What’s it Worth to You?

time is money

Please read Philippians 3:7-11 in your Bible before answering this question: “What’s it Worth to You?”

A pastor went to the hospital to visit a lady named Maggy, who was in the last stages of her life because of cancer.  She was heavily medicated and unresponsive, so he went to support her family, who was taking it hard.

When he got there, he was surprised to see the youngest daughter, Kimmy, putting lotion on her mother’s body, starting at her feet. The pastor recognized it as an expensive lotion and guessed it was more than she could afford.

As he walked in, Kimmy smiled and made him promise not to tell her children. Her kids gave it to her for Mother’s Day, since, in their words, “you never do anything for yourself, Mom.” As Kimmy put it on her mother, she remained unresponsive.

But this is the nature of a self-sacrificial love.  God knows and sees these acts. They are not unnoticed, but are precious and valuable in His sight. Acts like these put others first. They point us to Him.

https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-nickolas-kooi-stories-service-100035?+ref=TextIllustrationSerps

We live and die to attain eternal life.

  1. Spiritual maturity requires self-sacrifice.

We are blessed to have a number of biblical examples of heroic sacrifice.

“Father Abraham’s” sacrifice is dramatically recounted in Genesis 22.  As we learned recently-concluded study in the Wednesday morning Bible study group, God had promised to make Abraham into a great nation.  However, at age 100, he had no children.  So when Isaac, the son of promise, was born it seemed at last God’s promises had been fulfilled.  Try to imagine how devastated Abraham must have felt when God demanded Abraham sacrifice Isaac.  Abraham is credited as a hero of faith because he acted immediately and in complete obedience.  God spared Isaac’s life and fulfilled every promise.

John the Baptist’s act of self–sacrifice is recounted in John 3:30 where he makes one of the greatest but most brief statements of faith.  When one of his disciples complained that Jesus and His disciples were getting all the baptisms and attention, John replied, “HE MUST BECOME GREATER; I MUST BECOME LESS.”  John knew his role and he knew his place.  He selflessly sacrificed the spotlight to the One he had come to proclaim.

Remembered as “the Doubter,” Thomas showed courage, when Jesus could not be persuaded to stay away from Jerusalem where danger threatened.  In John 11:16, Thomas said to the other eleven disciples, “LET US ALSO GO, THAT WE MAY DIE WITH HIM.”  I grant you that Thomas’ courage faltered in the Garden of Gethsemane.  There he abandoned Jesus at the moment of His arrest.  But here and years later, Thomas was ready to sacrifice his life for Jesus

In John 13:37 Simon Peter is recorded as saying, “LORD, WHY CAN’T I FOLLOW YOU NOW?  I WILL LAY DOWN MY LIFE FOR YOU.” I grant you that Peter’s courage deserted him a few hours later when he three times denied even knowing Jesus.  Tradition tells us that years later, Peter refused to share His Lord’s form of death and asked to be crucified upside down.

Whether our sacrifices are heroic or mundane, we move from self-centeredness to self-sacrifice as we mature spiritually. Paul demonstrated great self-sacrifice in his attitude toward worldly things (7-8).  WHATEVER WAS TO MY PROFIT I NOW CONSIDER LOSS FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST.  I CONSIDER EVERYTHING A LOSS COMPARED TO THE SURPASSING GREATNESS OF KNOWING CHRIST JESUS MY LORD.  The words PROFIT and LOSS are key in vs. 7+8.

In vs. 4-6 Paul listed his reasons to have CONFIDENCE IN THE FLESH.  – He recites his religious history as if it were important in order to prove that it isn’t.  He’s effectively saying, “If there was ever anyone who deserved salvation by satisfying the Law, I’d be the guy.”  His religious achievements and circumstances were the things others might see as “profiting” Paul.

In contrast, the word LOSS sums up the stuff Paul gave up in order to have faith in Christ instead.  The word PROFIT is actually in the plural form in the original language: “profits.”  But the word LOSS is singular.  It’s as if Paul dumped all his achievements and advantages into a single trash can and declared them together a LOSS.  In order to achieve his goals, Paul had to dump the junk that kept him from Jesus.

Paul was clearly thinking about Jesus when he wrote, FOR WHOSE SAKE I HAVE LOST ALL THINGS (8).  This statement elaborates on verse seven, explaining that Paul made this essential sacrifice for Jesus’ sake.  As he explained in 1 Corinthians 13:3, self-sacrifice not done in love is worthless.  Paul is establishing his sacrifice as worthwhile

The phrase I CONSIDER THEM RUBBISH (8) is a stronger condemnation than LOSS.  The word RUBBISH is a polite translation; the literal translation of Paul’s choice of Greek words is “dung.”  I was amused to see one commentary placed a picture of an outdoor latrine in the city of Philippi next to this verse.  A picture is worth a thousand words and conveys emotion pretty well too.

  1. Paul’s life goals evidence spiritual maturity.

Goal #1 = KNOWING CHRIST JESUS MY LORD (8).

Biblically, KNOWING is not just “book smarts,” but includes knowledge gained by experience.  Paul’s goal was to know Jesus by living with Him.  Daily living is supposed to be ongoing experiences of God at work in our lives, personal experiences of His presence.

Goal #2 = Receive true righteousness by FAITH (9).

True righteousness is both salvation and the godly lifestyle that goes with it.  It is not something we create ourselves or by keeping the Old Testament Law, it is something we receive from God by faith.

Paul’s desire was to be FOUND in Christ.  It is as if he is picturing Judgment Day and declares here his hope that his name will appear in the Book of Life, the list of those who are genuinely God’s people.

Goal #3 = Know the power of His RESURRECTION (10).

Jesus conquered death through the power of God the Father.  His Resurrection is the most important display of divine power.  This is not only a historic event, however, it is a power for living every day.

Goal #4 = THE FELLOWSHIP OF SHARING IN HIS SUFFERINGS, BECOMING LIKE HIM IN HIS DEATH (10).

I don’t often see t word FELLOWSHIP combined with suffering and DEATH.  This is another way of saying that Paul desired to FOUND in Christ.  Shared experiences (good and bad) are a form of FELLOWSHIP that can bond people together.  This is also true of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Without actually dying on a cross, how can we become like Jesus IN HIS DEATH?  In our living, we demonstrate the sacrificial purpose of Jesus’ death to help others find eternal life too.

Goal #5 = SOMEHOW, TO ATTAIN TO THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD (11).

The word SOMEHOW seems to imply Paul felt some uncertainty about whether he was saved or not.  My guess is he’s saying, “I can’t save myself, but SOMEHOW God can.”  Paul refers to the promise of eternal life as THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD.  Notice that is a singular event.

We live and die to attain eternal life.

