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Invincibility: Life or Death… I’m Good

Paul went from persecuting the church to being a persecuted apostle of the church. After his arrest in Jerusalem, during his first imprisonment, he wrote a letter to the Philippians in which he boldly declared this short but profound line…

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (1:21)

In other words… “If I live, I get to be all about Christ. If I die, I get to be with Christ, so either way, I’m good.” Here’s the thought that hit me – Paul was pretty much invincible at this point. Kill him and he’s with Jesus. Let him live and he’ll just live for Jesus. You can’t really hurt Paul.

I can think of plenty of things that could hurt me. Take away all my money, my time, or worse yet, take away my family and I’d be hurting. But I’d only hurt temporarily, or physically, or emotionally. Eternally? I’m good. We’re good. I won’t take money home with me and my family will meet me there.

Let me ask you an extremely important question… if someone took your life, would they be hurting you? If they let you live, would that cause pain for you too? Or are you firmly grounded and settled in an eternally secure relationship with Jesus?

As far as eternity is concerned, I’m invincible. Seems like I’ve always wanted that special power!

Meekness is the Leverage of Leadership

In today’s world, meekness = weakness. God does not view it that way, however. The Bible says of Moses,”Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) And in a world where power is everything, Jesus entered the scene in a wooden manger surrounded by barnyard animals. He grew up in an humble village, the son of a carpenter, of modest means. He lived His life serving others, yet Jesus was certainly the most influential leader in all of history.

If you study the lives of Moses and Jesus you’ll find something interesting – they were both great leaders. Both were willing to boldly confront sin and error. Both would rebuke those who believed and lived lies. Both were willing to venture out into the future with faith. Yet they were the meekest men in history. How can this be? You see, we’ve misdefined meekness. Biblical meekness is not weakness, it is really just the opposite.

The Bible’s word for meekness is used in reference to a broken horse, which has all the power to destroy its rider but refrains out of respect for authority. The word is also used to refer to a soldier who has all the might to take on the enemy, yet submits himself completely to the authority of his commanding officer. Meekness is the key to having leverage in leadership. It’s the refusal to demand respect in exchange for commanding it with a life of integrity. It is “controlled power.” Meekness is the willingness to supress those urges to lash out at the wrong time, opting instead to wait for further orders from our commanding officer, Jesus.

Is meekness displayed in your life? How can you submit yourself to Jesus more today? How can you lead others with boldness and courage?

The Gospel Transforms the Real Lives of Real People

In Western culture, we tend to be compartmentalists, which explains why we take our religion and put it in a box all week and take it out only when we engage in some kind of ritual such as attending church weekly, or maybe annually. We live on the mistaken assumption that the gospel is all about an event that happened a couple thousand years ago to a man named Jesus who is somewhat irrelevant to our modern technological age.

The gospel revealed in the Bible, however, is a gospel that transcends time and culture and transforms us at every level, in every area of our lives. When Paul wrote to the Colossian church about the good news of Jesus, he said, “It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.” And he went on to say, “We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit.”

The gospel is changing lives… Understanding it affects how you live… The gospel allows us to bear fruit in life… The Bible is pretty clear that the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins not only makes us right with God but also makes us live differently. The truth and grace of God give us a new ethical and moral foundation, but more importantly, a new heart.

So let the gospel convince you. And let it convert you. And let it change your life from the inside out.

Before God Formed You In the Womb

“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations—that’s what I had in mind for you.” So said God to a young prophet named Jeremiah once (Jeremiah 1:5 MSG). While these words were spoken in a particular context to a particular person, there are powerful principles we can draw out for a deeper understanding of God and His purposes.

God is God, and I am not. I’m limited by time and space, a minuscule amount of knowledge of the universe, and a tendency to do the wrong thing, none of which characterizes God. Sometimes I need a reminder that I’m not Him. And the bigger He is to me, the better equipped I am to handle life.

God is also far more than an impersonal, almighty force. He’s personally involved in the affairs of mankind and the creation of each and every person on earth. He knits us and forms us in the womb with tremendous care. We are unique individuals, hand-crafted with purpose in every detail. And even our flaws are characteristics God can use in surprising ways.

And further, God knows our lives. He knows our thoughts, our intentions and motives, and our futures. He’s intimately aware of our personalities whether we are aware of His or not. Long before we meet Him, He’s preparing to cultivate in us a new, clean heart. And if we will yield to Him, He can use us to influence our worlds in ways we haven’t even imagined yet.

Before God formed you in the womb, He knew all about you. And He has a purpose for you and longs for you to approach Him to discover it.

Walk In the Spirit and Overcome!

Spirit vs LawThere is a wrestling match going on inside every believer in Christ. It is the war between the Holy Spirit Who has intertwined Himself with our very being and our flesh, that part of us that acts and decides apart from the influence of God. One of the most common questions Christians ask is, “Will I ever be done with the fight, or will I always struggle like I do now?” And the answer is yes and no.

Obviously, we’ll be done with the fight and live on in infinite victory when Jesus comes to put an end to the war forever, but in this life, is real victory possible? The answer is twofold.

In Galatians 5:16-18, Paul tells us on the one hand, that it is impossible for the believer to overcome the power of the flesh. He says, “you cannot do the things that you want.” He also said in Romans 7 that he was always involved in a battle between the flesh and Spirit and couldn’t seem to feel any sense of total victory. The battle rages on. In our flesh, and as long as the old, dead body of sin hangs around, we are rendered virtually incapable of any triumph – we wrestle on.

Thankfully, however, there is a contrasting thought that, though seemingly a paradox, runs alongside our inability to overcome. It is the absolute and abiding power of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul says, “You cannot do the things that you want, but if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

We typically think of the “law” in the Bible as the mosaic law, the commandments and ceremonies that Moses gave to Israel. But the word “law” in this context more likely refers to the nature of things, such as the law of gravity or in this case, the law of our flesh. As lost sinners, we are bound to the natural law which essentially binds us to a life of continual sin. But…

If you are “led by the Spirit” however, there is freedom from the law. Galatians 5:16 is a key verse in the Christian life, “This I say then, walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Each verb tense is continuous, so literally, anytime you are continuously walking in the Spirit, you will not be fulfilling the lust of the flesh. Anytime you are not walking in the Spirit, you’ll be susceptible and vulnerable to the intense desires of the flesh, which by nature, craves the fleeting pleasure of sin.

You’re going to fail again. Why? Because you’re made of flesh. But in this moment you can have victory if you’re willing to be led by the Spirit of God. The question then becomes, are you more yielded to His control now than you used to be? Are you growing in your submissiveness to Him? Are you making forward progress in your intimacy with God?

Thank God the ability to overcome the flesh is not in me – it is in God. My willpower alone will usually let me down, but the power of God operating within me by the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit is unstoppable. Don’t just say “no” to sin, say “yes” to Almighty God!