Emergence, Part 2

In Matthew 5 we have Jesus calling his disciples to himself and teaching them. Chapters 5-7 are often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is teaching his disciples some fundamental truths they need to hear and receive.

He starts by describing what will happen to them if they receive and walk in what he is about to teach them, or what will emerge in their lives. The problem is that these things that will emerge are things we typically don't want. So he starts by telling them that they should consider themselves blessed when these things happen. In this present world these are not blessings, but in God's kingdom they are.

These are the Beatitudes. The blessings are not consolation prizes. This is a list of the results of paying attention to Jesus and serving him. Let's start by reading through them.

Matthew 5:3-12
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Now let's look at each of them. I've included some scriptures to think about and meditate on.

1. You will become a spiritual beggar.And you will be blessed with the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Greek word for poor in this verse is "Ptochos," which means:

  1. reduced to beggary, begging, asking alms
  2. destitute of wealth, influence, position, honour
    1. lowly, afflicted, destitute of the Christian virtues and eternal riches
    2. helpless, powerless to accomplish an end
    3. poor, needy
  3. lacking in anything
    1. as respects their spirit
      1. destitute of wealth of learning and intellectual culture which the schools afford (men of this class most readily give themselves up to Christ's teaching and proved them selves fitted to lay hold of the heavenly treasure)

This doesn't mean we don't have spiritual authority or power. It is more a picture of our realization that we cannot do any of this in our own strength, so we always seek God's mercy and power with reverent submission. Consider these scriptures.

Hebrews 5:7
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2. There will be times of sadness and sorrow, and God will pull you to his side and comfort you. There is reason for great joy in serving God, but there is also cause for great sadness; sorrow over the lost, over those struggling in the faith, sorrow because of persecution. There is also sorrow in life itself. This is a promise of our Father in Heaven seeing us and comforting us.

Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Luke 19:41-42
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.

Hebrews 1:9
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

Isaiah 63:9
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

3. You will become humble, mild, and gentle with people, and you will inherit everything.

Matthew 5:5
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

2 Timothy 2:25-26
25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Titus 3:1-2
1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

1 Corinthians 3:18-23
18 
Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

4. You will start to desire and crave the things of God, and God will make sure you receive them.

Matthew 5:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Matthew 7:7-11
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Acts 4:29-31
29 
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Ephesians 3:14-19
14 
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

5. You will start to overlook the faults in others, and God will overlook your faults.

Matthew 5:7
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

 Matthew 7:1-12
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

James 2:12-13
12 
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 4:6
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”

6. Your heart will become sincere, and God will reveal himself to you.

Matthew 5:8
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Matthew 11:25
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

Matthew 18:2-4
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Psalm 24:3-4
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

Proverbs 22:11
11 One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace
    will have the king for a friend.

7. You will help people overcome discord and strife, and those who know God will see him in you.

Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

James 3:17-18
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Luke 6:35
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Ephesians 5:1-2
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Philippians 2:14-16
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.

8. There will be strong opposition against you whenever there is spiritual opposition towards God. The more you live a life that God approves of the more you may be attacked by others. But your reward will be great. You will receive God's kingdom and be in fellowship with all who were persecuted because they were faithful.

Matthew 5:10-12
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

2 Timothy 3:10-13
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Matthew 13:20-21
20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Mark 10:29-31
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

2 Thessalonians 1:4
Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

If we let God's Word work in us these things will emerge in our lives. Being poor in spirit, being meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, being peacemakers, and being persecuted will emerge as a result of yielding to God's Spirit. And the rest; the kingdom of God, being comforted, seeing God, being shown mercy, will also emerge in our lives. We don't have to create anything. We simply yield. We worship. We let him work in us.

