Sacrifice

Tuesday Devotional: Ephesians 4

bibleRead Ephesians 4:1-16

The body of Christ is ONE body.  There is no other.  Standing side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder with your sister and brother in Christ, you are united as ONE body.  This is no easy task, but with God all things are possible.  Our sin desires to be independent.  Our sin desires to be one notch above the rest, one step further than the whole.  Sin deceives us into thinking that certain parts of the one body hold special significance and priority over other parts.  Sin will deceive us into thinking that our gift or position is of more importance to the body than the rest.  This spirit of division is the antithesis to the Gospel.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is humility, unity and love.  The Spirit of Christ in us seeks unity in spite of our own comfort, desires and pride.

The Christian is called to a life of unending and comprehensive sacrifice.  Nothing about sacrifice is easy.  Why should we think that our union and fellowship with other believers would be any different?  It’s not.  Our relationships with each other in the body of Christ are often the things used by God to refine us the most.  Without the tension and challenge of seeking unity in the Church there would be no growth, no transformation and thus no life.  We need each other.  We need this tension.  We need the sacrifice.  The sin in us will turn from the challenge and seek to find any available opportunity to blame-shift, judge, criticize and reject those around us in the Church.  Seek unity.  Seek Jesus.  By the blood of the Lamb we were saved from eternal condemnation and that same blood is the only chance we have to finding unity in the body of Christ.  Allow our Lord to sharpen you.  Allow him to reveal what is in you.  Allow him to teach you.  Find your place at the foot of the Cross and welcome your brother and sister to join you there and only there.  This is not friendship.  This is fellowship, and fellowship of the deepest kind, bought at the highest price.  We have all been saved.  We have all been forgiven.  We are all beloved by our heavenly Father.  These are the ligaments that bind us together and nothing else.  Unity is not an option, it is the result of living in Christ, for Christ and with Christ.

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Corinthians 8

bibleRead 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

A reborn spirit is a giving spirit.  The spirit of Jesus gave everything he had to the point of death.  Therefore, with the spirit of Jesus living in us as a new creation, we are aligned with and we manifest his sacrificial love in our own lives.  Christian giving can be reduced to doctrine and it is indeed a requirement for a Christian to give.  However, the giving heart and the Christian life need more than doctrine.

Just as the law was merely an instrument used to teach Paul that he was a sinner because he could never follow the commandments, so is the doctrine of the gospel to us.  Rebuke the religious spirit that reduces the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to simple dos and don’ts.  Jesus shows us the way but only by the power of the Holy Spirit in us can we ever manage to follow the way laid out for us.  Christian, you give because God gave everything to you.  He gave his son, for you.  Christian, you give because in Jesus you have an eye for need.  You seek out need and you desire to see a need fulfilled.  You have been abundantly blessed and you rejoice in the blessing of others.  Christian, you give because what you own or possess is not your own.  No matter how hard you have worked for it.  Ultimately, your possessions are investments.  They are anointed and Holy loans.  God has given you what you have so that you can reinvest in the kingdom of God.  Not the kingdom of you.  Christian, you give what you have with confidence that God knows your heart.  He knows how much and how little you have.  He knows how much is easy and how much hurts.  He knows how much you promised to give and how much you are recalculating and reassessing not to give.  Christian, remember that you are working with God.  Not against him.  You are working toward a beautiful investment and profit for you and the eternal kingdom of our living God and to the name of Jesus.  Remember that when you pray in confidence that the sovereignty of God over your unpredictable future is good, so is His sovereign goodness over your finite and often limited amount of money and things.

 

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Corinthians 6

bibleRead 1 Corinthians 6:1-11

“Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Cor.6:7-8)

 What do you think you deserve?  What do you think you’re entitled to?  What do you think people, society or the world owes you?  In knowing our sinfulness by claiming unity with Christ, how dare we Christians assume such self-importance.  Jesus warns us to count the cost of becoming a disciple and a Christian and part of that cost includes being wronged, cheated, persecuted and killed.  This is our lot.  This is our portion.

