Monday, September 24, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of September 23, 2012

Is it better that we are weak or that we are strong?

This seems a particularly relevant question with respect to the violence that continues to rock the world.   For example, how should Christians respond to militant muslims intent on killing them?  I believe the answer will be different for Christians than it will for sovereign nations, and yet it is the Christians who have the only answer that promises to bring true, lasting peace.

(Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

The apostle Paul understood what it was like to be attacked.  He was being insulted, downgraded, and unfairly labeled by other teachers in Corinth who felt themselves to be superior to Paul.  And so Paul responds by doing a little boasting himself, but his boasting is different.  He chooses not to boast about his great accomplishments (how many churches he planted, or how many people had come to know the Lord because of his ministry), but instead he chooses to boast about his weaknesses (verse 5).

Why?   What strength can possibly be found in weakness?

Paul had received the answer through divine revelation (verse 9), "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  Paul boasts about his weaknesses because he knows that when he is weak, then God's power works through him to make him truly strong.

And so that is why Paul chooses to boast only in his weaknesses.  (verse 10)  "For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Do you agree with Paul?  Can you give examples of when God's power rested on you in your weakness?  Are there other scripture passages, which might bring further light into this conversation?
Let's discuss!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of September 16, 2012

I believe that the Holy Spirit is the greatest gift a believer receives.

The fact that we receive forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life because of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection is also the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit unites us to the person of Jesus Christ so that through faith we receive all the benefits He has achieved for us.

Last week we saw that the Spirit is "a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession" (Ephesians 1:14).  Today Paul writes again about the hope that we have because of the redemption that is coming to those who have received the Holy Spirit.

(Read Romans 8:18-27)

The glory that will be revealed in us (v. 18) is a glory free from the "bondage to decay".  Paul even says that all of creation is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed so that creation itself will be "liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God"
(v. 21)

And this is our hope (we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit).  It is what we are waiting for, and the Spirit is the key to it all.   The Holy Spirit not only unites us to the person of Jesus, but the Holy Spirit also "intercedes for us" thereby deepening our connection to the Living God (who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

The Holy Spirit is the greatest gift a believer receives because the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of God's desire to be with His people.  In the Old Testament, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all learned that God was their greatest blessing.  If they had God, they had everything, and apart from God all that they had meant nothing.  And it is the same with us.

As believers, our greatest blessing is God, and since the Holy Spirit is God, then the Holy Spirit is the greatest gift a believer receives.

So what do you think?  Do you agree?  Is there something better that a believer receives?  Is there another dimension to the Holy Spirit as the greatest gift?  Do you know other scriptures that also make this point?  Let's discuss.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Going Deeper for the week of September 9, 2012

In our world, a deposit (a few dollars down) is a "good faith" agreement that we will at some point in the future complete the transaction by paying the full purchase amount.  Because we live in an imperfect world things don't always work out, but the deposit means something nonetheless.

Now, in the economy (household) of God, what does a deposit guarantee?  Well we know that unlike us, God never goes back on a promise.  So when He makes a deposit it is more than just a "good faith" agreement.  It is a "perfect faith" agreement because God is faithful to always keep His promises.

(Read Ephesians 1:3-14; esp. 13-14)

True faith in Jesus Christ (His life, death, resurrection, and ascension - with His accompanying promise to return) is the means by which we receive forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternal life, and the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit.  But when Paul talks about the Holy Spirit as "a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance" what does he mean?

Well to be more specific, Paul calls the Holy Spirit "a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory."  Does that make things a little clearer?  No.  Okay.  Let's break it down a little more then.

The deposit, unlike too many of our "good faith" agreements, is a perfect guarantee (it will certainly take place) of our inheritance (eternal life with God) because the guarantee is made by God Himself!

Remember that in 2 Corinthians 1:20 Paul says, "no matter how many promises God has made they are 'Yes' in Christ."  So God does not make idle promises.  He answers "yes" to all His promises and He does so in the person of Jesus.  He has in the past, and He will in the future.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit (who we receive by means of true faith in Jesus Christ) is a deposit (a "perfect faith" agreement from the One who remains faithful forever) guaranteeing (it will certainly take place) our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession.

In other words, Jesus Christ will return.  He will judge the living and the dead, and He will make all things new!  It is most certain because God has promised it.  And God never goes back on a promise.

But when will the inheritance be fully ours?

Paul says, "... until the redemption of those who are God's possession."  So we are in a holding pattern, waiting until the day Jesus Christ returns as God's "yes" answer to yet another promise.  But waiting until when?  "... until the redemption of those who are God's possession." 

This means that if Jesus Christ has not returned, then those who are God's possession have not yet experienced the "redemption" that is theirs through true faith in Jesus Christ.  So that means there is work yet to be done.

God brings people to Jesus, as we bring Jesus to people.  So if there are more people to be brought to Jesus, then that means you and I have more people to whom we must bring Jesus.  This is what it means to be "On Mission with God".

So what are your thoughts?  What do you think Paul means when he calls the Holy Spirit, "a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession"?