“It Is Written”

“It Is Written” is one of the most famous and familiar phrases in the Bible, occurring nearly eighty times throughout the Old and New Testaments alike. It always refers the audience back to God’s prior instructions. 

Sometimes it refers to prophesy, as when Jesus quoted Isa. 54:13 in John 6:45, “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.’’” or in Luke 19:46 as Jesus cast out those selling in the temple, “saying to them, ‘It is written, “AND MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER,” but you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN,’“ referring back to Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.

Sometimes it refers to instructions of the Law of Moses, as when the apostle Paul said, “for it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.’” (Acts 23:5) quoting Exodus 22:28.

The most famous use of “It Is Written” might be when Jesus used it three times to meet the devil’s temptations and his twisting of God’s teaching by referring back to what God really meant. 

 Let us always follow Jesus and use this powerful tool to meet our needs today: 

“It Is Written” takes the focus off of our ourselves and to the words of God. 

“It Is Written” strengthens us in moments of uncertainty and doubt giving us the clarity and certainty of God’s will and unchanging revelation. 

“It Is Written” gives us power and wisdom beyond ourselves when our own strength and knowledge falters and fails. 

“It Is Written” takes us above ourselves and our prideful and selfish thoughts and concerns, reminding us of the mind and way of God. 

“It Is Written” gives us the wisdom of God in a world sorely lacking in wisdom, and clarity in a world where nothing seems clear anymore.

 

A Gift Of Quantity And Quality

Those who live by faith in Jesus Christ do so trusting in (to use the words the apostle Peter), “precious and magnificent promises.” (2 Pet. 1:4) Chief among God’s wonderful promises are, “The hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago” (Titus 1:4). 

Three times the apostle Paul calls this promised salvation a “free gift,” saying, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23), contrasting the woeful effects of sin with the great gift of God.

Though this is a free gift, it’s not at all a cheap, temporary or low-quality one. 

In quantity or duration, this gift is without end, so we call it “everlasting” (as in the King James and NKJV translations) or “eternal” in the most other translations. So John 6:40 says, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal [or everlasting] life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” 

This gift is also of surpassing quality. Jesus said, “…I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) So John spoke of Christ bringing and giving this eternal life, and the blessings leading to it, saying, “For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)

So we live by this hope, as John the Apostle simply stated: “This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.” (1 Jn 2:25)

I Sing Because...

The refrain of the hymn “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” contains this wonderful lyric, “I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, for His eye is on the sparrow, and He watches over me.” This strong statement of faith tells exactly how the world is ordered for the faithful: we are blessed by Him, who is the Protector and Source of the blessings, and the only proper response for us is to sing! 

God’s people have always been singers. In the Old Testament, David appointed Levites to sing and “raise sounds of joy” to the Lord. (1 Chron. 15:16), and in the psalms people were implored to sing scores of times. In Ps. 104:33,34, this same spirit of faith is expressed: “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD.”

Today, the people of God sing knowing that our Savior sings with us. As Jesus sang with His disciples before going to prepare for His crucifixion on our behalf, “And after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matt. 26:30), and the prophecy of Ps. 22:22, quoted in Heb. 2:12, says “He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, ‘I WILL PROCLAIM THY NAME TO MY BRETHREN, IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING THY PRAISE.’”

So we sing our “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with [our] heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19), as we are “singing with the spirit and the mind” (1 Cor. 14:15), remembering this instruction: “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises.” (Jas. 5:13)

Thus we follow the easiest instruction that God ever gave to a grateful and faithful people — we sing! As the prophet Zechariah said so long ago, “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord.”

The Promise Of A New Heart And Spirit

God promised to give Israel what they most needed after they had long practiced idolatry and adultery — both spiritual and physical — and became stubbornly unrepentant. God promised to renew them, heart and spirit, saying through the prophet Ezekiel, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezek. 36:26) 

When their nation had begun, they had answered God’s charge to be faithful — God had said: “I am the LORD your God; walk in My statutes, and keep My ordinances, and observe them.” (Ex. 20:19) and they had answered: "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” (Ex. 24:7). But as time went by, they fell shorter and shorter of the goal, and then seemed to cease even trying, and went on wearily and drearily in sin ignoring the prophets’ calls to return. 

