The Power of His Resurrection

Thoughts
In the third chapter of his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul writes, "...that I may know Jesus and the power of His resurrection" (Phil 3:10).  Have you ever wondered what that power is all about?  What power is Paul referring to? Last time we were together, I wrote about the Resurrected Life; the theology of Christ living His resurrected life in us.  Today we turn to the power associated with that Life. Peter writes, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to…
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The Way, the Truth, and the Life

Thoughts
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me' " (Jn 14:6).  In this one verse, we have a beautiful summary to the message of John's gospel.  Jesus said that He is the only way to God, His message is truth, and the reward for believing this is life eternal and abundant. That Jesus is the only way to the Father is a theme throughout John's gospel.  In the middle chapters of the book, Jesus specifically reiterated this point over and over with various word pictures and direct instruction.  In fact, the firmness with which Jesus identified Himself as the Christ, the Son of God, the only true path to life made such an impression on me that I…
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Resurrection Life

Thoughts
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies' " (Jn 11:25).  Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  I like to put these two terms together and call the life Jesus promised His believers "resurrection life".  Resurrection life has a longevity (eternal) and a quality (abundant) based on the promises of God. Resurrection life delivers a promise about our past - we have been set free from the penalty of sin.  Resurrection life holds a promise about our future - life with Jesus forever because our sins are forgiven.  And resurrection life delivers a promise about our present - freedom from the power of sin in our walk today. Let us focus for a minute on the…
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Life Eternal and Abundant

Thoughts
One of the words the apostle John uses over and over in his gospel is the word "life".  From beginning to end, the life imparted to us by Jesus Christ - life eternal and abundant - is a constant theme in his book.  Here are just a few of those references to introduce us to John's development of this topic. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men" (Jn 1:1,4).  Jesus and the life He imparts was there from the beginning. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life" (Jn 3:36).  A pretty straightforward if-then regarding belief and eternal life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears…
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Overcoming … The Devil

Thoughts
The Devil.  Our last enemy to consider is Satan; also known as the devil or the evil one.  Jesus taught us in John chapter 8 that at the heart of Satan's character is a liar.  "The devil was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44). At the heart of Satan's temptations are lies.  Lies about Christ and His character.  Lies about Christ and His finished work on the cross.  Lies about Christ and His promised victory over sin in our lives.  Lies about Christ and His goodness.  Lies about Christ and His living inside us. …
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Overcoming … The Flesh

Thoughts
The Flesh.  We now turn to the enemy within; the flesh.  In the New Testament, the apostle Paul gives us three visuals, complete with action verbs, for defeating the flesh.  They are walking in the Spirit, crucifying the flesh, and putting on Christ.  "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh ... those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Gal 5:16,24-25). Walking in the Spirit is living into all that Christ promised regarding the Spirit's indwelling.  When we allow the Spirit of God to live the life of the Son of God through us, we are walking in the Spirit.  And…
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Overcoming … The World

Thoughts
How do we overcome the remnants of our indwelling sin and the enemies that stir them up?  How do we resist the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil?  We have talked often about the theological answer to these questions; overcoming sin by the power of the resurrected Christ literally living His life through us.  But what does that look like in practice?  Let's take a look at some specifics. The world.  We overcome the world by our love for Jesus.  "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride…
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“Sin Which So Easily Entangles Us”

Thoughts
Last time, we talked about the continuum regarding sin found in Hebrews chapter 12.  "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb 12:1).  On one end of the scale is the encouragement and expectation to "lay sin aside".  At the other is the acknowledgement that "sin so easily entangles us". In light of the New Testament promise that our sin nature was destroyed at the cross and that we are now indwelt by the sin-crushing power of the resurrected Christ, how is it that sin still manages to gum up the works?  Let's start by looking at…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of Sin Itself

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
So we have examined a lot of chains in the past few weeks; chains from which Christ offers sweet release.  We have examined: the chain of the Law the chain of legalism the chain of pride the chain of shame the chain of guilt the chain of fear the chain of worry the chain of selfish ambition the chain of idolatry the chain of our own unworthiness We now come to the last chain, the chain of sin itself.  And let's be very careful to explain exactly what that means. "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us"…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of Our Unworthiness

