2 Timothy 1:5-7
5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
I will be beginning a new series with the students tonight. We have, for a little over a year, been contributing to our faith with an ongoing discussion of Love. We have done a great deal of work to redefine the word Love from a simple statement of affection, to one of great sacrifice. We have worked this whole time to act in a way that others might say of us, “They obviously follow Christ, because they love each other.” And where I do not believe that there will ever be a day when that discussion becomes vain, I do sense a need to continue our discussion in another direction.
I have noticed the spirit compel me to introduce another element of Paul’s greeting to Timothy. He states that God gave us a spirit of Power and Love and Self-Control. As I pray about this passage, I am directed to the term Power.
What does it mean to have spiritual power?
What does it mean to be spiritually powerful?
Is everyone’s spiritual power the same?
A similarly relevant question for me at this juncture in our ministry is to ask, “In what area should each student place the weight of their spiritual power?” Without a doubt, I have to conclude that the arena of work is the local church, and the surrounding people, but the trade or skill most effective for each student may differ. The power that must reside within each student is delivered by the Holy Spirit through our fellowship with Him, but the focus of our service will differ from one giftedness to another.
So, how will I be able to teach each student to use his or her gift, without running myself into my own grave?
The power of the Holy Spirit is our foundation. The understanding of the gifts that are given to the saints are our tools. Understanding of the tools are necessary to implement them in work. Clearly defined need is necessary to ensure that our work will yield fruit.
But the final element that will be necessary in showing our students how they have been equipped and empowered to be about the work of the Gospel is to put them to work in specific areas where they can either succeed or fail.
Failure in the kingdom is to be fulfilled by our faith in Christ, and to allow Him to appear strong, and success in the kingdom is to champion the cause of Christ through the gifting that only He can deliver to those who follow Him.
Pray for us as we begin.
Yesterday was Lamb Selection Sunday, when traditionally, the Passover lamb was selected by a family to celebrate the passing over of the angel of death during the Exodus from Egypt. As our church was celebrating yesterday, our primary focus was on the way that Jesus selected himself as the Passover lamb to be sacrificed for the salvation of all people. Christ chose to die for us, so that the wrath of the Almighty would pass over our hearts just as his angel passed over the Hebrew people wile in Egypt. I was astounded by the correlation between these two stories, and the way God foreshadowed the death of his son.
The lamb that was to be selected was perfect.
-Jesus was perfect.
The lamb was to be slain the following Friday.
-Jesus was crucified on Friday.
The Lambs blood was spread over the doorway.
-Jesus’ blood covers the “doorway” of the body (Heart).
The wrath of God (in the Exodus passage) resulted in the death of the first-born.
-Jesus was the first-born, and bore the wrath of God for us.
Jesus died so that we could be saved from wrath, but he made the determination to do so from the foundation of the world. We see reference to Jesus throughout the Old Testament, and can notice that the story of Jesus’ sacrifice is foreshadowed or depicted in every story. It is possible to find references to either Jesus’ impending sacrifice, or the human need for a savior, in every story, and character of the bible.
In my book Checklist Jesus, I noted several passages and stories that help the reader to see how God has been interested in building relationship with humans since the beginning of time. It so important for us to remember that, for us to be able to be with God forever in fellowship with Him, we must be provided an adequate sacrifice for the sins we have already committed, and a purification for the wickedness that invades our lives. That purification can only come from the spotless lamb that was slain for the salvation of the world. Jesus Christ is the only way that we can know the glory of our Father, in the fullness of who He truly is. We must be made right with God before we can have fellowship and relationship with him.
To be made right, would mean that the justice and wrath of God has passed over our hearts because of the blood of the Passover lamb. Only then are we allowed into the presence of the almighty.
Remember the Passover lamb today.
Amidst the recent scene of individuals who have taken a stand on one side of the gay marriage stance or another, several prominent people have been seen an enormous degree of criticism for their stances. Additionally, others have called for the boycott of companies represented by leaders who have taken what seem to be antigay stances. Brendan Eich of Mozilla, and Dan Cathy of Chick-Fil-A are two of the more prominent individuals who have taken public stands against gay marriage, and their respective companies have been neglected or championed for these decisions. Many in the media have made this a religious issue, and hoards of people have expressed their opinion on either side. Christians have posted their opinions for and against these individuals and issues.
But as a Christian, what should be my response to this?
Does my eating a chicken sandwich from one restaurant or another, or even using a specific web browser over another, necessarily correlate to my stance on gay marriage? Should it?
I am reminded of a passage in Galatians 2 that I think speaks to this.
11 But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
If we as believers are to engage a world for the sake of Jesus Christ, and run with His gospel as our mission, shouldn’t we share Jesus’ message, rather than the message of men who would have us pursue a religion rather than Jesus?
For those in this Galatians passage, new believers were being asked to follow the old Jewish Law in addition to accepting Jesus as their savior. But how can Jesus be our savior, if we are still trying to save ourselves with religion?
As far as I can remember, Jesus never commanded an individual to modify his/her behavior until after they expressed a desire to follow Him. The follower of Jesus should be as inviting to all people as Jesus was. Regardless of education, color, race, sexual orientation, and previous religious background, Christianity should display Jesus as he is, not how we would like to make him. Conviction, and life change are the work of the regenerated heart, not the disciplined convert.
For those of you who do not know, when a person takes a photo of himself or herself, usually with a phone or other digital device, it is known as a Selfie. These photos are typically uploaded to social media sites where individuals take and post hundreds, if not thousands of photos of themselves. The photos could have to do with where they are, what they are doing, or who they are with, but they always have the same foreground focal point. Each of these photos is primarily capturing the individual who is taking the picture.
Because of the prevalence of this kind of activity, it may not seem all that odd to you at this point, but in reality, this marks a dynamic shift in the culture. This is the first time in history that we see a self-contained worship of self.
Prior to this point, in order to have photos or even large amounts of focus placed on an individual, it was necessary for that person to engage other people. However, today a person can take their own picture, adjust the photo to be more flattering, upload it to a social media site, and admire themselves without engaging any other human. According to Dr. David Veal of Priority Hospital of North London, this kind of activity has been linked to narcissism in teens, as well as other mental illnesses, but I’m interested in the spiritual component to this generational denominator. How does the selfie detract worship and admiration from the Creator, and place it on the creation?
Any time humans engage in worship that is not focused the Lord, they are engaging in a form of Idol worship. Now the focus of the worship, and the worshiper are one in the same.
It seems as though Satan has returned to his original trick. He has asked, “For God knows that when you eat of it [forbidden fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” Genesis 3:5
To be like God, in this case, is to be worshiped.
“It is not enough,” Satan must have said, “to entice the world to worship a few people. Now we will convince them that they should all be worshiped.”
Temples erected to the worship of self. Free shrines offered to encapsulate the worship of each person on the planet. Each thought of exultation being laced upon a screen in complements, likes, favorites, and shares; each connection from one shrine to the other proving how relevant our self-worship. All of which epitomized by the selfie; the single most selfish expression of Idolatry.
Or maybe I’m just blowing this all out of proportion…
Photo supplied by M’Kenzie G. who is not an idolater BTW!