          The Church in America has, for the last sixty years, become more about self-improve-ment than self-sacrifice.  We’ve gone from being crucified with Christ and dying to self, to settling for a “spiritual makeover.”  We are content with an appearance of godliness but miss t power because we won’t pay t price.

What is the price?  Jesus said, “IF ANYONE WOULD COME AFTER ME, HE MUST DENY HEIMSELF AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY AND FOLLOW ME.  FOR WHOEVER WANTS TO SAVE HIS LIFE WILL LOSE IT, BUT WHOEVER LOSES HIS LIFE FOR ME WILL SAVE IT.”  (Luke 9:23-24)

The question this morning is not whether or not you want to go to heaven: the question is, “What’s it worth to you to get there?”  A paradox of faith is that we cannot earn or buy our way into heaven and yet, it requires the sacrifice of everything, giving even life itself over to God and His direction.

Did Paul achieve these goals?  Not in this life, of course.  These goals are aimed at heaven, not the horizon.  As Paul wrote in verse twelve, NOT THAT I HAVE ALREADY OBTAINED ALL THIS, OR HAVE ALREADY BEEN MADE PERFECT, BUT I PRESS ON TO TAKE HOLD OF THAT FOR WHICH CHRIST JESUS TOOK HOLD OF ME.  In this life, God calls us to PRESS ON, even though we know the fulfillment of these goals lie beyond the reach of our earthly years.  We are to continue to obey, continue to grow, continue to mature as the years roll on.  This life is precious and not to be wasted on self-centeredness.  Instead, we are to spend our days investing in eternity by means of the sacrifices we make in love and in the name of Jesus Christ.

Advertisements

Unsaved and Showing It

Please read Titus 3:1-15 in your Bible.   This is the second of three messages on this chapter.

We are saved in order to do good works.

Being a father and being gifted with an exceptional sense of humor, I was naturally interested when I saw an internet article on funniest Dad Jokes.  Before we get to today’s message, I’d like to share a small part of this feast of funny.

Dad complained of tooth pain. When asked if he’d made an appointment to see the dentist, he replied, “Yes, at tooth-thirty!”

“You hear about the guy who invented Lifesavers? They say he made a mint.”

When the cashier at the grocery store asked if he would like the milk in a bag dad replied, “No, just leave it in the carton!”

While watching commercials, dad said aloud, “Why did the Clydesdale give the pony a glass of water?”  The family knew better than to answer, so dad continued, “Because he was a little horse!”

During a serious conversation of family history one dad said, “I used to have a job at a calendar factory but they fired me because I took a couple of days off.”

My kids can tell you I enjoy comparing dreams.  On a similar occasion one dad said, “I had a dream that I was a muffler last night. I woke up exhausted!”

Dad was trying to help Junior with his math homework and said, “You know, 5/4 of people admit that they’re bad with fractions.”

And finally, dads like to joke by conjuring up their own fake news.  For example, “Did you hear the news? FedEx and UPS are merging. They’re going to go by the name Fed-Up from now on.’”

I admit there were a few groaners there.  My plan is to offer a light-hearted example of how we can make life difficult for one another.  I wanted to start this way because the subject matter of today’s message is deadly serious.

Someone said at a recent Bible study, “You don’t hear preachers talk about sin much anymore.”  Today sin is going to be our exclusive subject.  As we begin, all I ask is that each of use this biblical truth first as a mirror to our own souls, and only after truthful introspection, turn our gaze to the lives of others.

REVIEW:

  1. How we get saved.

NEW:

  1. How unsaved folk act.

We’ve been saved from these behaviors.  AT ONE TIME WE TOO WERE…Paul contrasted the believer’s “BC” (“Before Christ”) personality with his “WC” (“With Christ”) personality after being saved.  Sometimes we need to restore our perspective by taking a look backward to see how far we’ve come.

The vice of foolishness (3).  In the Bible, a fool is someone who displays their ungodliness in antisocial, unwise, and self-destructive behavior.  Rejecting God, such people lack the Holy Spirit who gives wisdom we need to discern good and evil and the motive to choose the good.  In Ephesians 4:18 we see the cause of foolishness: They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them to the hardening of their hearts.

Disobedience (3) is a vice.  Being under the influence of their sin nature, such a person disobeys God’s will for them.  Disobedience is sin.  Sin is open rebellion against God; the penalty is death.

While the other eight vices listed here might be concealed for a time, disobedience is impossible to hide very long.  People can be overtly – even defiantly – disobedient, proud of themselves or covertly disobedient, covering it up by making excuses for their misbehavior.

Being thoroughly DECEIVED (3) about the truth of God is a vice.  Only believers have the Holy Spirit and the wisdom he provides. Without the Spirit, a person cannot truly understand the word of God or do His will.  This is the IGNORANCE of which we read in Ephesians  4:18.

It is a vice to be ENSLAVED BY ALL KINDS OF PASSIONS AND PLEASURES (3).  Without the Spirit to reform their thoughts and affections, a person is bound to be attracted to things that stimulate them, but are bad for them.  For example, worldly things are never satisfying; they merely increase our appetite for something new.  (See Romans 1.)  This is ironic, because we naturally think being able to do whatever you want is freedom.  The truth is, it is slavery to one’s own PASSIONS and PLEASURES and to those who sell them.  It’s like an addict enslaved to his addiction.

MALICE (3) is one of the more obvious vices.  This word centers on the emotions that motivate people to do evil.  It reveals a soul that has no empathy or sympathy; no consideration of the effect of their actions on others.

ENVY (3) can also be translated as “jealousy.”  It is the vice of valuing things more highly than people.

WARPED (11) can also translated as “perverted.”  This vice is being exercised when a person is a twister of words and misuses their influence to bend others to their will to do evil. Thus, the word WARPED is a condemnation of their character and thinking.

The word SINFUL (11) sounds like a combination of all vices wrapped together.  It describes the orientation of a disobedient and disrespectful life wasted SINFUL decisions, defying God.

Not content to be evil alone, SINFUL people seek to influence others to join them.  Evil naturally seeks to replicate itself (“misery loves company), but is more intentional in the DIVISIVE PERSON mentioned in verse ten.

Such purveyors of vice are SELF-CONDEMNED (11).  Attitudes are manifest in actions and eventually even the most carefully-crafted façade will fall.  Evil actions betray an evil heart.  However, a DIVISIVE PERSON may be so convincing they’ve fooled themselves.  Sincerity is a virtue until a person is sincerely wrong.  This is another reason for the occasional rebuke; the person may not see the error and danger of their ways.

This passage condemns stubbornness and close-mindedness that is unwilling to even consider that they may be wrong or need to change.  The ninth vice is important to our understanding of the justice of God.  In His judgment, God condemns people who are already SELF-CONDEMNED.  Given freedom to choose, they are responsible for their own condemnation by the choices they made.