 

 

 


Emergence, Part 1

Years ago I had the opportunity to listen to an author and conference speaker named Judy Reamer. One of Judy's teachings was on reading the Bible. She had met someone who read the Bible completely through once each day. He had read the Bible around 12,000 times. Basically he had become so familiar with the version of the Bible he was reading that he could look at each page and remember everything on it. So he could go through the entire Bible once a day. A benefit of this was to get a big picture of all that God had done and is doing with men.

Judy would describe it using the ecology of a mountain range. People often develop an internal picture of Christianity based on the scriptures they are familiar with and their experiences. It is kind of like someone living high up on a mountain and thinking life is often cold and rocky; while someone living lower in a valley may think life is warm and bountiful. But someone standing far enough to see the whole mountain range will see all of the different parts of the range and how they work together. In a sense they will see the ecology of the mountain range. They may see how the cold, rocky, snowy areas affect the valleys, depending on the seasons. How some sides of the range may receive more rain than other sides, depending on the winds.

Judy has a set of CDs or DVDs of her teaching on "Breaking the Bible Barrier." You can get more information at http://www.judyreamer.com/products.htm. She also has some additional PDF information you can download on the products page. These PDFs include information on the benefits of reading the whole Bible and suggestions on how to physically prepare a Bible for reading in this manner. We did this and it was an interesting experience. Basically we took a large print, paper back Bible, ripped the cover off, tore it into four different "books", and then rebound each "book." So the first book ended up being Genesis through 2 Samuel, etc. The smaller bound books make it easier to feel like you can finish reading the book. I didn't end up reading the Bible through like Judy does, but I did end up reading more than I had read before.

So . . . emergence. To me emergence is a quality of the ecology of Christianity. It's a "step back and see the big picture" kind of thing. Snowflakes are an example of emergence in the physical world. You can't create a specific snowflake. Instead, under the right conditions, snowflakes occur, each one different from the other. The snowflakes, in a sense, emerge. There is a lot of philosophy around the concept of emergence but I'm not getting into that. I use it as a fairly simple concept.

Let's look at some scripture.

Acts 2:42-47
42 
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Here we have a picture of how the early church lived. I've heard some take this and use it as a template to describe what the church should look like. In the process teachings get started on how to live communally, which is fine. But I don't think the early church operated as it did because of teachings on being communal. I think it was a living pattern that emerged.

Acts 5:1-4
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

To me it is obvious from Peter's response that there was nothing in the teachings of the Apostles to make people feel like they had to sell their property and give the proceeds to the church. There was nothing in the teachings to make Ananias and Sapphira feel like they were "lesser" Christians if they didn't give everything. What they taught was all about Jesus, grace, mercy, compassion, love for God, love for each other, the Holy Spirit, etc. The sense of community was an emergent quality, and continues to be a pattern that emerges when God is espressing himself in a group of people, and in particular when he expresses himself powerfully through the Holy Spirit and in a way that causes his people to be seen as "set apart."

1 Timothy 6:17-19
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Again we see, not a teaching of being communal but of being generous. If you have a church full of people who are generous and who love each other then you will see a pattern of community emerge. And, the more a community is mindful of each other and cares for each other, the more defined that pattern of community will become. It is living, an expression of God, not a "copy." It is okay to copy, or to use past patterns as a guide, but the living expression is what is most important.

In the next post I'll talk about another set of emergent patterns; commonly referred to as the Beatitudes.

 


A Baptism of Fire and of the Holy Spirit, Part 4

We finally get to talking about being baptised in the Holy Spirit. The main point of this post is that being immersed in the Holy Spirit helps us to decrease so Jesus can increase. This baptism helps us to express Jesus in this world; not just through our actions but through our being spiritually conformed to his image.

Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

The word for "witnesses" above (martus) can be translated as a legal witness, as a historic witness, and as a martyr, a witness by being willing to die for the one you believe in. In the context of the scripture above we become a witness as we experience a death to self. We are witnesses because our lives start to express Jesus more and ourselves less. This is the power we receive, and it is an incredible power.

