Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Home with the Lord


In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul emphasizes to them (3:9-15) that they need to take care to use good materials for building of their (spiritual) house…and that the foundation for the house must be Jesus Christ.  Some of the Corinthian believers are going back to following the mindset of their culture, and are engaging in worldly, selfish attitudes and behaviors.  They need to return to their “first love” important message that Paul encourages the Corinthians to consider.  He wants them to build on the foundation a spiritual house, or as Jesus tells it in the Sermon on the Mount, to build upon the Rock.  If we allow Jesus to be in control of our lives, one day we will have a spiritual home with Him in heaven …and a spiritual body in order to take up residence there. 

Jesus shares with his disciples in John 14:1ff that He is going to make things better.  He is going away to prepare a place for them.  He is going to a heavenly place to prepare to welcome them to a better home.  Paul, in this passage, sees the body that we all have simply as a temporary shelter…a tent.  The body is only a temporary house for the soul.  And Paul is a tentmaker, so this is an easy analogy for him to make.  In fact, I saw a saying recently that made this point succinctly.  It said, “You do not have a soul…you are a soul and your soul has a body.”  This is so true.  Paul longs to be free from his present imperfect body.  He truly anticipates his spiritual body that he will receive one day when Jesus Christ comes again.  This should be the same experience and yearning for everyone who is in Christ. 

Paul teaches the Corinthians that when a believer dies, the body goes to the grave, and the soul goes on to be with Christ.  Some false teachers at that time denied that there would be any future bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12ff), but envisioned some sort of disembodied immortality.  Even though it is hard to understand exactly what will take place in the end times, Paul says that believers will not be bodiless for eternity, but at the 2nd Coming of Christ, they will “be clothed again.”  At the Second Coming, Christ (His Spirit) will reunite soul and body in miraculous manner to make a spiritual, eternal body that lives on with God forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13ff, 1 Corinthians 15:43ff).  Paul describes this glorified body as “beautiful.”  It will never decay as do our earthly bodies, for the spiritual body is suited for heaven.  Paul longs for this!  We must not be frustrated or fear as it relates to the trials and sufferings of this life, but we must be patient and long for eternity with the Lord.  Paul’s ambition is to please Christ…to live for Him.  This is due to the fact that he understood that death would be the beginning of his actually being in the presence of the Lord (Philippians 1:20-25).  To have the hope of communion with Christ face to face following death should motivate all of us to live right now.  In this, we need to be faithful and trust in Him in order that one day we can be with Him.  John shares, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10, NIV).  The Father has given each person the opportunity to receive a spiritual body, and it is all possible through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, shed on the cross.  Jesus came and died in order to take away the sins of mankind.  His blood washes our sins away.  Jesus was the first one to be raised eternal from the dead in order that one day we might be raised with Him when He does come again.  Like Paul, we need to see heaven not simply as a destination, but as a motivation.  The tent that we live in will come down.  We must long for something better…an eternal dwelling…and receive it.

It is known from history that some of the early Spanish explorers to this (Western) part of the world were searching for “the eternal fountain of youth.”  One explorer in particular thought he had discovered it among the islands of the Bahamas.  However, his was only a dream, as he would…before too many years…grow old and perish.  Man has always had a yearning for this fountain or Holy Grail (as depicted by Indiana Jones and many other movies, etc.)  If people would only realize that they do have access to this fountain…it is found in the Living Water of Jesus Christ.  There is not much hope for this physical body…this “tent” is going to come down.  We must not fear, though, because even the body dies, there is hope.  We may be frustrated with the trials and the sufferings of this life, but we must be patient, long for an imperishable, spiritual body one day.

What is a significant concern to me, though, is that we live in a world where people live as if they are imperishable in these perishable bodies.  I have known many other young people, even those raised in Christian families, who have chosen to live a worldly existence.  I had a discussion with one such “Christian” young man one time, and I asked him why he was living the way that he was at the time.  He said that “he enjoyed the world.”  If the world system was entirely unpresentable, then it certainly would not be so easy for Satan to tempt people to give up the eternal for the sake of the temporal.  I tried to get him to understand that the way we live now has eternal ramifications.  He believed that he had plenty of time in order to straighten out his life.  Fortunately for him, he was able to truly find the Lord and put aside his worldly ways.  That is not always the case, however.  We live in a time where people, including many believers, think that they can live however they wish in relationship to the world system and that it is ok.  Many other believers have no time to be with the body of Christ, but are too busy.  I believe that these are places where there is a great false sense of security at work.  The Lord does not call us to be His spiritual people in this world that we would live in any of these ways, but that we would be productive citizens in the Kingdom of God and for the Body of Christ.  Once we realize that our present living has eternal ramifications, it should focus us and motivate us toward living a faithful life for the Lord.  Friends, we are building for eternity. Do we build with inferior materials or do we build with choice materials on the foundation of Christ? Don’t ever forget, the house we will have later on depends on the material we are using now.  And if we are genuinely faithful, committed until death or until Christ comes again, we will have a home with Him for eternity.

