Do You Know Who You Are?

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Identity is a complex thing. We identify ourselves by many different criteria, none of which fully explains who we are. If you are a Christian, you have an identity that is supremely more important than any other title or identifier. 

As we saw in 1 Peter 2:1-3, these new believers were maturing through suffering. Suffering can produce spiritual maturity which in turn leads to a greater understanding of identity. 

For example, a baby born into the British royal family has no idea of their identity. Everyone around them knows their identity, but as an infant, they don’t. As the child grows and matures, they become aware of the fact that they are royalty, and they begin to understand the privileges and responsibilities that come with that. In the same way, maturing believers grow in the understanding of their identity in Christ. 

Living Stones

In verse 4, Peter begins by stating that Jesus is a living stone who was rejected by men but chosen and precious in the sight of God. 

Jesus is the foundation stone of the church today. Any church that does not have Jesus and his Word as their foundation is simply not the church (see 1 Corinthians 3:11). 

Peter then turns to his readers in verse 5 and says, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood”, 1 Peter 2:5a.

Every believer is a stone in the Church. The building is not complete; daily it is being added to. The global Church numbers nearly 2.4 billion people, and that number is growing rapidly in the developing world. Jesus continues to build his church. 

Holy Priests

Not only are believers building stones in God’s Church; they are His priests. In the Old Testament, the Israelite priest functioned as a mediator between God and the people of Israel. The priest represented God to the people and the people to God. This was a huge responsibility reserved only for Israelites from the tribe of Levi. 

Now, under the new covenant, Jesus is our High Priest. He is the ultimate mediator between us and God, and he calls us to be his priests on earth representing our community to God and God to our community. We are Christ’s representatives in our circles of influence.

Spiritual Sacrifices

Verse 5 continues that as priests we have the responsibility to, “…offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

What are these sacrifices? The Bible gives us a few examples. We are called to: 

  • Reject sin and present our bodies as a holy living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2)
  • Offer a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15)
  • Give of our finances as a holy sacrifice to God (Philippians 4:18)
  • Practice evangelism as a sacrifice to the glory of God (Romans 15:16)

We must never fall into the trap of thinking that these spiritual sacrifices are a way to earn our salvation. Our salvation has already been obtained for us by Jesus. Offering these spiritual sacrifices is our pleasure and privilege as followers of Jesus because they bring glory to his name and eternal rewards to us. 

Do you believe?

In verse 6, Peter, quoting Isaiah 28:16, writes, “…whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Believing is not simply giving verbal assent to the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is important, but true belief affects every aspect of our lives. Our belief informs our decisions. If you say you believe that Jesus is Lord of your life, then your decision making should reflect this.

We will not be put to shame for our belief in the gospel—that is a promise of God’s Word.

But for those who do not believe, the gospel is a stumbling and offense (see 1 Peter 2:7-8). 

Today, Jesus is still rejected because what he taught is inconvenient.  The things Jesus taught about marriage, finances, forgiveness and so much more are a stumbling block in our culture (see Matthew 5-7). If you stand for the Lord Jesus, you will also be a stumbling block. 

Your True Identity

Verse 9 goes on to say, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 

If you have believed in Jesus as Lord, this is your identity:

  1. You are a chosen race: We are chosen by God to take on a new identity as part of His family (see John 15:16).
  2. You are a royal priesthood: We are called by the King of Kings to be his priests here on the earth. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we have full access to the throne of God, and we have a great high priest, Jesus, interceding for us. 
  3. You are a holy nation: We are a set apart nation—not “we” as Americans, but “we” as followers of Jesus, all 2.4 billion of us around the world. Our citizenship is in heaven (see Philippians 3:20). 
  4. You are a people for his own possession: How much does God value us? Consider what he paid for our freedom: His own son. You are of infinite value to God because He gave His only son for you. Not because He needs you, but because He chose you and bought you with the price of the precious blood of Jesus.

A chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession—that is who you are. That is your identity.

The Joy of Our Identity

In verse 10, Peter tells us why God has done this for us, “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

This identity comes with great privilege, great responsibility, and even greater joy. Every citizen of heaven is called to display Christ, to be salt and light in a dark world. We do this by living to glorify God with every facet of our lives, not just our Sunday morning church lives. 

Do you know who you are? Are you maturing in your walk with the Lord and becoming more aware of your true identity?

When Life is Unfair.

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If you have lived for any length of time, you have realized by now that life can be unfair. Sometimes we get attacked, violated, and humiliated, even by those we trusted and befriended. 

Psalm 35 is a prayer of David crying out for vindication and relief from his attackers. 

Maybe you can identify with David today; perhaps you are experiencing injustice right now. How do you respond? How do you pray? 

Psalm 35 shows us three things King David asks for that are helpful in our prayers as we endure unjust suffering. 

1: Fight my battle for me.

David, the giant slayer, warrior and general, is asking God to fight for him. 

Psalm 35:1 says, “Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!”

David is experiencing injustice, and he was tired of trying to fight his own battles. He asks God to take over. David realizes that he is going to die unless the Lord fights for him. 

It seems that David is losing the battle; he is exhausted and in fear of death, so he cries out to God to fight for him. Then he declares, “Say to my soul, “I am your salvation!” (Psalm 35:3b).

There are times when the battle seems to be never ending. The deliverance we are praying for doesn’t seem to come, but what we don’t know is that it may be right around the corner. 

David is asking for some assurance that God will indeed rescue him. Do you know what it is like to be going through intense trials, and you just need God to say, “I am with you, I am fighting for you”? Just that reassurance will enable you to keep going. 

