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.

Advertisements

Day 18 – The Good Shepherd

Saturday – February 27, 2016

Day 18 – John 10:1-21 shepherd

Focus: vs. 11

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

This passage is about another of “The Great I Am’s” of Jesus. This one is “I am the good Shepherd.” I mentioned something about who I am in an earlier devotional but you will note that I cannot make the same claims as Jesus made. He, as the Son of God, only made truthful claims about who He is.  I can probably make some truthful claims about who I am but perhaps others may not accept those claims without some proof. The proof, of course, is in the pudding, as they say. I would have to show by my actions all the time that I am that person I claim to be. If I am caught in any small deviation from my claim then I would be said to be less than truthful and my reputation would suffer accordingly. Jesus has made this claim, and others, but has never been shown to be less than truthful. The Spirit-filled Jesus always meets the expectations He puts forth regarding Himself.

Our focus verse goes a step further with regard to this statement. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep“ (John 10:11). Notice that Jesus says He goes the extra mile for the sheep. He will lay down his life for the sheep. That would be the ultimate in shepherding, wouldn’t it? That is what Jesus has done. He is the good shepherd.

How do you stack up in this area? Are you always the epitome of who you say you are? That is probably not likely, right? But Jesus always is Who He says He is. The only way we can even come close to that is by being, as truly as we can be, the sheep of our Good Shepherd’s pasture. And we can only do that with the power of the Holy Spirit helping us to overcome our own tendencies and humanity.

Prayer Focus: Thank You, Lord Jesus, for being my Good Shepherd. Without You I would be one of the lost ones. Thank You for seeking me out and finding me. I do not understand why I am such a cause for rejoicing on Your part but I am eternally grateful for the privilege of being one of Your sheep. Please keep me safe and help me to produce even more sheep for your eternal care. AMEN.

Day 8 – Faith in Christ Brings Healing

Wednesday – February 17, 2016

Day 8 – John 4:46-5:17 Healing

Focus: vss. 4:49-51

49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering.

We like to think that we are hard-wired to act only on that which we can see. I suppose an example of that is with regard to weather forecasts. I, and a lot of others, tend to think that until it happens I won’t believe what the forecaster is saying. Do I believe that what they say is possible? Yes, I do, however I am more likely to think and say that I will believe it when I see it because I have seen too many forecasts which did not work out as they said they would.

I am impressed by this official (vv. 49-51) who came down to Cana from Capernaum specifically to ask Jesus to come and heal his son. He obviously thought Jesus could do this. Capernaum was about 15 miles from Cana, so it was considered a day’s journey. He wanted Jesus to go back with him to Capernaum to heal his son. There was urgency in this request as the son was apparently so sick the father thought he would die if they did not go quickly. That would have been another day of travel. Jesus instead shows his compassion and power by healing from a distance.  I readily agree that there is a difference between a weather forecaster and what Jesus did here. Jesus was not forecasting but simply showing His power to do things as he desires. I found it interesting that this man “believed” twice. He believed Jesus could heal his son even at a distance when Jesus told him his son was healed. Then after arriving at home to discover that his son was healed at the exact time Jesus said he was healed caused him to believe again. The first time he believed Jesus could heal. This second time he believed that Jesus was the Son of God (Messiah).

It is very human to want to see something for yourself before we believe it is real. The test of faith is that we believe it will happen before we actually see it in fact. Where are you in this area? Do you still want it to happen right then before your very eyes or are you willing to take by faith that what Jesus says He will do He does?

Both stories in our reading for today speak of healing that comes about because of faith. In the second story the man by the pool was healed when he took Jesus at His word and got up, took up his mat and walked. He acted on his faith just as the official acted on his faith. The result was healing in each instance. How real and active is your faith? Is Jesus Who He says He is? If that is really true, then what is our response or reaction to Him? Jesus was asking each of these men to act out of faith. They had hope in something but they needed to act on that hope. The “if” loomed large but was supplanted by a “yes” of belief for each of them.

Prayer Focus: Lord Jesus, I often get hung up on the “if” of a situation. If I can get in the pool first, if You will come back with me – then what I desire will be given me. Help me to go directly to what I am asking and expect You to answer. Sometimes what I expect to happen does not happen but instead You answer in another and even better way. Your way is always best. I will rest on that. AMEN.

Day 2 – Jesus Is the Son of God

Thursday – Feb. 11, 2016

Day 2 – John 1:19-34

Focus: vss. 32-34 Important.png

32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

This whole section from John’s Gospel, Chapter One is about a testimony. It is John the Baptist’s testimony concerning Jesus. In the process he had to disillusion people as to who he was not. He was not the Christ. He was not Elijah. He was not the Prophet. He said of himself that he was simply the “voice of one crying out in the wilderness.”  In fact, he even summarized his message for those sent by the Pharisees to question him. He even quoted Isaiah by saying his message was, “Make straight the way of the Lord.”

