Refreshment is found in the Gospel

“But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” (Acts 3:18)

Jesus’ suffering was not God’s plan B. It was and always has been plan A. From before the foundations of the world God planned for Jesus to come and die for you. What an amazing plan! What love the Lord has for us!

Admittedly it is difficult to fathom how the Father would give His Son for a rebellious people. But the Father did. He didn’t do it on a whim, instead He did it as part of a plan so that we might be rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light (Col. 1). He rescues us in order to win a people for His Son so that we might glorify Jesus for all eternity in the future kingdom to come. He did it so that we might be drawn up into the eternal love relationship the Trinity has with one another.

Understanding what Jesus has done for us, we are called to repent and enjoy fellowship with Jesus and to experience the hope of the future kingdom to come.

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” (Acts 3:19-21)

Those who repent, turning to Jesus as Lord and Savior, not only experience future hope, but they also experience present refreshment. Don’t we need refreshment from the grind of the world? Don’t we need relief? We can have it in a relationship with Jesus.

Turn to Jesus today. Trust in Him whether you would call yourself a non-believer or a believer. The gospel is for everyone. We never move past it. We only go deeper into it, experiencing salvation, hope, refreshment, even in the midst of a nation that is leaning more and more post-Christian.

Why do I have to join a church?

To relate to God, you must do it “covenantally.” He wants all of you; he wants every aspect of you; he wants every bit of you.” It’s silly, but it’s natural that American Christians will say to me, “I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Why do I have to join a church?” I say, “What do you mean?”

“Where does it say in the Bible that I have to join a church?”

“On every page,” if you understand the covenant. All joining a church means is you’re willing to make a public vow that makes you accountable for your whole life. That’s what we don’t like because, “Who needs that? The most important thing is the personal and the spontaneous.”

No! The most important thing is every part of you has to go to him. You’re supposed to make yourself a whole burnt offering on the altar. That’s what it says in Romans 12 where it says, “Make yourself a living sacrifice, a whole burnt offering, to the Lord.”

 Keller, Timothy J., The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013)

Sunset over lake

How do we know if we have the Spirit?

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul continues to tell the Corinthians why he presses on in gospel ministry despite his groaning because of the sinful world pushing in on him. From a thoroughly gospel-centered perspective, he tells them that he continues on because of the hope that awaits after death. Referring to the body as a tent, he looks to his heavenly home where he expects to receive a building from God, a home free from the burdens and vulnerabilities of this world, a home where mortality is swallowed up by eternal life. His hopeful expectation is one reason he continues to press on.

Same Hope

As Christians, we should have the same hope, and it should cause us to press on in ministry just as it did Paul. But how can we be sure that we have a heavenly home awaiting us? There are several reasons. I’ll offer two and expand on the second more thoroughly.

  • (1) We can be sure we have a heavenly home because the all-sovereign promising keeping God has “prepared us for this very thing” (2 Cor 5:5a). Having prepared us for it, we can be sure God will bring us to our heavenly home. God’s track record is flawless, and His ability to accomplish His purposes is unquestionable.
  • (2) We can also be sure we have a heavenly home awaiting us because God “has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor 5:5b).

The second idea – God has given us the Spirit as a guarantee – raises an interesting and important question, how do we know if we have the Spirit?

How do we know if we have the Spirit?

When you look through Scripture, you find several tests that can be administered to discover if you have the Spirit or not, and, therefore, assurance of eternal life.

(1) Do you believe God is your Father?

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” (Ro 8:15–16)

(2) Do you look forward to your redemption and the return of Christ?

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Ro 8:23)

(3) Do you accept, believe and understand the things of God, which are written in His Word? 

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Co 2:12–14)

(4) Do you confess that Jesus is not only your Savior but also the Lord of your life?

“Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Co 12:3)

(5) Do you seek to live in unity with other Christians? 

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Co 12:13)

(6) Do you fight against what the sinful nature wants?

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Ga 5:16-21; 24)

(7) Are you growing in the fruit of the Spirit?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law… If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Ga 5:22-23; 25)

Your answers to the above questions will reveal whether you have the Spirit or not.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe that you have the Spirit?

