Nothing can separate us

Romans 8:35-36  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

The life of a Christian isn’t without problems, though some expect it to be.  The truth is we often find ourselves facing more problems because we’re Christians.  We might be persecuted, made-fun-of, mistreated, untrusted, or any number of things because we’ve chosen to follow Christ.  Unlike the rest of the world, though, we’ve got a God on our side who gets us through it all.  Nothing can separate us from His love.

Honestly, when we get down to the bottom of why we’re attacked at times, it’s precisely to try and separate us from God.  The insults, the dangers, the threats, they’re intended to get us to turn away from Him.  Fortunately for us, God is holding onto us tightly through the storms, showing us that He’s on our side.  What the enemy meant to take us from God will in most cases only serve to draw us closer to Him as we seek shelter in Him.  In the trials, His love shows through even more.

———-  When have you found yourself seeking shelter in God’s love because of troubles in your life?

Awe: The heavens declare

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

God is worthy of our worship. We know it because of who He is and what He’s done, but beyond that, there’s something within us that just knows. We are born with an inward hint pointing us to the greatness of God.

Look around you. Everywhere you look, the fingerprint of God is present. He’s evident in all of creation. The cells that form your body, the stars in the sky, the giant mountains spanning miles and miles of the earth. Even if you’d never heard of God, you’d know there’s Someone and you’d know that He’s deserving of your awe.

The Creator wants you to know Him. He’s got such a desire for you to turn to Him that He built you with a knowledge that He’s there. He wants you to take that knowledge, and the awe that comes with it, and seek Him out.

If you’ve lost your awe for the Creator, spend some time considering the creation. Look at the world around you and realize His greatness.

Awe: What God has done

Psalm 103:1-5  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Even if God had never done a single thing for you, He’d be worthy of your praise. Just His characteristics alone are something that brings us to a place of awe. But He has done so much for you and for me that we can’t neglect to think about those things and stand in wonder.

Maybe you’re racking your brain, thinking, “What has God done for me?” If you have to ask, it’s a good indication that you’ve lost your awe for Him. Think back into the past, look at where you are in the present. Is your heart beating? Are your lungs breathing in air? That, in and of itself, is an amazing thing. There’s so much more though.

His love for you knows no bounds. The Creator of all things provided a plan for your redemption, rescue from your ultimate demise, and a way to adoption into His very own family. He sacrificed the greatest treasure in all of heaven, His own Son, for your sake, that you might be in a right relationship with Him. Think on that. Mediate on that. How do you feel about it?

When we lose our awe for the Lord’s greatness, it’s worth looking back and taking stock of all the things He’s done, not the least of which is the provision of salvation for our souls. He refreshes, comforts, guides, loves, and shows limitless grace. How can we not be amazed when our eyes are open to such things?

If you’ve lost your awe, pray. Admit to Him that you need to regain that sense of awe and ask Him to reveal himself. That’s a prayer that never goes unanswered. Search the Scriptures. Look at all He’s done for all of humanity. He is truly awesome.

What are some things you can share from your own life experience that have you in awe of God?

Awe: Who God is

Psalm 145:1-3 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Are you in awe of God? For most Christians there comes a time that the original emotions and feelings involved at the time of our salvation begin to level off or decrease. That’s normal, but what we should never allow to happen is a decrease in our awe for God.

Feelings change as do circumstances, but God remains the same always and forever. There’s never any reason to forget just how great and mighty He is. If we were constantly aware of the Lord’s presence, we’d have less of a chance that our reverence for Him would lessen.

It happens to the best among us, though. There come times in everyone’s life when it suddenly hits us that our awe has faded. The question is how to get it back. God didn’t change, so something else did. What needs to happen to regain that original child-like awe?

There are many things that ought to bring us back to where we need to be, and one of them is to remember who God is. Just looking once again at the nature and character of God, mediating on that, and embracing it, can really lead us back on the right path. There’s truly no one like Him. No one even comes close. Look to the Psalms, search the Scriptures, find who God have revealed himself to be. Stand in awe.

Christ our Advocate

1 John 2:1-6   My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

If we claim to be Christians, there ought to be something to show for it.  If we aren’t walking a true Christian walk, obeying God, growing to be more like Christ, loving others; then we aren’t fooling anyone.  If we love God, we’ll follow Him in everything we do.

All that said, we can try to obey in all things, but we will fail at times.  We can’t be perfect, even though we should try to walk as closely to God as possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  We’ll fail, but the true test is whether or not we admit to wrongdoing and ask forgiveness.  If we say we don’t sin, again no one is fooled.  We have to have a heart that’s humble enough to confess that we’ve sinned.  This is what we’re called to as followers of Christ.

