POSSESSIONS OR JESUS

Luke 18:22 – Sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.

When Jesus walked this earth, he admonished folks to lay down their possessions and follow Him. The rich young ruler asked how he could receive salvation. When Jesus told him to go and sell everything and give it to the poor and follow Him, the young man decided that the price was far too high.  He did not realize the price Jesus would pay for his sin.

I am bought with a price, Jesus’ blood. I am covered thoroughly with the robe of righteousness which the Father has placed upon me. Jesus lives in me through His Spirit. What joy to know my heavenly Father loves me, and gives me a relationship with Him through Christ Jesus. When the Father looks at me, He sees not what I used to be, but He sees the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing I possess compares to the price which was paid for my salvation.

It is important for the child of God to walk the tightrope between possessions and our treasures in heaven. Possessions, in and of themselves, are not evil or wrong. In the case of the rich young ruler, Jesus was challenging his heart. He was attached more firmly to his possessions than what was healthy. It cost him eternity. The Lord might have chosen to return all or more than what he would have given to the poor. He needed to be free from the bondage to his possessions.

Jesus told the church at Laodicea, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:16). The issue with the members of the church in Laodicea was not eternal life; it was their commitment to the Lord’s purpose and His ability to use them. They felt content in their prosperity and became “lukewarm” in their commitment to Christ and His kingdom purpose.

We must examine our hearts to see if we too are “lukewarm” because of materialism. As a Christian, there must be a tension between wealth and our commitment to a Christ-like lifestyle. While on earth, Jesus had all He ever needed, but was not wealthy by the world’s standards. Paul, the apostle said he suffered the loss of all things for Christ (Philippians 3:8). Yet he always paid his own way. He paid for the care of his team members; he used the school of Tyrannus in Ephesus, no doubt renting its use for two years, and he paid for his own rented house in Rome (Acts 28:30). The issue for the rich young ruler and the church at Laodicea was a “heart issue.” It is an issue for many in the Lord’s church today.

Father, help me search my heart to know if I am in bondage to possessions. Give me grace to be free from any bondage which prevents me from totally being committed to You and Your kingdom. Grace me to follow Jesus by giving away everything to which my heart is attached, knowing You will give me all I need to fulfill Your purposes and plan in my life.

OUR PERSONAL GROWTH

2 Corinthians 3:18 – We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

While we are to accept each other as we are, we do not remain as we are. The Spirit of God is at work bringing change as Scripture reveals. The change into Christ’s image is an expression of God’s love to the world. You are sent to others as a love letter from God. The Father accepts us just as we are, but He is also at work to change us to be like Him. The change happens in the context of family and as we interact with those who are yet unreached for God’s kingdom.

Acceptance does not promote sin. Acceptance empowers people to risk facing and confessing their sin and moves us toward wholeness. It is important to realize that each person has the right to become who God intended them to be. At the same time, we must guard against selfishness, always putting the interest of family before the interests of individuals. Acceptance and opportunity to grow is what each of us needs most in life.

Our understanding of God’s will for the body of Christ is not centered around buildings or religious activities, but family relationships and environment—a relationship with God as Father, Jesus as our elder brother, and the Holy Spirit as the one who nurtures us by revealing the Father and Son in greater depths. Our commitment in Christ is to other believers to whom we have been joined. They are to be seen as our brothers and sisters in His family. As members of His family, we extend His love and power to the world. Our life in a church family is expressed in multi-dimensional relationships.

The writer of Hebrews gives clear instruction concerning our relationships within the body of Christ. “Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble” (Hebrews 12:12-15). What wonderful counsel for each member of the family of God.

Father, I ask for the Holy Spirit to work in my life that I never come short of the grace of God in any of my relationships. Give to me a love for family as You love family, both natural and spiritual family. Help me to nurture each relationship that You have given me and use others to bring change in my life for Your glory.

LOVE, FORGIVENESS, AND ACCEPTANCE

Romans 15:7 – Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

While we accept each other as we are, we do not remain as we are. As each one comes to Christ, forgiveness and acceptance are given by the Father. We then become part of one another on the very common ground of His power of love to forgive and accept each one as we are. For each believer, this is the starting point in Christ Jesus.

From this starting point, we grow together in an atmosphere of love, hope, and encouragement, no matter what difficulty or devastation we face. Of course, people enter the kingdom of God and are baptized into the body having come from many backgrounds. Our life together in the body begins a process of healing and growth which can take a very long time. An atmosphere of love, forgiveness, and acceptance is necessary to help in assisting people to receive, what in many cases has never before been communicated or experienced.

In the body of Christ, we esteem the covenant of marriage, we honor singleness, and we support the single parent. Marriage is under attack as perhaps it has never been before. The marriage covenant is the sure foundation we must build upon. If the marriage foundation is destroyed, the whole culture will collapse. We must first learn how to love, forgive, and accept in our homes before we will be successful in our relationships within the church.

We must reach out to singles, who many times feel displaced from family. The single person can more fully give themselves to the cause of Christ because of less time constraints. Many singles would love to be used within the family of God, both in church activities and within families belonging to a congregation.

