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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Responsibility Of Our Reality

There are two components to Biblical Christianity; our reality and our responsibility.  One does not have to read the New Testament very carefully to realize two things are true about Christianity.

The first is that being born again creates a new reality for us.  It is independent of anything we do.  It is what God does for us.  This component is summed up in Colossians 1:13, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear son."  God does this.  We could not do it for ourselves.  Having done this we now live in a different reality created by God himself.  It is a reality of forgiveness, redemption, justification, sanctification and glorification.

The second is that being born again creates a new set of responsibilities for us, responsibilities that we are now equipped to fulfill.  This component is summed up in Colossians 1:10, "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; . . . ."  God changes our reality and gives us responsibility.  We are responsible to walk worthy of the Lord, to please the Lord, to be fruitful in every good work, to increase in the knowledge of God.

These two components are tied together in Colossians 2:6, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: . . . ."  Because of what we have received a certain walk is required of us.  The walk is fulfilled by faith just as we received him by faith.

Colossians 3 binds the reality to the responsibility.  Without plunging into an exposition of the entire chapter, let me briefly make the point at hand.

The reality:
    Vs: 1 - Risen with Christ
    Vs: 3 - Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God

This is really the sum and substance of our reality.  In salvation we are identified with Christ.  Romans 6 expounds this truth with assertive logic and unrelenting arguments.

The responsibility:
    Vs: 5 - Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth
    Vs: 8 - Put off all these
    Vs: 9 - Put off the old man with his deeds
    Vs: 10 - Put on the new man
    Vs: 12 - Put on therefore, as the elect of God
    Vs: 14 - Put on charity
    Vs: 15 - Let the peace of God rule in your hearts
    Vs: 16 - Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom

Our responsibility is to put death some things, put off some things while putting on some others, letting God's Spirit have his way with us in creating peace and receiving the word.  It is impossible to read these words without seeing we are responsible for taking action.  It is not that we do these things independently of God which would be impossible but we do these things through the power of God.  But, we do them nonetheless.  God does not do them in us without the assent of our will.  Our will would never be enough to act on these responsibilities apart from the power of God.

It is our reality that makes us responsible.  We are no longer allowed the luxury of complaining that we can't.  Our reality makes this excuse untenable.  We must now assume the responsibility and live in the power of God rejoicing along the way in our reality.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Lesson Of Contentment

Philippians 4:11,12 - Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all tings I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

This declaration by the Apostle Paul is in the context of him rejoicing over the church at Phillip's ablity to once again help with his support. (vs: 18)

It is important to understand the word "want" in verse 11.  We most often use the term to denote desire but the word has another meaning.  To be deficient or short; to be needy or destitute.  Thus when Paul declares, "Not that I speak in respect of want" he is not speaking of desire but of deficiency.  He is declaring that it is not from a state of destitution that he rejoices in the renewal of their care for him.

We then have revealed to us the reason why Paul did not speak because of being destitute.  It was because of something that he had learned.  "in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content".  Paul was satisfied whatever his condition.  He claims to have learned this.  If we are to experience this we must learn it.  It does not come natural.  We come into this world kicking and screaming and demanding our own way.  We are only happy when everything is just right.  Paul had learned to be satisfied in whatever state (condition) he found himself.  If we can learn this lesson our present condition will not dictate the level of our joy.  We will be the same people no matter our circumstances.  Our satisfaction will not be determined by how little or much we have.  It will be determined by the state of our heart.

If we are not careful we will think contentment is achieved through bettering our circumstances when in reality it is achieved though bettering our heart.  It is not what we have or what we are experiencing in life that makes us content but rather what our attitude is about what we have and what we are experiencing in life that makes us content.  Contentment does not start on the outside and work it's way in, but like everything else it begins on the inside and works it's way out.

Paul then goes on to say in verse 12, "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound . . . ."

To be abased: that is to be in humbling circumstances.  To do without, to be deprived.

To abound: that is to be in prosperous circumstances.  To have plenty, an over abundance.

Two times he used the word "know".  He knew how to be abased and how to abound.  He knew how to do both because of what he had learned.  Learning brings knowledge.  There is a direct connection between learning to be content and knowing how to be abased and how to abound.  If we don't know how to do both it is because we have not learned how to be content whatever our circumstances.

There is a way to be abased.  It is to accept the circumstances without complaint but with thanksgiving and joy.  It helps to remember that any good thing we receive in life is because of mercy and not merit.  If we find our circumstances to be pressing at times we should rejoice and be thankful because we have learned in whatsoever state we find ourselves to be content.

There is a way to abound.  It is to realize the favorable circumstances are a reflection of God's mercy and grace and thus are to be received with humility.  Abounding circumstances should result in the abounding of our liberality.  Our abounding is our opportunity to be a blessing.

While these principles may seem hard to apply at times if we will learn the lesson we will discover that our lives level out.  We cease to be subject to the highs and lows.  When we are abased we rejoice.  When we abound we are humbled.  We cease to be mastered by the circumstances of life and instead master the circumstances by His power.

Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Help me Lord to learn to be content that I might know how to be abased and how to abound!