Romans 6:11 NKJV - "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The Bible clearly teaches that God put the flesh, the sinful nature, to death on the cross. Verse 6 speaks of our "old man" being crucified on the cross with Christ. This speaks of our "enemy within" we spoke about yesterday from Galatians 5:24. We said that we were born sinners by nature which very quickly led to our being sinners by choice. But what we need to see here is that Christ not only dealt with all our sin by dying and shedding His blood to wash these sins away. He also dealt with our sin nature too! It wasn't enough for God to just forgive our sins and leave us to constantly keep on sinning. He also dealt with the power within us, our flesh, that so often got us into trouble.
In Romans 6:6 we're told that Christ gave a "death blow" to our sinful nature, stripping it of its power to control us. But something else also happened. When Christ rose from the dead He showed that He had conquered sin's power and we enter into His resurrection and all that it entails and the moment of our salvation! His power over sin is given to us! And further, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, we're given a new nature. The nature of Christ! His Holy Spirit works in us giving us the power to say "NO!" to sin! We don't have to keep on sinning. And that is a truth I hope to touch on tomorrow. See 1 John 3 to get a preview!
Galatians 5:24 NKJV - "And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
THE ENEMY WITHIN. In case some of you haven't heard, most Christians understand we are faced with three enemies, the "world," the "flesh," and the devil. I didn't put (" ") marks around the devil because he is all too real and their is no 2nd meaning to him, though he does travel with other names and descriptions. Please note about our "enemies": two are outside our bodies, one is within. That's the "flesh."
By the word "flesh" we're not talking about the human body. Sure, we have a imperfect body because of the Fall and the curse on this creation. But the "flesh" that we need to understand is the sinful nature all humans have other than Christ Jesus Himself. Our flesh consists of the lusts, or immoral desires, that takes hold of our minds and hearts. James speaks of how sin entices our flesh, or desires, to act in a sinful way which eventually leads to death - see James 1:13-16.
Our enemy "within" has already been dealt with by Christ on the cross. I like to tell Christians that they were not only sinners by choice but also sinners by nature. A baby is born with a sinful nature that doesn't take too long before it shows itself in the child's choices. Usually this starts with selfishness, stubbornness, greed, and anger. You see this with a child not willing to share, not willing to do what you say, learning to say "no", and having a tantrum when they can't have their own way. This sinful nature continues to manifest itself as we grow older. Either we commit outright crimes against humanity, or we cover up our sins by trying to secretly do things that we think no one sees. Look at Proverbs 5:21 to knock that attempt down! God sees everything, even in the dark, Psalm 139:12.
Now learn this, our "flesh" or sinful nature was put to death on the cross by Christ. He dealt it a "death blow" and it no longer has the power to make us sin. But it is still in our bodies and we need to learn how to deal with it. That study will be dealt with tomorrow. But read Romans 6 to see much of the answer for yourself.
Philippians 1:5 NKJV - "For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now."
Think about this: To "fellowship in the gospel," as Paul wrote, means more than being saved by the same gospel Paul preached. It goes means to be sharing in the ministry of the gospel along with Paul. It could include praying for him and supporting him as much as we do for our pastor and our missionaries. But I believe it goes beyond the prayer closet and the offering plate!
What are you doing to "share (fellowship) in the gospel?" What effort do you make to at least pray a prayer like the one in the old chorus: "Lord, lay some soul upon my heart and love that soul through me. And may I humbly do my part to win that soul for Thee"? If you pray that prayer, God will answer! And when He does He will undoubtedly lead you to take a step to let that person hear about Jesus!
Sure, not every Christian will be so bold as to witness of the streets, but we all can witness in some way! Sometimes it's simply by letting someone know that we pray for them. That can open up opportunities to share the gospel at another time. Some Christians find it easy to invite someone to a church event such as a men's breakfast, ladies' luncheon, or neighborhood Bible study. Others will bake a cake or some cookies and share these with a co-worker or neighbor and include a tract or special booklet that will give them the gospel message.