God has expressed himself and given witness to himself in many ways prior to Jesus being born. He showed incredible grace and responded to men's faith as evidenced in Enoch, Abraham, and many of the prophets. He forgave sins, expressed himself as a shepherd, a healer, a father, a provider. Men were made clean and holy by God's fire. He performed many miracles by his own word, his own hand, and by his servants. People were raised from the dead. Promises and covenants were made and honored. People went to heaven. All of this happened before Jesus was born.

With Jesus' work and the establishment of Christianity there were three institutions that God expressed that are unique, that were not seen before.

  1. A blood better than bulls or goats. The blood that Jesus shed goes far beyond any other sacrifice. Hebrews 10 states that it is impossible for the blood of bulls or goats to take away sins. Yet Jesus has taken away the sins of the world. His blood has taken away our sins.
  2. A death and resurrection we can partake in. Romans 6 teaches us that we who have been baptised into Jesus Christ have been baptised into his death so that we can partake in his resurrection. This is new. Our relationship with Jesus isn't just that we can talk to him but that we can lose ourselves in him, so that we live, yet not us but Christ lives in us. And the life that we live we live by faith in the one who loves us and died for us.
  3. The promise of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 teaches us that the coming of the Holy Spirit was the fulfillment of a prophecy from Joel. "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy."

These are the foundational institutions of Christianity. They are what makes the new covenant different from the old covenant. It is important to accept the forgiveness that was purchased by Jesus' blood, to be buried with him in death and share in his resurrection, and to receive the promised Holy Spirit. These are not just a way to provision or healing or deliverance. We have that in the Father already. It is his good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. These institutions are a part of that, but they take us somewhere else.

In my first post in this blog I talked about who Jesus is; about the logos. The word logos means:

  1. a word, uttered by a living voice, embodies a conception or idea
  2. the act of speaking, a continuous speaking discourse - instruction
  3. reason, the mental faculty of thinking, meditating, reasoning
  4. answer or explanation in reference to judgment
  5. with whom as judge we stand in relation

Now it gets interesting. Logos was first used by a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus around 600 B.C. to "designate the divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe." (Strong's Concordance from Logos Software)

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Jesus is the logos. He is the divine reason or plan which coordinates a changing universe. He is, in a sense, God's logic around all creation.

In the book of Acts, 8th chapter, there is an account of Peter and John ministering in Samaria. They are laying hands on believers and the believers are receiving the Holy Spirit. A man named Simon who had practiced sorcery was amazed and wanted to pay for the ability to do what Peter and John were doing.

Acts 8:18-21
18 
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.

The word in verse 21 that is translated "ministry" is logos. Peter told Simon that he had no part or share in this logos, this expression of God. I don't ever want to hear that said to me. I want to have a part and share in this expression, in this logos. And in this context his was talking about the promise of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Exodus 39:22-26
22 They made the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth—the work of a weaver— 23 with an opening in the center of the robe like the opening of a collar, and a band around this opening, so that it would not tear. 24 They made pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen around the hem of the robe. 25 And they made bells of pure gold and attached them around the hem between the pomegranates. 26 The bells and pomegranates alternated around the hem of the robe to be worn for ministering, as the Lord commanded Moses.

The robe of the priests had pomegranates and bells alternating around the hem. To me this represents the promise, or baptism, of the Holy Spirit. The expression of the logos of God is made manifest in our lives through the fruit of the Spirit (pomegranates, full of seed) and the gifts of the Spirit (bells, sounding forth). As we yield to the Holy Spirit in our lives his fruit starts to come forth; full of seed to go deep into the lives of ourselves and others. At the same time the gifts of the Spirit (knowledge, wisdom, discernment, healing, prophecy, tongues, etc.) come forth and speak to ourselves and to others. All of this working in us brings about a manifestation of the logos of God. And the power we receive in the Holy Spirit enables us to get out of the way, to die to self, so the fruit and gifts can come forth.

