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Thinking Like Jesus

Posted on November 13, 2019 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Saints;


In his encouragement to the church at Philippi Paul urges them to, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). The ultimate goal of the renewing of the mind and the changes it produces in the believer is to give us the mind of Christ. When we can see ourselves and others like Christ, hear and understand the love and direction of the Father like Christ, and feel the passions of Christ we are exercising his mind. It is a choice on our part to use the mind of Christ that was given to us by the Spirit of Christ when he created us brand new persons. All believers are given the privilege of thinking like Jesus in their everyday experience.


But how are we to know the difference between the natural or carnal mind of the flesh we are so used to and the mind of Christ? Paul doesn’t leave us wondering but goes on in the following verses to describe the characteristics of the mind of Christ we are to exercise. The first and most important characteristic is that Jesus knew who he was. Paul says, “Who {Christ} being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” By the time Jesus was twelve years old he knew who his real Father was and that he needed to be about his business. Three times throughout his public ministry the Father spoke directly to him from heaven assuring him that he was his beloved son in whom he was well pleased. Jesus had no doubt that he was not only the son of man, but the very son of God as well.


For us to exercise the mind of Christ we too are going to have to be sure of who we really are. We are going to have to accept by faith the Word of God telling us that we are no longer the same persons we were born into this world as, but brand-new creations of God as we have been born again of the Spirit. This gives us the same identity Jesus had as a child of God. Having been joined to Christ in his death, burial and resurrection we have been made alive in Christ and are blessed with all spiritual blessings. We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, a special people with the privilege of being the representatives of Christ in this world. It is this understanding of our new identity in Christ that first characterizes the mind of Christ and empowers us to act like Christ in our daily lives.


Being one with Christ, though an awesome position, is not something we use for our natural selfish ends, but the reason we are willing to give up our rights to be loved and respected. All believers by virtue of their new identity in Christ have a right to be loved and respected, but the mind of Christ is worked out in us when we give up our own rights to be ministered to so that we can serve others. Jesus did not come into the world to be ministered to, but to minister God’s love to others. As the divine son of God, he could have demanded the worship of the entire world, but instead he gave up his own rights so that he could minister to others. Because we are in him, we have all the personal love and respect we need from the Father so that we too can give up our rights to be served by others.


With the mind of Christ, we have the ability to hear the Father’s voice through the indwelling Spirit of Christ so we know how to identify with rather than condemn people and how to be obedient unto the Father’s will even if it costs our life. With the mind of Christ, we humbly submit to the will of the Father thinking more about others than we are ourselves. This radical change in our thinking is not something we do to ourselves, but rather accomplished as the “renewing of the mind” by the Spirit. The more we identify with Christ by faith, the more we become like him in our everyday lives and can actually “be Christ” to others as us. It is the mind of Christ in us that produces the character of Christ in us and causes him to live in us. Like everything else in our new life in Christ, allowing this mind to be in us is simply a call to faith in the personal work of the indwelling Spirit of God conforming us to his image.




Renewed in the Spirit of Your Mind

Posted on November 7, 2019 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Dear Saints;

The need for the renewing of our minds is clearly revealed by Paul in his letter to the Ephesian church (Ephesians 4: 17-24). Warning us against “walking” or living like non-believers he describes their problem as “the vanity of their mind”. This refers to being what might be called a “spiritual air head” which Paul goes on to describe as being confused, ignorant and blind. This natural condition of the mind is painful and leads to a self-centered obsession with making oneself feel good regardless of the cost or consequences. It is a problem all people are faced with naturally and is the underlying reason for the social ills of our culture. Clearly, there is a need in believers to have their minds renewed so they might develop the new lifestyle we were born to live.


Concerning the natural or carnal mind of the flesh, Paul tells the Ephesians they did not learn this from Christ since they have heard him and been taught the truth by him. By this he means that the natural mind of the flesh did not come from Jesus and cannot be used to live the new life they have in him. It is impossible to live the new lifestyle of grace and truth by using the mind of the old persons we were. Unfortunately, many believers fail to thrive in their new life simply because they are continuing to use the mind of the flesh. The mind of the flesh is still just as confused, ignorant and blind as it always has been. For this reason, we need to be “renewed in the spirit of our mind” as Paul reveals in this passage.