They needed a renewal, a rebirth, a new spirit. This is exactly what the great and gracious work of Christ gives His disciples, “a new and living way which He inaugurated for us” (Heb. 10:20).

And having received this, we then ay, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:3). Only in this renewal can we hope to have the tender heart of purity and compassion that being a committed disciple of Jesus demands — just like God had promised through Ezekiel so long ago.

Who Shall Guide Out Lives?

There are many ways people seek to guide their lives and made sense of it all. Nonconformists like do their own thing, while traditionalists look to the way grandpa did it. 

But most folks don’t have a thought-out philosophy, so they make choices that seem best at the time while great chorus of contradictory voices tell them what we should and shouldn’t do.

And so we go through life pulling together advice from experts, or friends, or tv, or websites,  or you-tube, or relatives (whether we asked for their advice or not), or maybe we just go with a gut feeling since there’s no time (or we didn’t take the time) to deeply think about things before acting. 

The failures of this “make-it-up-as-you-go-along” life demonstrates the truth that God revealed to the prophet Jeremiah — “it is not in man to direct his own steps.” (Jer. 10:23)

By far, the better alternative is to live a life of faith, following the directions of the Creator who made us and who knows the right way to direct us. As Samuel the prophet told Israel, “I will instruct you in the good and right way. Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” (1 Sam. 12:23,24)

Hope: “Slowly Abandoning” Or “An Anchor For The Soul”

We live in the hope that a great promise will come true, the promised of salvation. 

Rom. 8:24“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?”

Paul points out that this promised salvation has not yet materialized, but we are completely sure of it. Our great confidence is based on the One who made the promise. As Paul told Titus:

Titus 1:2,3a“in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested”

Think about those don’t have strong faith in God, who don’t know Him and don’t fully trust that He won’t lie or disappoint. Like those in the ship with the apostle Paul, in the midst of a storm, tossed to and fro for days, with no relief in site and no concept of how this could turn out well:

Acts 27:20“And since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.”

This is the world: no light, constantly being assailed and slowly abandoning all hope. 

Contrast this hope given Christians:

Heb. 6:17-19 “In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul…”

For those of faith: A trustworthy God, strong encouragement, refuge, an anchor for the soul based on hope.

“Equipped For Every Good Thing And Work”

As Christians we have been given great work to do in the service of God and each other. As the Hebrew desired:  “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will,  working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ…” (Heb. 13:20,21)

And Paul directed Timothy towards the inspired scriptures since they give the man of God everything he needs to be “equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17)  

In the physical world, no toolbox could possibly have the right tool to do every kind of good work. Yet the scriptures have all the tools necessary for the whole of our spiritual lives towards God and our relationships with others. This instruction is multifaceted, from things of the highest realms down to the most inner and personal. Through the scriptures we have all the equipment necessary for what to know and what to do and how to do it. Yes, the scriptures’ instruction set is a very practical spiritual equipping. 

Do you know folks who like to have tools and equipment for their own sake? They just like tools. Likewise, do you know “Christians” who just like the things taught in the Bible, but don’t put that information to the work of service and the good things of God? The equipping we get in the gospel is not for the the sake of the tools themselves — beautiful though the truth and instructions of the scripture may be. The equipping of the saints is forthe practical work doing God’s will is.

“A Friend Of Tax-Gatherers And Sinners”

The enemies of Jesus called Him a “friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” (Luke 7:34). Interestingly, He neither confirmed nor denied their charge, only pointed out their error in using this charge as a reason to reject Him and His teaching when they rejected John the Baptist and state the exact opposite reason. 

In this instance, we usually accept the opponents’ characterization of Jesus because, we know He was a friend of tax-gatherers. He made one of them one of the 12 and invited Himself to Zaccheus’ house. Clearly He was calling them to discipleship and away from the exploitations of the people that their position lent itself to. But His opponents still saw them just as vile traitors. 

In the case of sinners, we know He was likewise calling them from their dark deeds to one’s worthy of the fruit of light — but think of how His opponents viewed those people even after they were redeemed in Christ. In Luke 7:39, a Pharisee said, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” This is Jesus being a friend to a “sinner” — just ask the Pharisee. But from Jesus; perspective, He was being a friend to the forgiven and fulfilling His purpose of seeking and saving that which was lost. But that made no difference in the self-righteousness view of the Pharisee. 