But in the end, this is not about you.  This is never about you.  This is about him and his name is Jesus.  You weren’t wronged, you were convicted and by the grace of God, forgiven.  He was wronged.  The only perfect man of all creation, the beloved son of the living God was wronged.  Your suffering is real and Jesus never taught that living in this world would be easy.  However, your suffering is not like his suffering.  It will never be like his suffering.  To know Jesus is to first identify with his death as payment of the debt and death you deserved and deserve.  He saved you.  Not because you were owed it or deserved it.  You are justifiably pronounced guilty and deserving of death without the blood of Jesus.  You are not owed anything except the just penalty for your daily sins.  However, thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.  It is because he was wronged, cheated, persecuted and murdered so that you never have to live as a slave to such things.

You will experience all that Jesus did but never to the extent he did.  Being wronged and cheated is not fun, easy or something that will ever lose its sting.  But in Jesus the sting will no longer feel like death.  In Jesus the sting of death has been overcome forever.  Have you been wronged?  Have you been cheated?  Look unto the Christ.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look unto his suffering and be united with him in the suffering that he took upon himself for you.  You have Jesus.  Nothing in this world is of any more worth than him and you can never lose him.  He is eternally yours and therefore in your time of suffering ask our Father to give you the faith that proudly proclaims that you will choose to lose ALL things in this world for the name of Jesus.

Tithing: Painful Giving

coins

As a result of sin, we are inherently possessive when it comes to money. We become like a protective lioness with her cubs when someone reaches for our money without a reasonable cause to do so. Giving hurts, and we humans are clever creatures. We understand that giving is good, but we tactfully structure our giving in a way that will not hurt us at all. We want to have it both ways. Thus, if someone is in need of money, we will give because to refuse to give would appear selfish. However, we calculate what we have and how much we could give so that after we give we can still buy the things we had already planned to buy. Then, and only then, we approve the gesture.

Tithing stands in a distinct contrast to this mindset. Tithing is a command from God, with the same characteristics as his other commands. The commands of God always call us to become a new creation born in the spirit of God and not the spirit of sin. Therefore, in order to tithe with the spirit of God, we are called to sacrifice our sinful natures and put on the Holy nature of God. Sacrifice inherently means pain, and thus most of us avoiding tithing altogether.

Because of Abram, ten percent is most commonly associated as the biblical gold-standard of tithing. While ten percent is biblical, tithing goes deeper than that. Tithing cannot be tightly calculated in the bankbook in a predictable and mechanical manner. In many ways, 10 percent should be a base number, with God free to determine how high the number can go. For some people, 10 percent is still comfortably unobtrusive when it comes to still providing for their own comforts. In this case, 10 percent is not painful, not sacrificial and thus, not enough.

Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Moved by the grace and power of Jesus Christ, this wealthy tax collector was not moved to give a mere ten percent and demand blessing or a miracle in return. He felt called by God first to give half of everything he owned,  and then to right the financial wrongs he had committed by repaying those he had cheated four times the amount he had initially stolen. This act of giving is not referenced in the scriptures as a tithe, but the spirit of the giving is the same as Abram in his encounter with Melchizedek, perfectly in line with the spirit of tithing according to God’s design.

Tuesday Devotional: Joel 1

bibleRead Joel 1

Philippians 3:8

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.

The Christian church has experienced a season of comfort.  The end of that season is drawing near.  The Church in the West is fading, being undone and overtaken.  The prosperity of the Church in the West has opened the door to idle hands, complacency, ignorance and corruption of the message of Jesus.  It is no longer commonplace to be a Christian in western society, let alone popular.  It is no longer an advantage to be a Christian in western society.

Seasons are changing.  Are you ready?  Have you sat down to imagine a life without your worldly comforts?  Have you envisioned a world where you are persecuted for your faith and are robbed of your rights?  If not, consider it.  Consider it thoughtfully.  In that scenario, how is your faith in Jesus?  How is your spirit of worship concerning our risen Lord?  Surrounded by suffering and pain, are you able to worship?

The Church in the West has become covetous in its relationship with Jesus Christ.  The message preached from many pulpits today use the name of Jesus as the gate keeper, but not “The Way.”  Many sermons today teach that you can have what you want, when you want, how you want it, as long as along the way you remember that you’re not perfect and do some bad things from time to time.

