THE GOSPEL OF THE CROSS
“You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19–20).
If I do what the apostles did, I will get what the apostles got!
The gospel that the disciples preached as they went out was the gospel of the kingdom of God: the good news that the kingdom was close to them. But they preached it in terms not used by John the Baptist, and only occasionally used by Jesus Himself. Their kingdom gospel was proclaimed in the language of Christ crucified. It was not a different gospel, but it contained a tremendous new fact—the vital fact about the kingdom of God: The Cross.
When Jesus had spoken of it earlier, Peter had even tried to rebuke Him. What at first seemed outrageous to the disciples was (as they later realized) the all-important mystery of the kingdom: the self-sacrifice of the King for the kingdom. The kingdom is established by the titanic battle and victory of Christ. His blood marks its foundations. Calvary is the source of the redemptive dynamic of God, the nuclear power drive of the gospel, and of all the gifts of the Spirit.
The kingdom of God has a checkpoint and border control, and it is at the cross. Without having been to Calvary, everybody lives a second-class existence as illegal immigrants. Passport and entry permits are repentance and faith in Christ Jesus. Then we may enter with the full privileges of citizens, no longer “strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). The “covenants of promise” (verse 12) are ours.
As we celebrate Easter; I will encourage you to take time to reflect on the significance of the cross and what it means to you. I pray that this will open your heart to press in deeper and to draw others to experience the same godly benefits you enjoy so freely today. Happy Easter.
Overcoming the Spirit of Fear
Paint yourself a picture: What is the one thing you would do if you had no fear? Would you run a marathon? Would you tell that someone “I love you”? Would you double your bet and take your chances? If you had the chance to overcome every fear that is holding you back, would you take it without hesitation? Let's explore this topic together in today's devotional:
"For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
The spirit of fear cannot be avoided, but it can be overcome. The answer lies in the scripture above. Paul says that God has not given us the “spirit of fear.” The way to overcome the spirit of fear is to cultivate perfect love and a sound mind.
Perfect love is the antidote to fear. It roots us in our true identity. To overcome the spirit of fear, you must first trust in God’s power and authority to help you cultivate what the Bible calls “perfect love,” which points to your true identity. Perfect love implores the question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love cast out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18 (NKJV)
What is “perfect love”? Perfect love is the love found in a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. It is found only when we allow ourselves to experience, believe, and accept what Christ did for us on the cross – not because of what we did, but because of who He is. Perfect love roots our identity in Christ – not anything or anyone else.
“But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (NKJV)
Nothing we do can rob us of Christ’s perfect love. This kind of love removes all fears that the enemy will attack us with. Perfect love means that we are no longer bound by shame, but completely rooted in the redemption of Christ. Perfect love means no longer measuring ourselves by our works, but rather by the works of Christ.
“We love Him because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19 (NKJV)
Once our identity is rooted in the perfect love of Christ and what He did for us on the Cross, then we are able to cultivate a sound mind.
“For 'who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:16 (NKJV)
What is a “sound mind?” A sound mind is a sober and renewed mind – the mind of Christ. It is a mind that thinks correctly. A sound mind means not allowing worldly information, ideas, or feelings to influence our thinking, but rather allowing the Word of God and the Spirit of God to govern how we think and process information. Many fears can be boiled down to someone having 1) inadequate or false information 2) poor logic to process information and/or 3) a straight-up bad attitude. In short, the spirit of fear thrives when we heap on “stinking thinking.”
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2
We need both “perfect love” and a “sound mind” to overcome the spirit of fear.
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…“ – Proverbs 23:7a (NKJV)
While perfect love renews our soul and plants our identity in Christ, a sound mind renews our mind and helps us think correctly. We must not only behave a certain way, but we must also believe and think a certain way. If our behaviors, beliefs, and thoughts are not congruent with one another, then we will not overcome the spirit of fear. There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God to help us renew our minds so that we may think correctly.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.” – Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
Do not let the spirit of fear overpower you nor become “wise in your own eyes.” Instead, trust in God’s sovereign authority and wisdom to help you embrace perfect love so your identity may be in Him and develop a sound mind by renewing your mind.
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” – Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)
My prayer for you is that God will give you the grace and boldness today to overcome the spirit of fear; to love more perfectly and to develop the sound mind of Christ in all you believe, think about, and do.