The passage describes two effects of evil behaviors.  There are surely others, but these are given to aid our discernment.

The first is BEING HATED AND HATING ONE ANOTHER (3).  The phrase BEING HATED is translated from the Greek word stugetoi, which sounds a lot like our English word “stooge,” but there’s no known connection between the two.  This word refers to a person so degraded by evil that others can’t bear to be around them.

The phrase HATING ONE ANOTHER indicates an aspect of sin nature; while people still enslaved to it may congregate and even cooperate, that only happens when their self-interests happen to coincide.  Even then, they distrust and dislike one another.  True relationships are impossible for such people.

The second is more damning: THESE ARE UNPROFITABLE AND USELESS (9).   Contrary to the benefits of virtues described in verse eight, these vices are worthless and harmful.  It helps to remember that righteous behavior and true belief is good for us, body and soul.  God calls us to Him because He is the ultimate good.  It’s also good to recognize that biblically, enlightened self-interest (i.e., a desire to earn heavenly rewards) is a legitimate motive if other reasons to do good temporarily fail to move us.

We are saved in order to do good works.

In summing up the list of vices, the Zondervan Bible Commentary wrote, “But man’s depravity proves no obstacle to God.”  (P. 1524.)  That is the good news this morning.  While it is painful and bewildering that people WANT to act this way, we can be encouraged to know that the worst evil people can do is no challenge at all to God’s will to make good arise and triumph.  We must trust God and join Him in bringing about the most loving outcome in every situation.

St. Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying, “Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”

Whenever we read lists of sins in the Bible, it may be our natural inclination to think of “Old So-and-so” instead of self.  That is definitely not our first step.

Remember the example of Jesus’ disciples at the last supper.  When Jesus announced there was a betrayer among them, all of them asked, “Lord, is it I?”  Eleven of them knew they had no plans to betray Jesus and yet they asked the question.

That’s humility, folks.  It’s resisting our natural urge to resort to defensiveness and allowing God to shine the light of the word into the parts of our lives that we prefer to keep shrouded in darkness.

Let us ask, “Is it I, Lord?”

PREVIEW:

  1. How saved folk act.

Saved and Showing It (1 of 3)

Please read Titus 3:1-15 in your preferred Bible.  I’ve used the NIV this week.

We are saved to do good works.

Salvation is by grace.  It is not earned. The devotional magazine Our Daily Bread gave this definition of grace; GRACE IS EVERYTHING FOR NOTHING TO THOSE WHO DON’T DESERVE ANYTHING.

(Our Daily Bread, Sept.-Nov. 1997, page for October 31, retrieved from http://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-illustrations/2873/a-definition/ on 1/12/18.)
“A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WWII.  One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself.

“A tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper refused to drop the charges.

“‘It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor.’ the man told the mayor. ‘She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.’

“LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said ‘I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions; ten dollars or ten days in jail.’  But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and said: ‘Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.’

“The following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.

(Brennan Manning, The Ragmuffin Gospel, Multnomah, 1990, pp. 91-2, retrieved from http://www.sermonsearch.com/sermon-illustrations/2891/mayor-laguardia/ on 1/12/18.)
1. How we get saved.

Paul reveals four reasons God had for reasons for saving us.

The first is KINDNESS (verse four).  Historically speaking, salvation started in the mind of God.  He acted first to save us.  We saw this truth previously in Titus 2:11 =THE GRACE OF GOD HAS APPEARED THAT OFFERS SALVATION TO ALL PEOPLE.

God hates sin but He loves sinners and works to bring all of us to salvation.  In Romans 5:8 it is written, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

KINDNESS is this attitude manifest in good deeds.  It bestows forgiveness and blesses others.

The second reason is God’s great LOVE (verse four).  This is God’s prime motive and the prime aspect of His character.  All other aspects of His personality are expressions of His LOVE.  Love is an unconditional state or attitude and action that seeks the spiritual maturity of the beloved.  That is God’s character and how God has acted toward us.

This is not one of the usual three words for LOVE in the NT.  This is the Gk word philanthropia, which meant “love for humanity.”  It appears only in this verse.  This is LOVE directed at the welfare of others, especially supporting people in need.

A third reason is God’s MERCY (5).  Because we are unable – on our own – to meet God’s standard of righteousness, MERCY is an absolute necessity; otherwise we have no hope.  MERCY makes a way for people who have no way of their own.  God decided to show us MERCY; we did not deserve it.  God’s MERCY is the standard for our treatment of one another; as we pray every Sunday and Wednesday, “forgive us as we forgive others.”

The fourth reason isn’t really a reason but a clarification that merit is NOT a reason: God did NOT save us BECAUSE OF THE RIGHTEOUS THINGS WE HAVE DONE (verse five).  We are not saved BY good works; we are saved FOR good works.  In Isaiah 64:6 the prophet wrote that the most righteous things we do based on our own strength are like FILTHY RAGS; worthless.  Personal merit is simply not a factor at this stage.  We do not understand the grace of God if we believe we can earn salvation by good deeds or if we believe we can lose salvation by doing evil.

Through Paul, the Holy Spirit reveals not only why God saved us, but also how God saved us.

The first of these three salvation acts is THE WASHING OF REBIRTH (verse five).  The literal meaning of the Greek word for WASHING is “bathing.”  This implies a total cleansing; the whole person is made free from the dirty guilty mark of sin.

REBIRTH refers to Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus in John 3; a person must be “born again” to be saved.  It is a restart to life, an opportunity to live right.  Baptism by immersion is the way we enact this WASHING, demonstrating outwardly that this inward change has happened.

The WASHING refers to the moment of salvation, the time we genuinely receive Jesus as Savior, the RENEWAL to the life-long process of sanctification, where the Spirit helps us become more like Jesus.

Another means of salvation is the RENEWAL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (verse five).  God does not expect us to find out all this on our own.  He sends the Holy Spirit to unsaved folk to direct them to the truth and bring them to a point of decision.  I would say the term “Filling of the Spirit” is equivalent to RENEWAL.

A third thing God did to save us was that He JUSTIFIED us BY HIS GRACE (verse seven).  GRACE is undeserved favor as we learned last week.  It come from God’s LOVE and is expressed in His MERCY to us.  The word JUSTIFIED refers to our legal standing.  God graciously removes the judgment of death that we deserve.  When God justified us He declared us to be righteous because the righteousness of Jesus covers our sin.  He also makes us His children by the “legality” of adoption: HEIRS OF THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE (see Romans 8:15 and Ephesians 1:5).

Our part is simply having faith: Trusting GOD (verse eight) that all His promises will be fulfilled in our experience.