The message from the pulpit is no longer “a sword that came to bring division, not peace.”  The message today is a wagging finger of casual disapproval.  Judgment is too harsh.  Tithing too invasive.  Marriage too constrictive.  Bible study too intellectual.  But Jesus tells us to, “Come and see,” and “Follow me.”  The Church in the West these days says, “Thank you, friend Jesus, for understanding me and meeting me right where I’m comfortable.  You’re so nice.”  What if God told you to quit your high-paying job for one that gave you less pay and no benefits, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to fight for reconciliation in a marriage that is no longer fun, exciting, sexy or easy, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to decline remarriage and sexual intimacy in the future, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to share your faith in Jesus with your non-believing family or co-workers, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to wake up earlier or stay up later in order to read more of your Bible or join a Bible study, for Christ’s sake?

Do all of these propositions test the comforts of our flesh and our own comfort?  Yes.  Are all of these well within reason and under the jurisdiction of God as our Father and King to ask of us?  Absolutely.  Do all of these test our love of Jesus over anything else and our willingness to follow Him anywhere He commands us to?  Yes.  These are not extreme examples written for effect.  If we identify our lives with Jesus Christ, having only Jesus is not simply enough, it is our sole desire in this life.  He HAS to be enough.  Being a Christian is not Jesus and (….).  Being a Christian is Jesus.  Christ alone.  Is He enough for you? Or do you need something alongside Jesus in your life to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

 

Communion: The Sacrifice

communion-bread-and-wine

For the next few weeks we will be discussing Communion.  Four aspects of Communion are central, necessary for us to understand if we profess faith in Jesus Christ.  We will find that a study of Communion reveals:

1) The Command of Jesus Christ

2) The Provision of Jesus Christ

3) The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

4) The Legacy of His Church

Last week we discussed the provision of Jesus about Communion.  This week’s reflection discusses the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as it relates to Communion.

The death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ are at the heart of communion. While the Christian life must be marked by joy in the new life found in Jesus Christ, at the foundation of the Christian spirit is constantly awareness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That is not to say that a Christian life should be overwhelmed by grief concerning the sacrifice. Absolutely not. To know his sacrifice is to know his resurrection, and to know his resurrection is the ultimate joy. However, in order to experience the life-giving power of the empty tomb, one must also confront the weight of the sacrifice that preceded it.

As Jesus sat at the table about to break the bread and pour the wine, once again, he found himself completely alone in the understanding of what he was about to do. For three years, Jesus repeatedly alluded to, and in some instances stated outright, the price he was going to pay on the cross. However, he alone understood the weight of his mission. On the night he broke the bread during the last supper, Jesus was staring directly at the cross, again isolated in the knowledge of what was soon to occur. Jesus could foresee the fists. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the spit. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the verbal abuse. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the crown of thorns. The Apostles could not. Jesus could foresee the nails. The Apostles could not.

Jesus could foresee the dehydration, the asphyxiation, the loneliness. The Apostles could not.

The practice of communion is not simply the reflection on the death of a good friend. The practice of communion recognizes suffering that we will never understand. To practice communion is to reflect on the sacrifice of God for children who have defiantly refused to sacrifice anything in return.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

In communion we reflect on the fact that Jesus had no reason to sacrifice what he did aside from his desire to see us reunited with the Father in the same way he has always been. In communion we acknowledge that we have done nothing to deserve what we have, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have been given more than we ever could have imagined. We are fulfilled and satisfied in ways that only God has foreseen. Communion is a celebration of new life; it is only a celebration because at one point it was the greatest loss the world had ever known.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

Communion: The Provision

communion-bread-and-wine

source

For the next few weeks we will be discussing Communion.  Four aspects of Communion are central, necessary for us to understand if we profess faith in Jesus Christ.  We will find that a study of Communion reveals:

1) The Command of Jesus Christ

2) The Provision of Jesus Christ

3) The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

4) The Legacy of His Church

Last week we discussed the command of Jesus about Communion.  This week’s reflection discusses the provision of Jesus Christ as it relates to Communion.

2) The Provision of Jesus Christ 

The practice of communion was not simply a command to be followed “just because.” As was the case in everything that Jesus chose to do concerning his earthly ministry, there was a deeper purpose intended for the eyes to truly see and the ears to truly hear. While the primary focus of the communion meal was to direct the Apostles’ hearts toward the upcoming sacrifice on the cross, Jesus, through the communion meal, also intended for the Apostles to reflect back upon the provision of the past three years with him. At the feeding of the 5,000, before Jesus performed the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fish, Jesus took the bread, looked up to heaven, asked God to bless the bread and then broke it so as to feed the hungry crowd.