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
There is a branch of theology that says, "You are not worth it."  There are voices in your past that say, "You are not worth it."  There are messages from the church that say, "You are not worth it."  There are Bible teachers who say, "You are not worth it."  My simple answer to all of these is, "Do not believe it, you are worth it." "Worth what?" you might ask.  You are worth being ransomed, redeemed, delivered, rescued, set free.  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).  God's love, God's plan, God's salvation, and God's promise are so beautifully summarized in this one verse. But in the beauty of…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of Idolatry

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
Idolatry is a powerful chain in the lives of many believers.  I am not talking about images of wood or stone.  I am talking about the place in our lives where we run to receive what only God can give.  I am talking about that place where we put our "functional trust". If the word "idol" sounds strange to you in this context, let me pose some questions to help us identify our "idols".  What is that thing, that when you have it in your life, you feel fulfilled?  Or what is that thing, that when it is absent, you feel unsettled and discontent?  Or what is that thing, that when you have Jesus + ______ , all is right in your world? Pastor Eric Hoffman writes, "Idolatry begins when we…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of Selfish Ambition

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
One of the great freedoms Christ promises us in the New Testament is the freedom from ourselves; the freedom from our selfish ambition.  The Bible makes clear that selfish ambition is at the root of so many of our sins.  "If you have envy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and lie against the truth.  This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice" (James 3:16). Could selfish ambition be the foundation for "every evil practice"?  It often forms the foundation or motivation for our evil actions.  The apostle Paul encourages us to lay aside selfish ambition as a motivating force.  "Do nothing out of selfish…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of Worry

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
Just as the peace of Christ is the antidote for the chain of fear, the joy of the Lord is the antidote for the chain of worry.  Much like fear, worry is so often colored by this anxious age we live in.  The list of things to worry about is almost endless.  But into this milieu, the call of the New Testament is, "Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!"  (Phil 4:4). Or, as Karl Barth has written, "It is astonishing how many references there are in the Old and New Testaments to delight, joy, bliss, exultation, merry-making, and rejoicing; and how emphatically these are demanded from the Book of Psalms to the Letter to the Philippians."  Yes, throughout the Scriptures we are urged to live joy-filled…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of the Imposter Syndrome

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
Have you heard of the "imposter syndrome"?  It is a term coined by psychologists in the late 1970s to describe high-achieving individuals who were marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.  It is really another chain of fear.  Let me describe how this fear manifests itself in our spiritual life. Depending on the church you grew up in, your family of origin dynamic, or even your present day experience in a community of believers, we generally develop some standard in our lives that we feel we must live up to in order to be accepted by the community.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I like standards.  I like encouraging each other to pursue holiness.  There is nothing wrong with helping each other move forward into a maturing Christian…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of Fear

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
Another chain that shackles our living free experience is the chain of fear.  We live in an anxious age.  I honestly don't know when in my lifetime I have felt such angst about every single topic that comes up in conversation or in the news.  Think about these issues; marriage, family life, health, immigration, the well-being of children, politics, clean water, violence, climate change ... and we could go on and on. We all have ideas of how to respond to these political and social issues and it discourages us when the answers we see in the world around us show not only a pervasive immorality, but an outright complete lack of common sense.  Instead of moral or even common sense solutions, we are bombarded by extreme positions, moral confusion, complete dysfunction, scarcity,…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of Guilt

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
Moving now from shame to guilt, let's review.  Guilt is, "I have done something wrong."  Shame is, "I am something wrong."  Shame is never who we are after our conversion to Christ.  Guilty, on the other hand, is who we are when we sin. Understanding guilt is an important piece of understanding our salvation.  In a legal (from a moral standpoint) sense, prior to Christ, we are all guilty.  We are sinners in Adam and we are sinners in our actions.  We are guilty on both counts.  But Christ took our guilt upon Himself when He died on a cross in our place.  The concept of substitution - Christ dying in our place - is at the heart of the gospel's message of redemption.  Christ died for our sins. The…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of Shame