Have you been a victim of injustice and the person who wronged you seems to have gotten away with it? You are angry and risk becoming bitter. But bitterness won’t only affect you; it will affect those around you. 

There is a saying that goes, “If you don’t heal from what hurt you, you’ll bleed on those who didn’t cut you.”

What King David is rightly  calling for—and what we call for—was justice! Just simple justice (see Psalm 35:4-6). David wants to see his enemies ashamed and dishonored and all their plans coming to nothing (see Psalm 35:8). 

In those times when we just want the wrong made right, we must remember that Jesus knows what that is like. Jesus said in John 15:25, “But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.”

Jesus knows our pain, and he is the one who will fight our battles. Romans 12:19 says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

We can trust the Lord for justice—justice is His! 

2: This is unfair!

It is one thing to be hurt by evil people, sinners who we don’t know, but what about the times when those hurting us are people that we love and respect? Maybe someone you considered a close friend or family member has hurt you (see Psalm 35:11-16). David is being falsely accused by people that he had shown love and care for. 

Being falsely accused should not be unexpected as we walk this life as followers of Jesus. It happened to Jesus and many other followers of Jesus throughout history. Satan will always use the lies of those we trust to hurt us the most. 

As Christians, we expect persecution and lies from people who are not saved. But when it comes from friendly fire, those wounds hurt far more. It is one of Satan’s favorite weapons to discourage us. 

David is simply crying out to God to deal with the unfairness. He is frustrated that the injustice seems to be going unchecked. 

Can you identify with his frustration and his pain today?

3: Make it right so that I may praise you. 

David wants to bring glory and honor to the name of the Lord. David asks God for a powerful testimony, something he can share with others for God’s glory. In Psalm 35:19-27 we see that David takes his hands off the situation and asks God to intervene for him in justice.

Jesus knew that pain throughout his time on the earth; as a result, he can identify with your situation. 

However, we are assured of victory. Evil people can take everything you have, but they will always be unsatisfied, and our Heavenly Father will always see to it that His child gets justice. 

In verses 27 and 28 of the Psalm, we see that David declares the praises of God in spite of his situation. God has heard his prayer and brought him peace, and he is rejoicing in the Lord. 

There is tremendous power in the testimony of God’s children. We need to share those testimonies with those around us and with the church family.  It encourages us and builds up our faith. 

Has God rescued you? Have you told others about it?

Jesus in the Psalm?

Each of these three prayers that David prayed, are very similar to what Jesus must have prayed: 

  • Father, fight my battles for me.
  • Deal with the unfairness that I don’t deserve from the people I love. 
  • Vindicate me that I may bring glory and praise to Your name.

God the Father did that for His son Jesus, and we can be assured that He will do the same for us. 

Jesus did it already in the Gospel. 

  • He fought the Battle that we couldn’t fight over sin and death, and he was victorious. 
  • Jesus took on all the shame and unfairness that Satan could deal out, and he did it for us. 
  • Jesus made the way for us to be made right with God so that we in turn could live for Him and bring glory to His name. 

What is that situation that you need to give to God today for him to fight?

Grow Up

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Christians, like babies, are expected to grow. When one is born again, there is an expectation that the young believer will grow into spiritual maturity. Satan and his demons have many weapons that they use to prevent a new believer from becoming all that God has called them to be. One of these tools is complacency, settling for the status quo and not growing. The terrible truth about complacency in the Christian life is that it leads to atrophy and death.

In 1 Peter 2:1, the Apostle instructs his readers to put off malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. These are all things that hinder growth in our spiritual lives. We are really good at identifying these vices in other people’s lives, but we often excuse them in our own lives.

Let’s look at each one briefly:

Malice:

Malice means the intent, or the planning to do some harm or evil to someone else. Like any sin, it begins in the mind. Malicious intent comes from festering thoughts. One of the best definitions I read for Malice is “congealed anger”.

Malice leads to Deceit:

This is craftiness or acting with impure motives. Using devious words to get what we want. A classic example of deceit in the Bible is the account of Annanias and Saphira in Acts 5.

Deceit leads to Hypocrisy:

Hypocrisy is pretending to be what we are not. The church is often accused of being filled with hypocrites.

If I claim to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and love my neighbor as myself, but my lifestyle outside of the church does not back that up, I am a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy is hiding our true self.

Hypocrisy leads to Envy:

At its root, envy is a lack of faith. It is not trusting that the Lord is good and that what He gives us is sufficient and good for us. Envious people are not able to celebrate with other people when they are blessed.

Ultimately envy leads to Slander:

Finally, the malicious thoughts can no longer be contained, and we begin to verbalize our feelings. Slander is bringing someone down to make yourself look good. Another definition of slander is evil speaking. Most of the time, slanderous people hide their own sin.

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The Antidote:

In verse 2, Peter gives the antidote. The reason we act with malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander, is because we are spiritual infants. Verse 2 reads, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”

A baby knows instinctively when they need milk, and where to obtain that milk. Just as babies desire healthy milk, so to, Christians should desire the healthy milk of God’s word.

Sadly, when we harbor these sins, we will be sick, and we will not desire the milk of the word of God. A Christian grows by feeding on the Word. Allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and our minds.

When we lose our appetite for the Word we will stop growing.

Sadly, we live in an entertainment culture, driven by video clips and sound bites. People have no appetite or desire to read the word of God, rather they will spend hours watching video clips, even “Christian” videos. There are millions of hours of video content by people who claim to be knowledgeable in the Word of God. We spend hours watching these videos before reading the Word of God for ourselves. But you will not grow on secondhand food, you need to feed on the Word of God for yourself.

