Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: feelings

Love grows

We often say that our “love grows.” 

When we put these two words together, we generally mean that we want our feelings of affection increase or that we want the bond felt between us to become stronger.  We recognize that a loving relationship isn’t a static, one-and-done feeling, that it does develop…but I think we’re a little squishy when we try and describe exactly how this happens.

Sure, we’ll say that love grows in a variety of ways: over time, through shared experiences, and being together in the ups and downs of life.  If you talk to others about growing in love with their spouse, their closest friends, or with a group of people, what is usually identified as the main driver of growth seems to be surviving a long time without abandoning one another.

In his letters, Paul often told his readers that he was praying for them, but it wasn’t a generic “I’ll be praying for you” platitude.  He didn’t just ask God to “help” them with their “stuff”.  We’re going to take a close look at not only what Paul told the believers in Philippi that he was praying for them, but also the reasons Paul gave for making his specific prayer requests.

So for starters, let’s look at the beginning Paul’s prayer request:

Philippians 1:9
And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment


Immediately, we see that Paul wants their love to grow in two specific areas.  We’ll take a look at the outcome of this kind of growth in a later post.  First we need to understand what he means by knowledge and every kind of discernment.

The Greek word for knowledge refers to a full, intimate understanding of a subject.  Similarly, the Greek word Paul chose for discernment speaks to how we perceive something or someone.  The word refers to something deeper than just a sensory perception – sight, touch, smell – instead this discernment relies on the intellect.

Blind love or a love that is dependent upon our emotions is not ground for the growth of a relationship.  As our feelings ebb and flow, we can end up doing more harm then good.

True Christian love isn’t shallow or squishy.  It is grounded in an clear understanding and has an intelligent direction.  This shouldn’t surprise us, because, after all, that’s exactly how God loves us.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

A question of belief

Can I be open and honest with you?

Throughout my decades as a follower of Jesus, I have had several mini-crises of faith.  Times of struggle or tragedy in my own life (or in the lives of those that I love) have caused me to pause and wonder a number of different things, like:

·       Does God really care what happens to us?
·       Is living the Christian life really worth it?
·       Do I really believe all this “Jesus stuff”?

These are hard-core questions, and our pride may make it difficult for us to admit to other people that we wrestle with these kinds of thoughts.  But we wonder, just the same.  And it’s hard to reason through these kinds of questions.  Our feelings can be all over the places, especially when life goes sideways.  Throw in the daily struggle with sinful desires, and we can easily start a mental tailspin.

As our feelings ebb-and-flow and our actions are typically tainted with at least some level of selfishness, we can’t rely on ourselves to answer these questions and doubts.  This is where it is helpful to look at what Jesus explicitly said about us and about Himself. 

John’s record of a conversation between Jesus and Martha can help as we deal with our questions and doubts:

John 11:17-27
When Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  Bethany was near Jerusalem (less than two miles away).  Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.

As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, but Mary remained seated in the house.  Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.  Yet even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give You.”

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.

Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live.  Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told Him, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.”


Martha was going through what was likely the toughest time of her life – her brother had fallen sick and she watched over him as he died.  God hadn’t answer her prayers to heal Lazarus.  Jesus didn’t arrive in time to rescue Lazarus from the pain he was suffering.  Martha had been grieving for four days when Jesus arrived.

Martha was looking toward future events for comfort, instead Jesus directed her to look at who was standing next to her.  What Jesus offered was Himself.  It is in this conversation that Jesus states one of His greatest “I am” statements: I am the resurrection and the life.  If we believe this statement, then Jesus guarantees that even if our bodies experience physical death, we will still live – forever.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say to clean up our lives and then He’ll give us eternal life.  He does not tell Martha to examine her life to see if she really does believe in Him.  He also does not tell her to make sure she continues to act a certain way.  In fact, Jesus does not tell Martha to look at herself, at all.

Jesus said that those who believe in Him have eternal life, no matter what else happens in this life.  Based upon what Jesus said, our hope and eternal security are found exclusively in Him – not in our circumstances, not in how we feel, not in how we behave.

Do you believe this?

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Having our conscience cleared

Ever feel like God won’t accept you because you’re not being good enough?

Have you ever been afraid that if you do one more bad thing God will reject you?

The truth is…those feelings do not represent reality.  Why?  It’s all because of Jesus, and the effects of His significant sacrifice.  Check this out:

After establishing that Jesus the High Priest is greater than any high priest which served under the old covenant, the author moves on to another example – this time an illustration using the tabernacle:

Hebrews 9:1-7
Now the first covenant also had regulations for ministry and an earthly sanctuary.  For a tabernacle was set up…with these things prepared like this, the priests enter the first room repeatedly, performing their ministry.  But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never with out blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.

This is the way the old covenant worked.  One mediator, one messenger, the high priest (on one day per year), who had to offer sacrifices for both his sins and the peoples’ sins.  The author then points out that

Hebrews 9:8-10
The Holy Spirit was making it clear that the way into the most holy place had not yet been disclosed while the first tabernacle was still standing.  This is a symbol for the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience.  They are physical regulations and only deal with food, drink, and various washings imposed until the time of the new order.

Just as Jesus’ priesthood is greater than previous high priests, so is his interaction with the original, Heavenly tabernacle:

Hebrews 9:11-14
But Christ has appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come.  In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 


For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?

And that is the point – the old covenant’s sacrifice was essentially skin-deep, its activities were done for the purification of the flesh and to maintain the relationship with God.  However, since Jesus gave his own, most-valuable blood, His sacrifice has a greater, deeper effect.  Christ’s sacrifice isn’t just skin-deep, it cleanses all the way down to the level of our consciences.

Because of Jesus, we can now live life free from the guilt of our dead works that were never good enough, because everything we did was always tainted with our selfishness.  Notice too, the author’s contrast to the dead works – instead of doing dead activities, we’re now free to work for and with the living God!

Complete service to and partnership with God was obstructed under the old covenant, due to its limitations.  The previous covenant was limited in that it couldn’t remove sin from humanity, it only covered the sin…until the Greater Messenger of the Greater Covenant came.  In case you missed the author’s point in verse 14, he reiterates:

Hebrews 9:15
Therefore, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Remember that the author has previously established in this letter that the promised eternal inheritance is the future partnership with Jesus in His kingdom.  And it is possible to aim for it only because our high priest has fully paid for and removed our sins. 

With our sins fully removed, we can have our consciences cleared from dead works…leaving us ready and available to do everything God created us to achieve.

What has Jesus freed you to do?  How will you serve the living God?

Keep Pressing,
Ken