And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

1 Thessalonians 2: 13

All of us are subject to various types of authority. It comes in the form of people who have power over our livelihoods or at least our success and advancement within a chosen occupation. Most of us live in communities within countries where there are laws of the land that rule over us and that direct and define what actions are acceptable and what ones will result in censure or worse. Sometimes we accept the rule of authority and at other times we struggle with it or even fight against its presence in the course of our days. Paul is immensely thankful that these people to whom he had communicated God’s Word had accepted it and its author’s authority so readily. They had not only accepted it, but they also knew and acknowledged the fact that there was a supernatural aspect to what they had received from Paul as this word from God.

Thus, the Gospel of Christ and the rest of the divine truth that was given to them has a sort of power that is far superior to any other form of wisdom, logic, or law that they may have heard or have access to. This word of truth and life comes out of eternity and into our world bringing with it the lasting wisdom of the Lord and providing guidance for all aspects of life. Now God has called people into service to Him by means of gifting them with deep comprehension of His Word and by granting to them the ability to explain both its meaning and its application to the various situations and circumstances that are encountered in living out our days. Yet, unlike any other form of instruction that we may receive, when we are taught from God’s Word we hear words that are spoken by humans, but we are listening to and assimilating concepts, ideas, and precepts that come from the mouth of God.

The source of these utterances is what matters when God’s Word is opened and taught. It is essential for people who teach from God’s Word to be humbly submitted to the Lord’s will as they are led by His Spirit into understanding its deeper meanings and its application in the lives of the specific audience at hand. As hearers of the Word of God we need to bear in mind the fact that it is something much greater than any literature that has come to us through human hands as these words are the utterances of God, Himself, that have been given to us through the hands of divinely inspired writers. Even that inspiration would have left us with nothing more than an exceptional work of history and philosophical wisdom if it were not for the connection that God makes with His people through the presence of the Spirit of Christ with and within us. The Spirit brings the written and the spoken Word of God to life, and He guides our minds and our hearts into forms of understanding that would not be otherwise possible. Thus, through the work of the Spirit within and upon us, we are continually transformed by God’s Word into people who more and more fully reflect the glory of the Lord.   

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Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.

1 Peter 1: 22, 23

It is my fear and concern that we have become very careless with our words. We say things about others that are harsh, mean, crude, and intended to cause harm, and we really don’t seem to care much about the outcome of these statements. People in positions of power speak out about people and about situations with demeaning statements or with inflammatory ones that are either not well considered at all or that may be very well crafted for the very purpose of causing disagreement and for stirring up unrest. This is a world that has turned to incivility as its outward expression of an unhealthy social order. God did not give us the gift of language with this sort of use in mind. God has communicated with people by the use of language since the first days of the existence of humanity, and He has sought out our expressions of who and what we are in response to Him. The Lord also desires for us to engage with each other by using the words that He has given to us and the ideas that form their meaning as a tool that brings us closer together and that forges bonds of understanding and peace.

Perhaps the problem lies within the nature of what we are seeking to craft from the use of the language that God has given to us. We seem to have demoted the words that we use from the place of lofty value that their God-ordained origin grants to them so that now these once noble ideas have become nothing more than common, coarse, and too often profane. When we say something about someone or state our opinion of a concept or an idea we are placing that person, concept, or idea on public view with the descriptor of our language attached to them in such a manner as to make it hard to disassociate the description from the entity. This may seem harmless or even to have a certain whimsical and laughable quality to it, but when the ideas that are spoken are negative or derogatory in nature, they tend to have a tenacious duration to them that will continue to color the way that people view their object long after the original statement has been lost in time and forgotten by its original speaker.

All of this gives Peter’s original comment in these verses more weight in our world wherein words are spread rapidly and widely with amazing facility. God’s truth is far more demanding of us than the form of truth that most of us have framed up for ourselves. He requires that what we hold as true be something that will endure beyond the moment and that it possesses value that endures into the unforeseeable future. The Lord commands that the truth that should inform what we speak and the manner of our expression of our ideas is all formed and expressed in an atmosphere where love is the foundation and where the desired outcome is the building up of others into a form of unity of spirit and purpose. This is an idealistic standard to set for the world at large, but it is an imperative for followers of Christ. What we say has impact into eternity, and how we speak to and about others exposes the nature of our relationship with Christ to full public view. So, every word that comes out of the mouths of people who claim Christ as Savior and Lord, needs to be clearly related to its only valid source that is found in the Word of God alone.    