Mark 6:39-44

Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

At that point in Jesus’ ministry, only Jesus could have known how poignant the breaking of bread to feed the hungry was in the light of his upcoming breaking of the bread at the Last Supper the night before he was ultimately broken on the cross as a result of his sacrifice. At that point in his ministry, the focus was on the miraculous provision of Jesus, not on his sacrifice. Thus, the practice of communion, while a somber reflection of the sacrifice of Jesus at the hands of a sinful and broken world, it functions also as a reminder that God has always given us what we needed precisely when we needed it.

John 6:35 

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

The practice of communion is a call to reflect on the death of Jesus Christ, on the new life and victory given to us as a result of his death, and on the reality of daily and eternal provision in the person of Jesus.

Communion: The Command

communion-bread-and-wine

source

For the next few weeks we will be discussing Communion.  Four aspects of Communion are central, necessary for us to understand if we profess faith in Jesus Christ.  We will find that a study of Communion reveals:

1) The Command of Jesus Christ

2) The Provision of Jesus Christ

3) The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ

4) The Legacy of His Church

This week’s reflection discusses the command of Jesus Christ as it relates to Communion.

1) The Command of Jesus Christ

Communion has its roots with Jesus Christ on the night before his execution. Jesus Christ and his Apostles sat together, shared fellowship and “broke bread.” As the final hours of his earthly ministry were coming to a close, Jesus took the opportunity to clarify what was going to happen to him and what his Apostles in turn were going to be called to do. Aside from instructing them in continuing to spread the Gospel and loving one another, Jesus illustrated his upcoming sacrifice on the cross by using bread and wine found on the table.

Jesus proceeded to show that the bread that was broken was a symbol of his body that would soon be broken for them and for the world in his crucifixion. He then took the cup of wine prophesied that soon his blood would be spilled as he was sacrificed as a sin offering for the transgression of sin brought into the world since “the fall.”

Matthew 26:17-30

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

After using the bread and the wine in the same way that the Jews commemorated their rescue from the slavery from Egypt, Jesus commanded the Apostles to remember his upcoming sacrifice with the bread and wine to commemorate how he rescued them from the enslavement of sin.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Hebrews 2

Read Hebrews 2:5-18bible

Man was not created to be alone.  There are far reaching implications of this truth, both for good and bad.  Even times of joy may be followed by emptiness when what is being enjoyed or experienced cannot be shared with someone else.  Similarly, in times of trouble make us desperate when what we suffer cannot be shared with another person who can understand or empathize.  God has not given us the luxury to look him in the face and tell him, “You don’t understand.  You don’t know!”  In times of suffering, our desire to be rescued from our pain is sometimes matched by our desire to be isolated in our suffering, to feel an odd sense of superiority in being the only one who can understand what is happening and what we are feeling.  When we indulge in our suffering, knowing that no one can understand our suffering allows us to avoid healing and rescue, leaving us self-obsessed in our pain, which belongs only to us, and self-satisfied in knowing that only we can understand ourselves.

But God has not allowed us the luxury of wallowing in our misery and claiming exclusive right to our suffering.  The beauty and glory of God being truly Emmanuel is that, despite his majesty and authority, in order to bridge the gap between his creation and himself, he lowered himself so that man would never have be able to claim a sense of advantage or authority over him.  It was in his submission to man’s authority, the authority of the life and death of man, that he sought to firmly establish his everlasting authority over it.  It was in his submission, in lowering himself physically to wash the feet of sinful man, that he ultimately brought all of his creation under his own feet.  Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there is absolutely nothing that we can claim to possess that Christ has not already possessed.  There is nothing that we can claim to have experienced that he has not already experienced to a much higher degree than we have.  There remains nothing that can separate us from the life and love of Jesus Christ. 

This truth was not established to remove our excuses.  This truth was established so that in times of joy and in times of suffering we would always know that the God that presides and reigns over all of creation is a God who is with us, in everything. He gives us permanent and everlasting fellowship in both our joy and suffering.  He suffered, not so that we would never have to, but so that we could come to the realization that this world we live in has been overcome by his suffering and salvation, and we can live in this world being slowly transformed into a new creation, with hope in the life to come.  God does not demand that we come to him and exemplify his perfection.  God came to us.  He came to us taking the form of man, bearing man’s sin and imperfections, so that we could need nothing else except for the truth of himself and his Gospel.