The best part is that we, as Christians, don’t receive God’s wrath for our sins, but we get forgiveness.  Jesus already died in our place, He already took on our sins so that we don’t have to suffer the consequences.  He made a way so that we have no reason to hold onto our sins as a secret and not admit to them.  If we’ll just confess them, He’s faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9).  Jesus stands in the gap, advocating on our behalf, making our case.  This isn’t just a message for seekers of truth; the gospel is for Christians too.

The Church: a field

1 Corinthians 3:6-9 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

The Bible, especially the New Testament, has no lack of interesting metaphors for the Church. Perhaps one of the most colorful is a field. Some are called to plant, some to water, and it’s God to is responsible for the growth.

This analogy speaks both to the individual and to the Church as a whole. YOU are God’s field, but WE are also God’s field. It works both ways. We’re all expected to grow spiritually, closer to God and closer into the likeness of His Son. Many people are used along the way to help us, and we’re also used to help others.

Think about your journey. How many people have had an impact on you, guiding you deeper into a relationship with the Lord? How many other people have you impacted since you came to know Him? We’re God’s fellow workers in this field, all of us, as a family.

The Church: a branch

John 15:4-5 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

From where does the Church get its power? You have to admit that this institution that’s lasted for so many centuries clearly has something in its favor to withstand the test of time. Even atheists would have to agree that the Church is a powerful thing.

Just as a tree branch cannot live on its own, apart from the trunk and the roots of the tree, the Church (and individual Christians) can’t thrive apart from the power God bestows. A church void of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not an effective one.

At the center of Christianity is Christ. This goes without saying, right? It’s assumed that if a group of people gathering together call themselves a church then they are following Christ and operating in His power, but there is a distinction to be drawn.

The churches that really are doing God’s will are those that have humbled themselves before Him and seek His glory. The ones that are operating apart from His direction and guidance are like tree branches that are trying to stay alive without the nourishment the tree gives. Sure, for a while they may still give the appearance of being alive, but in time the truth will be evident.

You and I can’t bear fruit in our own lives apart from abiding in Jesus. Neither can the Church.

The Church: a household

1 Timothy 3:15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

Godliness: not often the subject of most talks about the Church and its relationship to the Father. It’s true, though, that just as there are expectations in your own household there are expectations and behavioral norms in the household of God.

It’s already been mentioned that the Church is a family. That means everyone has their own role and they must function in that role for the sake of everyone else. It’s slightly different to think of the Church as a household than it is a family. It may sound like the same thing, but a family is more about the relationship and a household is more about the identity.

In Christ, we’re all one family, under the “same roof,” so to speak. It’s under the banner of Christ that we’re all united, despite our differences. A functioning household runs well if everyone knows the expectations that are required of someone who is identified as belonging to that household. For the Church, that’s godliness, truth, and love.

We know from God’s Word how we’re expected to behave as believers. We can see the character and nature of God, His love for us, and what He requires of us, all within the pages of Scripture. When we look for it, we can see what makes us part of His household.

What are your thoughts? What expectations does the household of God have?

The Church: a body

Romans 12:4-5 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Probably one of the most common metaphors for the Church is that of a body. Ask anyone if they know of a comparison to something given in the Bible to the Church, and they will likely answer that the Church is like a body. And rightly so, because this is used many times in the New Testament.

The problem, though, when something becomes common, is that we lose sight of what it really means. You’ve heard that the Church is like a body, but what does that mean? Does this apply only to the local church or to the global church as well?

Though we are many, scattered throughout the world, all believers in Christ are one body. Every member of the body is like a physical member of a physical body, each with its own particular function. I can’t do what you’re called to do, and you can’t do what I’m called to do.

As Christ followers, we belong to Him and He belongs to us. Beyond that, we all belong to each other. As Paul says, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Think of the body and how each member cares for the others. This is how we’re meant to be as the Church.

The Church: a temple

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

The Church is not a building. God’s people, however, are a temple for the living God. Did I lose you?

In Ephesians 2:18-22, we’re told that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone for the Church and that the foundation was laid by the Apostles. That’s construction talk, but it’s not literally talking about a church building. We, together, are the temple of the Lord. You’re not the temple, I’m not the temple. WE are the temple.

How can God’s temple be holy (v.17) if we’re each so sinful? How can we be the dwelling place of our Lord if we’re stained and tainted? We’re unworthy to be called His people, let alone His dwelling. The Spirit dwells in us collectively, though. It’s because of His presence, because of the righteousness instilled by Christ, that we’re given the privilege of being a home for God.

The holiness of Jesus is the starting point of this Church, laid upon the foundation which came with God’s commission to His people. And I’ll let Paul finish by saying, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) Find comfort in the fact that all together we make up the temple of God, which He swears to protect.