Tag Archives: Jesus

Name above all names

Ephesians 1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Who is the most powerful person you’ve ever known? Think of the most authoritative and influential person you think has ever lived – now multiply that times infinity and you might start to get the picture of just how much higher Jesus is than any other human being.

He’s above all rule, above all authority, above all power, above every dominion on this earth, and He is above every name that is named. Forever. There will never be another person to walk this earth who compares to the God-man. His is the name by which we can/must be saved (Acts 4:12). His name is greater than all others and it is to Him that every knee will bow, on heaven, on earth, and below the earth (Philippians 2:9-10).

This is the one who we have on our side. What could ever oppose us that He can’t handle, that He doesn’t have dominion over? Simple: nothing. He holds all things together (Colossians 1:17), surely He has your life within His sight and He’s capable of taking care of you. Put your trust in Him. He’s the only one worthy of it.

Seated on His right

Ephesians 1:20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places

When Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, He eventually went back to His rightful place – seated at the right hand of God the Father. Why does this detail matter to your life or mine though?

The Bible is full of symbolism and not one single symbol goes by without deep meaning. It is significant that Jesus was seated on the right hand of the heavenly Father. It shows that He is equal to the Father – He is God. It shows that He is active, and not passive, in ruling. It shows that all power and authority belonging to God is Christ’s. Still, why does that matter for us?

The thing is, if Jesus had only died for our sins, then we’d still be forgiven, but He didn’t end His work by dying. He rose from death and conquered sin and death. He went back to His place in heaven so that the Holy Spirit could come to dwell in His followers (John 16:7), giving us power and authority (Acts 1:8). He went to be seated on the right hand of the Father to mediate on behalf of you and me (1 Timothy 2:5), acting as our advocate. It matters where Jesus is and what He’s doing right now!

Romans: Fulfillment of the Law

Romans 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

As Christians, it’s no longer our duty to live up to the Law.  The commands given to those under the old covenant are no longer our marching orders.  What then; do we throw away all of the commands as if they don’t matter?  No, we fulfill the Law by obeying our new command.

Jesus did not tell those under the new covenant to try and keep up the old.  Instead He gave a new command: to love.  (Romans 13:8-10)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

It’s really as simple as that.  You want to obey God? Love.  You want to please Him? Love.  You want to do what’s right? Love.  Freedom from the Law is freedom to walk in love, and in doing so to fulfill the Law.

Romans: Free in Christ

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!  The work of Jesus Christ on the cross accomplished what you and I could never achieved for ourselves.  Under the Law, we could never reach the expectations of a holy God who requires perfection.  The Law is restrictive, Christ is freeing.

Though we had the Law, in being unable to keep it we earned death.  Because of our sinful nature, into which we were born, we never stood a chance at anything other than bondage and suffering.  But in His love, God made a way for us to know freedom and life.  In freeing us from the bondage of the Law, Jesus gave us true life and true freedom.

There is no reason to keep living as though we’re under the restraints of the Law.  This is not license to sin, but rather freedom to obey God.  True freedom is a life submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and in this freedom there is life, peace, joy, and real fellowship with God.  This abundant life is bought and paid for by Christ, our Redeemer, Savior, and friend.

How many times should I forgive?

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

The truth about forgiveness is that it can be really hard.  Sometimes it requires that we keep forgiving the same people and the same hurtful acts over and over again.  Anyone with kids want to give an amen?!

Forgiveness requires humbling ourselves.  It’s a sacrifice on our part to keep forgiving, but it’s what God wants to see us do.  He taught this lesson to Peter and the disciples in the parable told in Matthew 18:21-35.  To forgive is to obey God.  Look no further than Mark 11:25-26, Colossians 3:13, and Ephesians 4:32 to see this truth.  Did you see what was said there?  You MUST forgive.

Forgiveness might be hard, but it’s also freeing.  Unforgiveness locks us up in a prison of our own making like the servant in the parable.  Forgiving restores fellowship with others and with God.  When we’ve really experienced being forgiven it’s easier to appreciate it and we’re more driven to forgive others because we know how it feels to be free in that way.  To forgive frees both parties involved.

Sometimes, though, we might forget how much we’ve been forgiven and we need to be reminded.  All that Christ has done for us to redeem us and restore us to a relationship with God is a beautiful reminder of how much He loves us and how much we should love others.  God became a man and lived a perfect, sinless human life and died a painful and humiliating death on a cross to take on our sins and the punishment we deserved.  Not only that, He credited us with His righteousness and then rose from the dead three days after His death to go and mediate on our behalf to the Father.  Yes, we’ve been forgiven beyond what we can even imagine.  The least we can do is forgive others.

 

This devotional is derived from a sermon message by Matthew J. Cochran.  To hear the sermon, follow this link to matthewjcochran.com.

Guided by Love to Unity

What sort of Christian, what sort of Disciple do we want to be? How do we want our faith and our hope in Christ to be expressed? How do we want it seen by the world around us, reflected from the deeper places in our hearts and our souls?