As we grow, we find out that the Bible is milk for new believers and also meat for those who have grown in their faith. Charles Spurgeon said, “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.”

However, there are many things that hinder our appetite for the Bread of Life. When we consume internet videos, social media, inappropriate movies and the like, content that we know is against the will of God for our lives, it will ruin our appetite for the truth of God’s Word.  

Grow into salvation:

Verse 2 ends with, “That by it you may grow in respect to salvation.

Nutritionists will tell you that you are what you eat, and the purpose of feeding on the Word is to grow in our salvation.

We rightly celebrate when someone is saved. New believers are a thing to celebrate in the church and it excites us, but that is not the end of the journey. Salvation is so much more than a way to avoid hell. We are saved for more.

A real danger in the church is that we don’t challenge people to mature. We are thrilled when people are saved and baptized, but then we give the impression that it is okay to sit on the sidelines and simply be entertained by Christian activity. Sadly, people who sit on the sidelines for too long end up becoming critical and prideful.

Humility comes from realizing our inadequacy. You only really realize your inadequacy when you are stretched to do things for the Lord that you have never done before or struggle to do.

As Christians, we have been saved from death and saved for life, and that eternal life starts the moment you are saved. Being born again must be followed by growth.

Maturing Christians are growing in the Word.  They are peacemakers, not troublemakers, and they promote the unity of the church. Our greatest spiritual growth takes place when we are forced to rely totally on the Lord. As we grow in the Lord, he will lead us into areas of ministry or situations that require us to grow in faith.

You may be called to some area of ministry that you don’t feel equipped to do.  That is good, because none of us should ever think that the Lord needs us because we have something special to contribute that no one else has. That is a sure sign of immaturity.

What is God calling you to do that is will stretch you?

The Eternal Word of God

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Whenever I can offer Bibles at outreach events or to people on the streets, people eagerly jump at the chance to have the Word of God in their own hands.  They have  a hunger for this book that is supernatural. 

But yet in the church, where we proclaim the Word and stand on it as a pillar of the church, the Bible seems to be less valued, or at least less hungered for. Are you hungry for the Word of God?

In 1 Peter 1:22 we read, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” 

The forgiveness of our sins comes only through repentance and the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus. But the Bible is the powerful and miraculous cleansing agent that the Holy Spirit uses to reveal truth, convict us of sin, and transform our lives (see Hebrews 4:12-13).

The Brotherly Love from the Word of God

The Greek word for “brotherly love”, used in verse 22, means the love that is found in the church between a group of believers.  Peter encourages his readers to love earnestly from a pure heart. Love for others is a direct outflow of obedience to the Word of truth. 

By our sinful nature we are selfish, especially when placed under pressure. Peter is writing to a group of exiled Jewish believers who are going through hard times. They would have been tempted to isolate themselves and care for themselves first.  

We saw this during the COVID season in 2020; many people stopped loving their brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Our “brotherly love” was tested, and it will be tested again. 

As Christians, we are saved by a supernatural love unto a supernatural love (see Romans 5:5). Our love for one another in the church is evidence of being saved from sin and filled with the Holy Spirit.

The real reason why we don’t love with a sincere brotherly love is because we fear that if we truly commit to loving one another as the Word of God says, it will cost us something. And that is true. But if we don’t pour out what we have first received, we will be weaker for it. 

No one ever gained anything by withholding sacrificial love (see John 13:34). 

How did Jesus love us? He gave his life for us, and we are called to prefer one another in love.  

The Role of the Word of God

To love well, we have the Spirit of God to enable us and the Word of God to equip us. The Word of God is our authority when it comes to interpersonal relationships in the church. A right relationship with the Word of God will lead to right relationships with each other. 

The Bible is the best counselor, leadership manual, teambuilder, discipling tool, parent manual, marriage guide, and so much more. The Word of God is a pillar of the church because that is what ties us together. We have this supernatural truth in common: we have been changed and transformed by the power of the Word of God. 

1 Peter 1:23 says, “Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” 

Peter again uses the phrase “born again”. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have been born again into a living hope (see John 3:3). 

Peter compares the Word of God to a seed; he was obviously remembering the parable that Jesus taught in Matthew 13. A small seed seems insignificant and is useless unless it is planted. And if the seed is planted in good soil and is well watered, it will grow to produce a harvest. That is what the Word of God does in our lives. 

The Endurance of the Word of God

In verse 24, Peter quotes Isaiah 40:6-8, describing the eternal nature of the Word of God. 

We are eternal beings living in temporary bodies that will ultimately become dust. We are passing through this world, and everything we build is short-lived. But the unchanging truth is that the Word of God will remain forever. 

God’s Word is eternal, and the fruit of the seed of God’s Word is eternal. Peter reminds his readers that the Gospel that was preached to them is the eternal Word. We cannot add to the Gospel; we simply must receive the Good News and apply it to our lives. There is enduring power in the Word (see John 1:1-5). 

The Power of the Word of God:

We need the teaching and the preaching of the Word today more than ever; there is so much false teaching in the church, and people simply don’t know the Word of God for themselves. 

I always cringe when well-meaning people suggest that we just need to worship and pray; we don’t need to have so much preaching and teaching on Sunday mornings. 

Worship and prayer are excellent and needed, but without the declaration of the truth, the church will starve. The global church today has millions of starving Christians who are well entertained, whose emotions are excited, but whose souls are starving for the transforming power of the Word of God. 