Finally, Paul elaborated two things that salvation has done for us.

First, in recognition of authentic faith POURED OUT the Holy Spirit GENEROUSLY (verse six).  Notice the Holy Spirit works on us in both our “BC” (Before Christ) and “WC” (With Christ) states.  In our “BC” state the Spirit brings conviction of the guilt of sin and guides us to believers who will witness the truth to us.  In our “WC” state the Spirit provides understanding of the word of God, strength to perform the will of God and Gifts to enable us to work together to see the Fruits of the Spirit manifest in each believer.

GENEROUSLY can also be translated “richly.”  The point is that God gives us all we need to succeed in our spiritual life.  Failure can’t be blamed on Him.  Notice that all three members of the Trinity are mentioned in this passage and all three have a role to play in our salvation.

Second, as already observed, God saved us so WE MIGHT BECOME HEIRS HAVING THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE (verse seven). Obviously, this looks to the future; it is a HOPE.  But our status as HEIRS is in the present moment.  So our faith looks ahead to a glorious future but also confers on us the privileges and responsibilities of being part of God’s family.

We are saved to do good works.

There was a beautiful summer day when a Baptist church had scheduled baptisms down by the riverside.  A drunk stumbled on to the Sunday afternoon service and proceeded to make a pest of himself.
The minister turned to the drunk and said, “Mister, Are you ready to find Jesus?”      The drunk noticed the preacher for the first time and said, “Yessir, I sure am.”
The pastor motioned him to come into the river and then the minister then dunked the fellow under the water and pulled him right back up. “Have you found Jesus?” the preacher asked.
“No, I didn’t!” gasped the drunk.
The preacher dunked him again, this time for quite a bit longer.  Bringing him up, the preacher said, “Now, brother, have you found Jesus?”
“No, I did not Preacher.”
In disgust, the preacher baptized him a third time holding the man under for a bit longer still.  When he brought him out of the water, he inquired, “Have you found Jesus this time?”

The drunk spat out a bit of river water and said, “If it’s all the same to you, preacher, I’d like to quit lookin’!”

(Adapted from  https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-jeff-strite-humor-baptism-2578?+ref=TextIllustrationDetails, retrieved on 1/12/18.)

PREVIEW:

  1. How unsaved folk act.
  2. How saved folk act.

A New Year’s Resolution: Yes AND No

Please read Titus 2:11-15 in your Bible.  Me?  I use the NIV.

A lifetime of godly change is a sign of salvation.

Many years ago an accomplished organist was giving a concert.  His music was so masterfully made, it seemed to come from heaven itself.  In spite of his usual better judgment, the organist was excited by his own performance and the audience’s enthusiastic appreciation.  Departing from his usual method, he addressed the people and spoke at some length about his giftedness, experience, and mastery of the organ.  With a triumphant smile, he said, “And now I shall play for you my final number, my magnificent opus!”

With a flourish and to applause, he seated himself on the organ bench.  He adjusted his music, then the stops, and finally struck the keys and pedals.  Nothing happened.  The organ was silent.

He repeated this process, all of it, with the same result.  His face was red with embarrassment as he called out a name angrily, “George!”

In those days pipe organs were powered by a backstage assistant who pumped large bellows.  This voice of this assistant, George, was heard from behind the organ, “Say ‘WE!’”

After the organist made this concession to teamwork, the mighty pipe organ thundered through the final number.

And so it is with each church.  All God’s people serve God’s purpose.  He has called us out of the lonely, divided world to become a cooperative people of faith.

  1. Say “Yes!” to God’s offer of salvation (11+14).

Though God’s offer of salvation is universal, acceptance of it is limited (11).  Paul’s letter reveals three parts to God’s offer.

First, the word APPEARED, which may also translated as “offered.”  This word points specifically at Jesus’ life offered up on the cross and generally to His Incarnation.  It is translated from the Greek word epiphanea, from which we get “Epiphany,” which means “to become visible or apparent.”  This word has been used as the name for the wise men/magi’s visit to the infant Jesus.  January 6th is Epiphany day.

Second, the word GRACE.  GRACE is defined as “unmerited favor” and may be remembered as an acrostic: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and His victorious Resurrection are the supreme examples of God’s GRACE.

Paul wrote that this GRACE has APPEARED TO ALL PEOPLE.  That is true in a spiritual sense; when we witness to our faith in word and deed, the GRACE of God makes yet another appearance in us.

Third, the phrase TO ALL PEOPLE.  The word “for” may be a better translation of the Greek; FOR the benefit of ALL PEOPLE.  As the New Testament affirms in other places, SALVATION is offered universally (FOR ALL PEOPLE), but it is not accepted by all people.  Those who refuse it are self-condemned.

Salvation changes us from putrification and petrification to purification (14).

“Putrification” is a process of decay.  Generally, living things decay when after death.  Those who refuse God’s grace are decaying spiritually but unaware of it.

“Petrification” is a process of fossilization or turning to “stone.”  If you go to the Petrified Gardens in Kadoka, you won’t find anything growing there but the grass; everything else has turned to stone.  This is a picture of a person who resorts to legalism and works in a mistaken attempt to earn salvation.

Paul explanation of purification is two-fold.

It is redemption.  He wrote that God offers SALVATION to REDEEM US FROM ALL WICKEDNESS.  Redemption speaks to freeing slaves by buying them from their current master.  In the case of persons who have not yet accepted Jesus, they are mastered by their sin nature.  In the case of persons who have put their trust in Jesus, they have to power to gain mastery over sin (see RMS 6:14).  The word WICKEDNESS can also be translated as “lawlessness,” defying God’s commands.

It is identification: we are identified as the children of God.  Paul explained that God intends to PURIFY FOR HIMSELF A PEOPLE WHO ARE HIS VERY OWN.  To PURIFY someone is to wipe away every trace of the dirty mark of guilt which every lawless person deserves.  Biblically, this is all of us.  God is pure & His people must also be pure.  The problem is, we can’t achieve that purity by will or by law, so God graciously gives it to all who will repent and trust His salvation.  This gift entitles us to be His people: HIS VERY OWN people.  This word means “reserved for himself” and referred to the spoils of war that the king reserved for his treasury.  (Think of it!  You are a treasured possession!)

  1. Say “Yes!” to good and “No” to evil (12+13).

God’s salvation TEACHES US (12).  The word “teach” refers to training or bringing up a child.  In the Greek it describes an ongoing process.  We always have more to learn.  It is also comprehensive of all methods of teaching; instruction, encouragement, discipline, correction.  The term is further defined in 2:1, where it is written that true teaching must be IN ACCORD WITH SOUND DOCTRINE.

