Opposite Effect

I find it peculiar that when people, governments or organizations of power try to unjustly silence or put pressure on the innocent, we often find that instead of what they intended to happen, the exact opposite happens instead. When they tried to silence and ultimately killed Jesus, instead of stopping what he started, it sparked a fire across the world and throughout history. The same can be said about the death of Martin Luther King, stories from the persecuted church, and other social or religious injustices. When some try to stop a movement, their very efforts are somehow turned to benefit exactly what they were trying to stop. Paul experienced this himself. In Philippians chapter 1 verses 12 through 14 Paul says this:

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."

So, I encourage you, if it seems as if someone or even spiritual forces are trying to stop what God has called you to do, remember Paul. By being put in prison, instead of stopping the spread of the gospel, God made the exact opposite take place. Paul explains that, “because of his chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly”. We are almost never allowed to see the entire picture. Our job is to be obedient and trust that God knows what he is doing, even in our darkest hour. And who knows, you may learn that God chose to use what was intended against you to have the exact opposite effect.

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God has a way of turning what was meant for evil into something good. He’s done it several times throughout history, and it is recorded here in Philippians when he did it with Paul. If you look hard enough, you may find times in your own life where this is true. God is, and has always been, in control. So when you are suffering, especially if it is for Christ, rejoice because not only is there a reward for you in heaven for your suffering, but you can also take heart that it may very well be a part of God’s master plan.

Godless Chatter

I knew of someone who struggled with believing in the bible because it didn’t match his own set of beliefs that he’d formed through his time living life. He’d formed his own code of what is right and wrong. Some of what he said seemed to agree with the principles of the bible and others did not. Even though he claimed to be a believer, it seemed as though he just agreed with whatever portions of the bible matched his personal code and disregarded the rest. As bad as this type of thinking could be for his own spiritual growth, think about what it would do if he tried to teach it to others. It would be nothing more than godless chatter. Second Timothy chapter 2, verses 16 through 18 says:

"Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some."

It is dangerous to choose to believe only what we want to agree with when it comes to our devotion to the bible. The entire bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, so if we dismiss what we don’t want to agree with, or even worse – teach others to believe our own version of what we think the bible should be, we are wandering away from the truth and destroying the faith of some. So I encourage you, just as Timothy does, to avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.

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Timothy warns us to avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. The type of chatter that he is referring to is when we choose our own so called “wisdom” over biblical truth. When we begin to think that we know better than God, and we substitute what he deems as holy and right for what we consider holy and right, we are deceiving ourselves and worse – we deceive others if they choose to listen to us. So please, take the bible as total and pure truth. It is the Holy Scriptures inspired by the Holy Spirit. Even the cover of my copy says “Holy Bible” as to make sure I’m never confused.

Precious Blood

Lately, God has continued to remind me that we, as believers, are strangers here on earth. That this world is not our home. I’ve been considering what that should look like for American believers. In a culture where Jesus is an afterthought and perishable things are highly sought after, how are we to remain set apart? First Peter teaches us that if we live a life as a stranger here on earth we should continually have a reverent fear of our God, knowing that we were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. And this thought should continually remind us of who we belong to. It says in First Peter chapter 1 verses 17 through 19:

"Since you call on the Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."

To live as a stranger here on earth is to be reminded every second of the day that we have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. The bible tells us that we are not our own, but we have been bought with a price - and that price is the blood of God’s only son. I like how Peter says, “we have been redeemed from the empty way of life handed down from our forefathers.” A life in Christ is different than the life of an unbeliever because they still live in the empty way of life handed down by our forefathers. A life in Christ is a life with an eternal purpose. And as we live in reverent fear as strangers here on earth, we need to remind ourselves of where we are headed and live accordingly.

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“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” When we think on this truth it is near impossible to forget our eternal purpose. So, if we live every second of every day remembering that we have been bought with a price, we will never forget that we are strangers here waiting for the day when we will return home to the Father. I encourage you to remember that we are strangers here on earth, and the only way to truly do that is to never forget that we have bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

By Him, For Him

I love how Jesus is described in Colossians 1. To me, it is more than just a simple description, it also sheds light on the meaning of life. In Colossians 1 verses 15 and 16, referring to Jesus, it says:

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him."

In my mind, the answer to the meaning of life is that all things were created by him and for him. That means that we were also created by him and for him. If you have never given much thought to that concept, I encourage you to do it today. We weren’t just created by some random collision of particles in space, we were created by Jesus and for Jesus. Paul also goes on to remind us that yes, he created things that we can see, but also created things that we can’t. So, I also encourage you to be aware of the heavenly realms – the things we can’t see. I believe that there is major activity going on all around us every day that we can’t see – like angels taking flight to intervene on our behalf or to carry out answers to prayer. Anyway, it’s worth thinking about.

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Jesus made all things for himself; things that we understand and things that can’t even see. But you and I are one of his creations and we were made for him. We were made to love him, to have relationship with him, to praise and glorify him, and ultimately to spend eternity with him. We were made in his image, and we are in fact, sons and daughters of the Most High. So I encourage you not to take the fact that we were made by Jesus and for Jesus lightly. This knowledge should help define who you are; God’s loving creation and joint heirs with Jesus himself.

Repentance By Deeds

One of the main behaviors of a true believer is to repent when we sin. All of us sin. Sometimes we sin without even knowing it, sometimes we sin by mistake, and yet other times we sin knowing full well what we’re doing. Whatever the case may be, we need realign ourselves with our creator. That means that when we repent, we must take action to distance ourselves from the sin that brought us to our knees in the first place. Paul puts it like this in Acts 26, the second part of verse 20 which says:

"I preach that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds."

Paul says this to King Agrippa at the tail of his conversion story; that he preaches that we should repent and turn to God and prove our repentance by our deeds. I kind of compare this concept to the earthly relationships we have with our loved ones. If we sin against them, it wouldn’t make much sense if we just said sorry then continued hurting them as if we never said anything at all. If we did, our “repentance” wouldn’t mean much. It only matters when we back up those words with deeds, or as Paul puts it, if we prove our repentance by our deeds. And the deeds I think he is referring to here, is to take action to not sin in the same way again. In fact, we are to do a 180, to completely turn from our sin and go in the opposite direction. Not only should we stop sinning, but we should pursue righteousness.

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Paul says that we are to prove our repentance by our deeds. That can be very hard, especially if your sin amounts to a form of addiction. But the idea of repentance starts in the heart. We have to feel sorry for what we’ve done, and decide that we’re going to stop sinning or stop continuing our addiction. By ourselves, this is impossible. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, all things are possible. I encourage you, if you’re dealing with a sin addiction, first remember what Paul says in Ephesians 6. Every day, put on the full armor of God. Pray for protection and help. And he says that when we’ve done everything to stand, stand. But you can’t do that until you truly repent by taking change seriously, because when we do, we are proving our repentance by our deeds.