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
As we consider the shame side of the pride/shame cycle, let's turn to Hebrews chapter 12.  "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:2).  One of my favorite phrases about what Christ has done for us is "despising the shame". Death on a Roman cross was the epitome of shame.  A naked man publicly put to death on a stick of wood.  Its cruelty and shame would have us turn away in horror.  But instead of turning away, we are called to "fix our eyes" on our dying Savior.  And when we do, we see the suffering Son of God…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of Pride

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
A dangerous side effect of legalism - reducing the Christian life to a set of rules - is pride.  Paul says as much in Colossians 2:18 calling the rule-promoters "inflated without cause by their fleshly mind."  An inflated ego is a hallmark of legalism.  And it is driven by the flesh, not by the Spirit. When we set up a rule-following system as the picture of Christianity, we almost always fall into a comparison mode that has no spiritual value.  How am I doing today compared to yesterday?  How am I doing at keeping the rules compared to person A, B, or C?  Are my community's rules more godly than the church down the street?  Do you ever feel these comparisons? These comparisons are fueled by pride.  They are motivated by a need…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of Legalism

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
While most believers recognize that we are set free from the Old Testament Law, there is still the danger of a New Testament version of the law that creeps into our thinking, our churches, and our approach to living the Christian life.  Our attempts to keep things as black and white as possible, as well as looking for a holiness that we can measure, often lead to a new set of rules to follow.  This rule-following approach to living the Christian life is known as legalism. In Colossians chapter 1, the apostle Paul summarizes the mystery of the gospel, "Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the Word of God,…
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Living Free – Throwing Off the Chain of the Law

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
One of the first chains we are to throw off in our quest to live free is the chain of the Law.  Many of the earliest believers in Jesus were of Jewish background and they needed clear direction regarding their new relationship with the Old Testament Law.  The apostle Paul explains on several occasions that the short answer to the question of the Law is that we have literally died to it.  It is no longer in effect.  It is no longer influential or applicable to those who have embraced the gospel. At the beginning of Romans chapter 7, Paul illustrates our death to the Law by comparing it to the death of a spouse.  "Just as a woman is free to be joined to another man after the death of her husband...you…
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Living Free

Thoughts, True Freedom, Walking in the New Nature
I love this quote by hip-hop artist Lecrae in his new book Unashamed, "I had finally been set free, but I was about to find out if I could live free."  Did you catch those powerful two words, "live free"?  That, my friends, is the Christian life in a nutshell; learning to live free, learning to live in the freedom that we already have in Christ.  That is really the question at the heart of living the Christian life, "Can we learn to live free?" When you and I embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ, we were instantly set free; free to enjoy the fullness of Christ in us.  We were immediately set free from the penalty of sin.  "And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of…
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Freedom

Thoughts
I am seeing the word "freedom" in lots of ads this time of year.  Most of them revolve around, "Come celebrate our country's freedom by buying a new car, new appliance, or new mattress."  Of course, in the fine print you realize that rather than freedom, you will experience eight years of debt for your mattress that will wear out just as you make your last payment.  (By the way, have any of you ever met a mattress expert; you know, those geniuses quoted in TV ads who have decided that a mattress must be replaced every eight years?) All this talk of freedom reminds me of this quote from hip-hop artist Lacrae, "I had finally been set free, but I was about to find out if I could live free. …
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The Bible, Science, and Adding to the Gospel

Science, Thoughts
My primary motivation for my last post is to dispel the idea that the Bible and true science are in disagreement on the issue of God's creation process or timeline.  And my greatest concern about how we approach the issue of the theory of evolution is to make sure that we are not adding anything to the pure message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What do I mean by "not adding anything to the gospel"? The gospel message of Jesus Christ is best summarized in the middle chapters of the gospel of John.  In a long discourse, Jesus says about ten times that he who believes in Jesus has eternal life, having passed from death to life by faith in Christ.  "Everyone who beholds the Son, and believes in Him, has eternal…
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The Theory of Evolution – A Disconnect in our Science and the Bible Marriage?

