What are you bowing down to?

We all have the habit, as humans to get our priorities skewed.

When this happens, we end up putting something other than God first in our lives.

It might be that new toy we got for Christmas or that exciting relationship in your life…

but the point is we intentionally or inadvertently bow down to something in our lives.

The question at hand is “what are you bowing down to?”

And what are you going to do about it? Take sometime to reflect and think about your own

priorities it is important to get our habits established early on in the year. It is something I

struggle with as well.

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Paul’s Gospel

Righteousness- equity, justice, fairness, moral correct, right doing, good, worthy, virtue, decency, honest, innocent, holy, the perfectness and pureness of Jesus Christ.

Faith-ability to believe in Christ’s death, as the ground of justification before God, saving faith.

Redemption- to let go free for a ransom. Sin is presented as slavery and sinners as slaves. Deliverance from sin is freedom.

Justification- acquittal for Christ’s sake, to be justified/ excused of sin because of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.

The “Romans road” can be used to explain the Gospel. It is similar to how Paul explains the Gospel in the first 5 chapters of Romans. Let’s take a look at these verses and also so verses beyond the first 5 chapters in Romans. First Paul starts with the problem of the sin nature.” Rom 3:10 as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE.” Humans are trapped in a hopeless predicament because of sin nature. By the sin nature, men are not righteous. Rom 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Paul’s solution to the sin nature in the Gospel message is faith in Jesus Christ. Rom 10:9, 10 says “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” This is faith, saving faith. We believe that as Jesus Christ was raised from the dead so we were raised with Jesus.
Jesus’ death and resurrection according to Paul’s Gospel is justification for our sin and sin nature. Christ in his righteousness (perfection) sacrificed for fallen man. Through Christ we are justified. As Rom 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because of our sin we are doomed to die. But through Christ we live. The only way this is possible is through redemption. Jesus justified us, acquitted us because he redeemed us through His death and blood on the cross. As Rom 5:8 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God allowed all of this to happen. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Marks of Maturity

In the latter part of Galatians 5, the apostle Paul urges the Christians of Galatia, to practical godliness and he also warns against the snares of the false teachers. Paul wants to be clear. Christians are not to live by flesh. And they are not under law. Instead they are to live by love and live by the Spirit (v. 13-26). Paul wrote Galatians because Judiazers or Christian-Jews were coming in and teaching the churches in Galatia that in order to be saved, Christians must continue to follow the law. Paul’s main purposes in Galatians were to establish his authority as an apostle, re-establish the true meaning of the Gospel, warn against these Judiazers, and establish the place for the law.

Paul says that we are to love each other as ourselves. We can only do this by living by the Spirit. By the Spirit we are no longer under the works and desires of flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things.” Instead we are filled with: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (v19-21).”

It is only through and because of Christ that we can live in the Spirit. For, “those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another” (v. 22-26).

I will examine three of these fruits more closely: Self-control, peace and patience. (I chose these three because they are most difficult for me.) Self-control is rendered from the Greek word, “ejgkravteia” and the Latin word, continenia. Self-control is a concept that is difficult to pin down and grasp exactly and completely. Self-control is the ability to restrain impulse, set up boundaries, or control actions. The only real “self-control” comes from the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is living in a Christian, then the Christian is able to resist temptation to sin, choose words wisely, and is able to control thoughts and actions that are fleshly or ungodly. Having self-control is a mark of spiritual maturity. Solomon writes in Proverbs five that “An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness (v. 22, 23).”
According to this verse, evil and foolish men do not have self-control. Self-control is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit and spiritual growth.
Peace is resting in relationship w God. In John 14:27, Jesus says “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (NKJV).” Again in Matthew 11, Jesus speaks of the true source of peace, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (v. 28-30).” Jesus is saying that he gives peace. He wants you to find rest in Him. In our own power we will not be able to handle the stress and sins of this world, but in Christ we can.

The word “peace” comes from the Greek word “eirene”, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word “shalom”, (and Latin word, “ pax,”) which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by the outward circumstances or pressures. This peace is rule of order in place of chaos. When a person is dominated by peace, he has a calm, inner stability that results in the ability to conduct himself peacefully, even in the midst of circumstances that would normally be very nerve-wrecking, traumatic, or upsetting…Rather than allowing the difficulties and pressures of life to break him, a person who is possessed by peace is whole, complete, orderly, stable, and poised for blessing. This is a mark of maturity because it is a command by Paul and Jesus to let the peace be a part of our lives. Phil. 4:7, “And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” It is also a mark of maturity because when outsiders of Christianity see our peace, they will be curious about it. They will want it. They will see Jesus in our lives.

