Christ Lives in Me

April 8, 2017 – Saturday
faith 2
Read: Galatians 2:19 – 21, NIV
Focus: v. 20, NIV

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

It would not be a bad idea to go back and read verses 11 through 18 to get the context for why Paul is writing these words. He is taking Peter to task because he was not acting honorably before both Jews and Gentiles at the church in Antioch. Actually, he was being two-faced about the whole thing and was rightly called out by Paul. When Peter was with the Gentiles he acted just like them and ate just like them but when certain Jews of the circumcision party came to visit (and spread their brand of poison – my words) he quietly defected to them to the extent that even Barnabas, Paul’s co-worker was co-opted into doing the same thing and other Jews who had been working with and eating with the Gentiles also fell away.

Paul is simply pointing out that adherence to rules intended to enforce the Law was now actually unnecessary because we are now in an era of grace and not Law. Verse 21 makes that abundantly clear. Our purpose in these devotionals is to emphasize what was accomplished by and through the Cross. Paul is making the point by using himself as an example that he himself had been crucified with Christ. His point is that the life he now lives in the body is one of faith in the One “who loved  (him) and gave himself for (him)” (vs. 20). The indication in the earlier portion of verse 20 is that not only was Paul crucified (spiritually) with Christ but he was also resurrected (spiritually) with Christ. He is living life by faith and not by works. In other places, Paul makes it clear that works are meant to be an expression of one’s faith and not a substitute for faith.

What kind of life are you attempting to live as a believer? Is it one filled with rules you absolutely “must” keep in order to get into heaven? Or, is it a life that is filled with the freedom that comes from living by “faith” and not works? Don’t get me wrong here – works will come but are more an expression of our faith and not intended to allow us into God’s presence. Only Jesus’ finished work on the Cross allows that to happen when we accept and live the life of faith. Dorcas and others mentioned in the New Testament were often eulogized for their good works but those good works were also recognized as arising from their faith and not as an attempt to somehow get into God’s good graces. Doing good works is a hallmark of being a Christian but it must be understood that the desire and strength come through faith.

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Day 36 – Another Denial

Wednesday – March 16, 2016

Day 36 – John 18:19-27 rooster

Focus: vs. 25

25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

The phrasing of that question to Peter was kind of convoluted but its import was understood by Peter who promptly denied that he was one of Jesus’ disciples. He was in a kind of precarious position but still feeling somewhat anonymous thus somewhat safe. This is Peter’s second denial with one more to come before the rooster would crow. I somehow think of that rooster as being Satan crowing over the defeat of this disciple of Jesus. Remember that Peter was certain he would not deny Jesus even when the Lord told him he would do so.

Have you ever tried to be anonymous even when all those around you knew who you were and what you stood for? I remember one time very clearly and I believe I have shared it with those who read these devotionals in a previous year. Even though I did not actually deny my Lord, I did not stand up for Him either. When asked why I carried my Bible to school I stumbled over my answer only to be “rescued” by a Catholic friend of mine. It was a defining moment in my relationship with Christ as I felt like I had denied Him. Thankfully we serve a forgiving God or neither Peter nor I would have ever received forgiveness. Peter’s forgiveness comes later after the Resurrection but mine came much sooner as I was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

The third denial comes when Peter is confronted by a relative of the man whose ear he had cut off in the Garden Of Gethsemane. Things were getting sticky for Peter and that is when the rooster crowed and Peter left the High Priest’s palace and went out and wept over his actions, according to the other gospel accounts. Denial can take many forms all the way from passiveness that we are not with Jesus to deliberately lying to keep from being allied with him for fear of what would come our way. We may even do something we really know Jesus would not approve of to prove we are not a part of Him. For Peter, the crowing of the rooster was a reminder of Jesus’ prophecy that he would deny the Christ.

We deny Who Jesus is when we deny our relationship with Him. Think for a while on how many forms this denial might take and whether or not you have used any of them. It could be as simple as not speaking up for what is right in Jesus’ name. Are you being bold in standing up for Jesus and His teachings?

Prayer Focus: Holy Father, I have examined myself and have found that I have not always been true to my Savior and Lord. Forgive me for those sinful acts of omission and commission which I done. Thank You for Your mercy and the restoration of joy in our relationship. AMEN.