Science, Thoughts
One of the areas where there appears to be a disagreement in the otherwise strong marriage of science and the Bible is the theory of evolution.  To summarize the conflict, the theory of a long, progressive creation process to describe life forms past and present has been seen as a direct attack on the biblical account of creation.  But in the last few years, I think the conflict is shrinking.  And I think the war between the Bible and a long progressive creation should be brought to an end.  Let me explain by telling you part of my story. Many years ago, as a geology major at a secular university, I was an ardent young earth creationist.  I believed that essentially all that we see around us was created in six literal…
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“The God Who Did It That Way”

Science, Thoughts
I hope our last few posts have opened your mind to the fact that Christians can approach science with a curiosity and a child-like wonder without giving up their faith.  Science and faith are not divorced parents who leave us in the spot of having to choose between one or the other.  Rather, they are like a strong marriage where disagreements arise, but eventually get worked out.  In a marriage, when two people are focused on the same goal, they usually find ways to work out their differences.  Likewise, my interest in science and my pursuit of faith have the same goal; seeking the truth.  The apparent differences between the two get worked out. My advice to believers everywhere, and especially to young people, is do not be afraid of scientific…
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Leap of Unfaith

Science, Thoughts
There is an underlying current in some parts of the science world that Bible-believing Christians are not using our brains.  That we have turned off our curiosity.  That we ignore science and follow ancient myths.  We are accused of taking a "leap of faith" into the unknown by believing the Bible is true rather than following where science leads. I see it as exactly the other way around.  The secular scientists are taking the leaps of faith - or should I say leaps of unfaith, since these leaps ignore the Creator and His infusion of order, design, and purpose into the universe.  Let me give you an example. We have talked at some length about the super-squished time line of the Big Bang theory.  In the first billionth of a…
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Tell Me Why

Science, Thoughts
We now have a robust theory (the Big Bang) for the origin of the universe.  And we also have a scientific model for how it has progressed since.  But no matter how deep we drill down into our science world, we are missing the answer to one giant question:  Why?  Why is the universe here?  Why are you and I here?  Why did things develop this way? It is interesting to me that while science may not know the why, scientists do know that something very special is happening here.  Let's start by looking at one of the forces that was created and active in that first billionth of a second of the universe's existence; the force of gravity. Dr. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist and popular figure in…
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The Search for Earth 2.0

Science, Thoughts
With the Big Bang Theory in their pocket and a new array of instruments at their disposal, astronomers are hot on the trail of looking for Earth 2.0; an Earth-mass planet orbiting a Sun-like star at a distance similar to Earth's orbit.  Or, to put it another way, the search is on for a rocky planet in a potentially habitable zone?  Will they find another Earth? I don't know.  I happen to think that we inhabit a unique place in the universe created by God as a dwelling place for mankind.  But my faith would not be shaken if Earth 2.0 exists.  What is more interesting to me is how many unique and life-giving features of our present Earth keep popping up during our search for life on other planets.  What we are discovering is…
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A Universe From Nothing

Science, Thoughts
I first heard Dr. Lawrence Krauss describe the Big Bang Theory regarding the origin of the universe on an afternoon radio program.  The topic was strictly scientific and there was no reference to God or religion.  Later, in my search for more information on the subject, I came across one of Dr. Krauss' most popular books, A Universe From Nothing. Did I read that right?  A Universe From Nothing?  With a title like that, I thought, "Wow, this guy must be a Christian.  Who else would pick that kind of a title?  Only a like-minded scientist who has discovered the incredible connection between what we now theorize about the first moments of the universe and what the Bible describes as God creating the world out of nothing."  I could not…
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Don’t Be Afraid of the Big (Bad) Bang Theory

Science, Thoughts
The Big Bang Theory is the standard model for the formation of the universe and is widely accepted among today's physicists.  So my question for you is this, "What does this standard model and its acceptance mean for those of us who believe that God created the heavens and the earth?"  In my opinion, it means something quite spectacular. Here is the standard model in a nutshell:  The universe sprang into existence as a "singularity" around 13.8 billions years ago.  This "singularity" was infinitesimally small, infinitely hot, and infinitely dense.  (How do you even wrap your head around infinite as a quantity?  Not sure, but let's continue on.)  This "singularity" was not a tiny fireball in space.  Space did not exist.  Time did not exist.  Matter did not exist.  Energy did not exist. …
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