Blessings, Don

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Ephesian Disciples


This is a follow-up to previous messages regarding the Holy Spirit.  There has certainly been a lot of discussion concerning the Holy Spirit, historically...and in our fellowship of believers as well. I believe that Paul makes it very clear in His letter to the Romans (8:9, et. al.), letter to the Ephesians (1:13-14, et. al), letter to the Corinthians (3:19, 6:19), that the understanding of the Spirit's nature and His power is a critical subject for believers...and, in fact, could very much be the difference in relationship to a person's salvation.

In Acts 19:1-7, Paul "providentially" connects with several disciples at Ephesus. Just as Priscilla and Aquila apparently had discussed Christian baptism with Apollos (Acts 18:24-26), so Paul does here with these men. He asks them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed -- i.e. were converted, baptized. Paul apparently already expected them to have the Spirit...and this would be consistent with Acts 2:38-39 and every other Christian baptism related in Acts.  But, these believers had only received the baptism of John…for repentance. The message concerning baptism is clear here and Paul baptizes them; they receive Christian baptism -- a water and Spirit birth (see Jesus and Nicodemus, John 3:1-8). Now while Paul goes on to give these disciples a special, exceptional dispensation of power from the Spirit for this time, the point is, these disciples still had the same conversion experience that every Christian has in coming to the Lord. (See 1 Corinthians 12:13). Once again, Paul asks the Ephesians if they "received the Holy Spirit" when they believed (v.2)...not whether they had received some miraculous gifts from the Holy Spirit, or that the Holy Spirit was synonymous with some miraculous gifts. The assumption of v.3 is that they are to be baptized with a Christian that includes the Holy Spirit and not to simply settle for John's baptism. For the Ephesian disciples, the spiritual gifts that they received would come as the result of the laying on of hands by Paul (as with Timothy, 2 Tim 1:6, etc, receiving certain gifts of the Spirit).

It is interesting that the baptism of John was not sufficient, but why would it be? It was administered by John the Baptist under the Old Law. Christian baptism involves not only repentance, as did John's baptism, but also the receiving of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is primarily what separates the two baptisms.  It's pretty difficult to live according to the fruit of the Spirit -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control -- if we don't really acknowledge, understand, or trust the source. On many occasions, I have heard Christians talk about Acts 2:38, as Peter says " baptized for the remission of your sins..." and this is it. Is it? Is the part concerning the Holy Spirit just an oversight? Is it assumed? Or, is it intentionally omitted? (Is it really even understood?) I have been concerned for some time that there are some in our fellowship that have, in effect, taught John's baptism in the place of Christian baptism much to the detriment of many believers.  So, some believers have inadvertently received the baptism of John -- at least in language -- but hopefully not intent.

The question remains -- why take the chance? The power of Christian baptism should be sufficient for us. We need to talk about it as Peter shares it right from the text…there is nothing to lose, but everything to understand and gain as it relates to the Christian walk. I will say this -- I wouldn't have much of a chance to walk upright, blameless or spiritually for the Lord without the help of His Spirit to guide me along the way. He is our guide, not in an arbitrary, controlling sense, but quietly, indirectly. We are not robots, but free moral agents with freedom of choice. The Spirit uses the Word to teach us and help us (Ephesians 6:17), and helps us in our prayers (Romans 8:27).  He also is our seal so that when the Lord comes again, He will identify those who are His by whether they have His Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14, etc.).  There certainly had to be a wonderful transformation for Apollos and the Ephesian disciples as they would continue to grow in knowledge, wisdom and experience with and in the Lord…as it should be for all of us.