Those should be, when we stop to think about it, relatively easy questions to answer, shouldn’t they? After all, the Word of God, simple and beautiful by its very nature, is uncomplicated when it offers us the understanding we need to dwell in the knowledge of what it means to be one of Christ’s Disciples, to follow in the footsteps and the path of our blessed Savior. (1 Corinthians 1:11) Of all the commands that came before, the instructions and the laws that wove around the most ancient of covenants, His was unadorned by ritual and ceremony, by pomp and procedure. Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Triune God, (Matthew 28:16-20) showing them the path of faith and hope through a love that edifies, strengthens and nourishes those around us in the miracle that is His blessings. (John 13:34-35)

This is why He Himself, a poor carpenter from Galilee, born in the most meager of estates in Bethlehem, was viewed as so much of a threat. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from or where you had been, you were welcomed to Him. Yes, what God wanted, what God expected was important, but, in a wisdom that so often seems to elude the comprehension of men, He knew there was no rules that meant more to God than that we love Him, and that we love our one another with the full strength and full conviction of our hearts and our souls, our spirits and our minds. (Matthew 22:37-41) This was the blessing we could be by which all abundant life shined as a beacon to the world around us.

So often though we get tend to get bogged down by doctrine and the fights that it brings, we get so hung up on one or two passages in Scripture that we tend to let that define our faith more than anything else. We let ourselves become known for the things we are against as we let it serve as a wall surrounding us that keeps others out, rather than letting our faith and love serve as a door to let them in.

Now, to be clear, a proper understanding of Scripture should never be debased, nor should it be shied away from. The Word of God is meant to be studied, to be learned from, as it offers a path through its instruction to a righteous life. (2 Timothy 3:16) Yet nowhere in the Bible does it say “He who believes and is baptized, believing in all the right doctrine shall be saved.” Why? Because God transcends us in His wisdom and His hope for us even as He knows we aren’t going to completely understand or grasp it, telling us to dwell in unity with one another and turn from those who would tear us apart, who would destroy the fabric of harmony and peace between us. (Romans 16:17-18)

After all, in the end, it’s only God Himself who judges the hearts, the words and the deeds, the lifestyles and the choices of those souls that enter His Kingdom, not us. The path, if we believe the words of our blessed Savior, the Good Shepherd who guides and protects us, it is not a path that is paved through strictest adherence that abides in law, it is the path that has been paved by Him (John 14:6) in His tender mercy, His loving care, and His healing touch.

You can do more as a Disciple in the humble works of faith with a kindness to others, seeking to be a blessing in the world around you than you could ever do by hiding, locked away in a fortress of law and doctrine, shunning the world harshly for the offenses that it causes you. In that you have the capacity, through the power of the Spirit, to do more with the gift of grace that God has given you if you let yourself. It’s just a question of if you’ll let yourself, knowing that God will use you for more if your heart is truly open to love, hope and charity, and the wonders they can bring.

So again, what sort of Disciple do you want to be? What sort of blessings do you want to bring through your faith? It can be a blessing blossoming with the radiance of the truest beauty that springs forth from your soul, it’s just a matter of setting aside your pride and letting the Spirit nurture it to that point. After all, it is this love, this hope, in the principles of Christ’s blessed example that makes Scripture relevant, passing from age to age even to the present one.

Wounded Yet Not Slain

There’s an old poem, I think it was by John Dryden, that I’ve heard used, recited over and over at the end of a hard fought battle, at the end of a loss that has one damaged and hurt, that left them wondering and in pain. It goes a little something like, “I am sore wounded, but I am not slain, I’ll lay me down to bleed a while, then I’ll rise to fight again.”

I always liked that verse. In a life that is filled with trials, where triumph and victories are never quite assured to us, where they are never really promised to us, something about it always spoke to me. It always seemed to say that whatever life throws, whatever challenges it may have, it may damage us a little, but in the end, we are not dead until that moment when we are put in the ground or our ashes are spread around us. In a sense it becomes a question of how much fight is left within us when the moments of adversity hit.

After all, as Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

This is something that our Heavenly Father, looking down on the lives of His precious children, understands all too well about this world, isn’t it?

It begs the question, what struggles are leaving you wounded in your daily life? What challenges are you facing? What is leaving you wounded amidst the hardships that you face? Does it seem like it is just too much for you to face? Is it seeming like it is more than you can handle as you lay to bleed, lacerated by the deeper perils of this world?

As disciples of Christ it seems like they are there, lurking around every corner: temptations, trials, tribulations that push on us with a force that bears down on us with a crippling weight. As we struggle not to be crushed, there are moments when we wonder if we can even go on. After all, everything seems to be changing around us and we can’t see the world in the same way again.

It’s in these moments when we need to draw on the comfort and the assurances of a God who loves us. After all, He isn’t just a distant figure who tells us that, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 11:1) No, He goes further than that, reminding us that, through Christ, all things are possible for us regardless of whatever challenges may be there. (Philippians 4:13) We just need to lay our burdens at the feet of our blessed Savior to find the miracles of hope, (Matthew 11:29-30) that hope that abides in faith to give us the perseverance to go on day by day.

