Monday, July 25, 2011

Week 15: James 1:4-5

James 1:4,5: And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God, who gives generously to all and without reproach, and it will be given him.
  1. From last week we learned that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness.  What do we do with this steadfastness?  We let it have its full effect, let it work in our lives to become more loyal to God, more devoted, more clingy.  For if we hold fast to God, then we will become perfect and complete.
    1. Perfect.  James is telling us (via the Spirit, of course) that we'll become perfect.  This is staggering.  Jesus was the only perfect man to have ever lived, and yet here we see that we can become perfect through our trials.  Sanctification, that is, becoming more like Christ, is one of the purposes of our lives, so that we may give God the glory, and this passage (along with last week's verses) tells us exactly what to expect and how to achieve perfection.  Enduring trials by holding to faith in Jesus yields perfection.
    2. Complete.  Alongside our perfection, we'll become complete.  Our longings will be satisfied.  Our hunger will be filled.  Our desires will be met.  Completion comes from God, by God, through God, and in God.  Indeed, we will drink from the Well of Living Water and never thirst again (and truly we already have).
    3. Still, while we yet live on earth, we will not ever be perfect or complete.  Nevertheless, God promises to bless us along the way, and time and time again throughout Scripture this blessing comes in the form of Godly wisdom.  James tells us that God gives wisdom generously and without reproach.  Thank God that's He's not a stingy god, but a generous one.  Wisdom is vital to the Christian walk, and I believe we become wiser through the Word and Godly blessing, and James affirms that if we ask for wisdom, the Father will give.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Week 14: James 1:2-3

James 1:2,3Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
  1. James is telling us that whenever we encounter trials and problems we're supposed to rejoice.  Rejoice!?  Rejoice is often the thing we least want to do, and yet there it is, sitting right alongside the rest of the holy Words of God.  If we've read much of the bible, especially when it comes to Jesus' words and teachings, then this passage shouldn't come as a surprise.  God has a way of turning things on their heads and making us cling to Him.
  2. Why should we count it as joy?  Because our trials produce steadfastness.  Steadfastness means to "resolutely or dutifully hold to something; to stay loyal."  If trials yield this attitude, an attitude where we become more loyal to God, then why would we not rejoice at this?
    • We don't rejoice because we're finite and mortal, unable to see beyond our own minds and ideas of how the world should work.  God is sovereign, all powerful, and all knowing, and He knows exactly what He's doing.  We struggle to accept this mindset with everything, and the same goes here.  We expect to be treated better because we love and serve God, when that idea is unbiblical and wrong (see Matthew 5:45).  We need to understand that God loves us and that we endure trials to get closer to Him.
I am thankful to God that the trials in my life have been nominal compared to many others.  For me, it is easy to see God is in control.  For others, I understand, this may not be so.  And so while I am probably unqualified to opine on certain situations, in the end, all situations are under God's sovereign control and we have to just trust in Him.  These verses are tough to chew on, but it's so rewarding to know that we draw closer to God through pain and troubles.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Week 13: Philippians 2:12-13

Philippians 2:12,13:  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
  1. We start with a therefore.  Rule of thumb, when you read "therefore," ask yourself "what's it there for?"  Typically, it's a culminating thought of the previous passage, leading up to something concluding and transitory.  In this case, Paul is urging the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.  Sadly, I think many people fail to do this today.  We each must work out our own salvation.  This means that if we're relying on the faith of our parents, or the company of church-goers, or even our own half-convinced minds, then we're missing the point.  Salvation is much more than just an act, though many would cry otherwise.  Salvation is a way of life, allowing the redemptive blood of Jesus to permeate and work through us each and every moment.

    I think this also implies that we're all responsible for coming to terms with our own salvation.  For me, that came while I was in college.  I understood what it meant to be independent, and I independently sought out Jesus.  How does one work out their salvation, though?  With fear and trembling.  "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7), and time and time again throughout scripture we're shown instances of people fearing God.  This is respectful fear, yes, but it's much more.  It's an understanding fear, knowing that God is sovereign, omnipotent, and all-knowing, and that He can do what He wishes.  If men fell before angels terrified and trembling, how much more so will we before the Creator?  And yet, it's a loving fear, for God loves us so much, and those that are in His hands should take comfort in that. 
  2. it is God who works in you.  How awesome it is that we have the Holy Spirit within us, working in according to God's plan!  This is foundational and freeing, for we have God Himself dwelling in us and working for His good pleasure.  While all our acts are not necessarily pleasing to God, in the Great Plan, they all give God glory, which gives Him pleasure.
As I mentioned last week, this section of Philippians has been excellent for memorization.  It seems like a lot of verses, but it's not difficult in the least.  I strongly urge you all to commit these verses, 5-13,  to memory and dwell on the mystery of God's love.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Week 12: Philippians 2:10-11

Philippians 2:10,11: so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
  1. Continuing with last week's passage, these two verses launch straight into the heart of everything.  Jesus the Christ the Son is exalted up so high that every knee should--and will--bow.  This encompasses the full meaning of the word every.  All of the angels in heaven.  All of the demons in hell.  Every man, woman, and child.  Possibly (and probable, I'd guess) even the animals with knees, too.  Every single thing will bow down to Jesus to give Him honor and praise.
    1. This makes me wonder why so many people put off praising the Son.  Denial, I suppose.  Unbelief.
  2. Not only will we all bow down to the Christ, but we'll all confess that He is Lord.  What does this mean?  It means that whether or not one believed on earth is nullified, because all will believe (and realize) that He is Lord.  As Lord, He reigns.
  3. All of this action points glory back to the Father.  This relationship between the two is hard to understand, how they both point glory and exaltation to one another.  I simply acknowledge that both are worthy of praise (and the Spirit, too) and that's enough for me.
These verses, 5-11, are beautiful verses that point to the glory of God through the Son.  This has been one of my favorite passages so far.  The conclusion comes next week with a "Therefore..."