Blessings, Don

Friday, June 14, 2013

Behold the Weatherman


In the history of Israel, the character that we are going to discuss has an important message in a distinguished career as God’s spokesman.  Elijah the Tishbite (from Gilead, in the North Transjordan area) suddenly appears on the scene at the beginning of 1 Kings 17.  He will leave as quickly as he comes, only to reappear three years later to challenge the priests of Baal.  His name means, “The Lord is my God,” which is an appropriate name for a man who calls the people back to the worship of Yahweh.  It is interesting to note that Elijah is an important person, not only in the Old Testament, but in the new, as well.  When John the Baptist comes, it is in or with the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), and some of the people thought he was the return of the “promised Elijah” (John 1:21, Matthew 17:10-13).  Elijah is with Moses and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3), and some believe that Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses described in Revelation 11:1-14.  Elijah isn’t the “polished” person of God that Isaiah and Jeremiah are, but has more of an “edge” to him.  He is a reformer who challenges the people to abandon their idols and return to the Lord.

Elijah’s arrival on the scene to share the message of the Lord with Israel (1 Kings 17:1-7) takes place during a very tumultuous time.  Wicked King Ahab has permitted his wife Jezebel (yes, that Jezebel) to bring the worship of the idol Baal to Israel, and she has been determined to wipe out the worship of the one, true God.  Baal is the Phoenician fertility god “who brings rain and bountiful crops,” and the worship that is associated with this false god is incredibly immoral.  As mentioned, the Jewish people depend upon the seasonal rains for the success of their crops.  If the Lord doesn’t send the rains in the fall and spring, there would soon be a famine in the land.  In the Israelites’ case, the blessings that would come at these times are dependent upon the heart and obedience of the people.  God has warned the people that if they were to disobey, the heavens would be turned into bronze and the earth to iron (Deuteronomy 28:23-24).  The land belongs to the Lord, and if the people live unholy lives, then the Lord is not going to bless them.

With this background, it is likely that Elijah appears before King Ahab in October, about the time the early rains would have begun.  At this time, there had been no rain for six months, and the prophet announces that there will be no rain for the next three years!  God holds back the rain because of the fervent prayers of Elijah, and He will send the rain again in response to His servant’s faithful intercession (James 5:17-18).  For the next three years, however, the word of Elijah would control the weather in Israel.  Like a faithful servant who is attentive to his master’s commands, Elijah stands before the Lord and serves Him.  An extended drought, announced and controlled by the prophet would probably get the attention of some people, and would make it clear that Baal the storm god was not a true god at all.

Knowing that persecution is going to come to Elijah from the corrupt king and queen, the Lord sends his servant to a special hiding place…to a brook east of the Jordan River.  By leaving the public ministry, Elijah creates a “second drought” for the land…an absence of the Word of Lord.  This would be similar to the concept of “giving the people over to the desires of their hearts.”  The silence of God’s servant is a judgment from the Lord.  At the brook Cherith, Elijah is cared for by some “special servants”…ravens…who bring him bread and meat each morning and evening, much like God provided meat and manna to His people while they were wandering in the wilderness.  The raven was considered an unclean and detestable bird in the Mosaic Law, yet God uses these birds to help serve.  (There might just be an analogy there somewhere).  Much like Abraham, Elijah does not have an outline or blueprint concerning how matters are going to unfold. God directs his servant at each critical juncture, and Elijah obeys by faith.  So, even though the brook dries up from the drought, Elijah stays the course, depending upon the Lord for his help.  

Gregory Dawson shares this story…On the front porch of his little country store in Illinois, a small businessman stood with his partner. Business had fairly well dried up, and the partner asked, "How much longer can we keep this going?"  The owner answered, "It looks as if our business has just about winked out." Then he continued, "You know, I wouldn’t mind so much if I could just do what I want to do.  I want to study law. I wouldn’t mind so much if we could sell everything we’ve got and pay all our bills and have just enough left over to buy one book -- Blackstone’s Commentary on English Law, but I guess I can’t."  At that moment a strange-looking wagon came up the road. The driver drove it up close to the store porch, then looked at the owner and said, "I’m trying to move my family out west, and I’m out of money. I’ve got a good barrel here that I could sell for fifty cents."  The businessman’s eyes went along the wagon and came to the wife looking at him pleadingly, her face thin and emaciated.  He slipped his hand into his pocket and took out, according to him, "the last fifty cents I had" and said, "I reckon I could use a good barrel."  All day long the barrel sat on the porch of that store. The partner kept chiding the owner about it.  Late in the evening the businessman walked out and looked down into the barrel. He saw something in the bottom of it, papers that he hadn’t noticed before. His long arms went down into the barrel and, as he fumbled around, he hit something solid. He pulled out a book and stood dumbfounded: it was Blackstone’s Commentary on English Law. That businessman was Abraham Lincoln. Was it chance or providence?