The truth Jesus teaches all believers through his indwelling Spirit concerns, first and foremost, their new identity. Paul urges them to put off the “old man” meaning their old identity and its corresponding lifestyle. He notes that both are “corrupt according to deceitful lusts”. The natural condition of humanity is not a pretty picture. We are born selfish and dysfunctional as natural descendants of Adam and live a life of corruption according to the desires of the flesh and the conditioning of the world around us. Paul tells us as believers to “put off” or reject the old identity with its corresponding lifestyle.


In order to do so we must allow ourselves to “be renewed in the spirit of our minds”. This describes the miraculous way in which the indwelling Spirit of God convinces us of our new identity in Christ and enlightens us to our new life in him. We are no longer the same person we were born as but have been “born again” by the Spirit as a brand-new child of God. As such we can live out a new lifestyle characterized by righteousness and true holiness rather than continue in the old lifestyle.


He tells us to not only put off the old identity but to also put on the new identity. This is not a call to somehow change our behavior in our own strength, but rather to change what we believe about ourselves. Are we or are we not going to believe the truth that God has done all that was necessary to make us a new person in Christ? Will we exercise faith in who he says we are, or will we go on believing we are the same old person we always thought we were? Putting off the old and putting on the new identity is not something we must convince ourselves of but the very work of the Spirit who continually bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. Our faith in who God says he made us to be in Christ produces the miracle of changing us into the image of Christ. It is in no way dependent upon our own knowledge or efforts to change ourselves, but rather on our faith in the fact that God has already changed us by putting to death the “old man” and raising up the “new man. Being renewed in the spirit of our minds is a continual process of God’s grace working in us to conform us to the image of Christ from the inside out.




Our Reasonable Service

Posted on October 31, 2019 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Dear Saints; 

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12: 1,2 

Presenting these bodies as a living sacrifice means we are giving up our own self-improvement plans according to our knowledge of good and evil in favor of God’s plans for using us. It is a choice we make to quit trying to control our lives and allow him to take control by the indwelling Spirit. Even though the new persons we are in Christ have the righteousness of Christ, our natural bodies have not yet changed at all. That means that all the conditioning, habits, coping strategies, lies, and unbelief we had as the old person we were is still contained in these mortal bodies. The Bible refers to this conditioning as the flesh and makes it clear that the new persons we are cannot overcome its power of sin in our own strength. We desperately need God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to him is the only viable option. 

Presenting our bodies to God is simply letting him use them for his purposes. We not only give up our own plans for our lives but earnestly seek to be used by God to fulfill his high calling to love others like Christ. Paul refers to this as our “reasonable service” since it is the only logical thing for us to do. We have been joined to Christ, created as a new person in Christ, quickened together with Christ, raised up and seated in the heavenlies with Christ, crucified with Christ, resurrected in Christ, married to Christ, indwelled with the Spirit of Christ, given the mind of Christ, are called to do the work of Christ, are members of the body of Christ, are hid with Christ in God, and have the very life of Christ. It is only logical that we should present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God so that he can use us to be Christ in this world. 

In connection with presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to God Paul tells us to quit allowing ourselves to be pressed into the mold of this world. By this he means that we are to reject the natural conditioning of this world to save ourselves by our own efforts whether good or bad. Such a selfish focus on our own life prohibits any possibility of loving others like Christ. Instead, Paul tells us to allow ourselves to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds”. Personal transformation from a naturally self-centered taker to a compassionate giver is only accomplished as our minds are renewed. Spiritual growth and maturity come only through the work of the indwelling Spirit changing the way we think about God, ourselves, and others. This change, referred to as the “renewing of the mind”, occurs when we chose to believe what God says about us rather than what we have been conditioned to believe by the world we live in. 

The renewing of our minds changes the way we see God. Rather than view him as an impartial judge we see him as a loving father. Rather than seeing only his righteousness revealed in the demands of the law, we see his love revealed in the grace and truth of Jesus. Such changes in the way we see God is a result of the change in our relationship to him. Rather than seeing him as a threat because we are separated from him by sin, we see him as our only source of life and wisdom because we have been reconciled in his son. 

As our image of God changes, we also see ourselves differently. We begin to see ourselves as brand-new persons and are able to make a distinction between our sinful flesh and the righteous persons God has made us to be. We are encouraged to rely on the power of the indwelling Spirit to “put to death the deeds of the body” and “wait for the hope of righteousness by faith”. We no longer feel compelled to earn God’s love through religious ritual and effort but receive it as his beloved child in whom he is well pleased. In short, we are able to develop a healthy self-image believing we are one with Jesus.

