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A rare trait

Have you met a humble person lately?

Probably not. They don’t draw attention to themselves. They aren’t the center of attention, the life of the party. They aren’t anxious to tell you what they’ve learned, or what gossip they’ve heard.

Humble people go about their work, doing whatever task is before them without tooting their own horn. They don’t argue and make excuses for not getting a task done. They own up to their mistakes. They put their noses to the grindstone and get it done.

And it’s a trait that should characterize all Christians.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 ESV

Paul uses the example of the crucifixion to teach humility. Jesus was equal to God in all ways. He was a spirit. He was eternal. He had been in God’s presence forever. He’d never experienced pain, or hunger, or discomfort.

Yet he took on human form. He limited himself to a human body with all the aches and pains of every day. Hunger and thirst, weariness and pain – all those he had never experienced before coming to earth.

But that wasn’t enough. That wasn’t the extent of his humility.

He died on the cross. The most painful, miserable way to die. Every muscle ached. Breathing was extremely difficult. The exposure to the elements and to other people was difficult to bear.

It wasn’t for his benefit, but ours. His submission, his humility, and his death on the cross were for us.

As Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you.” When you are struggling with humility, remember the humility of Christ.

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Have you told anyone lately?

Keeping a secret is not easy for most of us. The bigger the news, the harder it is to keep to ourselves.

Christmas presents. Engagement plans. Pregnancy. New job. When someone tells you that kind of information, but adds, “Don’t tell anyone yet,” we have to work hard to zip our lips!

And then there are other things that aren’t secret, but we don’t talk about it. Some really great news that could change someone’s life, but we keep it to ourselves.

… Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Colossians 1:27-28ESV

Have you told anyone lately?

Warning everyone. Teaching everyone. That seems pretty broad, doesn’t it?

It shouldn’t be a secret that Christ lives in us. Not only should it be evident in the way that we live, but it should come out of our mouths, too.

Warning others about their sin that separates them from God. Not just today, but for all eternity.

Teaching everyone about the hope in Christ. Not just for today, but for all eternity.

It’s the best secret that you know.

And you don’t have to keep it to yourself. Go ahead, tell someone.

It’s not your job.

Romans 14 is one of my favorite chapters on life in the church. Paul pretty much lays out on the table how we should handle one another when we have a different understanding of what’s important.

Stop and read the chapter.

Did you read it?

A few of things to keep in mind:

  1. Paul is talking to Christians about getting along with other Christians: how to handle problems in a local church.
  2. Paul is not talking about closing our eyes to sin. He gives ample passages to help us help others deal with sin (Galatians 6).
  3. Paul is talking about dealing with issues that are not clearly spelled out in Scriptures, gray areas. Examples he uses: foods and holidays.

He starts off by writing, “Accept everyone, even the weaker ones, but don’t let them decide what to do in these gray areas.”

His main argument is that everyone needs to be persuaded by and follow their own conscience in these gray areas. We will each have to stand before God to give an account of our actions, and we won’t have to give an account for someone else’s actions.

The crux of the argument is:

for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”

Romans 14:11ESV

I’m going to stand before God to give an account about what I did. You will stand before God to give an account about what you did. We will both bow before Him.

He’s the one who will judge if a person’s actions were right or not. It’s not your job to be my judge. It’s not my job to be your judge. In these gray areas – remember, we’re not talking about issues which are clearly sin. Paul uses the examples of food and holidays, not gluttony and sexual promiscuity.

We are not to judge another slave of the same master. The master will take care of that. Criticizing, snubbing, looking down your nose at someone who acts differently in the gray areas is sinful. If you’re doing that, you are the one that needs to change.

We are not to cause the other brother to stumble, to act against his conscience. If we know that a brother in Christ does not partake in something because of his conscience, then we shouldn’t set that before him as an option. If you’re doing that, you are the one that needs to change.

Rather than causing division in a local body, this should actually encourage growth. I learn why you do or don’t do something. You learn from me. We can both dig into Scripture to find support (or not) for our positions. We can work side by side and not be identical.

After all, we’re all going to bow before God anyway.

Absolutely secure

We all long for security.

We want to be sure that our money is safe in the bank. We want to be sure that our children are safe at school. We want to be sure that our jobs are secure. We want to be sure that our retirement funds are secure.

Before signing a contract, we make sure that precautions have been made, in case we get a lemon. A surgeon better have a diploma on the wall, and some malpractice insurance – but you’ll still sign a waiver to guarantee their security.