Day 35 – Betrayal & Denial

Tuesday – March 15, 2016

Day 35 – John 18:1-18 Denied

Focus: vss. 3, 17

So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

A couple of days ago we talked about the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s. Those protests were always meant to be non-violent on the part of the protesters. It’s hard to do that. When you really believe in what you are fighting for, it’s hard to not take up a weapon and fight for it. It’s especially hard to see how anything other than a battle can accomplish your goals.

The Right to Life movement has taken a similar approach to ending the practice of abortion and other life issues. I get frustrated with this issue because I’m too much like Peter. I see the wholesale murder of defenseless babies and watch as their body parts are sold off to the highest bidder and it’s hard to choose a non-violent path. But we have to. This is an area where Jesus has asked us to leave the sword in its sheath. This issue has become ingrained in our society and the way to defeat it is to win the hearts and minds of the future generations. Meeting violence with violence, in a case like this, would only further entrench the destructive philosophies that justify it into our society. God doesn’t always fight like this but this is a case where He does.

Peter and Judas are contrasted in today’s scripture passage. One is the denier and the other is the betrayer. Peter was ready to fight it out. He was ready to die right then and there but Jesus knew what Peter didn’t. Jesus knew what His kingdom was really all about. This arrest had to happen. His death had to happen. That was the “cup” the Father had given Him to drink. Peter’s response is very human as is the betrayal of Judas. Judas had come to the conclusion that Jesus wasn’t going to do what he expected him to do and he was disillusioned. Everyone expected Jesus, as the Messiah, to take charge of the kingdom and boot the Romans out. He kept telling them His kingdom was something different but they wanted to believe their own interpretations of messianic prophecy over what they were hearing from the lips of the Messiah Himself. They wanted Jesus to defeat the Romans but Jesus was there to take on the real enemies of mankind: sin and death. The disciples didn’t understand that until after the Resurrection.

We have such a limited view, as humans. We can’t see the future and, to be honest, we’re not very good at seeing the past either. We want what we want and we don’t like it when reality stands in the way. A big part of accepting Jesus is accepting the need to simply trust in God. Jesus gives us the example in verse 11 when He tells Peter that He must choose the Father’s will over Peter’s will. Now is not the time to fight, now is the time for Jesus to die. But it’s also essential for Peter to live. Peter was the chosen leader for seeing the beginnings of the Church that was to carry the message of Christ’s victory to all the ends of the earth.

I have a limited view, too. I will confess my need to rely on Jesus who knows the future. Jesus told Peter to put away his sword and He often speaks to you and me this way as well. What follows, with Peter following at a distance and denying Jesus three times, is the result of Peter reeling after his entire world has just been shattered. He was ready to fight in the garden but the real battle, over death and sin, was one only Jesus could win. Peter’s role, and my role, is different. God wants me to be obedient to His will and leave the future up to Him. God has a bigger plan in mind and I’m not always helping when I pull out my sword and start a fight. My task is to trust in God and let Him use me in a way that accomplishes the most for His kingdom.

Can you trust in God? Can you let Him lead? Are you willing to lay down your sword and let Jesus win the fight for you?

Prayer Focus: Dear Jesus, only You know the future. Forgive me my impetuous nature. Help me to trust in You rather than take the battle into my own hands. Help me to be content to simply follow Your will. I will let You lead. Amen. 

Day 27 – The Betrayer

Monday – March 7, 2016

Day 27 – John 13:21-30 stab

Focus: vs. 21

21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

Et tu, Brute?” It’s one of the most famous quotes about betrayal that comes from the assassination of Julius Caesar. Caesar had become tyrannical as Roman Emperor and Brutus, his own nephew, joined in the plot to kill him. That final question (“You, too, Brutus?”) comes from Caesar’s lips as the level of betrayal hits him full force before he dies. To be “stabbed in the back” has become a common idiom to describe being betrayed by another.

Betrayal hurts. We often experience betrayal in small measure – like when a friend shares information about you with another person without your permission. Everyone experiences betrayal at some time or another in their lives but it usually doesn’t get them killed.

