability of dying. Yet what does popular culture and church tradition tell us? When we die our souls or spirits go to heaven or hell. However this is only possible if there is a part of us that lives on after death, in other words, to go to heaven or hell would require us to be immortal. But Paul says that this “mortal” (this body that doesn’t have immortality), will put on, or be granted immortality. In short, we are not immortal now but those “in Christ” will receive it at the resurrection. Here are three verses to further this point:

I Timothy 6.16 – “who (God) alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”

II Timothy 1.10 – “…but now has been revealed by the appearing of our savior Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

I Corinthians 15.52-53 – “…and the dead will be raised…and this mortal must put on immortality.”

In short, only God possesses immortality, it is available through Jesus and the gospel, and those “in Christ’ will receive it at the resurrection. Will we let this challenge our thinking about the traditional view of what happens after death? The hope that God has placed before Christians is the hope for the return of Jesus and the resurrection, not going to heaven. Paul finishes that once the resurrection event happens that death will finally be defeated and swallowed up. And the power of sin and death will be no more and God, Jesus, and those “in Christ” will be victorious! God has given us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ

-Jacob Rohrer

Resurrection and Loyalty

 

1 Corinthians 15 22

In today’s section we’ll look at verses 20-28 of I Corinthians 15. Did you know that you’re a king or a queen? So many blessings and riches are made available to us “in Christ” and in today’s section Paul speaks of another gift that comes with being “in Christ” – resurrection.

Paul begins by affirming that Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead, given the sad reality of if he hadn’t (v. 12-19). He then proceeds in verses 21-22 to compare Adam to Christ. Just as by a man came death, so to by a man came the resurrection of the dead. Paul clarifies this saying in the next verse by identifying the two men. In Adam all die but in Christ all live. This is a critical teaching of Paul about the dichotomy between Adam and Christ. By default all of us are in Adam, that is, we are identified and participate in the sphere of Adam which is rebellious and God hating. This inevitably results in death. But you and I can go from being “in Adam” to “in Christ”. When we are found “in Christ” that is our new identity (II Cor. 5.17) and this inevitably leads to life, specifically, resurrection and immortality (II Tim. 1.10). The way we can go from being “in Adam” to “in Christ” is by repentance, acceptance of the gospel, and obedience to Jesus as Lord. For more on the Adam-Christ teaching read Romans 5.12-21 and all of Romans 6 for what it means to be “in Christ” (“in Christ” is a technical term found often through Paul’s epistles that is rooted in his understanding of Adam and Christ). But Paul specifies that there is an order to the resurrection: Jesus first then those who are his at his coming.

Then Paul says literally “then the end”, when Jesus hands over the kingdom to his God and Father when he has abolished all rule and authority. In other words, when Jesus comes back he will dismantle and overthrow every human authority and government and establish his Father’s rule and reign with him as king. Then concluding, Paul says after this happens Jesus will hand over the newly established rule to his God and father, being subjected to him, so that God may be all in all forever and ever.

To be “in Christ” means so much more than just ‘I’m saved’ it’s larger meaning is that we get to participate in the sufferings and victories of Jesus. Specifically, because Jesus was raised from dead, we will be raised from the dead (I Cor. 15.20,23). Because Jesus ascended to God’s right hand and has been given all rule and authority, we too are seated with Christ and share in Jesus’ power and authority (Eph. 1.20-21, 2.4-7). You are a king and queen in the making whom God is making ready to rule and reign through our Lord Jesus Christ by means of the resurrection!

-Jacob Rohrer

What are You Waiting For?

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9_27 28

Good morning!

Today’s chapter starts off with some details about how the tabernacle was set up.  It gives some great descriptions of exactly what it would look like and makes it very tangible for readers.  I love the little aside that the author gives at the end of verse 5 when they write “But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.”  It makes me smile because I imagine someone who is so excited about sharing everything they have with the Hebrews, but has to contain themselves because they know they have more important things to discuss.

Now on to the “more important” things!  At this point people would’ve known what priests had to do when going into the Most Holy Place and recognized the sacrifice that was required.  The author here is giving the background information for the rest of the message to show the significance of Christ.  It is explained that priests no longer had to go to a place made by humans that required continuing sacrifice of animals for forgiveness; Christ was able to enter the Most Holy Place by one sacrifice to obtain eternal redemption (vs. 11-12).  This would’ve been a big deal in this time!

Verse 14 and 15 are great verses to meditate on for this chapter!  “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” What a great verse to give us some perspective!  We have a Savior who offered himself as a completely perfect sacrifice ONE TIME for the redemption of our sins that should’ve led to death.  And why? So that we can not only serve the living God, but also so that we can be set free from our sins and receive eternal inheritance (vs. 15).  That is simply amazing, friends!