Resources

The Scriptures regarding the Holy Spirit are informed by leader questions over 2 Corinthians 5 in 2 Corinthians 1-7: True Discipleship by James Hughes

How can we train ourselves for godliness? – Part 3

In my last post, I encouraged you to consistently feed on God’s Word. I know that can be difficult. Other things are always vying for our attention each and everyday. So how can we consistently feed on God’s Word?

How can we consistently feed on God’s Word?

(1) We should practice the spiritual disciplines

If you aren’t familiar, the term Spiritual disciplines, refers to our daily efforts to intake God’s Word and meet with Him in prayer. We can do that in a number of ways:

  • Reading
  • Memorizing
  • Meditating
  • Discussing with others
  • Attending Bible studies

These are all ways for us to daily get into God’s Word and pray. The hard part is doing it daily. That is where the discipline part comes in because it takes effort and work to get into God’s Word on a daily basis. We know we need to practice the spiritual disciplines, we just don’t do it.

How can we get to a place where we are consistent in getting into the Word and praying?

Let me offer a few suggestions.

(1) Use a plan

You don’t build a house or start a business without a plan, nor should you practice the spiritual disciplines without a plan. We have to know where we are going and how we are going to get there, which is why a Scripture reading plan is crucial. Not only does it help provide direction, but it helps you track your progress, so that you know you are on target.

(2) Schedule a Meeting

Along with a reading plan, it is a good idea to plan when you are going to meet with God and put it on your calendar just like you would any other meeting. I find the appointments I schedule are the ones that usually happen.

(3) Pick a place

Along with scheduling a time, it’s probably a good idea to schedule a place to have your meeting. When thinking about the place, I encourage you to pick a place that you can sit, read, and pray without distraction or discomfort. For me, that’s usually the kitchen table if the kids aren’t up, my office or the back porch. Those are quiet, distraction free places that are comfortable.

(4) Change it up 

Don’t use the same Bible reading method or plan year in and year out. Instead, change it up. Use a read through the Bible plan one year, camp in a book the next, or select a specific topic of study.

But don’t just change up your plan, try changing up the version you read as well. A different translation can help you discover things you may not have seen before. And that can help keep things fresh.

(5) Meet with a group

Studying together is a great way to get more out of your daily devotions. I am in a study group that meets every Friday morning — our Men’s Breakfast. It has been a blessing to me. As we have worked our way through several books of the Bible, I have discovered things about God’s Word that I would not have on my own.
And meeting with those guys every week also helps keeps me on track. I know I have to be prepared on Friday. Having that deadline helps me to be consistent.

So those are just a few ways you can practice the spiritual disciplines more regularly. Hopefully, one or several of those will help you to be more consistent in feeding on God’s Word.

Along with practicing the spiritual disciplines, if we want to constantly feed on God’s Word,

(2) We must set our hope on Christ 

That is what kept the apostle Paul going, and that is what should keep us going. Look at what he says in verse 10,

“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Ti 4:10)

Paul tells us to set our hope on God because he knows the ways of the world are completely bankrupt. Jesus is the One who gives us hope. He is the One who saves, sanctifies, and satisfies.

Knowing that Jesus is our only hope should drive us to want to know Him and to live according to His ways. The way we grow in our knowledge of Jesus, the way we come to know how He wants us to live, the way we are motivated to keep pressing on is by reading His Word. So our hope in Christ, then, should drive us to feed on God’s Word. As we feed on His Word, we should grow in godliness.

Knowing that, then, should drive us to intake God’s Word on a daily basis. I encourage you to make a commitment today to read, study, meditate on, memorize, and pray God’s Word. That’s the only way we are going to grow in godliness — in our devotion, respect, and desire for God — so let’s commit ourselves to feasting on the meat of God’s Word daily so we will be a people who are consistently growing.

Question for Reflection?

  1. What tactics do you use to make sure you are consistently feeding on God’s Word?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: How Can We Train Ourselves for Godliness?