But this training is not just about learning doctrine and Scripture; it must result in an improved moral life and in good works.  We do not do good works in order to be saved, but we do good works because we are saved.  There are two general responsibilities that accompany salvation.  They are our new year’s resolution: to say “YES!” and “NO!”

First, we must say “NO!” to evil.

– Say “NO!” to UNGODLINESS, which begins with a lack of respect or reverence for God.

– Say “NO!” to WORLDLY PASSIONS; caring more about material things than we care about God and/or His people.

Second, we must say “YES!” to good.

– Say “YES!” to being SELF-CONTROLLED.  This is an inwardly-directed mandate.  It is to be in control of one’s passions and attitudes.

– Say “YES!” to being UPRIGHT.  This is an outwardly-directed mandate.  It is to be in control of one’s words and deeds.

– Say “YES!” to being GODLY.  This is an upwardly-directed mandate.  It is to look to God for direction and strength in our daily living.  We don’t do good on our own, we do it by the Holy Spirit and prayer.

In fact, we must be EAGER to do good (14).  The word EAGER can be translated as “zealot” or “enthusiast.”  We ought to feel grateful for God’s grace and demonstrate our gratitude by our eagerness to do good.  This means we aren’t content to sit around waiting for opportunities to come to us, we look and pray for opportunities to do good and make it happen.  Verse twelve described three aspects of good deeds; self-control, uprightness, and godliness.

Paul addressed another motive: anticipating Jesus’ Second Coming = WHILE WE WAIT FOR THE BLESSED HOPE (13).  We are to say “NO!” to evil and “YES!” to good while we are awaiting Jesus’ second and final return to earth.  Any day now Jesus will appear and call His people to His side.  Having this hope means we want to

be found doing good when He appears, that we want to please Him, and earn rewards that we can return to Him in triumphant worship on that greatest occasion.

  1. Say “Yes!” to godly leadership (15).

Leaders are to exercise authority and followers respect authority.  In verse fifteen Paul summed up the teaching of 1:1-2:14 by commanding young pastor Titus to TEACH, ENCOURAGE, and REBUKE WITH ALL AUTHORITY.  As Titus was in the right, his leadership was to direct his church to right living.  In the Church, authority is to be invested in the elders who lead t church, including the pastor.

Paul gave command DO NOT LET ANYONE DESPISE YOU because despising godly leaders and refusing to follow direction, are signs of a heart not committed to Christ.  As we conclude, allow me to offer some advice on the care and feeding of church leaders.

Be a friend.  Influence without intimacy is merely intimidation.  Get to know the leaders of our church by spending time with them on a person-to-person level.

Be a cheerleader, not a “jeer-leader.”  There’s no place for negativity in this relationship.  Use constructive criticism if criticism must be used at all.  It takes 10 compliments to offset a single critique; earn the right to criticize by doing ten positive/uplifting things first.

Be the right kind of volunteer.  Don’t volunteer unsolicited advice, pass on criticisms, or insistence on following the “good ol’ days.”  Instead, volunteer your time and other practical means of support.

Be a brother/sister in Christ.  Pray daily for our leaders.  Encourage them in their service.  Share Scripture with them.  If it is hard to respect the person, at least respect the office.

Feed them.  We all appreciate being appreciated.  Small tokens and treats that express our thanks mean a lot to a leader.

Protect them.  Show some discernment.  Not all complaints or concerns need to be passed on.  In fact, if it’s something you can fix on your own, do it yourself.  As Jesus said, “Your Father sees what you do in secret and He will reward you accordingly.  Protect the leader’s reputation by not sharing in gossip or slander.

Let us be resolved to say “YES!” to God and “NO!” to Satan.

All Good Things

Please read Psalm 85 in your Bible.  I used the NIV to prepare these remarks.

Jesus is Keeper of all God’s promises, the Giver of all good things.

One part of the process of maturing is setting aside the myths and mistaken thinking that comfort and guide us when we are young and/or immature.  For example, the inevitable moment in growing up when we set aside the Santa Claus myth.

In his book Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller tells the story of when he first realized that Santa was not real.  He was eight years old at the time and at the mall.  Needing to use the restroom, he went inside and was awestruck to see Santa himself, standing there using the facilities.  He thought it an honor to see jolly ol’ St. Nick, even though he was outside of his usual environment.

Santa finished what he came for, turned around and caught young Donnie staring at him.  He said, “Ho, ho, ho, kid.”

There were no words in young Donald’s mind and nothing came out of his mouth.   Santa shrugged & walked out of the bathroom.

After being starstruck wore off, Donald realized that Santa had left the men’s room without washing his hands.  Yuck!  He could not believe that someone with Santa’s reputation for fussiness about keeping naughty and nice lists could be so lacking in simple hygiene.  It was then and there that Donald decided there was no such person as Santa Claus and the guy with germy hands was just someone trying to earn some extra money during the holidays.

He left the restroom to join his family who were already in line to see Santa Claus.  He asked his mother to be excused.  He sat down in the lingerie department and consider the ramifications of this important decision.

(Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller, 2004, pp. 22-25.)

This process is not just for children, however.  All our lives we are supposed to continue maturing, continuing to put away the myths, superstitions, and half-truths that have made us comfortable but are wrong.

Jesus came, in part, to keep God’s promises.  He became one of us to give us the whole truth about God and set us free from the untrue things that hold us back from real life with God.  Psalm 85 is packed with “adult words” and encouraging promises.

  1. The key words in these promises.

FAVOR (v. 1).  The object of God’s FAVOR is the LAND.  The Promised Land was one of the chief points of Jewish theology, it was a sign of God’s love for His people.

Restoration (v. 1+4).   The historical object of restoration was to be returned to their LAND, to end their 70 years of captivity.

Forgiveness is named and described in four different ways.

God forgave and COVERED ALL THEIR SINS (v. 2).  True forgiveness requires some forgetting, putting away the offense.  When God forgives, He forgets completely.  We must do the same.

The psalmist pleaded with God to forgive and SET ASIDE ALL YOUR WRATH AND TURN FROM YOUR FIERCE ANGER (v. 3).  Forgiveness requires giving up one’s right to seek revenge or punish.  To truly forgive, both the forgiver and the forgiven need to humble themselves and make some sacrifices

He also pleaded with him to PUT AWAY YOUR DISPLEASURE (v. 4).  Forgiveness does not allow grudge-holding.  Love does not keep a record of wrongs.  This truth is expressed twice in verse five, in slightly different ways.  (Do not BE ANGRY WITH US FOREVER, and do not PROLONG YOUR ANGER THROUGH ALL GENERATIONS.)  They show a concern for the future and a desire to move forward.