I encourage you to desire that the fullness of the logos of God work in you. Believe God to fill you with all the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Don't limit him in any way. Let this witness of Jesus grow in you each day. All you have to do is trust him. He will do the rest.

 

 


A Baptism of Fire and of the Holy Spirit, Part 3

In this post I'm going to talk about being baptised in fire. The main point of this post is that God's fire is a good thing. The scripture says that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). God's fire does not bring persecution or tribulation. God's fire helps us to live godly lives in Christ Jesus. His fire brings separation, it sets us apart from the world. His fire sets us free. God is good, and his fire is good.

Matthew 3:11-12
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. [12] His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Fire can be a difficult thing to discuss simply because fire is used to illustrate so many things in the scripture. It is used to illustrate zeal, passion, light, power, purification, the heat of trials, being consumed, a lot of things. So when the scripture says Jesus will immerse us in fire it can be hard to say exactly what that means.

So I'm not going to say exactly what it means. I don't know that I can. But there are some things that, to me, indicate what we can expect from God's fire. One of these indications, from the scripture above, is separation. Being immersed in God's fire and in the Holy Spirit brings separation from the world into our lives. We are set apart, or made holy. Things that keep us from being used by God, from fulfilling our purpose, lose their hold on us (are burned up).

2 Timothy 3:10-13
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Paul did not live a godly life because of his persecutions, he was persecuted for living a godly life. Fire helps us live a godly life. Fire helps us to walk in a way that is different from the world, and in a way that many in the world will hate. So as fire works in us to be God's servants and call people to Jesus, and as people respond and are set free, others will turn against us. Fire makes a distinction between people who have a desire to live godly and people who don't.

Luke 12:49-53
49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Again, fire brings separation. Fire is not the separation itself, but one effect of God's fire is separation, setting apart, dividing all who have purposed in their hearts to serve God from all who do not have that purpose in their hearts.

Isaiah 6:5-7
"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." [6] Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. [7] With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. "

In the example above a live coal from God's fire was used to touch Isaiah's lips. Just this coal from God's fire had the ability to take guilt away and atone for Isaiah's unclean lips. No pain, no suffering, just a touch from this living coal. There is great power in God's fire to make us clean. If just a touch of a live coal can take away the chaff of guilt, imagine what a raging and unquenchable fire can do in us.

Luke 14:27-29
27
And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you

Jesus tells us to count the cost, and there is a cost to having God's fire in our lives. God is good and his fire is amazing. It fills us with his presence. But is it also costly. Living a godly life in Christ Jesus is costly. If you desire is to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, then I encourage you to count the cost and then ask Jesus to immerse you in his fire. It could bring you a time of great peace or a time of persecution. God's hand on each of us is different, but his thoughts for all of us are good. Trust him and let his fire rest on your and your home.

Daniel 3:22-27
The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, [23] and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. [24] Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" They replied, "Certainly, O king." [25] He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods." [26] Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, [27] and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

While this fire was created by men, God's presence in the fire made it his. We see the effects of God's fire here. First, what had bound the men was burned off without causing any harm. They were delivered. Not a hair of their heads was singed. There was no scorching, and no smell of fire or smoke. God's fire is only destructive to those things that hinder us, that bind us, that come against us. But to us, God's fire is our friend.

Persecutions, trials, and tribulations are going to happen. And though many of these things we will learn patience, endurance, faith, and wisdom. But these don't come because we are baptised in God's fire. These things will just come. God's fire is what strengthens us in the midst of trials and tribulations, his fire imparts patience, endurance, faith, and wisdom. We need God's fire.

I really want to encourage you to start asking God to baptise, or immerse, you in his fire. Ask him to fill your home with his fire. I do. I don't do this expecting something in particular, except I fully expect his fire to help me and my family to stand, to be strong, to seek his face each day, to be comforted, to be delivered, to be encouraged, to help us live godly in Christ Jesus. That is what I expect from his fire. You can expect the same.