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4: 13

 

According to the author of Hebrews, the Word of God is the instrument that brings people, all people, into a place wherein they must confront their own standing and place in respect to being viewed as righteous, holy, and acceptable before God. That living word leads all of us into a situation where we face the truth of our own relationship with our Creator, and it also takes us to an inevitable moment in our journey through life at which we do stand before the Lord and are confronted by the way that we conducted our days and the fact of our acceptance or rejection of Christ as our Lord. This is something that no one escapes, for there is a day of judgement that comes for each of us, and we will be held accountable for what we did with the singular opportunity, the life, that we were given as a gift from the Lord to use for the sake of the redemption of His Creation.

 

Nothing that we can put on ourselves can influence or change that moment before the judgement seat of God. Our wealth, education, position of power, or profession of piety are all useless in that hour of reckoning, for the Lord sees through and beyond all of the externals and looks deeply into the heart and the soul to discern who we really are in respect to living out God’s call to be people who truly love Him and seek to do His will in all things. Now we will not be judged negatively because we have acquired and accomplished much or little in our lives, but we will be held accountable for what we did with what we had, and this is especially true for the way that we used what we have been given in the days of our lives that came after we entered in a relationship with God. Yet, it is that relationship with God that opens our minds and frees our hearts to accept the totality of the truth that is contained in God’s Word, and the Word of God is the source for the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that leads us into living lives that will be deemed as worthy, holy and just, when we stand before the Lord and face His judgement.

 

That day of standing before the Lord with all of the reality of who we are and also the way that we have used the life that we were given fully open and exposed is something to be concerned about. There is much in my life that I am not proud of, and there are also many hours, days, weeks, and even years that I have wasted in serving myself and my own wishes and desires; yet, I also know the nature and the character of my Lord. In the light of the truth of who Christ is as it is revealed to me in God’s Word, I also have confidence in my eternal status and also of the grace that sets me free from a form of slavery to my sinful past. I do not need to continue to misuse and to waste my days in the same manner as I may have before, for Christ desires to set me free from all of that and to establish me on the path that He desires for me to travel along. Today is the day where I can start to prepare for that final examination before my all-knowing Lord. This hour can be the one wherein I surrender to Christ those things that are separating me from the full expression of God’s will with the manner that I am living my life. This is my choice to make, and I am fully accountable to Christ for what I choose.

 

 

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Hebrews 10: 12-14

 

This may be shocking news to some of you, but you can stop striving so hard. In Christ, the work is done, completed, finished. We can just sit back and wait for our reward in heaven. Well, no! Yet, the hard work of gaining God’s favor has been taken on and perfectly completed by Jesus. His was a labor unto death, and that death granted life to each and every person who would agree with God and relinquish this world for the sake of that new life in Christ. In this new life, we are free to rest in the security of our status before God, and thus we are set free from the requirement to perform for the sake of our daily and our eternal position in God’s eyes.

 

The rest that we enter into because of Christ’s work on our behalf is a very active form of rest. It is modeled after a totally engaged and involved Christ as He may be resting from the work of sacrifice, but He is not on sabbatical from the work of bringing about transformative change in the lives of His people. Christ continues to speak love, grace, truth, and righteousness into this world. He does this through the Word of God and by means of His Spirit. Christ’s sacrifice has granted to everyone who believes in Him an immutable place of dwelling in the presence of God, and in this relational and positional security we should be able to find the sort of restful peace that leads to ultimate freedom.

 

Thus, as free women and men, we can enter into the chaos and the hardship of our world with a form of joy in our hearts that is produced by Christ and is made tangible to us by the encouragement of His Spirit. As we join with Christ in engagement with the lost and the broken people and aspects of our world, we are His agents who do work toward the Lord’s victory over His enemies. Thus, as people come to know God through relationship with Christ, they are no longer His enemies but rather are adopted as beloved children. As evil is confronted with love and mercy, sin-fractured elements of creation are redeemed. So, through obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our freedom is used for the sake of God’s glory and to grow us up into full maturity in Christ.

Listen to advice and accept instruction,

that you may gain wisdom in the future.

Proverbs 19: 20

 

There is plenty of both advice and instruction available to people in our world. So, hearing them is not a problem. What becomes challenging can be selecting what to actually listen to, and our culture provides little to guide that process. The packaging that advice and instruction comes in is often well designed and attractive, and the people who create the content usually have powerful and compelling resumes. We can’t even be certain that a claim to being a follower of Christ or an impressive education in Christian institutions is sufficient in terms of the validity of a person’s ideas and direction.