When we consider how God works in the lives of His people, it is easy take for granted the blessings…big or small…that He sends our way.  As we have begun to consider the life of God’s prophet, Elijah, we see that his life and ministry is about getting in line with God’s will, and encouraging others to do the same, then blessings come as the result.  When this takes place for us, we can understand and fully realize the providential blessings that the Lord has in store for us!

Blessings, Don

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Promise of the Holy Spirit


*(I have friends who continue to ask questions, have discussions concerning this all-important topic. I am re-sharing some thoughts as a follow-up to "The Holy Spirit Is Not History" message recently.  There is one more message that I will share later on the subject.  I hope that these will be a blessing to you).

I had the opportunity to listen to a discussion one time among certain educators in our fellowship and the subject was the Holy Spirit.  These individuals were scratching their heads, primarily, as it related to some good material concerning the Holy Spirit and His work.  It was interesting to me that the best information that one of them could come up with was a work written in the 19th century!  It is amazing to me just how little is said or has been written concerning such an important subject, especially given the critical role that He is supposed to play in the life of the Christian.  Because of the mysterious nature of the Spirit, He has been a subject of discussion for centuries and it is not hard to believe that it is still the case.  If there would be one definitive subject concerning how Christians come to discern freedom in Christ, it has to be in relationship to understanding the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. As little that is said publicly about the Holy Spirit, one would think that there is not much Biblical information concerning the subject.  Yet, there are a host of passages to consider.  For the purpose of this paper, we will be dealing primarily with Acts 2.  Also for consideration will be Joel 2, Acts 1 and 2, Romans 8, Galatians 5, Ephesians 1 and 6.

This discussion begins with the important understanding that the Holy Spirit is a Person in the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Word of God reveals repeatedly that the Spirit is a "He".  Part of the confusion concerning this subject has to be traced to the King James version which refers the Spirit with the unfortunate designation of "Holy Ghost".  The King James may be a viable translation in many respects, but as it pertains to this subject, it misses the point.  In the minds of many persons, this characterizes the Spirit as something “ethereal”...that He is some apparition and, therefore, that He is not “real”.  This work will reveal that He is indeed not only real, but that He must be a genuine reality to Christians in their walk with the Lord.

In Acts 2, Peter preaches the first gospel sermon.  His purpose is to convict the listeners of their horrific decision to crucify the Son of God.  Many are convicted of their grievous sin and ask: “What can we do?”  Peter tells them "repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself." (Acts 2:38-39, NAS).  Jesus also foretold of these events related to Christian baptism when He was talking with a teacher of the Jews, Nicodemus.  I am going to deal with this discussion in another place, so I will forego it here.  Nevertheless, much of the context concerning Peter’s writing in this chapter is found in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament is not typically known for a vast amount of information as it relates to the Holy Spirit.  We are most familiar with the fact that He was present and active at the creation, where He is “hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2).  We also note that David cries to the Lord in His penitential Psalm 51 (verse 11) that the Lord not take His Holy Spirit from Him.  There are a few other references, but I believe the most significant one is found in Joel 2:28-29...“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”  I think that it is important to note that the Holy Spirit did not stop his work with the message in Joel, but that He was just getting started.  The question on the minds of many people would be...when are “those days” that Joel references.  Peter provides the answer here.  Some have contended that the Holy Spirit was given only to the apostles, and that this was the intention of Joel’s writing.  It is true that the Spirit was initially given to the apostles, and that they received Him with power and the ability to do signs and wonders (see John 20:22-23, Acts 1:8, 2:1-4).  Yet, both Joel and Peter (Acts 2:16-17) make it clear that the promise spoken of here was to be to all sons and daughters, old and young, men and women, and particularly, not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles, as well.  So, when we come to Peter’s message in the Acts, he wants these people to understand now that they have come to the realization of their sin that they are in need of a transformation.    Baptism is the means by which this transformation can at least, in part, take place.  This event is what puts individuals in touch with the cleansing blood of Jesus, empowered by His Holy Spirit.  As with these individuals mentioned in this context, the Spirit convicts all sinners concerning their sin (John 16:8). 