 


A Baptism of Fire and of the Holy Spirit, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series of posts I mentioned that I was sort of going around my elbow to get to the title topic. Still doing that. The main point of this post is that there is something in people that is spiritually alive and that responds to God's Word and his presence.

John 4:34-38
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

This is really a simple point but so foundational to being a Christian. The "harvest" in this story is people. When it says the fields are ripe for harvest it is saying that there are a lot of people who are ready to respond to God; to his presence, to his Spirit, to his Word. Something has happened in them, in their spirits. Something has taken root, is alive, has matured, and is now waiting to be "harvested."

My wife and I deliver meals and food packages two weekends a month. It is a very simple and easy activity. It is scheduled for us. We don't do it because we feel a particular way; we just do it. And we do it in Jesus' Name. The response that we get from people doesn't depend on how we feel. The response comes from what is in the people we are serving, from what is alive in them already. It can be the simplest act of kindness, the simplest good deed, but when you tell people you are doing it because you are a Christian or that you are doing it in Jesus' Name then you tap into what is already alive and growing in them towards God.

Isaiah 14:24-27
24 The LORD Almighty has sworn,

   “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be,
   and as I have purposed, so it will happen.
25 I will crush the Assyrian in my land;
   on my mountains I will trample him down.
His yoke will be taken from my people,
   and his burden removed from their shoulders.”

 26 This is the plan determined for the whole world;
   this is the hand stretched out over all nations.
27 For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him?
   His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?

It is God's plan in the whole world, in the whole earth, to free his people from all that would hinder them from knowing him, from knowing his mercy and compassion, from being full of trust and faith in all that he has done.

Luke 4:18-19
Jesus said - 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
   19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

This is what God is doing in the whole world, in the whole earth. This is his purpose. And we are a part of it.

Sometimes we don't think we can affect someone for God because we feel bad, or because we are struggling, or because we have failed at something. That doesn't really matter. Remember that the life is already in the grain in the fields, the life is already in people. This was true before God sent the Holy Spirit to the world (Pentecost). It was true before the church was birthed. And if it was true then, it is certainly true now. Don't be afraid to encourage people, to do good deeds, to share scripture, and all in Jesus' Name. Even the smallest acts can make a big difference. The fields are full of life, ready for harvest.

 


A Baptism of Fire and of the Holy Spirit, Part 1

I have been wanting to write about being baptised in fire and in the Holy Spirit but I want to sort of go around my elbow to get there, so to speak. So I'm going to write this in several parts and start with the end in mind and then work our way to the beginning.

The main point in this post is: the more you love God, the more you are forgiven. I know that sounds odd, especially since Jesus has taken away the sins of the world. But, never the less, there is something here to understand.

Luke 7:36-50 (NKJ)
36 
Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

So he said, “Teacher, say it.”

41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

This woman did not do this because the Holy Spirit moved in her to act this way. This was before the Holy Spirit had come. She did not do it because she understood the plan of redemption or because she understood that Jesus would die on the cross and shed his blood to save her from her sins. We don't really know exactly what she had experienced in Jesus' ministry. She may have been delivered, she may have been healed, she may have been provided for. She may have watched Jesus minister and observed the compassion and mercy in his actions. Whatever she experienced her response was to love Jesus enough to annoint him, wash his feet with her tears, and to wipe his feet with her hair.

And because of this great love that she expressed towards Jesus, he told her that her sins were forgiven and that her faith had saved her. And to go in peace. All of this before Jesus shed his blood, and without the Holy Spirit working in the world.

Sometimes when people come in contact with God working in their midst, and they see his nature and his mercy, they respond with great love towards him. They recognize their own sins and failures and believe in a God that is merciful. And as their love is expressed towards him in true brokeness and worship, God expresses his mercy towards them through forgiveness and peace.


Things are not what they seem.