This peace is difficult for me and many other Christians because we like control, or at least I do. I want to make sure I have everything under control. I want to do things my own way. So I try to do things on my own power. When I do things on my own power, I forfeit this peace that Christ offers. But when I let go of my own control and let Christ control everything, this is when I truly have peace!

Patience, which in some translations is “longsuffering” or “endurance,” is defined in Strong’s by two Greek words, “makrothumia” and “hupomone.” In Latin it is the word, “longanimitas.” Trying to give an English equivalent is a little more difficult. The words: lenience, forbearance, fortitude, patient endurance, forgiving tolerance, mercy, and longsuffering – come to mind. It describes a person who has the power to exercise revenge but instead exercises restraint. The person who is patient can endure suffering, stand during difficult circumstances, and tolerate unpleasant things, such as persecution or simply annoyances. Hebrews 10:36 says “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”

Patience is a mark of maturity in the same ways as peace is. In Eph. 4, Paul calls us to patience and tolerance towards each other as Christians to preserve unity in the Spirit. In 1 Tim. 1:16, Paul says, “Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” We are following Christ’s example when we have patience. We are following Paul’s example in Antioch and the prophets example of old (James 5:10, 2 Tim. 3:10). Ecc. 7:8, “Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.”

As Christians we are to live life in Spirit. Right before Jesus ascended into Heaven he spoke about the Holy Spirit, which he left for us. Act 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Both Paul and Jesus commanded us to live by the Spirit. When we surrender our fleshly will to God’s will in the Holy Spirit then all of the characteristics, marks of maturity or fruits written about in Galatians 5:22–26, Colossians 3:12–17, or Psalm 15 will be evident in our own lives. I would like to close with 2 Peter 1: 5-8. See how these fruits build on each other. We start with faith and we grow into creatures of love! “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.

For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately (NET).”

Abiding in Christ, John 15

What does “abiding in Christ” mean? The Greek word for “abide” is “men’-o.” It means to “stay” or “remain” in one place. One might say that it means to just “hang out” or be with Jesus. In one way it means to spend time with Jesus. You need to take your faith seriously. You need to spend time with Jesus if you are serious in your faith. In another sense it means that there are choices. We can choose to prioritize Jesus in our lives or we can spend time serving other “gods” or other masters in our lives. The choice is ours. We can serve God in obedience or serve other things, in disobedience to God. You cannot have two masters.

The best way to answer this question is by looking at it in context. Jesus is giving the 12 some of the last teaching and training on their way from the last supper to the Garden in Kidron where Jesus would be arrested and betrayed. The points Jesus makes are that, if you choose me as your Lord – If you spend time with me there are advantages! With me in your life you will grow your faith and bear fruit. With me you will “ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” With me in your life, you will have God on your side. You will make him happy. Also Jesus makes points on the other side. Dallas Willard would say “the cost of non-discipleship” (which is greater than the “cost of discipleship.” The costs of not having Jesus in your life as he argues (for himself) are that” without me you can do nothing.” In Christ, you can do all things, without him you can do nothing. It comes down to a dichotomy. You are for God or against him! Another reason follows similarly, remember that God is against you if you are not for him. “

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” God tends
the branches. Metaphorically we are the branches. Jesus is the vine. He is the
source of strength, water, and goodness –all of life. God is the Gardener and
he tends the branches that do not bear fruit. The branches that are not fully
intact with the vine, God tends. Finally it is also important to realize that God wants us to obey his rules. Remaining in him also presupposes that we continue to obey and keep his commands.

Put off Flesh, Put on Christ

* What, practically, does Paul mean in Gal. 5?

Basically Paul is giving us a basic lesson on Christian living. This short passage is very consistent with Paul’s teaching through-out the New Testament as well as with what Jesus taught. As Christians we are to live in Christ and not in the flesh any longer. We have a choice to live in obedience or disobedience. Paul is calling Christians to unity in obedience to Christ. The text also means that it is not enough to attempt to stop sinning. The truth is that we must replace our vices and sinful habits with Christ, or we will just get caught in another sin or vice.