In Ephesians 6, we read that we are in a spiritual war, and the weapon of offense that we have is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in Luke 4, he simply declared the Word of God and Satan fled, defeated. That is how we fight our battles—with the Word.

As a pastor it is my duty to present a meal of substance on a Sunday morning from the Word of God. I take the preparation and declaration of the authoritative Word very seriously. I will always endeavor to declare the truth of God’s Word because it has the power to transform lives. 

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

A call to Holiness

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It has been said that the theme of 1 Peter is, “The Christian’s hope in times of trial”.

In the first section of chapter 1, Peter emphasized walking in hope; but now his emphasis is walking in holiness (see 1 John 3:3). 

1 Peter 1:13 reads, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Prepared for Action

We prepare our minds for action by putting on the Helmet of Salvation as part of the Armor of God from Ephesians 6. The Gospel protects our minds against the false message of Satan’s kingdom.  

Sober Minded

Peter then exhorts his readers to be “sober minded”, that is, to think rightly and  clearly. Don’t allow gossip, lust, envy, pride, conceit, fear or any other thought that is contrary to the truth of God’s word to dwell in your mind. 

You are not what you think you are, but what you think – that you are”. Brian Tracy

What you choose to dwell on will make or break you. It will determine what type of person you will end up becoming in this life.

Ultimately, you choose what to think about, you choose what to dwell on, affects your whole life. (see Philippians 4:8).  The Apostle Peter is addressing the readers’ thinking. Where does our temptation and trouble always start? With a thought or an idea. We see something that  triggers a thought that leads to temptation.

Our minds are the epicenter of the spiritual war that we are engaged in. 

Satan wants to corrupt our minds with his lies. This is why the media and entertainment industry are so incredibly powerful. There is a battle for control of our minds. 

To fight this, we must spend time in God’s word. We are living in a world with constant information, news, movies, radio, internet, and social media.  We are saturated with up to sixteen hours a day of information—and not much of it is good. 

Sadly, the average believer doesn’t feel that it is important to read and meditate on God’s Word. When we neglect feeding on God’s Word, saturating ourselves with the truth, we will find it difficult to discern the truth. 

Proper actions come from proper thinking. What we think about will ultimately determine our practices. 

We often are surprised when someone we know is caught in a grievous sin or criminal activity, but it all begins with improper thinking. 

Hope Set Fully

Peter continues, in verse 13, “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  

As Christ followers, we should be thinking about the imminent return of Jesus. It should be so real to us that it governs every decision and action in the present. 

From my own personal experience, I find that it is usually in hard times that I think about the possibility of Jesus coming again, but when times are good, it isn’t really on my mind. However, Christians should always live with the expectation of seeing Jesus Christ.

Warren Wiersbe wrote, “A Christian who is looking for the glory of God has a greater motivation for present obedience than a Christian who ignores the Lord’s return.” 

When we center our thinking around the eternal Kingdom of God, we are free from the things that hinder our walk with the Lord. As you do that, we experience His grace. Grace to live out the Gospel of the kingdom of heaven (see Titus 2:11–13), and grace to endure tough times.

Conformed to Christ

The letter continues in verse 14, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance”. We are blessed to be God’s dearly loved children, not subservient slaves. 

Children inherit habits and nature from their parents. As we walk with the Lord, growing in our relationship with Him, we will become more like Him. It will affect our thoughts, decisions, and our lifestyle. 

When we didn’t know the Gospel, we were simply ignorant and lost, and we gave ourselves to pleasures of the world that only bring disappointment and ultimately death. 

As Christians we are called to live differently, with a new nature given to us by the Holy Spirit. Verse 15 says, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”

Were it not for the call of God on our lives, we would still be living in sin, lost in ignorance. When we respond to the call of God, He changes everything (see 1 Peter 2:9).

Verse 16 continues, “since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

It is written,” is a statement that carries great authority for Christians. Jesus repeatedly used that phrase in Matthew 4 when he was being tempted in the wilderness. Jesus quoted the Word of God, and Satan had to flee. 

There is power in the Word. Sadly, too many Christians are weak because they don’t know or even care to know the Word of God (see Psalm 1:1-3). 

Then we have the phrase, “be holy for I am holy”. As a young believer this phrase was confusing and hard to understand. How can I be perfect like God? 

The holiness of God is part of His nature. Holiness means to be set apart, to be separate from anything that is unclean or sinful. As believers we are called to be holy, set apart for the exclusive use and glory of God. Every aspect of our lives is to be set apart for the glory of God. To a believer, there is no such thing as “secular” and “sacred” (see1 Corinthians: 10:31). 

If something cannot be done to the glory of God, then we can be sure it must be outside of the will of God.

What area of your life is God calling you to walk in a greater level of holiness today?

An Invitation (2)

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In Luke 18, Jesus was walking with his disciples heading to Jerusalem, teaching them as he went. In the first section of chapter 18, Jesus tells them a parable to teach them about prayer, encouraging them in verse 1 to, “…always pray and not lose heart.”

To pray is like breathing for a Christian, it is essential for our life.  Without prayer, we will lose heart, we will grow spiritually weak.

Unless we are sick with a lung infection or drowning, we rarely think about our breathing; we just do it. Likewise with prayer, it should be the natural habit of our lives, the breath we breathe for our spiritual life.

Prayer is more than saying words, it is a deep relationship with God, our heart is constantly aware of the presence of our Lord.

