Selflessness, not Selfishness

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Philippians 2:3-4

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Often we get caught up in this world of trying to get ahead and have more things especially in America. Not only that, but why do we do the good deeds that we do? Before I do anything, I need to think to myself and pray, why am I doing this? Is it for my own gain? Is it for pride? Will it benefit someone else? It does not say you can’t have nice things or do things for yourself, but to put others first. It says to do things with the right intentions. James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 quote Proverbs, “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.”

Jesus carrying cross

Philippians 2:5-11

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God also highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Let us be humble and follow Jesus’ example. He is God. He is our Lord. He deserves our worship. He gave Himself for us so that we could be forgiven. Being forgiven, we are children of God and we should honor Him and live for Him and share all the good He has done for us.

 

Which Soil are You?

fresh-soil-1468423-1280x960How did you react to the gospel when you first heard it?  How do you react when the Lord speaks to you?  Do you follow godly advice?  Do you ever feel convicted?  Do you trust the Lord with all your heart?  Today I want to share the parable of the sower that Jesus told and how it relates to our lives.  Which soil are you?

Mark 4:1-20

And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that

‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,

And hearing they may hear and not understand;

Lest they should turn,

And their sins be forgiven them.'”

And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

I see this story relating to both those who are not yet believers and also to those that are. For someone who has heard the Gospel for the first time or is still learning and trying to figure out where their heart is in all of this, they may hear the Word and are really interested, but their heart is not in it and walk away and forget or it only lasts a short while, or they may not want to admit that they are a sinner and need a savior.  Others hear the Gospel, but have too many worries in their life to put their trust in Jesus, or are afraid of what others, especially those who are close to them, may think and do not want to commit for fear of rejection.  Others hear the good news of what Jesus has to offer (eternal life by believing that He is the Son of God and died for their sins and rose again) and accept that gift and trust in Him.  Those that do accept Christ into their lives will have great blessings, but not without hardship.

I also see this for Christians who have already accepted that gift through faith. Some go to church and hear the message that the Lord has provided, but go home and do not read their Bible or pray or serve or follow His commands.  Some are just not committed and do not put Jesus as the center of their lives.  Others struggle with the worries of their life and the temptations that come to them every day and try to overcome these things on their own without giving it to God.  Many struggle because they do not fellowship with other Christians to encourage and be encouraged, to ask for prayer and pray for others, to ask for help when needed and to provide help when possible.  As Ephesians 6 says, we are in a battle and the devil will do what he can to keep you away from God and devour you however he can (see also 1 Peter 5:6-8).  We need to “put on the armor of God.”  We are strong through Him, not by ourselves.  This is the “good soil”; reading your Bible every day, talking with God, which includes listening to Him (He may speak to you within your heart or mind, or through something the Bible says, or through a lesson in your small group, through a brother or sister in Christ, or through circumstances that may arise), be close to other believers and get involved, serve in a ministry, however big or small it may be, and above all LOVE.  Love the Lord with everything you have, and love those around you.

 

 

Law and Grace

ten-commandments-187967_1280God’s Law is perfect. What does it mean for us?  How does grace fit in?  How does the law fit in with grace?  What is grace?  Grace is unmerited favor; it is a gift from God.  Nothing we cannot earn our way into heaven.  To follow the law to earn our way to heaven, we must follow the whole law, every bit of it, all of it, every day.

Galatians 3:10-14

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

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None of us are good enough to obey all of the law.  We have all sinned against God and none of us are righteous enough to be in His glory.  Only by what Christ did for us and our faith and belief in Him will we have eternal life.  We are saved by grace, not by works

Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Galatians 2:16

…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

So, does that mean we do not need God’s law?  What is the purpose of the law?  It is to show us that we need a Savior.  That we are not able or worthy to enter God’s kingdom on our own.  Jesus is.  He is perfect.  He is God.  He paid the penalty for our sins and through His blood, we are declared worthy to enter into heaven, if we truly believe and surrender our lives to Him who is worthy.  What a blessing!

Romans 7:4-12

Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another — to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

We are saved by God’s grace.  So, once we are saved, does that mean we can live according to our own desires and wants?  Can we continue living in disobedience?  If there is no change, there is no redemption.  Once you put your faith in Christ, you will be change.  You will have new life. One question I have often heard is “if it were to be illegal for you to have faith in Jesus Christ, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  Let us hope so.  And let us be sure that the evidence is there.  Let the Holy Spirit guide you in your walk.  If you love Jesus, you will follow Him and obey Him, not to be saved, but because you are saved.

Galatians 5:13-15

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Rom 6:1-8

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.