 

In fact, the more complex our world becomes, the more important it is for us to check everything against the foundational advice and instruction of our faith. So, the Bible and prayerful contemplation of its content need to be the primary source for us to use in validating the words and ideas of others. As followers of Christ enter into reading and meditating on God’s Word we are not alone in this activity. The Holy Spirit joins us in the journey of discovery and enlightenment; however, the Spirit is not just traveling along with us, He is actively engaged in providing insight and clarity to the words that God has set before us. It is this process of God’s engagement with His people that makes the Word of God the living document that it is.

 

Thus, we can read the words and listen to the ideas of other people. In fact there is much wisdom and insight to be gained by doing this. God designed His earthly kingdom in a manner that makes involvement and engagement with the people of His body a vital part of the way that we gain Godly insight and stand in the strength of Christ as we travel through life. Still, regardless of whether the source of our advice and instruction is books, people’s spoken words, film, or music; the true author of the wisdom that is imparted must be the Lord if we are to truly gain in maturity and in grace as followers of Jesus Christ.

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8: 3, 4

 

There was nothing wrong with the law as God gave it to us. It was and it still is the word of God that He granted to us in order to provide people with clear and certain guidance in the way that we were to think, act, and order our lives. The problem and the challenge that comes with the law spring out of our sinful natures. People tend to go in two primary directions when it comes to adherence to these rules of life, we either dig in, muscle through and work harder while demanding that others live or die based upon the quantity, quality, and the intensity of their own efforts, or we blow it all off as foolishness and a sure sign that there is no God for any true and real god would not be so narrow and harsh.

 

The true, real, and sovereign God anticipated all of this. He stated from the beginning of the human need for a rule and a code of conduct to follow that He would provide a way and a means for people to actually succeed in living righteously in the eyes of our Lord. So, in Jesus we are granted the answer to the impossibility of the law, and through Christ that seeming distance between God and us is also reduced to nothing. For followers of Christ God is not only with us but He is present within us in the person of the Spirit of Christ who dwells within in that mystical union of spirit with our flesh that is at the center of God’s transformative work in the lives of His people.

 

It is the presence and the work of the Spirit that makes all of the difference in the conduct of life. The Spirit speaks to our hearts and our minds at a deep level where the processes of thought and response are formed. His work reshapes us, and His presence redirects us from the path that was natural to us from birth into one that is directed by the will of God. It is the Spirit within that makes living in accordance with the law a reality for God’s people. In Christ we are no longer bound to an impossible set of rules; instead, we are free to live as God intended for us to live as we are being conformed by the work of the Spirit into the image of our Creator.

 

 

 

 

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Philippians 4: 1

 

Because of Christ and His work in me, I am no longer the same person as I was before Him. As a result of the work that His Spirit continues to perform in and upon me, I am not the same as I was last year or even last month. Admittedly, this process of change and the transformative aspects of it is a ragged and uneven journey. There are good days and hard ones, and there are times of gain and times when all of my endeavors seem to land in the red ink zone of loss. Yet, everything serves the purposes of Christ as He brings redemption to all that is submitted to Him.

 

In light of this common journey of faith that is the life of a follower of Christ, Paul shares two great bits of advice and direction for our days. The first of these is found in the Apostle’s joy and delight in his fellow believers. Now I grant that the church at Philippi was a success story. Yet, it was populated by people, and we are an uneven and difficult lot, at best. Still, Paul expresses a deep and an unshakable faith in the Christ-image beauty of them. These beloved people are his joy and his crown. This is how we should see our fellow followers of Christ. We get to choose this attitude of love and grace, and we can decide to extend or to withhold our affections from others. However, Christ would have us reach out to the body of His people with open arms of embrace and with willingness to listen and to share the journey.

 

The other directive advice that Paul gives is to stand firm in the Lord. We do this best with the accompaniment of others. Separation and isolation are tools that Satan uses to weaken our efforts and to make each of us, both our collective groups, the churches, and us as individuals easier targets for attack. So, our strength is multiplied collectively, and these are days when strength will matter greatly. These are times when God’s love for all of humanity needs to be portrayed by followers of Christ so that it can stand in stark contrast to the anger and fear of our world. This year the Word of God will not require defense as much as it will demand clear and accurate rendition in the public square. During these coming days, the gospel of love, peace, and redemption, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is what His people are called to stand upon and to demonstrate in all that we think, say, and do. In this way, as we are fully committed and totally submitted to Christ, we are truly standing firm in the Lord.