A Taste of Things to Come

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

Romans 8:23-25 (NLT)
23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.
25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

The great thing about the Good News is that it just keeps getting better. We have seen how it brings us salvation by faith, forgiveness of sins, release from the power of sin, and how God adopts us as His children. However, now Paul tells about something else we gain from the Good News, hope. He begins by saying, “And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us…” “Groaning” expresses a frustrated longing for God’s deliverance from the difficulties and oppression of this life (NLT Study Bible). We still face the same difficulties that other people who do not know Christ face. We still have bills to pay, sickness to overcome, disappointments, heartache, sadness, and loss. However, we have something that the non-Christ followers do not have, hope! Paul tells us, “…the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” We have the hope that there is something more than what we see right now. We have the hope of eternal life with Christ in a place that defies the imagination. Furthermore, we have the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the that hope. You see Biblical hope is not wishful thinking, but rather it is a looking forward to something that is certain and concrete. In the OT, the phrase first harvest or firstfruits often describes the offering of the first and best part of a harvest to God. The Holy Spirit is God’s pledge that he will see his work in us through to its conclusion (NLT Study Bible). In his letter to the Ephesian church Paul wrote, “The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him” (Eph. 1:14, NLT). So now only do we have the promise of new life, but we also have the guarantee of that new life – the Holy Spirit living within us. The Good News just gets better and better!

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Don’t You Just Love Choices?

 

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

 

Romans 8:12-14 (NLT)
12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.
13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Nobody likes to be told what to do. We like to think that we are independent and do things our own way. However, the reality is that we all answer to somebody, somewhere, sometime. Yet we all have the choice as to whom we choose to answer to at any particular time. If we are at work, we can choose whether or not we are going to listen to our boss, but if we choose not to there will be consequences that we will have reproductions with which to deal. The same is true if you are a student. I had a Government teacher in High School, Mr. Cody, who used to say to his students, “If you don’t want to do your homework, don’t do it. However, if you don’t you lose. It will be North under the lights!” This was his way of saying you have to pass my class to graduate, and so you either do the work or you go to night school (which was held at North High School in those days). So you see we can choose to listen or not, but then we have to live with the consequences. The same is true in the spiritual realm. We have the choice everyday to live by our old nature, which brings death, or live by the Spirit, which brings life. Paul point is clear; we are no longer obligated to live according to the sinful nature. We have been freed from it by Jesus death and resurrection. Before we came to know Christ as Savior we where obligated to live by whatever our sinful nature told us, but now we are free to live by the Spirit. We can still choose to live by the sinful nature, but we will have to deal with the consequences, which is spiritual death. On the other hand, we now have a new option. As a result of what Christ has done for us we can now choose to live according the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The results of that choice are very different; choosing to live by the Spirit brings life. The choice is clear; we can choose the old nature and death, or the new life of the Spirit, which brings life. What will you choose?

 

In Christ,

 

Pastor Mark

 

 

 

 

 

Using the Right Tools

 

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

 

Romans 8:3-4 (NLT)
3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Using the wrong tools can make a task extremely difficult, if not impossible. Like trying to mow a fifty acre piece of land with a cordless weed eater! It makes much more sense and is more effective to use a tractor. That was what it was like to try and live up to God’s righteous requirements on our own. This task was not only next to impossible, it was impossible. Paul states the reason for this is “weakness of our sinful nature.” What Paul here is referring to is “the psychological aspect of human nature which contrasts with the spiritual nature; in other words, that aspect of human nature which is characterized by or reflects typical human reasoning and desires in contrast with those aspects of human thought and behavior which relate to God and the spiritual life” (Louw and Nidda, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Symantic Domains). He is talking about that part of us that seeks our own pleasure rather than God’s will – sin! We have a tendency to think that our human nature cannot be overcome and that we are bound to follow its leading. As comedian Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine used to say “the Devil made me do it.” Well the truth is, no he didn’t, and rather we allowed him to influence our decision more than we listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what Paul is trying to say. We don’t have to listen to our sinful nature anymore once we come to Christ. God the Father sent Jesus to save us not only from our sins but also from ourselves. We don’t have to listen to our sinful nature any longer. We can instead be those “who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” Isn’t it great to have choices!

 

In Christ,

 

Pastor Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power to Dream Big

Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

 Acts 1:8 (NLT) 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

This week I learned a valuable lesson; we should never doubt God and what we can do in His power. We have a tendency to look our limitations rather than having vision filled expectations. Jesus promises us that when the Holy Spirit comes on us we will receive His power to do His work. As Bible scholar F.F. Bruce states, “When the Holy Spirit came upon them, Jesus assured them, they would be vested with heavenly power – that power by which, in the event, their mighty works were accomplished and their preaching made effective. As Jesus had been anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, so his followers were now to be similarly anointed and enabled to carry on his work” (Bruce, NICNT: The Book of Acts, 36). When we are operating in the power of the Spirit we are no longer, too small, too poor, or too deprived of talent or ability. Unfortunately, I had forgotten this, at least for the time being. I was putting limits on a limitless God. However, the events of this week have reminded me of who is in charge. Earlier this week my incredible wife, Tina, read to me a Face Book post from one of my favorite musicians and heroes, Randy Stonehill, that suggested he had a cancelation in his schedule and any Pastor with an opening should email him. Tina suggested that I should email Randy, and my immediate response was, “Yeah, like Randy Stonehill would ever come to our little church in our little town.” However, I took her advice and sent the email. The next day, when my phone rang, the voice on the other end said, “Hi, Pastor Mark, this is Randy Stonehill,” I nearly fell out of my chair! After a lengthy conversation with Randy, we came to an agreement for Randy to come and do a concert at New Life. As I hung up the phone, a small, still voice whispered to me, “Don’t ever doubt me again!” When we are living, breathing, and moving in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the will of Jesus nothing is impossible!

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

Free At Last, Free At Last, Thank God Almighty, Free At Last

 Greetings In the Name of the Lord:

 Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

You got to love a person who tells it like it is. They may give you a gloomy picture when the situation is not good, but they also give you the bright side of things when they are favorable. Paul is one of those people. At the end of chapter 7 Paul had to share with us the bad news that apart from Christ we are slaves to sin and bound to serve the one who is our master. However, here in chapter 8 he shares with us the glorious news that once we come to Christ we are set free from bondage to sin by the life giving power of the Holy Spirit. First he tells us, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” The word condemnation comes from the Greek word krima and means, “to judge a person to be guilty and liable to punishment (Louw and Nidda, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Symantic Domains). In other words, we are declared “not guilty.” Even though we have sinned against God and His Word, and therefore, should stand guilty before a righteous and holy God, but because of what Christ has done for us we are released from our punishment. Once belong to Christ and repent of and ask forgiveness for our sins they are no longer counted against us.  Many years before Paul, the Prophet Micah wrote, “Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!” (Micah 7:18-19, NLT). However, Paul doesn’t stop there! He shows us that God has not only forgiven us of our sins, but through the power of His Holy Spirit gives us the ability to overcome our sins. In verse 2 he says, “And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” The power of the “life-giving” Spirit sets us free from the life-taking bondage to sin. So we are free from not only sins damaging effects, but we are also free from its controlling power over our lives. Paul says to the Christians in Corinth, “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17, NLT). Now is that Good News, or what? Aren’t you glad that Paul is a straight shooter? Moreover, aren’t you glad that the Spirit has set you free!

 

In Christ,

Pastor Mark