The transformation of our own self-image allows us to begin to see others around us in a different way as well. Instead of depending on and seeking their approval we are free to begin to actually care about them and recognize their new identity in Christ. Seeing others like God sees them helps us to tolerate or forbear them in love. Knowing that the same grace that is transforming us is also at work in them gives us the patience to endure their weakness in the flesh. We can confront their fleshly behavior without condemning them personally. We can comfort them in their suffering without enabling their dysfunctional flesh. Finally, our view of them in Christ allows us to support them in their efforts to believe without attaching any expectations. 


Look in the Mirror

Posted on October 24, 2019 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Dear Saints; 

Many believers fall into a dangerous trap of thinking, “Now that I am a Christian, I’m going to have to change my ways or God will not bless or maybe even curse me.” This spiritual trap is not new since it has been used by the enemy for the last two millennia. It is an effort on the part of Satan to divert our attention from what God says is true about us and trusting him to work in our lives to an unhealthy obsession with our own knowledge of good and evil and our own efforts to live right. 

Believers that try as hard as they can to be “good Christians” naturally use their own knowledge and understanding of right and wrong to make their choices in their everyday life. Using the Bible as a book of rules they view God’s law as a means to save themselves and rely on their own understanding and interpretation (the letter) to live a life pleasing to God. While some may experience temporary success in their self-improvement program and take pride in the fact that they are living according to the demands of the Bible, the sad truth is they have made Christ of no effect in their lives and are obligated to keep the whole law in their own strength. 

In contrast to this religious trap for believers who want real transformation in their lives Paul gives us the good news of how God works in us by his Spirit. In 2 Corinthians 3: 18 he says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The context of this statement is a discussion of how we are going to live our lives as believers…under the old covenant of law, or under the new covenant of grace. Further he tells us that when the law is used (our own efforts to keep the rules as we interpret them) we must pretend and cover up our failures. But when we focus on what God has done for us under the new covenant, we have true liberty. 

What Paul is describing is the key to personal transformation. Rather focus on what we are going to do or not do he tells us to look steadfastly in the “glass” or mirror to see the glory of the Lord. When looking in the mirror we would naturally expect to see ourselves, but here Paul says we are to look at the glory of the Lord who is Jesus, the express image of the invisible God. The mirror is the Bible and we are to look into what the Bible says about who we are in Christ, the “glory of the Lord”. In other words, our responsibility is to earnestly study who God says he has made us to be in Christ. Our faith in what the Word of God says about our union with and new identity in Christ is what the Bible calls the “milk” which all believers need to grow in grace and knowledge of Christ. 

When we exercise our faith in our new identity in Christ a miracle takes place. Paul says we are changed, not that we change ourselves. The verb used here is written in the passive voice meaning that it is a change that happens to us rather than a change we make ourselves. He goes on to tell us that we are changed into the “same image” meaning that we are miraculously transformed into the image of Christ and the new man God has made us to be. The miraculous change is developmental and progressive in that it is “from glory to glory” as we mature spiritually. And it is a change that the Spirit of God makes in us himself. 

In fulfillment of the new covenant of grace God radically changes us from the inside out so that we begin to act, feel, and relate to others just like Jesus. Our job is to steadfastly look into the “mirror” and believe what God says he has done for us in Christ. His job is to continue to change us and transform us into the same image as his beloved son in whom he is well pleased. 


Motivations of the Heart

Posted on October 17, 2019 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Saints;

Have you ever noticed that God is not as concerned about what we do as he is why we do it? This may come as a shock to many, but God is not impressed with our performance in any way. According to the apostle Paul what we do or do not do doesn’t count with God at all (Galatians 5: 6). What he is looking for in us is not our performance, but our faith that is expressed in love for others. And because he reads our hearts like an open book, he is well aware of our motivations at any given time. In fact, it is our motivation that determines whether our behavior (verbal and non-verbal) is acceptable to God.

A life that is healthy and pleasing to God is motivated by faith rather than fear, hope rather than guilt, and love rather than pride. Everything that we say or do may be classified as healthy or unhealthy based on the motive behind it. Unhealthy behavior is motivated by fear, guilt, and pride whereas healthy behavior is motivated by faith, hope, and love. In the relational world I refer to unhealthy behavior as manipulation and healthy behavior as ministry. But the only difference between manipulation and ministry is motive.