John the Baptist seems to be somewhat miffed that these people were focusing on him when he wanted to focus on the “Lamb of God.” Later on he even says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He had no aspiration other than to proclaim the coming of the Lamb of God. He is letting the pharisaic messengers know that their focus is all wrong. He is trying to tell them to get their attention off him and onto the one who is coming. He speaks of this one who is coming as being of much greater importance and he was just preparing the way for him. John “bore witness” as to who this person was. He did not know the name of this person until after he saw him and saw him in fulfillment of what God had revealed to him. See verse 33. Also, in verse 34, he plainly states that “this is the Son of God.” What a statement for him to make to these messengers from the Pharisees. Right off the bat he states clearly that he is preparing the way for “the Son of God.”  He is not important but obviously the Son of God IS important.  He baptized with water to call people to repentance in preparation for the coming of the Son of God. His was an important task but he himself was not important.

Do you know that we are all called to be John the Baptists to this sinful and broken world?  We are supposed to make straight paths for the coming of the Son of God to those in our generation. We are not important but the one we represent is definitely important. He is none other than the Son of God. In us, and around us, He is to increase while we are to decrease. Is that happening for you in relation to the Son of God who is your Savior and Lord? This is the most important distinction we can make about Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son of God!

Prayer Focus: Dear Jesus, forgive me for often thinking I and my needs are more important than You. Please continue to teach me about this special relationship I have with You. Help me to be more and more convinced of the fact that You ARE the Son of God.  AMEN.

Today . . . A Savior . . .

12-18

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

“The Word” of John is the “Savior” recorded in Luke’s gospel.  I remember the very great privilege I had three times to let various family members and friends know of the births of our children.  Our firstborn took his time coming into this world so by the end of the day most of our congregation was present in the waiting room.  Those phone calls to family members after each birth were very special and very much full of joy.  What joy must have been God’s at this beginning of the fulfillment of His plan of salvation for mankind!

Just think of the Apostle John pondering over how to present the incarnation of the Son of God to a world which had difficulty understanding it.  The angels basically made the rather stark announcement of the birth to the shepherds but made it in such a glorious way that the shepherds knew something special had happened.  John very carefully, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the same kind of message in a very spiritually sensitive way.  His way proclaimed the nature of this God-Man as being One who was from before the beginning and was, in point of fact, God Himself (see verse 1).  My very favorite portion of scripture is the prologue of John’s gospel (John 1:1 – 18).  So much about Jesus and His reason for coming is found in those 18 verses.  Christmas is the incarnation of the Son of God in human flesh.  God’s whole purpose for mankind is found in this act on our behalf.

Today as you think on this scripture focus on your reaction to what God has done for you and all in this world.  Have you ever properly thanked God for becoming flesh on your behalf?  Think also on John 1:12 where the apostle writes, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  The last part of verse 13 tells us that we are, “…born of God.”  What joy to be a child of God! Take a moment and express that joy to God now.

 

Jesus – The Son of David

Jesus - Son of David - Scripture LogoA local sportscaster, doing radio coverage of an Indiana high-school football game from the stands, used a chart listing the names, numbers, and positions of the players to help him describe the action. Then it began to rain; the ink on the chart ran, and the numbers on the backs of the players were covered with mud. Identifying the home-team players was easy, but the only familiar name on the lineup of the visiting Chicago team was that of Blansky, a linebacker who was up for all-state. As local listeners didn’t know the Chicago players, and his station wasn’t powerful enough to reach Chicago, the sportscaster made up the names of every Chicago player but Blansky. And since Blansky was the only legitimate name, he did his play-by-play with Blansky making most of the tackles.

The next day, the Chicago coach called him to say he had done a really nice job of covering the game, except for one thing.  Blansky had broken his leg in the first half and spent the second half in the hospital, listening to himself playing the game of his life.  A name can bring such expectations, can’t it?

In my family my sister is the one who is most interested in our genealogy.  In every family there usually exists someone who is more interested in genealogy than the rest.  Those are the ones who chronicle the family history.  We all come from somewhere.  It’s important to know that, isn’t it?  We all have a heritage.

How is your name?  What is it that people remember you for?  Is it a good name or a bad name?  Or is it just your name?

A 200-year-old church was being readied for an anniversary celebration when calamity struck: the bell ringer was called out of town. The sexton immediately advertised for another.