There is so much more in this chapter that we could really unpack, but I don’t need to write a whole book so we’ll finish off with the final verses 😊

When we look at verse 27 there are two really big pieces that we need to recognize.  The first is in verse 27 which reads “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” This key factor on the morality of humans is one of the many reasons Christianity differs from other religions.  Here it says that people get one life to live, they die one time, and after will face judgment.  The second piece shows me that people have a lifetime to seek forgiveness for their sins.  It doesn’t say that we will face judgement after we do that one really bad sin, or that by the time we reach a certain age, etc.  We will face judgment after death.  With that in mind, we aren’t all guaranteed a long lifetime to seek that forgiveness.  Are you living each day as if you could be judged the next moment?  Are you continually serving the living God and asking for forgiveness when you fall short?  Those can be some sobering questions to ask yourself.

Finally, in verse 28, we get a glimpse of that hope we have.  “…And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Jesus is coming again!  I want to be one of those who are waiting for him, and I hope you all do too!  Today, how can your actions, thoughts, words, and choices reflect that you are waiting on Jesus’ return?  Or, how can you encourage a brother or sister in Christ and remind them of his second coming?

-Sarah Blanchard

 

Warning: Lethal Wound

Psalm 38

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I am afraid we have an ugly topic to talk about today.  It’s no fun, but it has to be done.  It is more fun to talk about sunshine, knitting and fruit salad (see the last two days’ posts).  But when we don’t talk about this topic and acknowledge it and be on the defensive against it, it has a way of festering, oozing out of control and taking over by force – consuming ourself and others in its path of destruction.

I am talking about sin.  One verse toward the end of yesterday’s psalm about trials points to the seriousness of sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18) .  Ouch.  The All-Powerful God who loves and cares for me will not hear my prayers, my petitions, or even my praise if my sin is creating a sound-proof barrier between me and Him.  His holiness will not allow it.  Sin is serious and must be dealt with in order for me to be heard by God.

King David was a man who knew a thing or two about the devastating effects of sin.  In Psalm 38 he describes many consequences of sin: God’s anger and discipline, ill health, overwhelming guilt, searing pain, severe depression, social isolation, increased enemies, and confusion.  What other consequences can you find in this psalm?  He states, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” (Psalm 38:5).

The thing is…”sinful folly” sounds just a wee bit fun, doesn’t it??  Maybe it’s a glance at pornography, experimenting with friends doing drugs or alcohol, speeding recklessly down the interstate with some great tunes cranking out, making out with your significant other, or getting a good laugh out of the lunch crew when you share a great put-down.  It’s a little exhilarating – for a time.  And that’s the trouble with sin.  It can start by seeming like no big deal.  I highly doubt that King David woke up one morning and said, “This is the day.  I am going to go watch a woman bathe, and then commit adultery and that will lead to deception, murder, the death of my child, a plaque of violence on my family, and ….   No one plans to be sucked into a downward spiral of sin, deceit and pain.  Rather, it begins with small acts of selfishness – thinking of my own pleasure over and above what is right, pleasing to God and helpful to others.  And then the demon of pride enters and says we can handle this burning coal and we won’t get burned.  So, we say yes to that little urge of ‘sinful folly’.

Before we know it, we are facing festering wounds and a forest fire.  And the good-feeling exhilaration is long gone.  In it’s place is only pain, isolation, depression, guilt and confusion.

Sadly, this is not true for only adulterous murderers.  It is the same for me.  It is the same for you.  It is the same for the most saintly person you know.  In the New Testament James gives the same warning David does: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15).  Sin is a big deal, and not just for the sinner, but for so many others who will be affected.

I was looking for a great picture of gangrene to open this devotion.  They were much worse than I had anticipated (as is the case with sin) so I will not include an actual visual.  But, imagine, blackened decaying flesh surrounded by raw, oozing, pain.  Death has set in – even while the rest of the body lives.  Sin, left unchecked and allowed to grow, is like this extreme infection.  It leads to death most certainly – if not treated.  Sin, too, must be treated, and the earlier the better.  Psalm 38:18 shares the first important step to restoration: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”  Tear down the sound-proof barrier your sins have built up between you and God.  Cry out to him in confession.  Thank God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ who died so we might be forgiven when we come to the Father with a repentant heart, ready to be obedient in turning from our sins and seeking to live a holy life.

Even gangrene can be healed.  It requires hard dirty work (sometimes even using amputation or maggots) – a process of cutting out and destroying the old which causes death.  Maybe a friend who is a bad influence needs to be cut out, or maybe it’s a TV channel or social media.  And, then a lot of antibiotics and sometimes lifestyle changes are needed to return to health. God’s Word, prayer, a church body and healthy habits are great antibiotics for a repentant sinner.

Remember our memory verse for this week from Psalm 139:24 – “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Sin is serious – even when it starts small.  Don’t let sins fester.  Pray for conviction where conviction is due, and healing and restoration where that is needed.  And seek out the everlasting way.