Many times things are not what they seem. Usually it is because of our perspective; how we think about what is going on around us. A part of our growth as Christians is allowing the Holy Spirit to change how we think.

One of the things Jesus taught is that many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first.

Mark 10:29-31
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Matthew 19:28-30
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

There are a lot of things that could be shared using the scriptures above, but basically I wanted to show the teaching on "first will be last and last will be first" in a bit of context. Now let's look at someone Jesus noticed.

Mark 12:41-44
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

This widow did exactly what Jesus spoke about; she "left" all she had for God by giving all she had to live on. What she gave was out of poverty; only a few cents. Her offering made no difference in the care, service, or ministry of the temple (which was called and put in place by God). What she did was not productive in any way. The large amounts put in by the rich people did make a difference. Those offerings supported the care, service, and ministry of the temple. Those offerings were productive. But Jesus elevated the poor widow above the others.

Most Christians I know give out of their abundance. They don't give all they have to live on. I know I don't. I have always tithed but that still leaves me money to live on. And there are a lot of people who share Jesus with others and have various ministries, who are productive. I have ministries I do. But the ministries I do are, like my tithe, given out of my abundance. I still have time to do things I want to do, to relax, have fun, etc. There are others who live in poverty in the natural and in ministry. What they give is small and makes no real difference in what most of us would call the work of the church. But when they give all they have, even when it makes no difference, Jesus honors them above all of us who give only a part. He honors these people above many who have what looks like a great ministry but who are ministering out of their spiritual and natural abundance.

What do you think looks like a successful ministry? There was a time, described in the Book of Daniel, when Israel was taken into captivity in Babylon. The king wanted men to serve in his kingdom.

Daniel 1:3-4, 18-20
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

This is how many Christians would describe a successful church today, a place with people who are well disciplined, quick to understand, and highly intelligent. But our King is not like the king of Babylon. What Jesus is doing looks a bit different.

Luke 14:16-21
“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

   18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

   19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

   20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

   21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

1 Corinthians 1:26-31
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:25
25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

We tend to think that the world needs to see great skill and intelligence so they will "approve" of the church and accept Christ's teachings. And there is nothing wrong with being skilled or talented or anything like that. I'm a musician and I work on my skills. And God uses all of us. He blesses and uses people who are talented and skilled and people who seem to have no talent or skills. My point here is that some of the most honored and powerful acts of service come from people that most folks pay no attention to.

The Kingdom of God is peace, joy, and righteousness in the Holy Spirit, and when we give all we have the Kingdom is operating in full force, whether it looks productive or not. Things are not always what they seem.


This Earthen Vessel

There is a story in 2 Kings where a man named Naaman, a commander in the army of Aram, has leprosy and goes to Israel to be healed. He eventually ends up visiting the prophet Elisha who sends him word, through a servant, to wash himself seven times in Jordan and he would be healed. Eventually he did this and was healed. After being healed he told Elisha "I now know there is no God in all the world except in Israel."

God already had his hand on Naaman prior to this healing. This story starts out with this:

2 Kings 5:1
1 Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

So we have a man who is not of the nation of Israel but who has the hand of the Lord on him and who has been victorious in battle because of the God of Israel.

After the healing, before returning to Aram, Naaman does something interesting.

2 Kings 5:15-18
15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

 16 The prophet answered, “As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.

 17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD. 18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.”

Even though Naaman had God's hand on him in Aram he took earth from Israel back with him to make his burnt offerings and sacrifices on. My point here, within the context of what Naaman did, is this. My body is an earthen vessel and this earthen vessel is not American soil. It is not Canadian soil, or Mexican soil, or French soil, or Russian soil, etc. In my life I seek first the Kingdom of God and make my offerings and sacrifices on that earth, looking for a country and a city whose building and maker is God. I am in this world but I am not of this world.