We can do and say the exact same things for two different reasons. I can give my wife flowers and tell her that I love her because I am motivated by genuine love based on faith in who God has made me to be, or I can give her flowers and tell her that I love her in order to manipulate her to give me what I am afraid I won’t get otherwise. One is selfless behavior of ministry the other is selfish behavior of manipulation. What makes the difference is the motive. This is why God doesn’t just look at our behavior, but examines the motives underlying that behavior.

The true sign of spiritual maturity in Christ is healthy behavior motivated by love. While all believers have the potential to love others like Christ because they are born of God, not all realize that potential because they have not yet “known” God. John states, “he that loves not knows not God; for God is love” (1 John 4: 8). Knowing God in the sense John is talking about is much more than simply knowing about God. It is the experiential knowledge of an intimate and personal relationship with God when our faith in who God has made us to be produces the hope, we need to truly love others like Christ. Knowing God like John describes is the experience of God’s overflowing love shared with others.

The motivation required for spiritual maturity and a healthy lifestyle of ministry is said to be the fruit of the indwelling Spirit of God. When we trust in who God said he has has made us to be we experience the hope regardless of our natural circumstances. That hope frees us to be able to consider others around us and express the love of God in all that we do or say. Being honest with God about our natural false motivations of fear, guilt, and pride we can be sure the Spirit will replace them with faith, hope, and love. That spiritual motivation is what makes what we say and do acceptable and pleasing to God as we model the life of his son, Jesus.




Perilous Times From the Flesh

Posted on October 10, 2019 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Saints;


In his second letter to his disciple, Timothy, Paul warns, “that in the last days perilous times shall come” and goes on to provide a lengthy list of some 19 characteristics of corrupted human nature. Clearly the perilous times he is referring to are a direct result of the what the Bible calls “the flesh” or sinful nature of the old persons we were before being born of the Spirit. While we have other spiritual enemies (Satan and his emissaries and the world order and conditioning) our greatest enemy is the fleshly nature we yet possess in our natural bodies.


Perhaps the single biggest and most damaging characteristic of the flesh is what Paul mentions first in his list, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves”. The founders of AA made this same discovery when they wrote, “Selfishness, self-centered, we think, is the root of all our problems”. The inherent selfishness of the flesh is the foundation for all the various forms of dysfunction in both the individual and society as a whole. It underlies all the other characteristics of fallen human nature that ultimately lead to the “perilous times” Paul warns would come in the last days.


Paul’s warning concerning the “last days” refers to the natural progression of corruption in humanity over time. Although we often consider the “last days” as a prophetic statement of the time just prior to the coming of the Lord, the truth is we have been in the last days since Jesus ascended back into heaven. During the last two millennium humanity has been in a downward spiral of corruption made possible by our increased technology and wealth. No amount of affluence or knowledge can sufficiently deal with the selfishness of the flesh. God’s answer remains our only hope.


Paul’s testimony in Romans 7 concerning his best efforts to overcome his own flesh reveals the sheer impossibility of our own knowledge of good and evil and will power to remove the selfishness of our own flesh. Although God has given us a new identity in Christ, we still inhabit the same body we were given at birth with all its natural self-centered. While the new persons we are have the righteousness and character of Christ, the flesh that still stains “the body of this death” remains selfish and independent of God. As a new creation in Christ still living in this world in a body that contains the remnants of who we used to be we are in desperate need of a Savior to “deliver us from the body of this death”. Paul declares that Savior to be none other than God himself through Jesus Christ by means of the indwelling Holy Spirit.


The perilous times we are living in now is the result of the selfish flesh of all mankind. No amount of knowledge of good and evil (legislation) or self-improvement programs will overcome the flesh on and individual or group level. Only the miraculous provisions of the indwelling Spirit God replacing the selfishness of the flesh with the love of God will change us as well as the times in which we live.




Trusting the Comforter

Posted on October 3, 2019 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Dear Saints; 

Living is a fallen world in sin-cursed bodies that are also growing old and falling apart none of us can avoid suffering. Whether it be a simple inconvenience or a major problem in our lives no one is exempt from some kind trial that causes us pain. Despite our best efforts to avoid pain or at least anesthetize the hurt when we do suffer, all of us need the comfort promised by Jesus when he left his disciples in this world and ascended back into heaven. 