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Thank God that we do not have to rely on ourselves.  Jesus died for us so that we can live with Him.  He will never leave you or forsake you and He gives you the Holy Spirit to guide you.  It is my prayer that you will accept the grace of God and believe.  I thank God that He gave me the faith and that He gave me grace.  I would truly be lost without Him.

What Crown will We Receive?

There will be a day when we will be at Jesus feet.  Some will see Him at the Great White throne judgment, and those of us who follow Him will see Him at the Bema seat.  Those who decide to not follow Him will be judged by what they did in their life to determine where they will go.  The Great White Throne is where He will judge the nations on whether they are worthy to enter into heaven.  Unfortunately, none of us are good enough to enter heaven on our own merit.

Revelation 20:11-15

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire

But, fortunately, Christ died on the cross and took the full penalty of our sins, so that those who believe will be saved and will spend eternity with Him.  We will be written and the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Romans 10:9-13

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Believers will be judged in a different way.  Our salvation is not based on what we do, but where our heart is.  We follow Christ and are saved.  As we follow Christ, we do works because we love Him.  We should be doing things to further God’s kingdom.  God will use each of us for His purpose.  The things we do on our own are of no use to Him.  .

1 Corinthians 3:9-15

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Our works will be judged to determine the rewards we will receive in heaven.  I believe when we receive these rewards, we will lay them down at Jesus feet in worship and gratitude to Him.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

The judgment seat, also known as the Bema seat is where Christ will sit and determine what rewards we will gain.  As believers, we have that guarantee to be in His presence for all eternity.  What a wonderful day that will be!  How awesome to be in His presence.  So what are these rewards?  There are several references in the Bible to different crowns we may obtain.  What are they?  These are the five crowns I have found in my studies.  Are there more?  Maybe.  Please comment if there are any in scripture I may have missed.

     1.  The Imperishable Crown.

I believe this may also be the crown of faith, or the crown of salvation.  Be strong in the Lord.  Follow His will.  Obey His commands.  Discipline yourself and practice those things in God’s word. That is how you obtain this crown.

  1 Cor 9:24-27

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

     2.The Crown of Life.

Those who believe in Jesus Christ, repent and overcome temptation, and endure by trusting in Him will receive the Crown of Life.

James 1:12

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Rev 2:10-11

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”‘

     3.  The Crown of Righteousness.

This crown goes to those who yearn for Christ’s return, those who are ready.  Jesus stands at the door and knocks.  Are you answering and allowing Him to come in?  Are you following Him and surrendering your entire life to Him?  What if He were to return right now?  Would He be pleased with what you are doing, how you are living?  Paul encourages us to be ready to share the gospel; to teach the truth; to not give up sharing the gospel and to defend it.

2 Tim 4:1-8

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

     4.  The Crown of Rejoicing.

As people come to Christ, those who disciple them will see great joy in watching their faith grow.

1 Thessalonians 2:19-20

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.

     5.  The Crown of Glory.

This is for those who lead in the church, in particular elders, who “shepherd the flock,” teaching and guiding with integrity to help others grow spiritually.

1 Peter 5:1-4

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

I think we receive some of these rewards in this life as well.  When you share the gospel and you see someone make a decision to follow Christ, there is no greater reward than that.  When you disciple someone and watch their faith grow, it is such a blessing.  May we strive to do all these things and more, not to gain reward, but because we love God and want to please Him, and because we love others and want them to have the grace and gifts of God that He has given us.

Love and the Commandments

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God is gracious and loves His children.  Jesus came to save the world and fulfill the law.  He gave us a new covenant, that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  The  Lord has come to save us, Jew and Gentile alike.  The law was brought to us to show us that we could never be righteous enough to obtain salvation on our own.  We should not ignore God’s commandments, though.  God’s commands are good and His ways are best for our lives.  As one who is born again, a person follows the commandments of God and live by the Spirit because we love Him.  We obey God not to gain salvation, but because of it.

Jesus taught us that it is not about the act of obedience, but the heart and desire to obey our Lord. The teachers of the law asked Jesus about God’s commandments.  They were always focusing on the doing, but Jesus taught people to take it a step further and to do things out of love.

Matt 22:36-40

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

What did he mean that all the law hang on these two commandments?  Well, let’s look at the ten commandments.

Exodus 20:1-17

And God spoke all these words, saying:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

These commandments teach us to love God.  ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

The rest of the commandments are examples how to love others.  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  When asked about this, Jesus did not quote the ten commandments, but told a story of someone who really showed love.  It was about treating others right.  Someone who showed compassion not who just followed a bunch of do’s and don’ts.

Luke 10:25-37

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?

So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’

And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed,* he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”