When the replacement arrived, the sexton took him to the steps leading to the bell tower, some 150 feet above them. Round and round they went, huffing and puffing all the way. Just as they reached the landing, the bell ringer tripped and fell face-first into the biggest bell of all. Bo-o-o-o-ong!

Dazed by the blow, the bell ringer stumbled backward onto the landing. The railing broke loose and he fell to the ground. Miraculously, he was unhurt – only stunned – but the sexton thought it best to call an ambulance.

‘Do you know this man’s name?”” asked the doctor when he arrived.

The sexton looked at the man and tried to remember without luck.  ‘No,”” the he replied, ‘but his face sure rings a bell.””

I do wonder sometimes how I will be remembered.  My name means “blessed,” among other definitions, but the meaning isn’t what defines me.  Rather, the my name is a connection to a whole lot of other in my family line.  It’s a connection to my heritage – some of which is good and some of which is bad.  That heritage means something.  For me, my heritage doesn’t hold me back or give me much of a leg up.  People and don’t hear my name and say, “Look out for this one, He’s got great expectations upon him for he bears a special name and heritage.”  They also don’t say, “Look out for this one, he’s bound to be a rat just like all the rest of that crazy family.”  And if they did, I’d just tell them Blansky did it.  For some, a name can be a hindrance and for some a blessing.

Early twentieth century evangelist Billy Sunday once said, “There are two hundred and fifty-six names given in the Bible for the Lord Jesus Christ, and I suppose this was because He was infinitely beyond all that any one name could express.”

In Matthew 15:22 Jesus was called by a name of great significance – one that showed great connection and promise.  Let’s take a look, starting in verse 21: “21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus had many names and we’re exploring many of them in our daily devotional journeys this Advent season.  This morning’s devotional explores the name “Son of David” and points to the heritage of Jesus.  It points to his lineage that marks him as one came from the kingly line of David.    Jesus came from somewhere.  He has a human heritage as well as a Godly one.

This human heritage of Jesus is very important as the Gospel writers are establishing that Jesus is the Messiah.  Coming from the line of David is a major prophecy fulfilled.  We read earlier this morning from Jeremiah 23:5-6 where a major messianic prophecy occurs.  It says, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’”  Matthew is making sure we understand that Jesus is the righteous branch of David – and don’t underestimate the importance of the word “righteous” in there.  Our heritage can say a lot about us.  It was important for Jesus to have a certain human heritage in order to fulfill prophecy.  It was proof of who He was.

Christmas is a time of tradition and a time of exploring our heritage.  For all the new stuff that comes out every year and for all the new generations it still comes down to where we come from.  Where we are now does not determine who we are, despite what we may want to believe.  When I was young I wanted to think I was different.  I was the new model.  I was new and improved.  I wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes my parents may have made.  I was here and now.  Now I’m a few years older.  In fact, I’ll soon be referred to as “middle-aged.”  Now I can tell you that I’m glad I came from somewhere.  I find comfort in participating my family’s traditions.  Even our new traditions wouldn’t be what they are without the past being the past.

Our traditions connect us with the past.  They connect us with our heritage and help define who we are, good or bad.  Jesus had a human heritage that defined who He was and what He was here to do.  Who knew a name could mean so much?

Jesus also had a Godly heritage.  “Son of David” defines a human relationship to the line of David but Jesus was also called “Son of God.”  It is this Godly line that holds so much importance for you and I today.  It is this Godly heritage that He has passed down to us.  We are now of a new bloodline.

At age 16 Andor Foldes was already a skilled pianist, but he was experiencing a troubled year. In the midst of the young Hungarian’s personal struggles, one of the most renowned pianists of the day came to Budapest. Emil von Sauer was famous not only for his abilities; he was also the last surviving pupil of the great Franz Liszt. Von Sauer requested that Foldes play for him.  Foldes obliged with some of the most difficult works of Bach, Beethoven, and Schumann. When he finished, von Sauer walked over to him and kissed him on the forehead.  “My son,” he said, “when I was your age I became a student of Liszt. He kissed me on the forehead after my first lesson, saying, ‘Take good care of this kiss, it comes from Beethoven, who gave it to me after hearing me play.’  I have waited for years to pass on this sacred heritage, but now I feel you deserve it.”

We have a new heritage as Christians.  A very special heritage has been passed down to us through the Divine bloodline of Jesus.  In Romans 8:14-16 Paul reminds us, “14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

When people see us coming they would do well to say, “Look out for this one, he has great potential because he comes from a royal bloodline.”  The only question left for us today is this: who’s heritage are you going to live up to?  Will you live by your heritage or the heritage of Jesus?  The Son of David offered his life so that you and I can be called Sons of God.