For those who believed on him and followed his ministry on this earth they were shocked beyond belief when he announced he was leaving them. They had high expectations of reigning with him as he set up his kingdom on earth. They looked past potential conflict to a time they would enjoy all the comforts of living with the king as he ruled all of Israel and the world. Suddenly their hopes were dashed to pieces when he not only said he was leaving them but also commanded them to stay behind and love one another. No one was more in need of comfort than these confused disciples. 

In that context Jesus promised the comfort we all need when he said he would not leave them like orphans but would send them another of the same kind of comforter he had been for them. He was referring to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, whom he called the Comforter. That is the same Spirit who lives in the new person God has made every believer to be in Christ. The fact that Jesus called him the Comforter suggests that his primary job in our lives is to comfort us in all our suffering. This he does by leading us, teaching us, guiding us into all truth, reminding us who we are, and making Jesus real to us. 

Because our comfort in any suffering comes from the work of the indwelling Spirit of God it is totally independent of our circumstances in life and our own efforts to change them. We need not look outside ourselves for comfort, but rather within our own experience of suffering. The moment we enter any kind of suffering the Spirit within begins to intercede for us according to the will of God, which is to work all things, even our trial, together for our good. Our comfort is found in the inward peace that surpasses our understanding, the unspeakable joy or inward contentment, and the overflowing love we experience. 

It’s easy to miss this kind of comfort when we are focused only on our circumstances or our own efforts to mitigate our suffering. Our natural tendencies to blame ourselves, others, or even God for our suffering can overshadow the comfort he is producing within. Our futile efforts to change the past or control the future will only add to the frustration we feel and hide the comfort of the Spirit within. Choosing to believe the promise of comfort in the midst of our suffering is what gives us the hope we need to not only endure, but to love like Jesus. It is our willingness to trust the Father in the middle of our trial that allows us to experience his supernatural comfort. 


Blessed Hope

Posted on September 26, 2019 at 11:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Dear Saints; 

An elderly custodian at a seminary was listening to the students debating various topics in the book of Revelation concerning the end times and the second coming of Jesus. When the students noticed he had paused from his work to listen they turned to him and asked his opinion on the topic. The old man just smiled and said, “Jesus wins!” No matter what we make of the details revealed in the last book of the Bible, the simple truth is that Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, the King of kings and Lord of lords does win the spiritual war. The good news is that we believers also share in his final victory over all evil and will reign with him in his kingdom. 

This blessed hope of the sure coming of Jesus is what gives us the strength to endure the evil of this present age. To the extent that we believe in and count on this promised victory we may experience the joyful, confident, expectation in what lies ahead in our future. Regardless of increasing corruption in our society and the resulting perversion of justice, we can be sure that we shall not lose. This hope is not simply wishful thinking based on academic study and conclusions, but the supernatural fruit of the Spirit comforting us in the midst of our circumstances. Jesus promised us that he would not abandon us here in this world filled with tribulation but said that he would come to us. The way he does that now is through his indwelling Spirit, the Comforter, who guides us, leads us, teaches us, reminds us, and glorifies Jesus (makes him real) in our minds. 

God has promised to come to us in the midst of our trials to enable us to remain steadfast in our faith so that we can continue to minister to others in love. As this world plunges headlong into the political, social, and economical corruption of “Mystery Babylon” (the last world empire designed and controlled by Satan in opposition to the kingdom of God), believers are promised all that we need to sustain our lifestyle of grace and truth. The inner comfort of the Spirit overcomes all external threat with the hope of victory. As described in the Revelation we overcome the enemy through the blood of the Lamb, the power of our testimony, and our willingness to lay down our lives for Christ’s sake. It is the hope produced in us by the Spirit as we believe the promises of God that empowers us to victory.

Like everything else in the lifestyle of grace and truth our victory in Christ is totally opposite to our natural understanding. Paul learned that God’s strength was made perfect in his own weakness when God taught him that his grace was sufficient. He also learned that we are more than conquers through the trials of this world. The natural meaning of “conquer” is one who wins the battle by defeating the enemy; but being “more than a conquer” means we not only win the battle but we also help others win as well. The testimony we share with others concerning the gospel in the midst of our own suffering is a powerful witness to the grace of God. That message and witness to the sustaining grace of God encourages other to trust the promises of God as well. 

In order to prepare for the intensifying conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world we need only to follow the personal leadership of the indwelling Spirit of God. As the Comforter gives us the hope, we need to love others during whatever trials we may have to endure, we can continue to fulfill our high calling of God in Christ Jesus to be Christ to others as us.


