Be people who live God’s mercy

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Mercy tends to be one of the less understood character qualities in Christian living. The world sometimes portrays mercy as weak, defenceless, and undesirable. Yet Jesus qualifies it as integral to salvation; “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Be people who live God’s mercyFollowing his explanation of the Holy Spirit’s work of growing holiness within the believer (2Co 3:17-18), Paul speaks of the essential mercy God dispences. “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:1). God’s compassionate interaction in life grows Christ-like holy character. Christians are to recognise His training (Heb 12:6-11) through both the pleasant and unpleasant events of life which are all under the Lord’s sovereign control. In this understanding we find comfort and motivation to persevere.

Consequentially, as Paul continues, a correct response to this working of mercy says; “we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways” (2 Corinthians 4:2a). The child of God responds to mercy discipline by taking away more of the old ways so Christ’s new ways can develop. Paul chose to abandon his sin influenced attitudes, behaviours, habits, and bad speech, in response to God’s mercy.

As you would expect, God’s Word is central to this whole mercy development. Scripture is the Lord’s compassionate investment in your mind and heart so truth can conquer your behaviour. Therefore; “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word…” (2 Corinthians 4:2b). Spiritual integrity holds God’s written Word above all else. It’ not to be altered, misrepresented, distorted, or even rationalised away in any way. All of Scripture is God’s mouthpiece of mercy.

Paul continues; “…by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2c). Paul’s statement here should be the statement of every person who claims Christ. It’s only upon the foundation of God’s written Word of truth that any believer has anything of divine value to offer others. The absolute truth of God’s Word was Paul’s primary instrument for influencing others consciences.

This is heavenly mercy at work. Our words fail miserably. Our actions of love are wonderfully necessary, but fail to bring transforming regeneration to another person. Only the Word of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, can bring repentance leading to spiritual rebirth and growing sanctification.

Its here we see God’s mercy at work. You see, God’s love is never stagnant; it’s never dormant, even though we often fail to recognise it. His love is always expressed through action, through taking His resources and pouring them into our lives – that’s mercy.

I want to encourage you; God’s Word empowers your ability to recognise His mercy. Make no mistake; “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). There is absolutely no substitute for the written Word of God. The Bible is like no other book. It alone has the pen-print of the Holy Spirit (2Pe 1:20-21), and is therefore able to accomplish in your life what nothing and no-one else can.

God’s Word reaches deep within, to places no human can reach. The Psalmist made the connection when he wrote; “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart” (Psalms 119:34). The target of heavenly mercy is your mind and heart. That is the part of us requiring regeneration and constant renewal in Christ. Today, determine to be a person who lives God’s mercy. The Lord will be honoured, others will be blessed, and you will be joyful.

 

Live as those who are spiritually alive in Christ

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I wish to encourage you to live as those who are spiritually alive in Christ, not as those who are spiritually dead in sin. While the body of Christ is by design an ingenious living organise, made up of believers from all walks of life, it still requires guarding. Peter urges us to “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Members should always be alert to dangers energised by the arch enemy of both God and believers.

Live as those who are spiritually alive in ChristThe Church is never exempt from its fleshly vulnerability to sin. Regardless of how you may hate it, sin is ready to hatch a bad attitude into a bad thought, and then grow it to an even worse behaviour. Recognise Satan’s strategy; “resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9). Your battle with sin is not unique to you. Feeling tired from the relentless onslaught of temptation is common. So, stubbornly dig your faith toes in, and stand determined in your faithfulness to Christ.

The fact is, sometimes the Lord will walk you through prolonged periods of struggle. You may not like to think of it as being approved by God, and obviously you don’t enjoy it, but it’s true. God is training you for holiness, and it almost always involves discomfort (Heb 12:10-11). There will be struggles, pains, temptations, fears, and even stumblings. However, realise that “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

For the child of God, no suffering lasts forever without the Saviour’s intervention. Therefore, “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). Keep your eyes open for what the Lord is doing in and around you. As you observe His activity, pause to be thankful, then, come back to Him with modified prayer in response to what you have noticed.