As I have said in previous posts, this doesn't mean I can't vote or be a part of the community where I live. It doesn't mean I can't be in the military. If I were to travel around the world there would be no question that I am from America. But the earthen vessel I am in is not my own. It belongs to Jesus. I belong to Jesus. And when I worship him and make offerings and sacrifices I do it from his earth, not from any earth of this world.

Each of us, as Christians, should have in our lives the presence of another country. That presence is expressed in the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. That presence is expressed in our love for each other. That presence is expressed in how we minister Jesus to people who need redemption. We are the "diplomatic mission" from a kingdom that is not of this world. Or, as I said earlier, this earthen vessel is not American soil. It is Kingdom soil. I belong to Jesus.

 


The Bride Shares in the Suffering

There is a thread running throughout God's Word concerning communion. Part of that communion has to do with suffering. I don't mean going through hard times in general; I'm referring to communion with Jesus in being rejected by the world. This is a part of the relationship of the bride of Christ. There is, I believe, a gentle wooing or loving invitation to fellowship in Christ's sufferings. It sounds strange, but for many the power of this relationship is not that it is a command to suffer but a relationship with Jesus in suffering. It is our willingness to respond to this invitation that can bring about an amazingly powerful result.

Let's look at some scriptures where Paul is speaking.

Galatians 6:17 (NIV)
Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

Ephesians 3:13 (NIV)
I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

Philippians 1:12-13 (NIV)
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. [13] As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

Philippians 1:20-21 (NIV)
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. [21] For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

The Apostle Paul experienced a great deal of suffering for the cause of Christ. He knew this from his calling to serve Jesus, from his conversion. But the suffering wasn't just for Paul.

Philippians 1:27-30 (NIV)
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel [28] without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved---and that by God. [29] For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, [30] since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

1 Thessalonians 2:14 (NIV)
For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews,

1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 (NIV)
so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them. [4] In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.

It has been granted to us not only to believe but also to suffer for him. Here we start to see that many of the churches suffered in the same manner as Paul did.

Colossians 1:24 (NIV)
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

This is a fascinating verse. It almost appears as if Paul is saying that Jesus didn't really finish the suffering he needed to do and that Paul had to finish it up. But if you take this in context with what the church as been granted to suffer for Jesus then you start to see that Paul is saying this as an example. It is not just Paul that is filling up in his flesh what is still lacking, or still needs to be completed. It is an expression of our communion with Jesus.

Philippians 3:7-11 (NIV)
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. [8] What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ [9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ---the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. [10] I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, [11] and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Paul was an example. His example of suffering and his words on the fellowship of sharing in Christ's sufferings are an invitation from the Lord to walk with the same heart and same fellowship. It is not a command. It is a call to communion.

2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 (NIV)
Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. [5] All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.

Matthew 24:9 (NIV)
"Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.

Mark 13:9-11 (NIV)
"You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. [10] And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. [11] Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

Luke 21:13 (NIV)
This will result in your being witnesses to them.

There are a lot of ministries that are working to bring the gospel of Christ to all nations and those works are amazing. We need those ministries. But the context of Jesus saying the gospel must be preached to all nations is within a context of persecution and suffering. It is this persecution that will result in the witness of Christ coming to the nations. Not just from being scattered but, again in this particular context, the persecution will place the gospel of Christ "on display." This is part of God's plan.

Don't think that I am saying we need to be focused on suffering. Our focus is on Jesus. I am all for avoiding suffering if possible. When talking about the last days and the persecution in the last days, Jesus said the following:

Luke 21:36 (NIV)
Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."

I'm all for escaping any suffering I can. I think about this verse a lot. But at the same time I have a desire to have a deep communion with Jesus. When I take communion I don't just think about what Jesus did for me; I think about experiencing fellowship in what he did for me.

Many years ago some friends and I wrote a song. Here are the lyrics. This is the voice of the Bride to the one she loves.