Paul’s other teachings that are very similar include his teaching on the “fruits of the spirit” (in Galatians 5:22, 23), his teachings on a right mind (in Philippians 4:8, 9), his teaching on spiritual warfare and the armor of God (in Ephesians 6:10-20), his teaching on reconciliation (in 2 Cor. 5), and his teachings on life according to the Spirit (in Rom. 8, 1 Cor. 6).
Jesus‘ teachings also lined up with what Paul is saying. Jesus was radical in his teaching. He was very clear that he wanted all of us. Not only did Christ want people to stop sinning, or to obey the law completely, but he wanted men to chose Him as their first priority completely (Mat. 6:19-24,33, 22:37).

* What is Paul instructing us to do?

First he asks us to put aside our old nature of disobedience. Verses 5-9, tell us what not to do. Second, Paul tells us to clothe ourselves with the fruits of the Spirit. Verses 10-16 tell us what we should do.
More specifically, in Christ, we are dead to the sins of our disobedient nature (immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, idolatry, anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech). We do not have to live this way, as we used to before Christ. Now we are to put on our new self, which is the image of God (holy and beloved, heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, and unity in Christ and the Word of God.) Christ set the ultimate example. And through Him, Christians can find unity on how to live.

* How can one do it (Put off >Put on)?

There is a paradox. Only through Christ can one put off the flesh and put on the Spirit/Christ. It is about Christ making us right and righteous. On man’s power alone, man will fail. This is what makes Christianity unique from all other religions. God reaches his hand down to man. Man can do nothing to save self! Sanctification is only through Christ Jesus. Man cannot help themselves. Man has choices to make, sure. Some scholars will say that man has the ultimate choice. That man has to do something to be saved and to be sanctified, this is not completely true. Man chooses daily to obey Christ by simply putting on Christ or to disobey Christ by sinning. This is true, but it takes some examining to fully understand. The issue is more complex than that.

Yes, man makes the choice to obey or to disobey, sin or not to sin, but there is the issue of surrender. If man surrenders his will to Christ, then it is Christ’s power that sanctifies man. If man surrenders his will to Christ, then and then only will man truly obey. My point is that on man’s power alone this is not possible. Man on his power will fail into sin and flesh. But man surrendered to Christ’s will can put on Christ and live as Christ, sanctified in His image. The biggest choice is for man to let go and let Christ make Him.

* How do you do it?

I personally surrender daily through prayer. I am by no means perfect. But I have made it a goal to let go before I let the day begin. As I wake up, – to the sound of the alarm, wet lick of my dog to my face, the smell of coffee, or feel the heat of the shower water – I begin praying. I begin by asking for the Holy Spirit to help me in this new day. I thank the Lord for it; everyday is a gift from Him. And I imagine putting on the whole armor of God. I try to think through situations where the Lord will need me and people who need the Lord. I ask for opportunity to serve Him.

As the day continues, I attempt to “pray without ceasing.” Of course, my life is not a piece of cake without problems and without temptations. Surrender is a continual process. It is not a one-time event, but on-going. Will I let go and let Christ or will I try to run my own life? I attempt to follow God’s will. When temptations come, I could choose to sin or obey God. I sometimes say a quick prayer and flee from the temptation. (James 1:13-18, 2 Tim 2:22) But sometimes I fail. Sometimes I sin. Just goes to show that man will fail, but in Christ we are free (Gal 5: 1-5, Rom 6:18, 8:2). Amen!

Going from Woe is me to Send me

Isa. 6

1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

2Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

3And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

4And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

6Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:

7And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

8Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

9And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.

10Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

11Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,

12And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

13But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.

The Word “Woe” means death. Isaiah understood his place. He knew he was not holy, especially seeing the Lord seated on the throne. Isaiah knew he was a sinful man., not worthy. But yet Isaiah remained humble. He chose to have an encounter with the Lord. He repented from his sin. And he responded to the call of God to GO!

River references

Eze. 47:1- The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple towards the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar.

Ez. 48: 35- “The city shall be 18,000 cubits round about; and the name of the city from that day shall be, ‘The LORD is there.’”

Ps. 36:8,9 – They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Ps.46:4,5 – [There is] a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy [place] of the tabernacles of the most High. God [is] in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, [and that] right early.