Revival (v. 6).  To “revive” something is to restore or renew life; to spark vitality where life is ebbing.  This is a gift from God, another act of grace.  Asking for and receiving God’s forgiveness is the first step toward revival.  Every revival has begun with intense times of conviction of sin and repentance.

LOVE (v. 7).  LOVE is an Old Testament virtue.  It may not be as obvious as it is in the NT, but it is true that throughout the Bible, LOVE is the greatest virtue.  This verse is as accurate and abridged statement of the Gospel as you’d hope to find in the NT.  LOVE has always been God’s thing.

RIGHTEOUSNESS (vs. 11+13).  We think of RIGHTEOUSNESS in moral terms and that’s true, but not the whole truth.  The origin of RIGHTEOUSNESS is not in our moral willpower.  It comes with the Holy Spirit.  It is another grace God gives us.  The Bible says that any righteousness we can achieve is inadequate to save us.  As v. 13 makes clear, the human form of RIGHTEOUSNESS was expressed in the living and teaching of Jesus.  We follow His example.

  1. The results of the promises kept.

REJOICE IN YOU (v. 6).  Joy is supposed to be our “default setting.”  If life is characterized by anger or gloom, something must change.

SALVATION (vs. 7+9).  It is likely the original readers/singers of this psalm saw restoration, revival, and SALVATION as returning home from Babylon.  For us, SALVATION takes on a more eternal perspective.  We think of SALVATION as our going from earth to heaven.

PEACE (v. 8).  This is REAL peace, the kind that passes human understanding (see Philippians 4:7).  More than the absence of conflict, this is an emotional stability that exists in the face of conflict, a contagious positivity and ease.

HIS GLORY will DWELL IN OUR LAND (v. 9).  God’s presence is His glory and is manifest in light.  God is among His people and in the LAND.

The combined virtues of LOVE and FAITHFULNESS, RIGHTEOUSNESS and PEACE become possible (v. 10).  We know it is difficult to be loving AND faithful at the same time.  God will sometimes require us to do the faithful thing and someone will feel like we’ve been unloving.  Doing the right thing will put us at odds with people doing the wrong thing, or doing nothing.  When your choice is between doing God’s will OR anything else, pick God’s way.  Be obedient to God first and let the people sort themselves out.  We have to answer to God.

THE LORD WILL GIVE WHAT IS GOOD, the LAND WILL YIELD A HARVEST (v. 12).  Whether or not we recognize it at the time, the LORD will do what is GOOD for us.  What we HARVEST depends on what we have planted (see Galatians 6:7-8).

  1. Our part in receiving these promises.

We must LISTEN TO WHAT THE LORD GOD SAYS (v. 8).  On a practical level, this means two things.  First, listen to the LORD, not the world and CERTAINLY not the devil.  Second, as James 1:22-23 states, don’t just listen to God’s word and then go out and do whatever you please.  Apply the word.

Be FAITHFUL SERVANTS (v. 8).  Pride can get in the way of being a SERVANT, but you must serve others if you want to serve the LORD.  God’s will is that we should serve each other, not be individuals unconcerned about each other, or worse, in competition with each other, or worst of all, in conflict.

TURN NOT TO FOLLY (v. 8).  FOLLY here refers to claiming to be a child of God but behaving like a worldly person, not following the way of God.  It is the worst kind of FOLLY to see the life that God offers and then reject Him.

FEAR HIM (v. 9).   FEAR of God means at least three things.  One, feeling awe for God; being overwhelmed by His glory and goodness.  Two, having respect for God; complying with His will because you recognize His authority.  Three, it is legitimate to have a healthy FEAR of God.  A healthy fear is based on knowledge that God has all power and that one day we will have to stand before Him in judgment.

Verse 11 lists two virtues and describes their different points of origin.  FAITHFULNESS is something we practice: that’s why it SPRINGS FORTH FROM THE EARTH.   To be faithful, we must make our daily decisions based on the guidance we receive from God’s word; it involves our will.

RIGHTEOUSNESS is a virtue we receive from heaven: that’s why it’s said to look DOWN FROM HEAVEN.  To be righteous, we must allow the Holy Spirit within us to guide us into the right things to say and do.

  1. Jesus was born to keep these promises.

This truth is affirmed in the Gospels.  In Matthew 1:21, an angel declared to Joseph one reason for the birth of Jesus; “[Mary] WILL GIVE BIRTH TO A SON, AND YOU ARE TO GIVE HIM THE NAME JESUS, BECAUSE HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.”

To Mary, the angel Gabriel declared a different purpose, “YOU WILL CONCEIVE AND GIVE BIRTH TO A SON, AND YOU ARE TO CALL HIM JESUS.  HE WILL BE GREAT AND WILL BE CALLED THE SON OF THE MOST HIGH.  THE LORD GOD WILL GIVE HIM THE THRONE OF HIS FATHER DAVID, AND HE WILL REIGN OVER JACOB’S DESCENDANTS FOREVER; HIS KINGDOM WILL NEVER END.” (Luke 1:30-33).

Paul affirmed Jesus was the keeper of God the Father’s promises (see 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  He is our RIGHTEOUSNESS, HOLINESS, and REDEMPTION

Jesus is Keeper of all God’s promises, the Giver of all good things.

Don’t be content to just hear the words; be ambitious to do them.  The world needs godly people ambitious to do God’s will.

An Invitation to Dance

(Please read Jeremiah 31 in your favorite translation of the Bible.  I have used the NIV.)

God’s people have reason to dance with joy.

  1. Look who’s dancing. (vs. 4 +13)

In the Bible, dancing is an act of WORSHIP on occasions of JOY. The Bible records occasions when God’s people danced.  Generally speaking, these were worship services, feasts, and at military victories.  (The men danced a/t battle site, immediately after the victory was won.  Women danced in a parade with the returning soldiers.)

There are two familiar examples of joyous dancers in the Bible.  In Exodus 15, Miriam, beside the Red Sea, danced immediately after God vanquished the Egyptian army.  In 2 Samuel 6, David danced before the Ark of the Covenant as it was finally brought to Jerusalem.

In the New Testament era, dancing was a point of controversy, so we don’t read much about it.  Some early Christians distrusted it because pagans danced as part of their worship.  However, some of the church fathers wrote in favor of including dance in worship.

Let’s take note of our passage for today: dancing in Jeremiah 31.  Who is dancing in this prophecy?  THE JOYFUL (4) = Everyone who celebrated what God has done for them.  MAIDENS…YOUNG MEN AND OLD AS WELL (13) = Neither age nor gender were no barrier to praising the Lord in this way.

Why were they dancing? Because at last God’s promises were being fulfilled; they were delivered from their enemies.