Should you find yourself ensnared by sin, seek the help of a stronger believer who will help restore you to a healthy and stronger walk with Christ as Lord (Gal 6:1). Invite a more steadfast believer to stand by your side as you call for the Almighty to do what seems impossible. Genuinely, in full surrender, plead as David did; “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10).

Don’t allow yourself to wallow in the mud of discouragement. The devil loves self-pity and a defeated attitude. Ask the Lord as David did; “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalms 51:12). Plead with God to make you as stubborn for living a righteous life as He is. Rejoice in God’s patient perseverance with you. Express gratitude for the certainty of your salvation, for His forgiveness, and for the security you have in Christ which is sealed by His Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13).

Be encouraged; live as those who are spiritually alive in Christ. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).

Live as members of Christ’s body

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I want to encourage you today in appreciating the privilege of being adopted in as members of God’s family. Through personal faith in Jesus as Lord, you are placed by God into “the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Live as members of Christ’s bodyJust as the human body has been masterfully designed; so also, the body of Christ is an ingenious work of God. Here, there are no clones, no robots, and no stereotypes. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function…” (Romans 12:4). In God’s grace, you are His unique handiwork adopted into Christ’s body and gifted with unique spiritual abilities ready for service. Paul continues to say that collectively “we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). In Christ, believers are integrated into Christ and to each other equally, thus forming the Church in all its variableness, yet bonded together.

Paul explained to the Corinthians that the “body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NIV). The Holy Spirit is intimately involved in designing each of you into your place within this spectacular multicultural spiritual body of believers.

So, membership in such a diverse yet functional grouping of Christians should grow appreciation to the point where you only want to encourage, build up and protect these valued people. It’s as Paul reminded Timothy, this is “how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 NIV). God’s truth is not only the foundation of your relationship with God, but also of your relationships with other believers in your Church. Unitedly the Church stands upon and speaks the truth of God for His glory and each other’s blessing.

While this sounds wonderful, we all know what can happen when someone fails to live a Spirit filled life. When a hard hearted attitude takes control, the whole body feels the pain of their agitation. It only takes one self-centred heart to spoil any relationship. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25). Realising who the Holy Spirit has made you, and how he has placed you in Christ’s body, heightens your sense of worth and the value of others. Compassionate truthfulness, soft honesty, and affectionate integrity give evidence to this reality.

In the Church, quality relationships matter. Jesus said that it is through relationships with each other that all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Notice Jesus did not say that the world only would recognise your love as evidence of being His disciples. No, “all people” shall recognise love as being of Christ. This includes your fellow brother and sister in the Lord. One of Christ’s strongest testimonies to every person in your life is the way in which you express love on Christ’s behalf with your fellow Christian.

What a privilege we have as believer’s to live Christ by living His selfless love toward one another. This universally powerful testimony is unmistakably the evidence of Jesus Christ at work. This is what it means to live as members of Christ’s body.

The empty tomb brings security

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Easter is an extraordinary celebration of Jesus’ empty tomb. While the world scoffs at the idea of believing in a Jesus that died and rose from the dead; for those who do believe, the blessings are innumerable.

The empty tomb brings securitySeven hundred years before Christ, Isaiah prophesied; Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him (Jesus); he (God) has put him (Jesus) to grief; when his (Jesus) soul makes an offering for (Our) guilt” (Isaiah 53:10).

Just as Jesus crucifixion was real, so the sin that He answered for was real also – but it was our sin, our guilt.

Likewise, Jesus wounds, both the physical wounds from the Roman soldiers, and the spiritual chastisement and separation from God were equally real. The wrath He took in our place was not pretend, it was not imagined – it was real, because our sin is real, and God’s judgement is real.