If you count the sins of redeemed disciples against them, even after their repentance and redemption (like the Pharisee did), then I personally, at various times have been, or currently are, the friend of thieves, drug users, criminals of various sorts (including felons), as well as racists, fornicators, lesbians, porn addicts, those who aborted multiple children, the wayward, apostates, false religionists of every description, and of course, the run of mill foul-mouthed, drunk rodeo cowboys (I did grow up in Texas). That is not what my brethren are now, but it is what they were. (See 1 Cor. 6:9-11 for a description of the menagerie of former sinners that it is possible to gather in a single congregation.)

Praise be to God that He make all the redeemed to be a new creature in Christ, even if the opponents still just see sinners.

Do Not Lose Heart

The admonition to “not lose heart” is found a number of times in the New Testament, beginning with Jesus teaching about prayer and trusting God to give and bless. “He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)

Likewise, the apostle Paul told the Galatians, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.” (Gal. 6:9). And he encouraged the Ephesians, saying, “I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory” (Eph. 3:13).

Twice in the 4th chapter of second Corinthians, Paul would say why he and his companions did not lose heart, and give the reasons for it: “since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart” (4:1), and “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (4:16,17).

All of these admonitions to “not lose heart” to different disciples in different circumstances strongly imply that the walk of faith will at times be difficult and strong reasons are needed to keep going. This is true—and so with the admonitions we are reminded of the great rewards of faithfulness.

Then the Hebrew writer goes even farther in this type of exhortation, calling on the example of Jesus to encourage us when things have gotten tough, and appear as though they might be soon be getting even tougher: “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Heb. 12:3,4)

Yes, the walk of faith can be difficult, but the scriptures present it as a profoundly worthwhile endeavor based on the current and continual provisions of God, the reward of glory that will come to the faithful, and the great example of Jesus, our Savior.. So DON’T LOSE HEART.

What Is The Church To You?

What is church to you? Is church a consumer experience — like attending a movie or play, a largely passive thing? Some might even be informed consumers. Is it like being a comic book movie fan, knowing the story of the heroes and villains, and their back stories?

Or maybe we’re a bit more involved at church, even enough to have a rooting interest. Like the interactive fans at a sporting event where we care about the outcome? We know some of the players and we support the home team. We identify enough with Christians to hope they win, right ? Maybe we’re even a superfan, well past the basics of knowing to root for the sheep, not the goats, and can even discriminate between the Arminians and the Calvinists. Like the fantasy football guys who know the player’s stats, we can cite some verses to back up our favorite doctrines. 

But the gospel calls us to be so much more than consumers or fans — even informed ones. Church can’t be just what we do on Sundays, no matter where we fall on the active-to-passive scale when there. Living out our faith in daily devotion to Christ must be the center of our lives. It’s not what we sometimes, even often, do, it is to grow to be who we are. Christ and His church are to fully shape who and what we are by the lessons we learn it, with the relationships with other in it who are also so dedicated, and through the worship to God contained in it.

There are no other institutions in our world do this. The apostle John said, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1John 5:19) But the Apostle Paul reminded us the that “household of God, which is the church of the living God, is the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15)

So Very Close To Christ

Recently we studied how we, as the church, as married to Christ. 

Rom. 7:4“Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him [Christ] who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.”

Once joined to Christ, we do all spiritual things in Him. So the New Testament repeatedly speaks—over 85 times—of us being “in Christ.”   

This is where redemption is (Rom. 3:23), when we are made alive to God (Rom. 6:11;23), are freed from condemnation (Rom. 8:1); where the love of God is (Rom. 8:29), where sanctification is found (1 Cor. 1:2), where grace is given (1 Cor. 1:4); where we live, died and hope (1 Cor. 4:17, 15:18,19), where we love (1 Cor. 16:24) and triumph (2 Cor. 2:14)

We do all of this and so much more because “now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:13)  The blessings of “being brought near to Christ” are ours here and for eternity.