To illustrate his teaching, Jesus uses what seems to be a confusing parable. Jesus uses the story of a desperate widow and an unrighteous judge to illustrate the need for prayer.

But in order to understand this parable, we must understand that God is not represented by the judge, and in the same way, you and I are not represented by the poor widow. They are both extreme contrasts, Jesus is using hyperbole to make his point.

The circuit judge of the first century would not hear everyone’s case, rather, he would choose who he would hear, and in many cases his decision was precipitated by a bribe of some sort.  

Jesus is stating the contrast between the judge and our Heavenly Father. God is not like this judge. God is loving and generous, and He is intimately aware of our needs before we bring them to Him. God doesn’t need to be persuaded to hear His children’s pleas; He answers prayers because it is for His glory.

But what about the poor widow in the parable?

Widows seldom got justice and were treated poorly by the culture. Jesus was making a contrast between this widow and the position of believers.

Let’s look at five contrasts between our situation and this parable. Our standing and hers.

  • This widow was a stranger, she came before the judge, but he didn’t know her or her situation. In contrast, we are God’s children, and He knows everything about us.
  • This widow had limited access to the judge and had to wait for an audience with him. We, on the other hand, have unlimited access, in fact we are invited into the presence of God every minute of every day (see Ephesians 3:11-12).
  • This woman had no friend and no advocate who would help her in her appeal. In contrast, as Christians, we have an advocate. We have someone who never rests and always advocates for us (see 1 John 2:1 and Hebrews 10:19-22).  
  • This widow had no promise of being heard, but we have the precious promises of the word of God. In addition to the promises of God’s word, we have the Holy Spirit who helps us in our prayers (see Romans 8:26-27).
  • But perhaps the greatest contrast is that this widow came to a court of law trying to get justice. But as God’s children we don’t come to a court of law, we come to the throne of grace (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

The point that Jesus makes so clearly is that if we don’t take advantage of the invitation to pray, spiritually, we will be just like this poor widow. We are invited to the throne of grace in prayer.

In contrast with the unrighteous judge, God is infinitely good and infinitely just (see Luke 18:7).

God chose you, not to abandon you or to ignore you in your time of need, He is always near as He promises in His word.

As Jesus concludes this parable, he makes it clear that it is all about faith. Luke 18:8b reads, “…nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Jesus is asking us the same question today; will he find faith in us?

This is a challenge to us in our twenty-first century environment, do we really have faith? In our world, we are pretty good at solving problems. We have a solution or an answer for almost everything, and if we don’t, we can “google” it.

We are good at engineering God out of the picture. “…Will He find faith on the earth?”

God will use people and natural resources to provide for our needs, but we must ask Him. In fact, we are invited to ask Him.

What is your need today? What are you waiting on God for?

But what do you do when God doesn’t answer your prayer? When the miracle doesn’t happen quickly? These are difficult times, times of testing and growing in faith. When Jesus taught on prayer in Matthew 7:7-8, he said that we need to be continuously asking, seeking, and knocking. The verb tense is one of ongoing action.

Jesus encourages us to persist in prayer, not because he needs to hear the same request dozens of times before he answers. Rather it is in persistently going back to the throne of grace that we grow in our relationship with our Lord. If we immediately received everything we prayed for, God would not be good, and we would treat Him like a vending machine. God is after a relationship and His glory being displayed.

Sometimes God has to say no because He knows what is best for us.

We are invited to pray, what have you stopped praying for?

I encourage you to keep on praying; our Heavenly Father is perfectly good in all His ways.

An Invitation

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In this day, when there is so much attacking the truth and the enemy is ravaging families inside and outside the church, we need to get serious about prayer. It is our primary source of power. It is an invitation from the Lord.

We have an invitation from the Lord to come into His presence. He invites us to bring our praise, thanksgiving, confession, and petition before the throne of the Almighty God.

Jesus’s Prayer

The night before his crucifixion, Jesus led the disciples to a familiar place, the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Jesus invited his disciples to pray with him. This was the most significant and powerful time of prayer in all human history.

Jesus knew that he needed to pray. He was about to be arrested and sent to the cross, and he knew that this was the hour for which he came to the earth. This was  the reason God became a man. He also knew that the battle had to be fought in prayer.

Jesus separated the group, leaving eight of the disciples while taking Peter, James, and John with him farther into the garden. Jesus went on even farther, but he didn’t completely separate himself from them. He wanted them to be with him (see Matthew 26:38).  He was about to experience great agony, but he didn’t intend to hide it from them. He invited them because he wanted them to participate with him in what he was about to take placeWe cannot fathom the agony that Jesus endured in that prayer time in the garden.

Although Jesus knew he would face a painful and slow death, this was not the cause of his greatest agony. He did not fear death; rather he was about to “drink the cup” of the wrath of his Father. Jesus would not only die for us, but he would also actually become sin, bearing our sins in his body (see 1 Peter 2:24 and 2 Corinthians 5:21). This was the unimaginable pain that Jesus endured for us.

I have often thought about the battle that took place between the Passover celebration and the death of our savior on the cross, and I suggest that the victory was won in the garden through prayer. There in the garden, Jesus fought against every attack of Satan that might prevent him from going to the cross.

At any time, Jesus could have turned back and decided not to go through with the cross, but he prayed and submitted to the perfect will of his Father. When Jesus prayed those three times, it was done. He was committed; the final battle over death and sin had been set in motion. There was no going back.

Jesus was not wrestling with God’s will, or resisting God’s will; he was yielding to God’s will. This is the victory we have received, and it was won through the prayer of Jesus.