It is important to understand that this passage is dealing with the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer.  He is the gift.  Some have speculated from this verse that the Holy Spirit comes to bring a gift, that the gift is something objective.  Now while it is true that Christians are blessed with certain gifts (which we talk about later), it is apparent when we bring in other data, that the gift being spoken of here is is the Spirit Himself.  Paul tells the Ephesian Christians (1:13-14) that "they were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise."  It is this same promise that we see revealed in Acts 2.  He tells them in chapter 6:17 of the same letter that they need to “take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”  The Spirit is the wielder...and He uses the Word of God to teach and to train Christians to be whom the Lord wants them to be.  He also tells the Corinthians Christians in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that their bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in them.  Perhaps the definitive proof of this concept is found in Romans 8:9, where Paul says “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.”  He also tells the Romans that “the Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God” (8:16).  In fact, the entire eighth chapter of Romans is dedicated to discussing the concept of walking with and according to the Spirit of God in Christ. 

I am aware that many people are more concerned with the gifts of the Spirit than perhaps with the Spirit himself...some for right reasons, others for wrong...some to glorify God, others to glorify self.  I think that we need to be able to exercise the gifts that the Spirit helps to cultivate in of grace such as serving, preaching, teaching, encouraging, giving, showing mercy and leadership (Romans 12:7-8).  These are very important.  Once again, he shares with the Romans that although we may not always know how to pray...what to say, that “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (8:27).  He shares with the Corinthians, “...which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:13).  The Spirit is able to help those who seek His pray, and to teach. 

Paul tells the Galatian Christians that they need "to walk by the Spirit" (5:25).  This is in the context (chapter 5) of explaining to them that if they are going to walk according to the Spirit of God that they are not going to gratify the desires of the flesh, but seek to allow the Spirit to bear fruit in their lives.  While the gifts of the Spirit are important, I believe that they would be impotent without the fruit of the Spirit.  It is interesting to note that this is not the “fruits of the Spirit,” as we may have been taught at one point, but a nine-fold “fruit” (sort of a spiritual fruit smoothie) – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  We need to be paying attention to allowing the Spirit to work and grow these virtues in our lives. 

This is really a brief synopsis concerning the nature and work of the Holy Spirit, but I believe that it is critically important to understand Him.  Because of the mysterious nature of the Spirit, it is not possible to discern “everything” about Him, any differently than it would be to do so in relationship to the Father or the Son.  However, Paul has laid down the gravity of understanding Him and His work and so it would behoove us to seek to understand.   It would be very difficult to truly grasp and understand the liberty that we have in the Son without the work of His Spirit in us.

Blessings, Don

Sunday, June 2, 2013

This Is How We Learned Christ


*(I shared the gist of this message with our folks this morning, but found some funny irony involved in the sharing of it and some communication with me afterwards.  We had many people gone this morning with a variety of activities associated with the end of the school year.  A few folks, noting the message was concerning "putting on the new self" and "accountability," communicated with me saying -- wouldn't that message be better for when most of our folks are here?  Fifteen years ago, I might have had a back-up message to run with, as I would have been intent in "getting my message across."  However, now I better understand that it is God's message, not mine.  He is going to do with it (and all others) what He will do.  So...with all of THAT said, here goes...)

Mark Brunner, from a message entitled “Heavenly Citizens,” shares this -- Make-overs! We are a people obsessed with them these days.  We restore our cars, pump botox into our chins and eyelids, remodel our homes at a record pace and are transfixed by the various shows on television whose story lines are founded on make-overs.  What is this fascination with being made-over?  Some psychologists have suggested that it has everything to do with a deep-seated discontent that rules our lives these days.  We grapple with the aging process that slowly but surely is claiming our youth. Where once we kept a car until it had 150,000 miles, more and more Americans are trading in the old before it even becomes “old.”  We are a people obsessed with reclaiming youth and newness. After all of this effort, can we say that we are getting there? Will the “rebuilding” process necessary to this make-over finally find us content?  A property owner once found a buyer for a warehouse property that had been difficult to sell.  As he showed a prospective buyer the property, the owner took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage.  “Forget about the repairs,” the buyer said. “When I buy this place, I’m going to build something completely different. I don’t want the building; I want the site.”  Compared with the renovation God has in mind, our efforts to improve our own lives are as trivial as sweeping a warehouse slated for the wrecking ball.  When we become God’s, the old life is over (2 Cor. 5:17). He makes all things new. All he wants is the site and the permission to build.  I believe that this why Paul says makes such a big deal out of the message in this passage -- that we who are made new in Christ should have no desire to go back to that which is the old dead wood of our old lives.  When we give our lives over to Jesus Christ, we should commit ourselves to His way and “be (continually) spiritually renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). 

