Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.

Titus 1:1-3

Paul was very certain about what he was about and why he was doing it. He knew that he was a servant and that he was such a person because God, Himself, had called him out of his former life and had commissioned him to speak forth, to preach, the truth about redemption through Christ, salvation granted by grace alone, and the promise of eternity that was given by God to humanity during the earliest days of creation. This is that good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, that transforms death into life and that brings people into the center of God’s will, which is the outworking of the Lord’s desire to see all of creation returned to relationship with its Creator. Through acceptance of Christ, we, ourselves, become holy and acceptable in God’s presence, and we also are filled with the Spirit of Christ so that we can consider and respond to all aspects of life from God’s righteous and true perspective.

This same certainty is something that any of us that know Christ can obtain and can grow to understand as we travel through life with Him. For the Spirit implores us to seek after the same sort of wisdom and truth that Paul was driven to grasp and to comprehend. We have the additional aid of the full scope of God’s Word to study as we participate with the Spirit in developing into mature followers of Christ. Paul certainly did listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as he continually developed and grew into ever greater maturity as an apostle of Jesus Christ. The man that was prepared and ready to instruct the church in the handling of complex and deeply troubling issues and situations in his later years was a different person than the more impulsive and hard-edged new convert that he had once been. This later Paul was a man that was focused on the long process of building up the church of Jesus Christ so that it could withstand the turmoil, trouble, and challenges that were to come its way over the years ahead.

So, as we operate out of the certainty of the gospel of Christ, yield our hearts and our minds to the counsel and instruction of the Spirit, and diligently seek after the Lord’s will for the ways that we can serve God’s Kingdom, we are living out the pattern that Paul set forth for us for dwelling on earth as a committed follower of Christ in our world. There will always be more for us to know about God’s love, grace, and truth, and we are going to continually be a work in progress when it comes to our responses to serving God’s will with the totality of our lives. With certainty I say that neither I nor you will write additional words of eternal truth such as these that Paul set forth for us to read, ponder, and be instructed by their content. It is with the same certainty that I hold that each of us, in Christ, will be called out of the life that we have lived previously and into service to the Lord in ways that are wonderful, powerful, and valuable in the growth of God’s holy and eternal body, His church.      

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.

Philippians 3: 12

 

It seems that Paul is saying that his best efforts and most sincere intentions are not enough. No matter how much he desires to put to death his old self and to join Christ in His resurrection from death, the odor of decomposition continues to cling to him. This is troubling for the Apostle, and he knows just how hard this fact can be for other Christians. After all, Paul had a lot more going for him than most of us do. He was brought up and trained to be the nearly perfect man of God. At least that was the way that people would have viewed him. By comparison, most of us were raised into purely pagan practices by a God-denying world.

 

Yet Paul’s position in society and his training were of little value when it came to knowing and to serving Christ. In fact, they were a hindrance to him, for Paul fought against Christ and His followers with the stridency of a zealot until Jesus grabbed hold of him and refused to let go. Jesus truly claimed Paul. The Lord took him out of this world and into His in order to teach the powerful rabbi the truth about God. Then the newly formed Paul was sent back into the world in order to bring the message of life to us all. Still, Paul realized that even with the direct teaching of Christ he was not perfect, for Christ was not yet finished with him. The miracle in this is the fact that living in an imperfect reality was not discouraging to this masterful keeper of the Law. Instead, he found encouragement in the fact that Christ claimed him as His own.

 

As I look at my own life, I find myself in a position that is similar to Paul’s. Not that I can even begin to utter the word perfect when I consider my life; yet, like Paul, the perfection of Christ does dwell in me. Also, Christ has claimed me out of this world and made me His own. This is a truth that all Christians can recognize and reflect upon as we stumble and blunder our way through life. Although our steps may falter and we will head down wrong paths, this does not need to be the way that we continue to live. Additionally, we should actually find encouragement in these times of wandering, for Christ wants to take us from these darkest of days and bring us ever closer to His glorious perfection. Just like Paul did in his recognition of the need to be committed to seeking to live as Christ called him to despite his failings, we are called by the One who has claimed us out of this world to press on and to trust Christ as we are blessed by the miracle of transformation.

 

 

 

Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

2 Timothy 2: 7

 

Wow! Understand, this is something that I would really like to possess. In saying this I do mean understanding in sum total much more than the commonplace sorts of things that many of us find obscure or difficult to grasp. Paul is discussing something that is far beyond the assembly of toys on Christmas Eve, my children’s math homework, or people who are a generation younger or older than myself. The Apostle is telling us that we can hope to truly understand life and that followers of Christ have the ability and the capacity to dwell in this land of understanding that applies to everything.

 

It is my impression that when Paul invites us to think over what he says that he is actually inviting us into a regular practice of deeply considering God’s word and the revealing truth that it contains. This practice of discipline does involve the regular reading of scripture, but it goes beyond this. God wants me to think about the words and to let my mind give careful consideration to what the Lord is saying to me through them. He asks me to be still and to listen to what His Spirit is speaking to my heart and to my mind. God also promises to respond as I turn to Him prayerfully seeking His wisdom, truth, and guidance.

 

It is in all of this that we find the sort of understanding that fills the voids in our ability to live courageously and peacefully in our world. In this place of meditation and prayer Christ guides my heart out of my self-centeredness and into His love and concern for my neighbors. He brings me to a place where I can fully trust in God’s absolute authority and power while living in the insane storm of violence and pain that is swirling like a tornado all over the globe. As I think over God’s word it seems as if His hand is writing a message to me that is personal and directed toward the issues, concerns, and situations that I am facing today. God’s words of truth bring me closer to Him, and this is where all understanding dwells.

I pray that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3: 16-19

 

These words are a grand prayer of a life savvy senior pastor for the people that he knows and loves. Paul was a man who had known of God for his entire life; he was a man who could discuss the intricacies of faith with anybody, for he could go toe to toe with any religious scholar of his day and come out the winner. He had a great mind, a tenacious spirit, and a desire to win in any religious debate. Yet Paul was an empty shell of a man spiritually until Jesus introduced Himself to Paul’s heart, and filled him with a love that was beyond comprehension. It was love that made Paul full, and it was Christ who made all of that knowledge useful.

 

This prayer is about allowing Christ to go deep into the heart, to fill the emptiness, and to recreate the core of our beings. This prayer is all about allowing Him to fill us with His strength and with the power that is found in Christ’s Spirit. This is about letting God penetrate into the most hidden recesses of our hearts and our minds. This is a statement of trust and of faith. As we trust God with more of our heart’s hidden places, He will change those dark corners into places where the glory of His love resides, and He will give us the faith that we need to trade in a life lived out of human weakness for one where we live in His strength.

 

The more deeply we open up our hearts and minds and allow Christ to go into ourselves, the more we get to know Him. We come to experience the expanse of the endless, boundless love that Jesus has for us and for everyone. It is this deep rooted and all encompassing love that broke through the hard shell of knowledge that surrounded Paul’s heart. It is this same love that goes deep into our hearts. This is the love that continually softens the hard corners and drives out the doubts and the fears that are hiding in the recesses of our souls.