An Issue of Control

Romans 8

1So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. 3The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

5Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. 7For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

9But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.) 10Since Christ lives within you, even though your body will die because of sin, your spirit is alive because you have been made right with God. 11The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as he raised Christ from the dead, he will give life to your mortal body by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:1-11, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Today I got a Facebook message from a person in Africa who connected with me through our website: everyperson.com.

This person wanted to know how he could receive the Holy Spirit.

I asked him if he had accepted Jesus as his savior, to which he replied, “Yes.’

“Great”, I replied. Then you already have the Holy Spirit living inside you.

The Holy Spirit is absolutely critical to our growth as Christians, yet so many believers are completely unaware of who the Holy Spirit is or what role He plays in our daily lives.

In this passage, Paul communicates several important truths about the Holy Spirit, including the following:

    • The freedom we experience as Christ-followers is because of the work of the Holy Spirit, who freed us from the power of sin and death and gave us new spiritual life. The result is that we are no longer living under condemnation.
    • The mark of the Christian is that they have the Holy Spirit living in them. Paul states in Romans 8:9 that if you do not have the Spirit of Christ in you then you are not a believer at all. This means that to be a believer, you must have the Holy Spirit. Paul states in Ephesians 1:13 that the Holy Spirit is gifted by God to the believer at the moment of belief. Therefore, when one places their faith in Jesus and His death on the cross, the Holy Spirit comes into their life.
    • As Christians, we have two natures warring within our bodies. There is the old sinful nature and there is the new spiritual nature. We can be controlled by either of these natures. When we’re controlled by our sinful nature, we think about sinful things and we likely are going to engage in sinful activities. Paul says that this leads to death. When he talks about death he does not mean you will physically die. What he means is that spiritually you will experience death, which means separation. Hence, those Christians who are controlled by their sin nature will experience a disconnectedness from God. However, when we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, we will think about spiritual things and we will experience life and peace.

Understanding the Holy Spirit and His role in our lives as Christians, often, for many believers is the difference between growing as a Christian and staying stagnant.

Peace, life, and ultimately our growth as Christians is dependent on whether we yield control of our lives to God’s Spirit living within us or whether we continue to be controlled by our own selfish desires.

Reflection

What has been your understanding of the Holy Spirit in the past? Who is He? What has been. your understanding concerning the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christians?

Based on this passage and your understanding of the Bible, what do you think is required to receive the Holy Spirit? 

What helps you to yield control of your life to the Holy Spirit? 

What are the things that make it easier for you to be controlled by your sinful nature?

 

Photo by Sunguk Kim on Unsplash

How Can You Know if You’re Really a True Christian?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

1 John 2

7Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the beginning. This commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. 8Yet it is also new. This commandment is true in Christ and is true among you, because the darkness is disappearing and the true light is already shining.

9If anyone says, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. 10Anyone who loves other Christians is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble. 11Anyone who hates a Christian brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person is lost, having been blinded by the darkness.
(1 John 2:7-11, NLT – emphasis added)

1 John 3

11This is the message we have heard from the beginning: We should love one another12We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was right. 13So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

14If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. 16We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. 17But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help—how can God’s love be in that person?

18Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. 19It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before the Lord, 20even if our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
(1 John 3:11-20, NLT – emphasis added)


The Daily DAVEotional

How can you know for sure if you’re really a Christian?

Perhaps you’ve grown up going to church and you can’t ever remember a time when you weren’t a Christian. Or maybe you drifted away from God but have recently turned back to the Lord and you’re wondering if God still accepts you.

John’s short letter of 1 John is packed with a number of “identifying markers” that are good indicators that you are indeed “in the faith.”

In 1 John chapters 2 and 3, John gives another of his litmus tests that are designed to give his audience confidence that they truly are a part of God’s family.

In this particular passage, John says that the proof “that we have passed from death to eternal life” is our love for other Christians.

John’s argument can be summarized as follows:

    • We’ve been given a new command to love one another
    • This command to love is based on the example of Jesus, who demonstrated his love by dying for us
    • Jesus is light and in him there is no darkness, so living for Jesus is “living in the light”
    • Since Jesus died for us (all of us), it means he loves us (all of us). Therefore, to be living in the light of Jesus means we should love people as Jesus loves

The real litmus test then is how do you think and feel about other Christians? Do you love them as Jesus loves them? John says that those who say they love God but hate their Christian brother or sister is “living and walking in darkness.”