No Room in the Inn
“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” – Luke 2:7
Over two thousand years ago, a young woman gave birth to a child under very difficult conditions because no one opened their home for her and her husband. This child grew up to die for the sins of the human race, including those who did not make room in their home for His parents when Mary was giving birth to Him. Two thousand years later, many still struggle to make room for Him during the time when they celebrate His birth.
The account of why Jesus’ mother was relegated to giving birth in a manger, a place where animals are fed, varies based on which commentary you read. But most suggest that it was because it occurred during the time of the census. All the rooms were already taken by those who had traveled to register in the census. So this may not have been a deliberate rejection of a pregnant woman or a poor family who needed help, but rather in the busyness of all that was happening and the limited resources available, this family was overlooked. As a result, Mary and Joseph found themselves using a place where animals were fed as a delivery room.
This circumstance, as troublesome as it may be, does provide us a great lesson in humility and contentment. As we reflect upon our own needs, we tend to see the best of things as a sign of God’s presence in our lives. In the manger, God was not just present, but it was His own birth, and He had the power to choose the birth date to be during a less busy time or to be in the best birthing facility of the day. But no, He chose a circumstance that resorted to Him being born in a manger. Greatness does not always appear in fine packages.
However, this eternal lesson still does not serve as an adequate excuse as to why no one made room for the Savior’s birth. The fact that this day in history, when greatness was entering the world, and eternity was coming into time, was missed by this particular community shows the blindness of their hearts and their lack of discernment of the times and seasons. May we not be so blind today that in the midst of the busyness of the season, with all the commercialism, festivities, and our business activities, we miss the true meaning of Christmas. At the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior and honor each other as a family, may we be as Mary and Joseph who, in midst of very difficult circumstances, made the Savior a priority and honored each other.
Have you made room in your heart, your home, and your business for Christ this holiday season? Let’s not make the same mistake as others have made. Let’s make room for the Savior this holiday season. Here are some things you may consider doing this holiday season to make room for the Savior:
Study the birth of Christ as a family
Go to church as a family
Take time for your family and friends
Be a special blessing to your employees and customers
Contribute your time and money to ministries that are realizing His purposes
Share the Gospel with someone who does not know Him yet
Be especially sensitive to those in need
Forgive those whom you have a grudge against
Give words of encouragement and affirmation to others
Enjoy the season
Smile, laugh, and have fun
My prayer for you today is that you will seek God for ways to make room for Christ during this holiday season so that you may experience the true meaning of Christmas.
It's time to clear the noise. Make a conscious effort to fill your mind with good, pure wholesome, and lovely thoughts. Many of the problems we experience in our lives, both individually and corporately, result from lack of clarity in our thinking about what is real, true, and essential. It is rare indeed to find a person who takes the time to think clearly about things.
Too often our fast paced, over-stimulated, jacked up society simply acts like a pack of Pavlovian dogs responding to the bells and whistles of postmodern “techno culture” rather than as rational agents created in the image and likeness of God.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We can break free of the hypnotic conformity that surrounds us if we are willing to acquire the skill of intelligently/prayerfully listening to the thoughts that are inside of us - fueled by the Spirit of God. These thoughts, of course, evidence themselves as decisions, which lead to character formation (inward) and cultural expression(outward). Let's allow our thinking to be in line with the Holy spirit. His way or no way at all.
Your first step is to declare out loud that you will not allow any outside force to do your thinking–no man and no spirit. There are spiritual laws that demons must obey. They cannot stay where a man wills them not to stay. Your power is in the Name of Jesus, the Blood of Jesus, and the Word of God. Ask God to give you discernment of the lies of the devil. Decide today to set your mind on the word of God. It is your sure way of conquering ungodly voices.
Philippians 4:8 King James Version (KJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
My Light & Salvation
"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 KJV."
IN THE MIDST of these difficult and perilous times, it is essential to remember that for those who trust in God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, no distress of tribulation or persecution or even death itself can separate us from God’s unfailing love for us (Romans 8:35-39).
And regardless of the wreckage and the loss of things of this world, we have the assurance of the word of the Lord, who has promised us that though this world and its elements pass away with fervent heat, we shall be established before Him forever in the new Heavens and Earth (2Peter 3:10-13; Rev. 21:1). For the world shall pass away, and the lusts thereof, but those who do the will of God shall abide forever (1John 2:17).
As Jesus Christ, our true Light and our Salvation has said, “My peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid. In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”(John 14:27, 16:33)
This month allow the Lord to be your light. Your ability to remain connected to the Lord who is your source of power brings light to every dark area of your life.
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