  1. You too have reasons to dance. (vs. 3, 5-20, 31-34)

While this prophecy was fulfilled in part during the lifetimes of the Jews returning from Babylon, part of it remains to be fulfilled in our lifetimes.  Also, the spiritual principles that are at the heart of these promises are just as true today.  So let’s take a look at the reasons for joyous, worshipful dance that are detailed in Jeremiah 31.

First, God LOVES you (v. 3).  God’s love is definitively stated: I HAVE LOVED YOU WITH AN EVERLASTING LOVE and I HAVE DRAWN YOU WITH LOVING-KINDNESS. The national history of Judah is the same as our personal history; we’ve gone our own way, defying God.  We have benefitted from His discipline and enjoyed His forgiveness.  Take the promises personally

Second, He promised you will enjoy the fruits of your LABOR (v. 5).  When the Babylonian army invaded, they reduced Judah’s fields to rubble.  From that point on, the people served their Babylonian masters and they enjoyed the fruits of the labor of God’s people. To work and enjoy the fruit of your labor is grace, a gift from God.

One of the most frustrating things in life is to work and receive no reward. For example, consider Tax Freedom Day.  That is the day experts calculate you have been working for the government, that the money you’ve made hs gone to pay your annual taxes.  Tax Freedom Day came to us in South Dakota on April 8, the rest o/t nation averaged April 24!  We are 4th earliest!

<Retrieved from http://taxfoundation.org/sites/taxfoundation.org/files/docs/TFD%20Map.png on 5/14/16.>

Third, you can WORSHIP God (vs. 6-7, 12).  The Bible does not endorse any one style of worship as more pleasing to God.  All styles of acceptable worship are the reaction of believers to their experiences of God at work in their lives.  It is a matter of choice, with three caveats.

– It focuses on God’s glory.

– It is sincere. Sincerity is proven in different reactions, including the sorrow of repentance and the joy of salvation.  Feel all emotions in worship!

– It is done decently and in order.

Jeremiah 31 is a vision of God’s people reunited in worship.  They are GOING UP TO ZION, up the temple mount to worship God.  He reunited His people for this purpose.

Fourth, God saves us, bring us together, and makes us one FLOCK (vs. 8-11).  This FLOCK is constituted by God’s grace, not by the strength of the sheep.  In this text, they are described as folk needing assistance.  It is the BLIND…

LAME…EXPECTANT MOTHERS who God leads back to Zion.

Because it’s clear they did not save themselves, this FLOCK returned with WEEPING and prayer (v. 9).  We can’t understate this point: joy comes from knowing we’re saved by grace, not our hand.  They rejoice because the LORD RANSOMED and REDEEMED them.  Rejoice and dance because it is not about you and it never will be.

Fifth, your TEARS will be dried: God Himself will be your comfort (vs. 15-17).  RACHEL represents the nation of Judah, who wept over all she lost: her people, freedom, temple, and land.

In his Gospel, Matthew saw fulfillment of this passage in the slaughter of the innocents at Bethlehem by King Herod.  He quoted it in Matthew 2 to explain the horrifying deaths of infant boys to satisfy Herod’s fear of being supplanted and ruler of Judea.

This passage shares our grief but more importantly affirms our hope.  We all suffer loss, but thanks to God, we are defined by our joy, not our grief.

Sixth, you will be disciplined, but God is eager to forgive you (vs. 18-20).  God took His people into exile, but 70 years later, He brought them home.  Just as promised.

In this section we hear the voice of repentance.  By faith, they finally understood the seriousness of their sin. They finally felt the necessity of repentance.  Best of all, they finally experienced the relief of forgiveness.  Flooded with joy, they danced in spirit in worship of the One who forgave them.

Seventh, we’ve been brought to a NEW COVENANT; a new relationship with God (vs. 31-34).  These verses are the climax of the passage: the very best news possible.  The Old Covenant was bound to be replaced.  The New Covenant provided a better, more personal relationship with God.

Under the New Covenant, God’s will is put in our MINDS and written on our HEARTS, not on tablets of stone. Under the New Covenant, all people of faith – FROM THE LEAST OF THEM TO THE GREATEST – can have an intimate, personal relationship with God.

Of all the reasons that a person might dance, this seems to be the best, doesn’t it?  Life can be like a musical, if only you will have faith to hear the notes.

(You may view the video version of this message at YouTube.com.  Look up “EBCSF” to find it.)

Why’d He Do It? Our Salvation (Part Two)

(Please read Colossians 1:13-23 in your Bible.  I’ve prepared these remarks using the NIV.)

Jesus gave up His life so we might live eternally.

“The actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s 2004 blockbuster The Passion of the Christ says he has been shunned by Hollywood since taking the role.

“Jim Caviezel was a regular name on cinema hoardings before agreeing to take the lead in the controversial, bloody retelling of Christ’s final days. He headlined the 2002 remake of The Count of Monte Cristo and starred opposite Jennifer Lopez in the 2001 romantic drama Angel Eyes. However, Caviezel told an audience of churchgoers in Orlando, Florida on Saturday that he had ‘been rejected by my own industry’ after choosing to join Gibson’s cast.

“Gibson, he said, had initially offered him the role, only to call him back 20 minutes later and beg him not to take it. ‘He said, ‘You’ll never work in this town again.’ I told him, ‘We all have to embrace our crosses,’’ said Caviezel. He added: ‘Jesus is as controversial now as he has ever been. Not much has changed in 2,000 years.’

“A passionate Christian, Caviezel told the audience at the First Baptist Church of Orlando he had learned to accept that the destruction of his acting career was a price worth paying. “We have to give up our names, our reputations, our lives to speak the truth,” he said.

“The Passion of the Christ was an enormous box office hit in 2004, taking more than $600m worldwide after attracting huge numbers of religious filmgoers.”

<Ben Child, writing for the Guardian, in 2011. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/may/03/jim-caviezel-passion-of-the-christ on 4/1/16.>

I did a little follow-up research and found that his acting career moved from the big screen to the small screen where he has worked steadily since making these comments in 2011.  While I was there, I also found out some interesting facts about Caviezel and the filming of The Passion of the Christ.

  • Dislocated his shoulder during the filming of The Passion of the Christ (2004).
  • Was struck by lightning during the filming of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004). Assistant director Jan Michelini was also hit (for the second time during the shoot). A crew member said “I’m about a hundred feet away from them when I glance over and see smoke coming out of Caviezel’s ears.”
  • Shortly after accepting the role of Jesus Christ in the Mel Gibson film, The Passion of the Christ (2004), he realized his initials were the same as that of Jesus (J.C.) and that he was the same age most religious scholars claim Jesus was when he was killed (33).
  • While filming the whipping scene in The Passion of the Christ (2004), one of the whips missed the steel board on Jim’s back and cut a 13-inch gash into his back.
  • Portrayed Jesus Christ a second time in the Word of Promise audio bible.
  • Republican.
  • During the filming he had pneumonia and suffered hypothermia.

<Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001029/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm on 4/1/16.>

As tempting as it is to comment on “Jesus” being a Republican, I believe I’ll just let it pass.  Instead, I want to remind you what we learned in part one.  Jesus Christ is the icon (“image”) revealing God the Father to us.  We who believe are, in turn, to be the icon of Jesus.  You’ve just read about how difficult it was for Jim Caviezel to be the on-screen icon of Jesus.  Do you imagine that your day-to-day walk of faith should be easy?  Have you heard Jesus describe the life of faith as taking up your own cross, enduring suffering in order to portray Jesus where you are?  The vast majority of us will never see our portrayal of Jesus on the “silver screen,” but that’s not why we’re doing it anyway.  We’re not acting.  We are the reality of Jesus in the world around us.  Relish your part.  Realize you’re part of an ensemble.  Make your portrayal of Jesus as real as the Spirit gives you grace to make it.

<Review: 1. Jesus is supreme (15-19).>

<NEW>

  1. What Jesus has done for us (13-14, 20).

First, as indicated in verse thirteen, He has RESCUED US.  The Greek word for RESCUE means just what you’d expect: “to liberate, save, or deliver someone or something.”

In this case, Jesus liberated, saved, and delivered us FROM THE DOMINION OF DARKNESS.  In the Bible, DARKNESS is symbolic of ignorance, falsehood, sin, and evil.  To be rescued, then, means that Jesus has informed us of the truth and forgiven our sins.  He’s done everything needed for us to start over.

The second thing is also revealed in verse thirteen: He has transferred our citizenship from this world to heaven; He BROUGHT us from the DOMINION OF DARKNESS to the KINGDOM OF THE SON.  The word translated as BROUGHT refers to people who are “reestablished” in a new place.  In civil documents of the day, this word was used to refer to transfer of citizenship from one country to another.  A military strategy of the time was to take away as captive members of a conquered nation; they would serve their conquerors as slaves.  In either case – civil or military – the word pictures a large group of people migrating from one place to another.

Paul is using it in the military sense in verse thirteen; we were captives to sin.  But Jesus conquered sin and has taken us back from our place of slavery.  He

has BROUGHT us to our true home. The DOMINION OF DARKNESS is in sharp contrast to the KINGDOM OF LIGHT which all SAINTS inherit, according to verse twelve.

Third, in verse fourteen we read that He has redeemed us from slavery to sin (IN WHOM WE HAVE REDEMPTION).  In their legal system, slaves could be released from bondage in two ways.  One: if they were purchased and set free by their new owner.  That would be called REDEMPTION.  Two: if they were won as prizes in a war or offered as tribute by a conquered nation, the conqueror could set them free.  This was called EMANCIPATION.  Again, I think Paul prefers the military imagery in this passage.  Jesus emancipated us by conquering our enemies of sin, Satan, and death.

A fourth saving act is found in verse fourteen; Jesus has forgiven our sins. The word translated as FORGIVENESS literally means “to send away.” When God forgives our sins, He sends them away.  He forgives and forgets. We are to do t same; forgive as we have been forgiven.

The fifth act mentioned in this passage is that He has reconciled us to God (v. 20).  The word RECONCILE means “to change.”  This passage is full of changes by Jesus.  Notice the scope of this: ALL THINGS are reconciled to God the Father.  The salvation Jesus provided has universal scope, but of course, not all persons will receive it..

From DARKNESS to light (13).

From slave to free (14).

From guilty to forgiven (14).

From God’s enemies who are alien to His purpose, to His family who prove useful for His kingdom (21).

From unholy to holy (22).

There is no middle ground here. We were utterly hopeless and He saved us to the uttermost.

  1. How Jesus did it (21-23).

In verse twenty-two we learn that  He did it IN HIS FLESHLY BODY THROUGH DEATH.  It sounds morbid, but the shadow of the cross extends all the way back to the baby in the manger.  Christmas is not worth celebrating without observing Good Friday.  Jesus was born to die.  God’s plan called for a human body because the sacrifice of a human life, the shedding of human blood was the only way to reconcile God and man.

But not any human life would do.  Jesus lived as the only and ever God and Man in one.  We must always defend the dual nature of Jesus as if our lives depended on it, for that is literally true.  If Jesus is not who the Bible says He is then we are not saved.

Look again at verse twenty-two.  There it states that He did it TO PRESENT YOU HOLY AND BLAMELESS AND IRREPROACHABLE BEFORE HIM.  HOLY means separate from the godless aspects of the world in which we live and morally pure. BLAMELESS means that we are no longer guilty of sin.  Only our God who forgives and forgets can make His children BLAMELESS.  IRREPROACHABLE is a legal term referring to a person who cannot be charged with a crime.

In other words, this is a moral, emotional, and spiritual state which we have no means of achieving on our own.  It is a state of grace.  In His grace God the Father chooses to clean us up, to mend our ways, and make us an acceptable “bride” for God the Son.  It is God the Spirit who lives in us and with us and accomplishes this transformation.  It is a metamorphosis that makes a caterpillar flush with envy.

And finally, in verse twenty-three we learn that He did it FROM THE HOPE HELD OUT IN THE GOSPEL…PROCLAIMED TO EVERY CREATURE UNDER HEAVEN. HOPE is a biblical term for a thing God has promised.  Because God has promised it, the thing is certain; it will come to pass.  Though you do not hold it fully in your hand now, you can be certain that one day you will.  It is not the same as a wish or a desire.

That is the basis for the Good News – the GOSPEL to which the Apostle Paul and every breathing believer gives a life of service.  That is the basis for a message that deserves to be taken TO EVERY CREATURE UNDER HEAVEN.  This is another nod to the universal nature of the Gospel

Don’t miss the condition on which our receipt of the Good News is based: IF YOU CONTINUE IN YOUR FAITH, ESTABLISHED AND FIRM.  Genuine faith, the kind that allows us to participate in the glorious Resurrection, is a life-long commitment.  It is real when it lasts.

I want to conclude with a quote from John Maxwell’s book, Think on These Things –What Does Hope Do For Mankind?

Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest. Hope motivates when discouragement comes. Hope energizes when the body is tired. Hope sweetens while bitterness bites. Hope sings when all melodies are gone. Hope believes when evidence is eliminated. Hope listens for answers when no one is talking. Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping. Hope endures hardship when no one is caring. Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing. Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking. Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging. Hope dares to give when no one is sharing. Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.
<Retrieved from http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-david-dewitt-quotes-encouragement-victory-livinghope-845.asp on 4/1/.16.>

May your most endearing hope be to accurately reveal Jesus by living as He lived.