Perhaps it may seem like it is too much. Perhaps, left wounded and bleeding, we can’t help but weep, wondering to ourselves how we can go on. We are not alone in those moments though, we never have been, regardless of how it may feel. Even as our troubles mount and we feel at times like nobody could ever understand what  we are going through, the truth is that God has, through the lives of His saints, seen it all. Job, David, Paul, Stephen, and countless others, even our Savior, Christ Jesus, have faced the deepest and most powerful of pains, and found their comfort in God to move forward even when it seemed as if all had been lost and the burdens  were too much for them. As the Apostle Paul put it, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

As the world wounds you, dear disciples, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, find a place of quiet rest and lay down in the peaceful mediation of the Lord, remembering the words of David, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4) Faith, and a deeper understanding of it, a deeper trust in it, will let you abide in hope in the wonders of God’s blessed love and comfort, healing even the deepest of hurts and the most painful of scars, so that, with endurance, you shall have the chance to rise again.

Take that promise, take that love, and let it guide you in the wonders of the miracles that it offers you. In this world, with all of its battles, it is the surest weapon you have to protect you, the surest of medicines to heal you.

The end of all things

Revelation 21:6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Do you ever fear the future?  Are you afraid to give any thought to what will happen to this world when the end comes?  Are you thinking right now as you read this that the end times already have come?

The Bible has a lot to say about how things end, some of them may seem a little unnerving because of their unfamiliar nature (flying creatures with eyes on their wings and whatnot), but there’s great news about it all.  God is the author of all things, from creation to His appointed end time.

There’s nothing to worry about!  Nothing ends apart from the way God wants it to come to completion.  None of it ought to scare us.  Even though there’s talk of earthquakes and the sky becoming dark, wars, and famines, we know who is in control of it all.  We know who wrote the ending before the beginning.

God is good, He is in control, He is perfect in all His ways.  He will bring all things to their necessary completion for your life, for my life, and for the world as we know it.  Keeping in mind the nature and character of the Father alleviates fear of the future.

Temptations

There is no greater challenge for the disciple than the internal conflicts that they can face, nor is there a greater stumbling block than the ones that we put up for ourselves. For as strong as the Devil may be, for as much as he comes to us “like a roaring lion” seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8), the truth is he needn’t do much considering his are but temptations but ours is the rebellious nature willing to take temptations and beyond to whatever next levels there may be.

But then, as the old saying goes, as our blessed Savior Himself reminds us, “The spirit is willing but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41b)

Consider some of the greatest warnings of the Bible. They are not warnings against the Devil. After all, the old Adversary, he did his part in Eden to corrupt the nature of mankind. (Genesis 3) Even there he never quite tells Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit of God. All he does is plant the idea in their head to question. Everything else is up to them as Eve partook and Adam watched to see the results.

If there is one thing the story of man’s fall to sin and temptation proves, it’s that even those who know of the presence of God, who have seen it first hand, have stood in His light and heard His voice calling to them, need nothing more than a gentle push and the worst of their nature comes out. Sometimes that push comes in the form of a want or a desire, sometimes it comes with a snide or hurtful comment, other times it comes from the best of intentions just gone terribly wrong.

The question for the disciple is, if it is such an easy snare about their feet, if it is such a simple trap to fall into, how do they guard themselves from it in their everyday life? How do we make the flesh stronger to match the nature of a spirit given to the love of Christ and the blessings of our Heavenly Father? How do we avoid the temptations that are there?

Quite simply put, we can’t. This side of Heaven, the imperfect side of Heaven given to the more base nature of the flesh, temptations are always going to be there. For as much as we may try to steer clear of them, as soon as we turn from one, another one is always going to be there staring us in the face. The true nature of Christian living, the true nature of faithful devotion to God isn’t the avoiding of temptation, it is not falling into temptation. It is meeting it head on with a heart and a will given over to God with the truest understanding that through Him who makes us more than conquerors (Romans 8:36), we have the power to overcome if we choose to use it.

This does not mean, as they may say, go out and look for trouble so you can exercise a Christian will and strength to demonstrate a power that you may have over temptation. The more we put ourselves in the line of fire, the more prone we are to be hit when we least expect it. What it does mean though is that just because we face temptations and inner conflicts does not mean we are any less the disciples that we should be, or any less on the road that God intended for us.

Faith is about understanding that even through the temptations of the flesh and the weaknesses of our nature God has a divine and holy plan for us, a wondrous design for our lives. Yes, it is true that there will be time when we don’t live up to it and other times when we do better. Yet we cannot live in those weaker times of our lives, and we cannot believe that just because temptations are present we are weaker than we should be, as it is a way of letting self-doubt in, and with it doubt about the nature of our salvation.

Pray and be vigilant. Look to the challenges that are there for what they truly are, a way of proving that you are led not of yourself but through the power of the Spirit to be a better and stronger person. Do not put yourself in a situation where you will be tested but do not shrink from the tests when they are unavoidable. This will tell you not only more about your own character but the character of your faith, showing you where you have been made strong and where you still need to pray for strength, knowing that if you come to God with a pure heart, desiring to do better and to be more, He will give you what you need.

In the end this is how we show ourselves to be the most faithful of His disciples, of Christ’s followers, as we meet the self-conflicts and challenges with the power of His might through the love that He has for us.