Eom. 8:38,39…Eph. 2:7“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord…in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

 

Moses’ Five Excuses

We know that Moses was concerned for his people, and had acted before—at great risk to himself—to help Israelites suffering under the yoke of the Egyptians. HIs own people had even derisively asked him, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us?” (Ex. 2:14) The answer of course is that God did. But when God told Moses that, he baulked, saying:

I’m not qualified. (“But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”  Ex. 3:11)

I can’t answer questions or objections that will come up. (“I shall say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” Ex. 3:13)

I don’t think this will work. (“Moses answered and said, “What if they will not believe me, or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’” Ex. 4:1)

I don’t have the right skills. (“Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Ex. 4:10)

I’d really rather You have somebody else do it. (“But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.” Ex. 4:13)

It is amazing the Moses was ever ruler at all—the people disowned him and he tried to get out of it. So was he able to accomplish anythign? Because God said, “Certainly I will be with you.” (Ex. 4:12). That makes all the difference and lets us work by the strength that He supplies. So what has God instructed you to do, and what excuse against it?

Out Of Egypt I Called My Son

Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.”

God’s call of His people from Egypt is mentioned scores of times in the Old Testament. 

It is mentioned as a reminder to Israel of why they were a nation in their own land. (Lev. 25:38; Josh. 24:17). It is brought up when they were given ethical instructions, including not having an unjust balance (Lev. 19:36) not selling a brother into slavery (Lev. 25:42), nor being proud (Deut. 8:24). It was brought up in matters of faithfulness, such as not listening to those who speak contrary to God (Deut. 13:5).

God also said He brought them out of Egypt to show both the Egyptians that He is God (Ex. 7:4) and so that Israel would also know that “I am the Lord your God” (Ex. 6:7 29:46). 

They were also brought out so that they might “be a people for His own possession” (Deut. 4:20) and to show them God loved them (Duet. 4:37; 7:8; Hos. 111:1). Also to show them that He kept the oath He made wth their forefathers (Deut. 7:8). And so that they could come and worship Him (Ex. 9:13) because they could not do so in the land of Egypt. 

Consider the parallels to us being called from sin to serve the living God:  we should always remember it; we are reminded of this glorious thing scores of times; it has great ethical implications for us; our remembrance of it affects our faithfulness and who we should listen to; it was for His own purposes because He loves us and wants us to worship Him; and it demonstrates that He is God and He has made us a people for His own possession. Let us give Him thanks and praise that He loved us and called us.

Born And Led By The Spirit Of God

Everybody loves a good origin story (especially fans of comic books and movies based on them). This is because often the most interesting thing about a character is where they came from—What were their parents like? What from their upbringing still haunt or drive or shape them? What compels them to do what they do? A good origin story tells us all this and explains so much about what the character is currently doing. 

While obviously not a fictional story, the Bible is mystery, drama, romance and suspense in the “greatest story every told” with Jesus as hero on earth — a humble savior and leader of His people. What is Jesus’ origin story? The gospel tell that He is from God (“that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” Matt. 1:20), and is God (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jn. 1:1). His approval and guidance were from God (“the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him” Matt. 3:16). He was fully and always God led. (“Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” Matt. 4:1)

Yet He lived most humbly, almost as if He was in disguise, having “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7) and was eventually highly exalted: “God…bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (2:9).

Those He saves He teaches to live like He did. He causes us to be born by the same Spirit: “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (Jn. 3:5) This is our new origin, leaving the world we came from, having a new force and destiny that shapes and drives and gives purpose to our lives. (“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Rom. 8:14) And like Him, it tells us our allies and our enemies, and effects all things.

Life

We need life because in the sins and course of the world we were dead. 

Eph. 2:1“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins”

But this is not God’s desire for us (2 Pet. 3:19) and He has graciously provided for us a spiritual rebirth and renewal to bring us to live again. 

Eph. 2:4,5 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)”

The life God calls us to is provided through the work and teachings of Jesus Christ. 

Jn. 10:10 “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”

Jn. 6:35 “I am the bread of life…”
Jn. 14:6 “Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”
And it is shared through the gospel. So the apostles were instructed:
Acts 5:20 “Go your way, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life”

So now Christ, the author of life, giver of the words of life, the way the truth and the life, the bread of life, is our life and we live our life in Him. 