Darkness is always used by John in reference to sin or disconnected fellowship with God. Hence, the person who says they love God but hates their fellow Christian, for whatever reason, is not connected to God.

John takes the illustration even further when he says that “Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart.” OUCH!

So one of the identifying markers of a true follower of Christ is their love of other Christians.

Yes, I know! Some “other” Christians are not easy to love. Perhaps they share different political views than you or they’re involved in activities of which you don’t approve. Maybe they just have an annoying personality that rubs you the wrong way.

Regardless, John’s logic is irrefutable: Jesus loved us all, which is amazing because we were not very lovable. In fact, Jesus loved us in spite of the fact that our sin made us his enemies.

Since Jesus is able to love “the unloveable”, we should be able to as well, since we have His Holy Spirit living within us.

Therefore, we should demonstrate love to everyone, even those whom we might consider “difficult to love”, for whatever reason.

Our ability to love other Christians is an evidence of God’s work in our life and provides strong evidence that you really are a part of God’s eternal family!

Reflection

If someone were to come to you with doubts about whether or not they were genuinely a Christian, what would you tell them? How would you go about helping them to affirm their place in God’s family?

John specifically talks about our need to love other Christians. Why do you think he emphasizes the need to love other believers but doesn’t mention non-believers?

Some people are easier to love than others. What are some possible reasons why you might be challenged to demonstrate “love to some people?

John urges us to “really show it [our love for others] by our actions.” What actions show love to you? What are some actions you could begin to implement in your spheres as a means of demonstrating love toward other believers?

Suppose someone says to you, “I love Jesus, I just can’t stand his followers.” What would you say to this person? Do you think this person can be a Christian? Why or why not?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Are you a Slave or a Son?

Galatians 4

1What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. 4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (Galatians 4:1-7, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Previously in the letter to the Galatians, I wrote about how Paul has asked his readers if they’ve been bewitched. He wants to know if they’ve been theologically scammed because even though they started out trusting Jesus and his death alone as the source of their right standing before God, it’s clear that they have since fallen back into a works-based system where adherence to the law became paramount in maintaining God’s favor.

Now, in chapter 4, Paul continues his explanation of why it’s foolish to try to earn God’s favor by keeping the law. He does so by giving the illustration of sons vs. slaves.

Remember that Paul’s audience is not Jewish, so he must use illustrations and explanations that are familiar to his audience.

In the very first verse, Paul says that in Roman culture, children were no better than slaves, even though they may be entitled to the inheritance.

In Roman law, sons had no real rights regarding their future estate until they were to come of age. This happened at the discretion of the father, unlike Jewish culture where a boy became a “man” at a certain age.

Paul’s point is that while the boy was still a child, he was viewed almost the same as a slave. He had no say or rights to the estate, even though it would become his at some point.

The law has that same effect. While under the law, we were not free. We were no better off than slaves and the law could not provide the promised inheritance. It was simply like a guardian to keep us until we would come to Christ, who alone provides the promised inheritance.

In verse 3, Paul says that when we were children, that is, when we were under the law, we were in slavery to the basic principles of the world.

The term “basic principles of the world”, or in some versions “the elemental principles” refers to basic religious principles, practices and systems from which we seek to derive our righteousness and acceptance before God. In this case, it was a Jewish system but it could be any religious system. They all lead to bondage because they are based on human effort vs Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

Verse 4 delivers the big “But”. It shows a contrast and what is being contrasted is our relationship as a slave versus our relationship with God as a son!

Jesus died to redeem us, to free us from slavery and to make us adopted children in God’s family.

The proof that God has redeemed us and brought us into His family is the Holy Spirit, who is given to those who believe in Jesus.

The fact that we have God’s Holy Spirit in us proves that God considers us his sons and daughters.

If we are sons then we are also heirs. Our inheritance is eternal life, something that the law could never provide for us.

Do you want to inherit eternal life? Then you must become an heir. You become an heir by becoming a son, or daughter. You become a son, or daughter, the moment you place your faith in Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If we insist on staying in some kind of religious rules-based system in order to gain favor with God, whether it’s the Old Testament law or some other religious system, then we are choosing to remain slaves who have no legitimate claim to an inheritance.