-Marcia Railton

 

 

 

 

 

Obey Obey Obey

Friday

James 1-22

You’ve heard the message about the kingdom of God and you’ve been taught the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection. You decide you want to repent of your current lifestyle and be baptized into Jesus and become a part of the family of God. There’s one question that remains. What are you supposed to do in the meantime? What should you do until his return or your death. The answer is one word: obey. A person can believe all the other aspects of the gospel but if they don’t live lives of obedience to Jesus, then the rest doesn’t matter.

“…be doers of the word and not hearers only…” – James 1.22

James 1.22 is a popular verse and many people assume that ‘the word’ being spoken here is about the Bible. Thus it reads:

“…be doers of [what the bible teaches] and not hearers only…”

However, when James is writing this, the Bible we have today did not exist. The New Testament canon didn’t become finalized until hundreds of years later, so it begs the question. If James isn’t talking about the Bible, what is he talking about? In the New Testament the gospel has a plethora of synonyms, many that we don’t pick up on when we read. Some of the synonyms are:

The gospel of God – Mark 1.14

The gospel of Christ – Rom. 15.19

The good news – Acts 8.12

The word of reconciliation – II Cor. 5.19

The word of the Lord – Acts 16.32

The gospel of the grace of God – Acts 20.24

The Message of truth – Eph. 1.13

The gospel of peace – Eph. 6.15

The word of life – Phil. 2.16

The word of truth – Col. 1.5

The promise of life – II Tim. 1.1

The faithful word – Titus 1.9

The word of God – Heb. 4.12

The word – James 1.22

Instead of James saying that we need to be doers of the Bible, what he’s really saying is that we need to be doers of the gospel, not just a hearer. However, what does it mean to be a doer of the gospel? I thought the gospel was just something I experience once at my conversion and that is it? Well remember, the gospel is not just about Jesus’ death and resurrection but it is also about the kingdom of God. And the kingdom has two aspects, the future hope and the present reality. God’s reign and rule bursts into the present when we obey Jesus. When we obey Jesus, we obey him and the gospel he preached. When we obey Jesus, we become “doers of the word”.

Jesus wants all of you. Not part of you, not some of you, and not only on Sundays and Wednesdays. Not only when it’s convenient for you and not when you feel like it. Jesus wants all of your heart and mind and soul and body and he will not accept anything less. He demands that every aspect of your life be in subjection to him and his father.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the gospel’s will save it” – Mark 8.35

Obedience can be tough and difficult and not the easiest choice to make. But obedience is rewarding. When you obey Jesus and God you spread the kingdom influence and power to those all around you whether you know it or not. God blesses your loyalty and trust in him, when you obey. And lastly, when you truly repent and embrace the new life God has given to you through Jesus, your heart changes and you desire to obey. It doesn’t become a hassle or a chore. It’s a choice you want to make.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience from the things which he suffered. And having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation– Heb. 5.9

-Jacob Rohrer

 

 

Freedom IN CHRIST

Monday, September 25, 2017

Romans 8-1-2

Romans has always been one of my favorite books of the Bible. God speaks through Paul so powerfully and his words paint such a beautiful portrait of the Gospel. Romans 1-7 seems to just lay it all out and to sum it up, he shares the Gospel story like this: holy God, sinful man, coming wrath, perfect Savior, Jesus Christ crucified and risen, justification by faith, sanctification by faith.

Paul drives home his message in Romans 8:1-2.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin in death.”

That’s it. That’s the central, foundational message of God to the world. The message that we preach. The message that we take to the nations and to our neighbors. The message that we lay down our lives for: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because Christ has set us free.

If you have grown up in church like me, we can sometimes get used to this message. We hear over and over again the message of “freedom in Christ” and too often discount the weight of that phrase. Freedom in Christ– this message should never grow stale! Every day that we walk this Earth, we should be reminded of our freedom found only in Christ. We are free. We are free from death. We are free from finding our satisfaction in this world. We are free from the weight of sin, just as we are free from the eternal consequences of sin. And it’s only because of Jesus Christ that we are we are free.

And although we strive to obey God and walk in the Spirit, we will constantly find ourselves falling short. It is at these times that we must remember the beginning of Romans 8:1 that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But because of Jesus’s great victory, there is now no condemnation for believers. Our sins and failures do not cause the Lord to give up on us or to love us any less, because we are secure in Christ.  In this security found in Christ, we live a life of faith and repentance, continually serving the Lord and putting sin to death.

Tomorrow, we will continue to dive into Romans 8, talking about what it means to put sin to death. It is my prayer that today we will rejoice in our freedom that is found only in Christ.

-Jennie Montgomery

 

And, in case you missed Jennie’s Sunday intro video (sorry for that techie glitch) …

Here it is – enjoy!