An Invitation to Pray

Each time Jesus came back to the three disciples, he found them sleeping. In Matthew 26:40 we read, “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”

What an indictment. Today, Jesus is interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. He is praying for us, and his words might still be, “Could you not watch with me one hour?”

But Jesus didn’t simply say, “could you not stay awake for one hour.” Notice verse 41, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus says to his disciples and to us, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation”. By allowing them to witness his agony as he submitted to the Father through prayer, he was teaching them a valuable lesson about prayer. And he was inviting them to follow his example.

When we struggle with temptation, there are several things we can do, but the most powerful thing that we can do is to pray. We can go before the Lord and ask for help in our time of weakness just as Jesus did in his.

What is Prayer, and Why Pray?

Some say prayer moves the heart of God. Some say prayer changes our heart and aligns our heart with God’s purposes. Some say prayer can make God change His mind.

We can discuss the theology and practice of prayer, but the bottom line is three simple words: Prayer Changes Things (see James 5:16b).

Not many people know how a microwave works, yet we all use one daily. It’s the same with prayer. We will never know this side of heaven how prayer really works, but it is powerful and effective.

Don’t stop praying, because you don’t know how it works or you don’t see results.

Jesus went back three times to pray. In verse 44, we read that Jesus “prayed the same words”. Jesus repeated his prayer.

If the Lord does not answer your prayer immediately, don’t give up; keep praying—even, repeating the same words. God doesn’t tire from hearing His children. Remember, He invites us to His throne of grace.

Before Pentecost, the people would have to go to a priest, and he would speak to God on their behalf. But everything changed when Jesus died. We read in Matthew 27: 50-51 that the veil in the temple was torn by God Himself.

The veil in the temple was a very thick piece of woven material, up to 6” thick, which separated the common man from the Holy of Holies, the place where God’s presence dwelled. This veil is what kept people out.

By tearing the veil, God was declaring that people could now enter into His presence. We can stand before God and present our requests to Him personally, covered by the righteousness of Christ. What an incredible privilege!

And yet, we don’t pray. If we are honest, we treat prayer as if it is an added extra rather than life and breath to our souls as we commune with our God.. 

Why Corporate Prayer?

Why is it important to pray together? The early church was all about corporate prayer (see Acts 2:42, Acts 12:12–17 and Acts 13:1–3).

Every significant move of God throughout history has been precipitated by focused, corporate prayer. There are many records of revivals as a result of prayer throughout the history of the church. There is power in corporate prayer.

Do not hear this as an obligation in which I am saying, “You ought to pray more.” Rather, hear it as an invitation. An invitation to spend time with the one who overcame death in order for us to be able to pray.

Jesus invited his disciples to come and pray with him, and he is still inviting us today. Will you join him?

Intimacy to Impact

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Don’t we all desire to live a life of eternal impact and to finish well for the glory of God?

Ultimately only God defines our impact; as a result, a life of impact for God must come out of a life of intimacy with God.

Sadly, so many people who start out well in life don’t finish well. So how do we finish life well?

The Apostle Peter writes this incredible statement in 2 Peter 1:3,

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”

If you have given your life to the Lordship of Jesus, then you have everything you need to live a life of impact.

Why then do we frequently struggle with the same familiar sins? Why don’t we see perfect Christians?

When a baby is born, that baby has all the genetic material of a fully functioning adult, but it is still a baby. It has some growing to do. In the same way, when you were born again, God gave you His presence in the form of the Holy Spirit. You received all of the Holy Spirit, not a small portion, but you have some growing to do.

Just like a baby shares the nature and genetic structure of its parents, so too, as a born-again believer, you and I share the divine nature of our God.

The real reason why we don’t see growth and holiness in our lives as believers is not because God is not in us or has failed to give us what we need. Rather, it is because we hold on to our old sin nature. We refuse to put to death the things of the world. We forget who we are in Christ. It is not the amount of the Holy Spirit in us that is in question. It is how much of us the Holy Spirit controls. As we yield to the prompting and the leadership and lordship of the Spirit over our lives, we access everything God has already given us, and we will live a life of impact. A fruitful life.

How do we become partakers of this divine nature and live a fruitful life of eternal impact? By applying the promises of God that are found in His Word. This Bible is full of hundreds of promises for us to live this impactful life (see 2 Peter 1:4). As we learn to apply them to our lives, we grow and mature as believers.

Verse 5 then begins with a key statement, “for this reason…” Peter is saying: Because you are born again, partakers of the divine nature, this is how you are to live.  He lists seven characteristics, or attributes, that we as Christians must apply to our lives.

These attributes develop and grow in our lives as we grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, as we grow in our intimacy with him.

We must understand one important thing: we cannot do this in our own strength. We cannot change ourselves in these areas. Rather, as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, He transforms us. But we have a part to  play in this cooperation. That’s why Peter writes, “make every effort to supplement your faith with…”2 Peter 1:5.

God changes us as we submit to Him. It is a supernatural work of the grace of God.

Let’s look at each one briefly:

Virtue

Virtue relates to a person or anything in nature that fulfills its designed purpose. The calling and primary purpose of a Christian is to glorify God because we have God’s nature. 

True Christian virtue is not perfecting a set of human qualities; true virtue is the divine qualities that make us more Christ-like.

Knowledge

The Greek word here means knowledge that is growing. It is more than simply knowing things; it is discernment or practical knowledge. It is the ability to process what seems to be happening or what is being said and understand what is actually happening. This knowledge, this spiritual discernment, is only derived from the Holy Spirit.