Reflection

 What do you think is the allure for people to follow a rules-based system when it cannot provide us an inheritance?

In what ways are you tempted to act like a slave instead of a son or daughter?

What are some of the “basic principles of the world” that we can get enslaved to? 

What steps can you take to ensure you continue to live as sons instead of as slaves? What do you think is the key to living out our freedom?

 

Photo by Jose Fontano on Unsplash

 

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Acts 19

1While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

4Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7There were about twelve men in all.

(Acts 19:1-7, NIV)

Matthew 3

11“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:11-17, NIV)


The Daily DAVEotional

Have you ever wondered about baptism? What exactly is the meaning of this ritual and why is it performed? Is there some sort of efficacious grace administered via baptism or is it merely a symbolic event?

This week, in my Grant Horner Bible reading, I encountered two different passages (Acts 19 and Matthew 3) on consecutive days, both dealing with the topic of baptism. As I’ve mentioned before here and here, one of the advantages of this system is you encounter these exact scenarios where you see scripture commenting on other parts of scripture, often allowing you to make theological connections that you hadn’t noticed before.

A few days ago, I came across the passage in Acts, where Paul encounters some disciples and asks them if they’ve received the Holy Spirit. They don’t know what Paul’s talking about because they’ve never heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul then asks them what baptism they received and they tell him that they received John’s baptism.

The very next day in my reading plan, I encountered Matthew 3 and Shazam…there’s John out in the desert baptizing people! And then something really interesting happens…Jesus comes along and asks John to baptize him.

What in the world is going on? What is baptism all about and why in the world would Jesus want or need to be baptized?

If you’re like me, you probably have been conditioned to think of baptism in a certain way based on the tradition in which you were raised.

If you were raised in the Catholic or Orthodox tradition, you likely view baptism as a sacrament that is given to infants that delivers grace to them and preserves them until they are old enough to be confirmed and partake regularly of the other sacraments such as confession and Holy communion.

If you were raised in a Protestant tradition, you probably view baptism as an event that occurs at some point after you’ve made a personal decision to follow Jesus – a sort of declaration of your intent to follow Jesus.

But what is the meaning of baptism and why are there different baptisms?

The confusion with baptism is likely because in our minds we can associate baptism with the salvation process. If this is true, it would seem unnecessary to have different baptisms.

The truth is that the main idea behind baptism is not cleansing or salvation but identification. In the New Testament, people were baptized as a way of identifying with a message or a person. A few days ago, I wrote a post entitled “Name Dropping in the Early Church” based on a passage in 1 Corinthians 1, in which Paul says that he is glad that he didn’t baptize anyone in that church.

Why would he say that? Because the people were all aligning themselves with different leaders and Paul did not want people identifying with him; he wanted them to identify with Jesus alone.

So if you look now at the passage in Acts 19, we can see that these “disciples” that Paul runs into were not disciples of Jesus, they were disciples of John. They had been baptized by John, meaning that they had identified themselves with John and his message of repentance. Paul uses this knowledge to explain that John’s message was for people to believe in the one who was coming after him, Jesus!

After hearing this message regarding Jesus, they were baptized into Jesus, which means they accepted the message Paul shared and they chose to identify now with this message of salvation regarding Jesus’ death and resurrection. Essentially, they became believers. It is at this point that they receive the Holy Spirit, which is an indication that they are now a part of the family of God.

So why was Jesus baptized? He didn’t need to repent, for he had never sinned. So then what is the purpose of him being baptized by John?

Jesus came to redeem mankind by bearing the sins of the world on the cross. When Jesus was baptized, he was publicly identifying with sinful mankind, whom he would ultimately die for. This act of identification administered by John the Baptist was the formal beginning of Jesus’ ministry and mission to seek and save the lost.

Since John’s message was for people to follow the one who would come after him, Jesus’ baptism by John served as the official transition, inviting people who had identified with John’s message to now identify with Jesus and his message. From that point forward, John would declare “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30, NASB)

Finally, Jesus’ baptism served as a means of receiving affirmation and authentication from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Reflection

What has been  your understanding of the meaning and purpose of baptism?

In what ways has your views and understanding of baptism been affirmed or changed from this devotional?

How would you explain the concept of baptism to someone who has just come to faith in Jesus?

 

Photo by Transformation Films from Pexels