In our scripture for today Jesus is troubled after announcing his imminent betrayal. The disciples are confused and could never imagine one of them doing such a thing. Peter signals to John, who was sitting closest to Jesus, and asks him to find out who he is talking about. Jesus, in a round-about way, indicates the betrayer is Judas Iscariot. This is the beginning of the end for Jesus’ ministry on earth. Verse 27 indicates that Satan entered into Judas at that moment and left a moment later to do what he had come to do.

Judas was one of the twelve disciples. He had been close to Jesus for all three years of his ministry and I can only imagine how hard it was to be betrayed like that. Yet all the disciples scattered when Jesus was arrested. Even Peter, a hot-head who is always ready for a fight, denies knowing Jesus on three separate occasions as he follows the scene from a distance. Jesus betrayal was complete.

I was a fan of the Christian rock band called Petra while growing up. One of their songs from the early 80’s was called song of betrayal called Judas’ Kiss and it had some tough lyrics. It said, “I wonder how it makes you feel when the prodigal won’t come home. I wonder how it makes you feel when he’d rather be on his own. I wonder what it’s like for you when a lamb has gone astray. I wonder what it’s like for you when your children disobey. It must be like another thorn struck in your brow. It must be like another close friend’s broken vow. It must be like another nail right through your wrist. It must be just like – Just like Judas’ kiss.”

Have you ever betrayed Jesus? These verses are tough for us to hear because we like to think of betrayal as being ultimate and not something simple. We think of it as leading to the death of another rather than just something that causes a little trouble in a friendship. But betrayal hurts no matter how bad it is. To think that my willingness to sin is a betrayal of Jesus’ love for me makes my heart hurt. I don’t want to betray the One who willingly laid His life down for me.

Prayer Focus: Dear Jesus, I don’t want to betray you with my actions but I find that there is still so much sin in my life. Help me to clean out my heart. Forgive me when I sin and give me the strength to live for you. Amen.

Day 3 – Come Follow Me

Friday – February 12, 2016

Day 3 – John 1:35-51 Follow Me

Focus: vs 43

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

The relationship of master and apprentice is an interesting dynamic. In a work environment the apprentice works with and learns from the master. He learns the ins and outs of his trade and prepares himself to, one day, become the master and take on an apprentice of his own. This is a similar concept to the disciple following the teacher.

I spent an awful lot of time in college and seminary and engaged in a lot of student/teacher relationships but none of them compare to what it was like in Jesus day. The disciple didn’t just show up to work every day and clock in. He was with Jesus wherever Jesus went and he learned from Jesus in a very organic fashion. The disciple was there to pick up on all the little details in Jesus’ life and he learned just as much about how to be like Jesus as he learned about what Jesus believed and did. He would even see the subtle facial expressions and motions that told him how Jesus felt about every little thing. It wasn’t a job the disciples were learning, it was a way of life.

This section of our Gospel chronicles the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. It was time and He needed to invest His life in a group of disciples to accomplish what He was sent to do. He starts with Andrew, who quickly finds his brother Simon (Peter) and brings him to Jesus. The other disciple of John who started following at this point was probably John, the author of this Gospel. A few verses later Jesus finds Philip and says, “follow me.” Nathanael is then contacted by Philip.

Do you remember when Jesus asked you to follow Him? How long did it take you to realize this was more than just a momentary decision? Jesus still calls disciples today. Following Him isn’t just a job where you learn the ins and outs of Christianity; rather it’s a relationship where you are meant to learn from the Master. Jesus is calling you to go deeper and truly learn His ways in an intimate environment where the two of you are together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Every second is an opportunity to learn from the Master. Are you watching? Are you following?

The danger in our faith is in reducing it to nothing more than a job where we are learning the trade in order to pass it along. This is important but, if that’s all you’re doing, you’re missing out on the Master/Disciple relationship that Jesus desires with you. Perhaps this is the difference between Religion and Relationship that we like to talk about so much. This is your faith, learn it as you live it. Don’t waste any of the time you get to spend with the Master.

One other point I want to bring out is how we see two instances, in today’s scripture, of one disciple bringing another disciple to the master. Andrew brings his brother Simon and Philip brings in Nathanael. Jesus has room for more disciples. There are no earthly limitations here. So don’t horde your faith all to yourself – bring others into the fold.

Prayer Focus: Dear Jesus, I will follow you. You are the Master and I am your disciple. Help me to learn how to be like you. Help me to love like you and to develop your character in my life. Amen.