Self-Control

This is more than simply controlling your emotions; it is being led by the Spirit of God to respond rightly (see Proverbs 16:32; Philippians 3:14).

Steadfastness

This is patience or perseverance, the ability to endure the pressures and the problems of life. It’s the ability to stand firm while all around you there is pressure to quit and go with the flow. This is something we have to embrace and grow in (see James 1:2-3). 

God allows these testing times to grow us and to produce in us a life that gives Him glory.

Godliness

Godliness means “godlikeness”. The Greek word means to “worship well”. To worship God is to value God above all things, putting God first in every decision of life.

Godliness is intensely practical because godliness, lived correctly, affects every decision you make.

Brotherly Affection

There is probably no single attribute that is more visible than this one. This is how we love each other in the church. It’s having sincere care and love for one another even in disagreements. This is sacrificially thinking of others first and putting  one another first (see Romans 12:10 and John 13:35).

Love

This is the supernatural love of God. The sacrificial love that took Jesus to the cross to die for our sins. The love that God shows to those who are not saved, drawing them into repentance. This supernatural love can also be translated as charity, sacrificially caring for one another.

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These seven characteristics are founded on faith, and the culmination of them is love (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-2). Our effectiveness, our impact, is negated by a lack of love.

These seven attributes are crucial in our fruitfulness as believers (see 2 Peter 1:8). These characteristics of the Christian life will keep us from being ineffective and unfruitful. This is true Christian life impact.

There is a glorious promise attached to these Christian attributes. Verse 10 says that “You will never fall…”.

Remember, these character qualities already exist in us because we have the divine nature in us. The reason we often don’t see growth in these attributes is because we are holding on to familiar sins: pride, bitterness, unforgiveness, and the like. These all prevent us from living the life of impact that comes from intimacy with Christ.

But make them part of your life, by means of a developing intimacy with Christ, and you will finish well (See 2 Peter 1:11).

Do you want to live a life of impact?

Intimacy to Impact part 1

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Do you want more of God’s power in your life this year? More fruit, more holiness, more transformation?

The limiting factor is not God’s ability. Most times, our “ask” is too small. So, why do we find it so difficult to ask for big things from our Heavenly Father? 

I believe one of the reasons is lack of intimacy. We don’t trust our Heavenly Father because we don’t know Him. We have access to the throne room of God, but we wander around in the courtyard hoping to get some scraps. 

Our effectiveness as Christians is directly proportional to our relationship with the Lord. As we walk with God, we will have an impact in our community. 

God’s priority for our lives is that we know Him and glorify Him with our lives. Our intimacy with God determines the impact of our lives.

Jesus modeled intimacy with the Father. Then he took twelve men and built an intimate relationship with them before sending them out (see Mark 3:14).  

Fellowship with Jesus is essential if discipleship is to be effective. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, enabling us to have a daily relationship with our Lord. The Holy Spirit is never unavailable or busy; we have free and instant access to the Spirit of Jesus. 

There are two aspects to intimacy with Jesus: 

1: Fellowship with Jesus

In his time on the earth, Jesus trained twelve men to go out and train others. He was equipping and sending them.  He started by building a close relationship with them. 

In our busy culture, we wrestle with this. In our minds, busyness equals effectiveness, but that is not the way of the Kingdom of God. Fellowship comes before effectiveness. 

Your effectiveness for God is based on your fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not based on your eloquence, training, finances, or title. 

No one is fit to serve God unless they have learned to fellowship with him. It might sound good to speak for Jesus, but if it is not coming from a place of intimacy, it will have no impact. 

It is essential for every believer to have a time set aside each day for the purpose of meditating on the Word of God and prayer. The greatest need in a Christian’s life is intimacy with Jesus. 

2: Fellowship with his church

Fellowship with Jesus is primary, but we also need to prioritize fellowship with one another, the Body of Christ. 

Jesus modeled this. It may seem strange to us, but Jesus needed relationships (see Luke 22:15). Jesus loved his disciples and demonstrated the importance and value of relationship in the body of Christ. 

Sadly, we don’t always value our church community. In fact, many people don’t see the need to gather. Gathering as the church is seen as a convenience or a social construct that is helpful—but only if it is convenient. 

So why don’t we make fellowship a priority? Because we don’t believe that intimacy leads to impact. 

For Jesus and the disciples, the purpose for fellowship was preparation for ministry as we read in Mark 3:14-15, “…and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons”. 

Jesus gave them authority and power from being in his presence. Many people want a shortcut to spiritual authority, but there is no such thing apart from intimacy with Jesus. God won’t give power to someone who by-passes the fellowship with Jesus. 

As we look at the state of Christianity in America today, why are churches dying? I believe it is because we have substituted activity for the one thing that is essential: being quiet before God (see Psalm 46:10 and Matthew 6:33). 

As we serve the Lord in our daily lives, we need His strength and power to accomplish what He calls us to do. However, often we just go ahead and do “things” because we have the natural ability to do them. That can lead to us being ineffective as followers of Jesus. 

We desperately need daily time with the Lord to live the life that He calls us to. You will never meet a person who is effective for God who doesn’t have daily time set aside with God. 

Walking with God must be fueled by being still before God. 

Sitting and being quiet is counter-intuitive, but it is the most effective thing we can do with our time. Everything in the human mind repels this; we feel that we need to do something!!

To the carnal man, sitting and listening is a waste of time. That is why our prayer meetings are so poorly attended. If we are brutally honest, the reason people don’t gather for prayer is that they don’t believe that it accomplishes anything. 