Personal recognition that it was your sin in Jesus on that cross is what makes Jesus death your death to sin. Therefore, Jesus death turns your guilt into peace with God. It changes separation from God to adoption into His family. It replaces fear of the unknown to assurance of what God says is certain.

The Christian faith is founded upon belief and confession “that Jesus is Lord and (you) believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead…” (Romans 10:9). If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, He’s not God. If He’s dead in the ground still, we are still dead in our sin awaiting judgement.

For believers, we surrender our lives to the Lord who is master over all of life and death. For Christians, the grave is NOT a dead end. It‘s for us to realise that should your body die,  you have NOT fulfilled your part of God’s eternal plan for your eternal life until you are resurrected and given new bodies in preparation for spending eternity with Him. For God, it’s just as important to raise the saints from the grave as it was to raise His Son Jesus from the grave.

Paul explains the resurrected body in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44; “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” You will NOT be a clone or robot. You will still carry your unique bodily features and possess your unique personalities, but without sin. All forms of mortal imperfection and incompleteness shall be gone.

You shall be the same yet very different. Christ’s perfection; His holiness and His completeness shall be yours. Christ’s inability to sin will be your inability to sin. No more conflicts of interest or second guessing your decisions. Christ’s ability to glorify the Father shall be your ability to glorify the Father.

If you lack a sense of security when looking at the world, turn your eyes upon Jesus. If you want a hope that will lift your faith above the mockery of the unbelieving world, a hope that can overpower anxiety, a hope that will fill your entire being with expectation; then believe the promise of the returning resurrected Lord Jesus Christ!

I encourage you to embrace Jesus Christ who gives hope and certainty that lives past the grave.

 

Pursue fellowship empowered by God’s Holy Spirit

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Often relationships with fellow believers lack evidence of being empowered by God’s Spirit. This is a strange phenomenon because every regenerated child of God has been equally “called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). We should be in awe of what the Lord achieves in each other through spiritual rebirth at salvation. Sadly, this is not always the case.

Pursue fellowship empowered by God’s Holy SpiritWhen the apostle prayed for the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14), he asked for the very best of God for the Corinthians. Here is a good thermometer of spiritual health. Is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit actively expressing themselves through your relationships? If not, you would do well to reconsider the reality of Jesus Christ as Lord in your life.

Now, Scripture gives clear principles for how to enrich fellowship with others through the example of the first generation believers. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The richest of fellowship occurs when God’s children have genuinely soft-hearted attitudes towards each other flowing out of authentic faith in Christ. Central to this is the mutual desire of all believers to spend time submissively sitting under the teaching of God’s Word together.

Worship and prayer are also the outcome of fellowship under God’s Word. There’s no self-seen here. Here we observe faithfulness and loyalty to both God and His people centred in Christ. The “breaking of bread” together has greater importance for believers when fellowship with Christ is experienced through the fellowship of the saints.

This means, following sound instruction in Scripture, you will not criticise, demean, judge or belittle your fellow believer. You see, if you “walk in the light, as he [Jesus] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). When you are cleansed from sin, there will be no place for sin to worm its way into your relationships with your brother or sister in the Lord. Instead, you will rejoice in the intimacy of Christ centred oneness. Self should fade into insignificance as Christ is increasingly dominant. This is the foundation of unity in the Church.

When the Holy Spirit distributed gifts amongst believers, Paul observed that all were equally “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Every Christian is equally blessed with personalised spiritual abilities exactly as the Holy Spirit determined. No-one misses out, no-one is shown favouritism, and no-ones giftedness is more significant that anyone else’s.

However, so often God’s children get caught up with comparing one with another. Selfishness then damages the potential for sweet fellowship. Recognition of the spectacular working of God’s Spirit in His design and functionality of Christ’s body should secure every relationship. So what can overcome natural sinful compulsions which damage instead of enriching? The answer is humility!

You see, self detracts from Christ, and it estranges you from intimacy with others. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Paul summed up Christ centred fellowship this way; “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

I encourage you to pursue fellowship empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.

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