Paul is straightforward in this section -- as Christians, we are not to imitate the lives of non-Christians around us.  Many people in the world believe they are enlightened because they reject the Word of God and believe the latest philosophies…yet, as Paul says, they are really in the dark (Romans 1:20-23).  We who were once dead in our trespasses and sins should think and behave differently than non-Christians, since we have been raised from the dead and given eternal life…if indeed we have experienced this!  Our whole outlook on things, philosophy of life, is affected when we give our lives to Christ…our values, our goals, our interpretation of life is supposed to change.  Our salvation truly must begin with belief and repentance – a change of mind and a change of heart.  We will cease lying, stealing, or cheating…we will avoid corrupt speech, giving in to anger, worry, envy, strife, and bitterness.  Satan uses these negatives to imprison our spirits and souls so that nothing good would seem to be springing forth.  When it all comes down to it, the fact that we have a relationship with the Lord should positively impact all of our relationships for good…even with those whom we disagree.  People need to see Jesus living in us.  If the world can’t tell that we are Christians, perhaps it is because we have become too much like the world.

Paul tells the Ephesians…and us – this is not how we learned Christ.  Notice that he does not say “learned about Christ,” but “learned Christ.”  It is possible to learn all about Christ and never have salvation in Him.  Our relationship with Jesus should continually whittle away the old self…and continue to bring the renewal to our spirits that we should earnestly desire.  For to learn Christ is to have a personal relationship with Him…knowing Him better day by day.  It is to recognize that He is Lord and allow Him to truly be the Master of our lives.  There are a lot of good folks who “attend church” in this world, but Jesus is not Christ/King, Lord/Ruler of their lives – they, their wants and their habits, are still on the throne of their lives.  Jesus is not some casual relationship as some would have Him to be.  Paul is saying, only when the old life is put away can we walk in the newness of life in Christ.  Our relationship must be based upon new thinking.  We may belong to God’s new creation and be given a new position in it, but we must appropriate it…make it ours.  This takes place through our own personal prayer and Bible study and with the fellowship of the saints.   We must hunger and thirst for relationship with Him…and it needs to begin today!  We must desire relationship with Jesus like it is the only thing that matters…because it really is!  When we do commit our way to Christ, His Spirit makes us better people.  As we learn, grow in Christ, we overcome bad attitudes, poor behaviors…and are replaced with positive fruit.

Just like “make-overs,” accountability is all the rage…not really. :-) Accountability -- We hear it all the time…it tends to be a big management buzz word…but what does it mean? Ac•count•a•ble -- 1. Liable to being called to account; answerable. We talk a lot about being responsible - “The Buck stops here!” etc. But it seems that we sometimes confuse being apologetic with being accountable. As long as “I am sorry” – we think we are accountable, but this is not always the case.  You’re not genuinely accountable until it costs you something to pay for what you have done!  The store sign that says, “You break it, you bought it!” -- That’s accountability. With all of this in mind…every one of us shall give account of him or herself to God. WOW…this is a humbling reality.  We will all have some explaining to do! This should work in us to keep us honest concerning how we conduct our lives.  Ac•count - 1.a. A narrative or record of events. b. A reason given for a particular action.  Someone that understands accountability – understands responsibility, (which requires maturity).  Admiral Rickover: “Unless you can point to a specific person to hold responsible for an action, then you had no one truly responsible.”  There are plenty of opportunities for us to be accountable in our lives…we are accountable to our families, we are accountable to work, and we are accountable to play.  Yet, often, we are not accountable to the Lord or to His body.  I have always found this to be an interesting dilemma…in that so many families think they are being accountable to take care of their kids by making certain that they excel in every athletic, music, academic or work endeavor that they can possibly find for them to do.  But, they neglect the one accountability that matters more than any of the above in the grand scheme of things…and that is accountability to the Lord and to His body.  It is “a-lack-of-accountability” irresponsibility that brings some significant regrets as time goes by. 

This is precisely what Paul means when he talks about our commitment to Christ in putting off the old self and putting on the new.  It may be summer time, but what are we going to do differently in order to improve our relationship with the Lord?  It is important that people be involved, engaged…in short, accountable.  We cannot be coming in and out of focus in relationship to Jesus…we need to be hungering and thirsting for Him.  If Jesus is Lord of our lives, then we need to remove ourselves from the throne of our lives and give Jesus His rightful place.  This is how we were supposed “to learn Christ!”  We need to draw strength from the Lord and from each other through studying together, praying together, and fellowshipping together.  It is what is going to help us, as individuals, as well as the Body prosper and grow. 

Blessings, Don