The list could go on.

It’s a natural instinct to want security. A crying baby is afraid it’s been abandoned. A toddler isn’t sure that his legs will hold him – and some carry with them….you guessed it…a security blanket.

But what about eternal security? Don’t you want to know that your afterlife is secure? Do you want to be sure that what you’ve been promised is really going to happen?

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

John 10:28-30ESV

How’s that for security?

Jesus gives eternal life.

Then promises that those who have eternal life will never perish.

Then promises that no one can take them away from Him.

The Father gave those who would be saved to the Son, Jesus. And no one is greater than God, the Father.

And no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.

BTW: Jesus and the Father are one and the same.

That’s like a triple-quadruple promise that you won’t lose your salvation. If you’ve put your trust in Christ’s work, it’s because God gave you to His Son. And they aren’t going to let you go!

They made the transaction. They are securing it. There’s nothing you can do, or anyone else can do, to break that contract, to unlock that padlock, to crack the safe – or whatever image you want to use.

It’s not up to you. It’s up to God. And no one is greater than God – not even you.

Believe it, or Not!

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! has made a whole business out of collecting and publishing oddities and bizarre stories. I mean, some things just are pretty bizarre, but true. Believe it, or not.

Sometimes we hear a story that just doesn’t seem to be possible. A friend tells about meeting someone famous. A co-worker shares a near-death mountain hiking experience. Sometimes we just don’t swallow the whole story.

And then there are politicians, movie stars, and the media to whom we’ve grown accustomed to not believing.

One event is recorded in the Bible that just doesn’t make sense to people is the crucifixion of Jesus.

If Jesus is the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, why would He let that happen to Himself?

Why such a cruel death?

How can that death, one time over 2000 years ago, be enough to pay for all the sins of everyone who has ever lived?

Why is my belief in that all that matters for my entrance into the presence of a holy God for all of eternity?

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18ESV

It does sound like a foolish story. Something that just doesn’t make sense. So many unanswered questions. Not a logical progression on the surface.

But to those of us who have put our trust in that event, the crucifixion demonstrates the power of God.

We could do nothing to save ourselves, to make ourselves holy before God. No amount of good works. No amount of sacrifices. Not enough prayers, candles, pilgrimages, or donations to pay for all of our sins.

If there were something that I could do, then it would lose its power.

It’s all the power of God. He did it all. He has provided the only way.

And that is amazing.

Living Debt Free – Almost

Debt seems to be a common issue. Whether on the national or personal issue, we all carry some amount of financial debt. And credit card companies seem to think we need more – at least that’s why my mailbox tells me.

To get out from under debt brings a sense of relief. Paying off a student loan that’s been dragging out, or finally making that last car payment frees up funds and removes a burden.

The Bible talks a lot about money and debt. Books have been written about applying biblical principles to finances. Here’s a simple passage that teaches us about the proper kind of debt:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8ESV

The only debt we should have is to love others. What does that mean?

When you have a loan at the bank, you have to make regular payments. If you owe love to others, then you have to be loving on a regular basis. Not just Valentines Day or Mother’s Day.

Eventually, the loan at the bank will be paid off. But we must always be in debt to love others. There will always be someone to love and we will always have love to give.

How can you demonstrate your love-debt today?

Freedom

Often when we think of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, we begin to list the benefits of belief.

God’s wrath is removed from us. We have a place in heaven. We become joint-heirs with Christ. Our sins are removed. The guilt has been taken away.

Those are all true and magnificent, but rather abstract. What difference does salvation make in my life today? What hope does it give me to get through Wednesday?

Here’s one difference:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:24ESV

He took our sins to the cross, “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

When we’ve put our trust in Christ, we have the possibility of overcoming temptation. The power of sin is broken – not just for the future, not just in our relationship with a holy God – but the power to fight against that nagging temptation is given to us.

Through His death, burial, and resurrection, Christ demonstrated His power over death, the final evidence of sin. His power over sin is our power over sin. We don’t have to give in to lustful thinking. We don’t have to let bitterness control our thoughts. We don’t have to slander the guy who wronged us. We don’t have to give in to any sin.

Instead, we have the possibility of choosing righteousness, the right things to do, say, and think. We can choose to please and honor God in our conversations. We can choose to obey God in what we do with our free time. We have the power to speak pleasantly to people around us.

Sin has no more power over us.

Choose righteousness.