If we realized the power of prayer, our prayer meetings would be filled to capacity each week. But we have misdirected our priorities. 

In Luke 10 we read the account of Jesus’ interaction with Mary and Martha. Truthfully, we are more like Martha than Mary. We are so busy getting things done. We tell ourselves we will spend time with Jesus after we have all the projects done. But the fruit is irritation because we are doing all the work by our own strength and power, and perhaps not even the work he has called us to! 

If we put fellowship first, we will be less likely to get irritated in our service to others and to the Lord. 

When you get so active that you don’t have time to spend with Jesus, your problem is not your circumstances; it is your priorities. We were created to be in fellowship with Jesus. 

The more we know and love Jesus, the more effective our service will be. The closer we draw to God, the more impact our lives will have. 

At the beginning of the year, I want to challenge you to commit to prioritizing fellowship and intimacy with the Lord. 

Intimacy leads to impact.

God With Us

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The waiting is over! It’s Christmas.

Two thousand years ago, the nation of Israel had been waiting for the Messiah for hundreds of years. The waiting was over, the Messiah was born.

Living in the church age we miss the significance of what it meant to wait for Jesus. For us it is a historical fact.  

But when Jesus did arrive, many people missed him. They missed his coming because they were expecting something grand and earth shaking. Yet the moment God took on flesh was almost anticlimactic, and the nation missed the significance of the incarnation, they missed the Messiah.

Mary was a young mother, poor and desperate. She was not a household name; people didn’t notice her and Joseph walking into Bethlehem that night. They were non-descript poor folk from out of town.

Jesus was born in a stable and placed in an animal feeding trough. The smell of urine and dung was heavy in the air. There was no midwife, no sterile surgery, nor any attendants. The Messiah was born.

The religious leaders of the day, if they were even looking for the birth of the Messiah, would have looked to palace courts and wealthy homes, people of renown, people who would be worthy of raising the Christ Child. But Jesus was born in poverty, the most humble of births.

He was one of us. The God who created the universe by speaking a word, is now one of us.

I want to look at four ways Jesus identified with us.

Born as one of us.

 Jesus was born vulnerable, weak, and dependent on his family (See Luke 2:6-7).

God’s presence in the flesh, presented as simply as a baby in a feeding trough. Raised by the most unlikely couple.

Mary and Joseph were humble, but they both responded to God the same way, when He promised His presence through this miraculous baby, they believed!

Jesus was born, the one called “Immanuel”, which means, “God with us” (See Matthew 1:23).

Jesus was born like us, vulnerable, weak, and dependent on his family. In his perfect humanity, he needed others to care for him. Just like us.

Lived as one of us.

Jesus lived as “God with us”, enjoying life’s pleasures and enduring life’s moments of boredom and pain. The Bible tells us that in Luke 2, that he was strong and filled with wisdom. He had the favor of God on him, and he loved to spend time in the temple questioning the teachers. But he also lived a normal life.

Jesus lived like us, enjoying life’s pleasures, he played games, got bored, and enjoyed a good meal (See Matthew 11:19).

He fasted, he stayed up all night praying and then he also slept when others couldn’t. He spent years learning a blue-collar trade and worked with his hands. He made friends and lost friends, just like us. In fact, Jesus was so normal, that his own family thought he was crazy when he began his ministry and began attracting crowds (See Mark 3:21). They didn’t know at that time; he was God in the flesh.

Suffered as one of us.

Jesus suffered as “God with us”, getting sick, growing tired, losing loved ones, and fighting temptations (See Hebrews 4:15).  Just like us.

Jesus experienced the heartbreak of betrayal. He felt the brokenness of this world and the limits of his own body. Just like us.

Jesus has empathy for us because he suffered like us in this world. He knows the pain and struggles of these earthly bodies. He is not aloof and distant from your suffering. He suffered like us.

Died as one of us.

Then Jesus did something you and I haven’t done. Something very human, but still very foreign to us, he died.

We all will die one day, but we haven’t yet. Jesus has experienced something universally human—but that we living humans haven’t gone through yet. Jesus died as “God with us” (See 1 Peter 3:18).

Because Jesus died and rose again, we can approach our own death with confidence that death is not the end (See 1 Corinthians 15:19–21).

Jesus experienced the full weight of the curse, the loneliness and horror of death, so that we would be able to approach death knowing we are not alone.

Joining Jesus in his death, we will also join him in his resurrection life. Jesus became like us so that we could become like him— alive forever.

Christmas, the birth of Jesus is way more than significant than a baby being born, it is the reality of God himself, becoming like one of us to identify with us, to live, suffer and die as we do, so that we could know that He is real.

There are millions of people who go to church every year, who are attracted to the idea of Jesus, but miss out on the reality of the person Jesus. Do you know the reality of Jesus, the person who lived and died for you?

For everyone of us, we need to have the moment when we are drawn by the holy spirit into the reality of Jesus.

You see, we as church goers and good Christians can get so tied up with the idea of Jesus and the rote spiritual disciplines, all of which are good, but we can connect with the idea of Jesus and never really grow in relationship with Jesus.

You cannot have joy in a relationship with the idea of a person, you need to know the reality of the person (See John 15:11).

No other religion has a god who came down and humbled himself to invite us into a relationship that is life giving and full of Joy.

Every other religion is a series of steps to attain to, to become like their god or to seek approval from a deity. Only the one true God has become like us, to save us.

Are you one of His children?