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How can we train ourselves for godliness? – Part 2

We don’t get saved one day, and wake up the next godly. We must train ourselves for godliness. But how? Maybe you are new to this. Maybe you aren’t a seasoned gym rat who knows exactly what exercises to do and how to do them. But you see the value of growing in godliness and you are willing to put in effort. Maybe that’s you. And you are sitting their wondering, how do I do this? Where do I start? Let’s spend a few minutes talking about that.

How Do We Train Ourselves for Godliness?

(1) We shouldn’t waste our time on godless myths, old wives tales, and conspiracy theories

Writing to Timothy Paul says,

“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;” (1 Ti 4:7)

There are a lot of things out there that are promoted as spiritual. Think about:

  • Horoscopes
  • Psychics
  • Ouija Boards

All these claim to have a connection to the spiritual world. But God is not in them. It’s Satan who’s behind these things. Knowing that, we as Christians, shouldn’t mess with or explore them.

Another thing we shouldn’t get caught up in is things like the Bible code. If you haven’t heard anything about the Bible code, it basically deals with a made up numbering system that’s supposed to reveal to us hidden knowledge in the Bible. I say made up because there is no hidden knowledge in Bible. God has plainly revealed everything that we need to know. So we shouldn’t waste our time with ideas like that. It doesn’t promote godliness.

Another thing we shouldn’t spend a lot time with is End Times speculations. I know that it is popular to try to figure out dates and ordering of events. When or if Israel is going to build a Temple. Or even if they have all the stuff to do it. But if we are honest with ourselves, none of that stuff really helps us to grow in godliness. It’s all speculation and a big waste of time, a distraction.

We know the end is coming. We have a general idea of what is going to happen. That’s really all we need. So instead of focusing on speculative theories, we need to focus on those things that can be known now. They are what’s going to help us grow, so they need to be our focus.

One last thing I’ll mention that we shouldn’t focus on is conspiracy theories. They are abundant, can pull us in, and even divide us from those we are supposed to love. If we want to grow in godliness, we need to avoid conspiracy theories.

You see, as Christians, we can’t allow godless, idle chatter to take up the majority of our time. We only have so much of it. And if you think about it, the Bible itself is a huge book with enough content to keep us busy for a lifetime. So instead of focusing on this other stuff that has no value for promoting growth in godliness, we should focus on God’s Word. It is what is going to grow us in our Christian life, which is what we as Christians should be after.

That’s not just coming from me. That is what God is telling us through His Word. That is what verse 7 is all about.

So instead of wasting our time with godless myths, old wives tales, and conspiracy theories,

(2) We should constantly feed on the Word of God  

Paul tells Timothy to do just that in verse 6, when he says,

“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” (1 Ti 4:6)

To me the NASB gets across the point of the phrase “being trained in the words of the faith” better when it translates it as “constantly nourished on the words of the faith.” That tells us, then, that Paul is telling Timothy that he must consistently feed or nourish himself with the truths of the gospel and God’s Word in order to sustain his faith, his commitment to Christ, and his spiritual energy and enthusiasm.

You see, these godless silly myths won’t do that for us. Only God’s Word will sustain and grow us. They are Satan’s tools of distraction. Instead we must feed on the Word.

The idea of feeding on the gospel and God’s Word should resonate with us. In order for us to survive and go about our daily tasks, we have to constantly feed our bodies. If we don’t eat, we won’t have any energy. Eventually, we will waste away and die.

Just as our physical life must be sustained by food, our spiritual life must be sustained by the food of God’s Word. We have to constantly feed on it in order to provide ourselves with the spiritual nourishment necessary to sustain and grow our spiritual life.

So if we are getting in to things that are taking us away from God’s Word or are just dealing with speculative theories that no one can really know is true or not, we need to forsake those things. And return to the meat of God’s Word, so that we will be nourished and can continue to grow in godliness. We must be a people who constantly feed on the Word of God. It must be a consistent part of our daily diet.

Looking Forward

Next time, I will provide some practical ways we can consistently feed on God’s Word.

Question for Reflection?

  1. What are some other ways we can train ourselves for godliness?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: How Can We Train Ourselves for Godliness?

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