Closer Walk

Posted on September 18, 2019 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Saints; 

There is an old hymn that expresses the deepest desire in the heart of every believer. It is called “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and puts in words the longing of all who have been born of the Spirit to live out their new life in Christ daily. The lyrics are beautiful:

I am weak but Thou art strong, Jesus keep me from all wrong

I'll be satisfied as long, As I walk, let me walk close to Thee

When my feeble life is o'er, Time for me will be no more

Guide me gently, safely o'er, To Thy kingdom's shore, to Thy shore

Just a closer walk with Thee, Grant it, Jesus, is my plea

Daily walking close to Thee, let it be, dear Lord, let it be

While it is often covered over with other longings and desires of the flesh, this is the heart-cry of everyone who is born of God. The new person that has been created in Christ, though still living in a body of flesh, cries out for a closer walk with Jesus. Underneath the fleshly and sensual desires of the natural persons we were is the longings of the new persons we are to live out our new, eternal life in Christ.

The apostle Paul makes it clear in Romans 7 that we cannot live the new life in our own strength and knowledge of good and evil. We need a Savior as much now as we did before we believed on Jesus. His heart-cry recorded for us in verse 24- “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”-is equivalent to the plea for a closer walk with Jesus. The recognition that we, even as believers, are too weak to live like who we have been made to be in Christ keeps us from the condemnation of failure and the pride of religious self-effort. Trusting Jesus to “keep us from all wrong” is relying on him to deliver us from the fleshly desires of the old persons we were. 

The satisfaction our soul longs for can never be found in the natural desires of the flesh based on our false assumptions of who we are and what will satisfy our longings. Although there are many ways to achieve temporary satisfaction in this world, eternal satisfaction comes only from that “closer walk with Jesus”. Living his life through the power of his indwelling Spirit according to his plan to love others around us is what truly satisfies the deep longings of our soul. Everything else may offer a temporary satisfaction but will soon degenerate into frustrated chaos that leaves us empty and without hope. 

The “closer walk” with Jesus is the life we all are really longing for in this world. Thankfully, it’s what God wants for us as well. Despite the chaos and confusion of our flesh, we are encouraged to make this plea since God continually works in us both to will and to do his good pleasure. 


Praying for the Bahamas

Posted on September 5, 2019 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Dear Saints;

My heart is grieved for the folks in the Bahamas. Having survived a few hurricanes in South Florida I can’t even imagine the suffering endured by those who were caught up in the furry of Dorian for over two days. We are just now beginning to learn about the devastation they will have to face on the long road to recovery. They will need our prayers and support for a long time to come. 

Nothing causes us to doubt the goodness of God and the hope of the gospel more than suffering. Natural disasters of this sort tend to divide our thinking into two camps. There are those who think God uses such events to punish the people who are suffering because of their sins. And there are those who think God spared them from the disaster because of their righteousness. According to Jesus, both ideas are wrong. As he told his disciples, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust”.

Such erroneous thinking is born out of a deep fear we naturally have of suffering and our own pitiful efforts to avoid it. The foolishness of man assumes that we can understand its causes and somehow avoid it by our efforts. When this reasoning is applied to God, we conclude that since he is both omnipotent and loving he would do whatever is necessary to prevent those he loves from suffering. Add to that the idea that God does not love sinful people and it seems that those who suffer must deserve it as punishment. Such convoluted thinking and false conclusions not only discourage those who suffer, but also creates a false pride in those who don’t.

In the last half of Romans 8 Paul makes it clear that suffering is not due to personal sinfulness, but because we live in a sin-cursed world within sin-cursed bodies which are both falling apart. This is what physicists refer to as the second law of thermodynamics which states that matter goes from an orderly to a disorderly state meaning that things grow old and fall apart. He tells us that the creation “was made subject to vanity” meaning that the universe began falling apart when mankind turned away from God and that “the whole creation groans and travails together in pain until now”. Suffering is a universal reality for all humanity and not simply a punishment for some. 

But God has not left us without hope in this world of suffering and pain. He has sent his Son to deal with the underlying sin causing suffering and left us his Spirit to comfort us in the middle of our suffering until he redeems both us and the creation. We cannot find relief through our puny efforts to avoid suffering, but through facing it in faith trusting in his provisions in the middle of it. There we will find the peace that passes all understanding, the hope we need to endure, and the love to share with others.