Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Light (2 Cor. 4:5-6)

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:5-6, NASB)

Many of us live in darkness. The darkness of physical pain. The darkness of emotional turmoil. The darkness of troubled relationships.

Some of us even live in spiritual darkness.

Only One person can bring us into the light, no matter what darkness we face.

Jesus Christ—Messiah, Savior, Redeemer—is the Light. He shines through the darkness, and He leads us through whatever murky valley we’re traveling.

As the psalmist wrote, “I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won't be afraid. You are with me …” (23:4, CEV).

John also wrote about the Light: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5, NKJV).

When we commit our lives to God, we too walk in the light, and we should reflect that light to others. Just two verses later in 1 John, we read, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1:7).
And as Matthew wrote, we are to be light to others: “Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven” (5:16, CEV).

God’s light does and will shine out of darkness. We can cling to His hand, and He will lead and guide us.

And most wonderful of all? One day, we will live with Him in heaven where darkness will be abolished forever:

Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs. And they will rule with him age after age after age. (Revelation 22:5, MSG)
I can’t wait!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lifting the Veil (2 Cor. 4:3-4)

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:3-4, NASB)

We are in a battle, as Paul wrote, not “against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). And the enemy of our souls, the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), wants nothing more than to keep people from coming to faith.

He uses the enticements of this world to seduce unbelievers and convinces them that they don’t need a Savior. They’re basically good, they think. Christianity is too restrictive, and Christians are hypocrites, they say.

They view all religious beliefs as the same, and everyone will get to heaven. Or they don’t believe in any religion and figure they might as well live this life to the fullest.

They’re blinded to the truth. To them, the gospel is veiled.

We can help to lift that veil. We need to be the light of Christ, attracting unbelievers to the “gospel of the glory of Christ.” We need to help them see their need for a Savior. We need to illustrate the joy that comes by being in relationship with Christ.

One day, we’ll all stand before the throne of God. Those of us who know God’s truth and who have accepted the gift of salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ will hear, “Well done” (Luke 19:17). And those who have rejected Him will hear, “
I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS” (Matthew 7:12).

What will you do to lift the veil?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Free from Shame (2 Cor. 4:1-2)

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:1-2, NASB)

How often have you let past sin cause present shame? That momentary indiscretion. That ill-advised choice. That spark of rebellion.

It’s in the past. It’s done.

You’ve asked for forgiveness, but sometimes, you still feel shame.

You don’t need to feel that way. You can “renounce” those things. Why? Because we serve a merciful God. We don’t have to live in shame any longer because all our past sins have been wiped away by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are, in the Father’s eyes, white as snow.

While grace is getting what we don’t deserve, mercy is not getting what we do deserve. We do deserve condemnation. We do deserve to live in shame. But our merciful God has wiped away our sins, and He remembers them no more (Isaiah 43:25).

And if you think about it, continuing to live in shame is almost saying that Christ’s sacrifice isn’t enough. That God’s promise to forget our sins is a lie.

In the words of Paul, may that never be!

Once we’re saved through the acceptance of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, we don’t need to feel any shame.

Just tremendous gratitude for God’s grace and mercy.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Belonging to Christ (2 Cor. 3:21-23)

So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
(2 Corinthians 3:21-23, NASB)

“… you  belong to Christ; Christ belongs to God …” Such wonderful words! I belong to Christ, my Lord and Savior. I belong to the Lord God Almighty.

And because I belong to Him, I know several things:

I know He loves me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

I know He’ll never leave me (Hebrews 13:5).
 Or as the psalmist wrote, “God will never walk away from his people, never desert his precious people” (Psalm 94:14, The Message).

I know He’ll be my refuge in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1-2a).

I know He’ll provide for my needs (Matthew 6:8, 31-32).

I know He thinks I’m valuable (Luke 12:6-7).

I know I’m His child (John 1:12).

I’m blessed beyond measure. Not only am I saved through the death and resurrection—which would be more than enough—I belong to Christ, and He chooses to bless me with so much.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Godly Wisdom (2 Cor. 3:18-20)

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.”
(2 Corinthians 3:18-20, NASB)

At my small group the other night, one of our ladies was talking about how she sometimes felt inadequate because she didn’t have a string of letters after her name. She never got a degree, so sometimes she felt … well, less than others. We all assured her that a degree doesn’t necessarily equal superior intellect or wisdom. Often, it means that someone worked really hard to get it, but he or she might not be any smarter than one without a degree.

One of the most intelligent people I know never received a degree, but he knows so much about history, science, geography … much more than I, with my two degrees, know about them.

We so often look at earthly “wisdom” as being something of great importance. And I’m not saying that education and seeking knowledge here on earth is a bad thing. But we Christians have to be careful not to rely too much on the “wisdom of this age.”

This world’s wisdom tells us that fame is important. We should strive for riches. We should live for "sex, drugs, and rock and roll."

The Bible tells us something very different. Jesus told His disciples that they—and we—should be “poor in spirit … gentle … merciful … peacemakers” (see Matthew 5:3-9). We should love others just as Jesus loved us—and He was willing to die for us (see John 15:12).

We should keep ourselves pure:

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD
(Psalm 24:3-5a)
And “How can a young person [and may I say an old person as well?] lead a clean [pure] life? By carefully reading the map of [God's] word” (Psalm 119:9, The Message).

We should seek righteousness. As the psalmist wrote, "
For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield” (5:12). A later psalm asks:

O LORD, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
We are to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).

We need to seek godly wisdom. Instead of—or in addition to—reading the latest bestseller, we should be reading His word. Before we talk to our friends, we should talk to Him.

Seek the Lord’s wisdom because that’s where we learn to be like Christ. Truly wise.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Temple of God (2 Cor. 3:16-17)

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
(2 Corinthians 3:16-17, NASB)

I read these verses, and I’m humbled and encouraged … and convicted.

I’m humbled to think that the God of the universe wants to “dwell” in me. That He sees me as worthy enough to inhabit. That He sees me as holy.

It’s a mystery beyond my comprehension: God—Father, Son, and Spirit—loves me so much that He wants to commune with me. He wants to hear my voice. He wants to speak to my heart. He wants to fulfill His purpose in me.

He wants to live in me.

I’m encouraged that I’m not alone in this journey. I know God will grant me the strength I need to make it through the difficult days—and there have been more of those than not lately. I know the Spirit will help me make right decisions.

As He lives in me.

I’m convicted that I don’t care for this “temple” as I should. I don’t keep the “rooms” as clean as they might be as I sometimes fill them with thoughts of this world. I don’t keep it as strong as I should when I don’t exercise or when I don’t eat well.

I am holy in my Father’s eyes, and His Spirit chooses to reside in me. I need to honor that choice by filling my heart and mind with those things that are good and right and pure (see Philippians 4:8). I need to stay as strong as possible to do that God has called me to do.

And I need to care for this temple … the home of the Spirit of God.