Col. 3:4 “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
Gal. 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God…”

Laboring By Grace

The great grace of God is not just for the purpose of saving us, and not just for us developing a spiritual mind set of love, joy, peace, etc. He grace is also His means of developing us for and to good works. 

1 Cor. 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

No one ever worked harder of the Lord than the apostle Paul. The reformed persecutor, the self-confessed chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), out traveled, out worked, out preached them all. 

Paul several times reminded those who he’d worked closely with his great efforts. “Recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.” (2 Thess. 2:9) “I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (1 Cor. 11:27) “remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” (Acts 20:31) 

He did this not brag about his work, but to encourage other to be so likewise and equally committed to the things. of Christ.

Col. 1:28,29“And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”

The effort was always to bring people to, and perfect them in, Christ. This, foremost of all reasons, is a worthy purpose for the making a great labor of our lives.

Love: A Great Lesson From A Limited Law

It is a fundamental tenet of the New Testament that the Law of Moses (basically the entire Old Testament, save for Genesis, the first chapters of Exodus, and Job) was of limited utility. It could not sanctify (Gal. 3:2,3); nor justify (Gal. 2:16; 3:11); nor forgive (Heb. 10:4). So it was replaced. 

Heb. 7,18,19 “For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”

Even though the law was limited, weak and replaceable, it still taught its subjects lessons of the highest importance: Loving God and each other. 

Matt. 22:36-20 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Don’t think that it was a low or limited standard of love for God and man that the law taught its adherents. Jesus explained in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matt. 5:44-48 “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

If the limited, weak and replaceable law called us to this, how much more the gospel? Should not the love of God and others be even more our goal?

 

Flesh Or Spirit: A Choice Made For Us — If We Don’t Choose Christ

Rom. 8:5-9“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him..” 

The default setting of this world, once we have sinned, as all have, is fleshly, carnal. This is because the snares of devil cannot be consistently overcome without the help of God. Some consciously choose to walk in the flesh, others get there by the natural course of this world. Those who choose to follow Christ have the forgiveness of sins, and cleansing to set and keep them free and give them the help of the Spirit in their lives. 

So then Christians think not just what “I want” but what does “God want.” Not just “what can I get” but—through God—“what can I give?” “What can I get out of this?” is replaced with “What can I do for God or others?” 

The change of mind and habits that this new life in Christ can take a long time to grow and mature into all that it should be, all that it can be, in Christ. But this “way of life and peace” greatly blessed, and is to be supported by all others on this same path that brings glory to God. 

 

“It Is Good For The Heart To Be Strengthened By Grace”

Heb. 13:9“Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied were not benefited.” 

God’s grace is what He has given us to strengthen our hearts. There is some limited benefit of diet or exercise to strengthen the heart (“bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things” 1 Tim. 4:8). Our modern culture is exercise crazed, just as first century Jewish culture was greatly consumed with whether food was clean or unclean (Acts 10:14) or if hands and dishes were appropriately washed (Mark 7:2,3).

The thing about such physical things are that they don’t much benefit the person who concentrates on them. They same thing is true about moral restrictions not given by God, not matter how harsh or restrictive. 

Col. 2:21-23““Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using) --in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” 

In Hebrews 13, we also see that doctrines of men don’t strengthen the heart. The only thing that helps our heart, our faith, our lives is the grace and truth of God. Thankfully for us, in the new covenant, He writes that right onto our hearts and minds (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10). 

 

“Not My Emperor”?

Today we hear in some circles of society people saying that our new President is, “Not My President.” I pretty sure that sentiment was voiced by some political opponents of our previous President as well.   

When I hear such things, I think of the utter absurdity of New Testament Christians responding to the moral indignities, humanitarian atrocities or vile actions of the Emperors in Rome and responding, “Not My Emperor.” Of course he was, and such talk would have put one in serious jeopardy of life when the charges of rebellion and sedition were passed on to the governing authorities. 

The fact that we have the freedom to say such things should actually make as all the more respectful of authorities, as the apostle admonished: “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Pet. 2:16)

And always remember the general admonitions concerning our rulers:

1 Pet. 2:13,14“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him…” 
Rom. 13:1,5“Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God… Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.”

And we have the luxury of actively participating in choosing another ruler in 4 years, unlike our brethren of old.