It is important for the church body to give support to those who have found themselves single again through divorce or death. Many times, we form groups of people with similar life experiences, but their deeper need is family. They need to know the love of fathers and mothers within the body of Christ.

We must treasure and affirm children, including them in our worship, in our ministry moments, and social events. They are our future! The Lord has always been focused on the generations. Our children will carry the torch in the future. Now is the time of their training.

In the body of Christ we will always find diversity of personality and lifestyles, each adding something valuable to the whole. I suggest including each group I have mentioned in your prayers.

BE CAREFUL HOW YOU JUDGE

John 7:24 – Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.

One Sunday morning, an old cowboy entered a church just before services were to begin. Although the old man and his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore jeans, a denim shirt, and boots that were very worn and ragged. In his hand, he carried a worn out old hat and an equally worn out old Bible.

The church he entered was a very upscale and in an exclusive part of the city. It was the largest and most beautiful church building the old cowboy had ever seen. It had high cathedral ceilings, ornate statues, beautiful murals, stained glass windows, plush carpet, and velvet-like cushioned pews. The building must have cost many millions of dollars to build and maintain.

The congregation was all dressed in the finest and most expensive suits, dresses, shoes, and jewelry the old cowboy had ever seen. As the poorly dressed cowboy took a seat, the others moved away from him. No one greeted him. No one welcomed him. No one offered a handshake. No one spoke to him. They were all appalled at his appearance and did not attempt to hide the fact. There were many glances in his direction as the others frowned and commented among themselves about his shabby attire. A few chuckles and giggles came from some of the younger members.

The preacher gave a long sermon and a stern lecture on how much money the church needed to do God’s work. When the offering plate was passed thousands of dollars came pouring forth. As soon as the service was over the congregation hurried out. Once again no one spoke or even nodded to the stranger in the ragged clothes and boots. As the old cowboy was leaving the church the preacher approached him. Instead of welcoming him, the preacher asked the cowboy to do him a favor. “Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask him what He thinks would be appropriate attire for worshiping in this church.” The old cowboy assured the preacher he would do that and left.

The very next Sunday morning the old cowboy showed back up for the service wearing the same ragged jeans, shirt, boots, and hat. Once again, the congregation was appalled at his appearance. Again, he was completely shunned and ignored. The preacher noticed the man still wearing his ragged clothes and boots, and instead of beginning his sermon, stepped down from the pulpit and walked over to where the man sat alone.

“I thought I asked you to speak to God before you came back to our church.” “I did,” replied the old cowboy. “If you spoke to God, what did he tell you the proper attire should be for worshiping in here?” asked the preacher. “Well sir, God told me that He wouldn’t have the slightest idea what was appropriate attire for worshiping in your church.” He said He’s never been in here. That church family sounds rather “dysfunctional.” They are obviously more concerned about what is seen on the outside rather than what is unseen on the inside.

“We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart” (2 Corinthians  5:12). Those who judge after appearance are judging from “pride” and not the Spirit of the Lord. The story above illustrates how both individuals and church bodies can be filled with pride and arrogance, rather than the love of God.

Father, give me eyes to see as You do. Create in me righteous judgment as the Lord Jesus instructs all His disciples to have.

THE PEACE OF DISCIPLINE

Hebrews 12:11 – All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

In our devotion yesterday, we concluded with the biblical statement of Hebrews 12:11. What the writer of Hebrews is stating is so important that it requires we look deeper into the truth it contains.

The Almighty God, who spun off worlds with His Word, is our heavenly Father if we have trusted His Only begotten Son for our salvation. His Holy Spirit resides in us and bears witness to this fact. “You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:15-17).

The child of God is not a slave, but an adopted son. The child of God can cry out Daddy and Father.  My oldest son Paul is adopted. He has known this fact from his earliest childhood. Immediately, his mother and I thanked God for him and declared his adoption to legally settle his son-ship in our family. I declared he had a father and a mother who loved him and would never abandon him.  Paul received the same blessings, but also the same discipline as our natural children. I can truly say we did not treat any of our children differently.

Paul the apostle said, “Indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17). The suffering is our identity with His cross. Because of the cross, God raised Christ up and glorified Him. Our access to the family of God is through the cross of Christ. We have been raised up in newness of life and as joint heirs of God’s grace.

The Father’s training comes through discipline. Discipline is not the wrath of the Father, but His love to produce the fruit of peace and righteousness. God’s wrath concerning sin was settled at the cross of Christ. Father God is not angry at mankind and especially those who have been adopted into His family through the redemptive work of Christ. He trains His children through various types of disciplines. We should pay special attention to how Jesus trained His disciples in order to know how God wants us to be trained.

Jesus modeled the Father’s love. He first showed the Father’s nature “full of grace and truth.” He taught through words with love and authority. He reached out to the weak and needy. He demonstrated the Father’s love through direct action. He told His disciples to go do as he was doing, and gave them the authority to accomplish the assignment.  He corrected their misunderstandings, bickering, and wrong heart motivations. He promised them another Helper just like Him so they would not have to go it alone.  

Father, I want to be corrected and rebuked by You when necessary. I know it won’t be pleasant, but I also know it will mature me and produce the peace of righteousness in my life.