Communion Song

Lamb of God; suffer in Your love
Feel my death, my life for me

Just for the unjust; suffering brings righteousness
To bring us back to God

I want to know You; Your joy, Your love, Your tears
Let me walk in Your steps and know Your ways
Let our minds be the same
I’m closer to You when I fellowship in Your pain

Let me love You. Let me die for You
Let me find true life in You

Oh, Jesus, make me just like you
Let me hide in You

Joy is what You bring; death to kill my sin
Freedom and liberty come within
As Your light pours forth like rain
I’m closer to You when I fellowship in Your pain

Sweet communion; let me die for the Son
Let me die for resurrection

 


Acknowledging the Truth

Sexual behaviors such as homosexuality are a big topic so I decided to do a post on what the Bible teaches on this. I will try to keep it from getting too complex though it will probably include a lot of scripture. With a few exceptions, most of the scriptures I'll reference are from the book of Romans.

The Bible doesn't address sexuality the way it is usually addressed in this day and age. It doesn't address homosexuality, or heterosexuality, or bisexuality, or whatever. The Bible talks about behaviors, about actions. In the world view our identity is often defined by something we consider a fundamental aspect of ourselves, such as sexuality, belief system, culture, a way of thinking, nationality/patriotism, career, or a personal passion for something. God's Word describes us as having a simpler identify. We are the sheep of his pasture. We are his temple, his dwelling place. We belong to Jesus. It is his thoughts towards us that define us; not our own thoughts, ideas, or passions.

Romans 1:5-6 (NIV)
Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. [6] And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

We are called to come out of the world in our way of thinking and our lifestyle. We are called to the obedience that comes from faith. If we have faith in God's thoughts and words towards us we will strive to walk or live in that. We are called to belong to Jesus.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV)
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. [19] Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; [20] you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Sexual sins are sins against our own body and defile our body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. This is something that is very easy to overlook or ignore. Again, we are called to belong to Jesus. We are not our own. Honoring God with our body is important and sexual sins dishonor our body and dishonor God.

Romans 1:18 (NIV)
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,

Major point here. God's wrath is revealed against those who suppress the truth by their wickedness, or suppress the truth by their actions. This is the foundational truth in this post. It is important to acknowledge truth by our actions and not suppress truth by our actions. Self-honesty can sometimes be extremely difficult to live out.

Romans 1:26-27 (NIV)
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. [27] In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Because of suppressing the truth through actions, God gave these people over to shameful lusts. These are actions; behaviors that defile the body and dishonor God and his temple.

Romans 1:29-31 (NIV)
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, [30] slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; [31] they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Most of us read Romans 29-31 and see all kinds of "wickedness" in a stereotypical fashion. What we seldom see is ourselves. Yet Paul is setting the stage here for much of the book of Romans. We may feel that we would never murder someone yet we may gossip. We may think we would never be arrogant but sometimes we are. We may think children should obey their parents yet we often disobey our Father in Heaven. And all of this is lumped together with the wickedness of sexual sins. Gossip and homosexual behaviors are lumped together with being arrogant, slandering people (big at political election time) and disobeying parents.

Paul didn't write his letters in chapters and verses. The first verse in chapter 2 includes the word "therefore." Basically Paul was saying, "having said all of this about wickedness, here is my point."

Romans 2:1-3 (NIV)
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. [2] Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. [3] So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?

Paul is speaking to the church here. If we break one of God's laws then we have broken all of his law. There is none righteous, not one. Paul's foundation in chapter 1 of the severity of suppressing the truth and the severity of wrath against sexual sins and wickedness wasn't to mark a particular group of actions as horrible, but to impart the severity of the sin we are all guilty of. And this is a truth we have to acknowledge in our actions, deeds, and words.

Jesus acknowledged this in how he handled the woman caught in the act of adultery.

John 8:2-11
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Whether sexual sins, addiction to porn, gossip, arrogance, whatever; Jesus doesn't condemn. He does say go and leave your life of sin.

He says that to all of us.