The point is, Christian, that we participate in the gospel beyond believing it. As someone let you know about Jesus, is it too much to ask that you think of letting someone else have the same chance? Seek today to share the gospel with someone.
Philippians 2:14 NKJV - "Do all things without complaining and disputing."
I know I've shared this verse before but it may help some to see this again in a slightly different light.
Christians are no strangers to getting upset and finding reasons to complain! It is sad to see this, and I have to accept I've done my share of complaining too! But two things helped me and still help me to seek to turn away from a "complaining spirit."
First - Consider Jesus facing an unjust trial and not saying a word of complaint for the way He was treated. Isaiah 53 and the Gospel accounts both emphasize that under trial and brutal attack both with words and fists - He never said "a mumbling word!" He was quiet and He took the abuse knowing that He was facing this cruel treatment on our behalf. He loved us and still does! So, any time I'm ready to complain, I just remember what Jesus went through and I learn to accept ill treatment from others without getting so upset.
The old song, "Follow Me," has these words, "I traveled down a lonely road, and no one seem to care. The burden on my weary back was much too hard to bear. I oft complained to Jesus how folks were treating me; and then I heard Him gently say to me, 'My feet were also weary upon the Calvary road, My cross became so heavy, I fell beneath the load. Be faithful weary pilgrim, the morning I can see. Just lift your cross and follow close to Me."
Second - When I face unpleasant situations and people, I find taking time with Jesus changes my focus and He lifts my spirit. I often quote this little ditty which I hope will bless you too:
We mutter and sputter, we fume and we spurt; we mumble and grumble, our feelings get hurt. We can't understand things, our vision grows dim; when all that we need is communion with Him!"
Take your mind off your woes, and "turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!"
Matthew 12:36 NKJV - "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment."
Every word counts. Every word we speak is heard by God. Every word matters. It's no use trying to use the excuse, "I didn't know what I was saying" or "I was just so upset that I couldn't control my mouth." Now, I know I've used those excuses myself and sometimes I try to think "it doesn't really matter because God knows my heart." I will say this, God is certainly understanding of our weaknesses, but those "idle words" were still wrong, sin even, and Jesus had to die for those as well.
I've used Psalm 19:14 before as a Daily Verse, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord my Strength and my Redeemer." That should be our prayer every day because our words show what is in our hearts and people listen. We need to speak "wonderful words of life" which may "impart grace to the hearers" Ephesians 4:29b. Our words can heal, Proverbs 15:23, but our words can also hurt, Ephesians 4:29a, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth..."
Note Proverbs 10:19, "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise." As James told us in 1:19, "be slow to speak..." Take care of what you say. People hear and God listens, too!
Mark 13:37 NKJV - "And what I say to you, I say to all, 'Watch!'"
The subject of "Watching" has recently surfaced in my fellowship with other Christians in active ministry. The question arose, "What is 'watching'?" I'd like to share these thoughts with hope that you will learn to "watch" more often.
First - Watching comes from the battlefield when "watchmen" were stationed at strategic places and times to keep alert to the possible movement of the enemy. It was their job to warn of impending attack soon enough to give the home armed forces time to meet the enemy and gain the advantage. In Christian circles this speaks of watching out for the movement of our enemy, Satan. Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 5:8, "Be sober, be vigilant; because you adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." That gives a clear picture of the danger believers face and the need to alert them to impending attacks.
Second - Watching also give comfort to the armed forces in knowing they are protected by the faithfulness of the watchmen. Christians have a certain confidence in knowing what the watchmen see and the believers can know they are being cared for.
Third - Watching also speaks of staying alert to the commands of the leaders and their instructions for the armed forces to make certain moves to conquer the enemy in order to bring freedom to captives. Believers are called on by God to "fight the good fight" of faith and to listen to God's instructions as to how they can best reach out to the lost held captive in Satan's kingdom.
Fourth - Watching also speaks of alerting the armed forces to the arrival of their leaders in order that the forces can gather together to welcome their leaders' arrival. This is exactly why Jesus spoke in Mark 13:37 about "watching." In verse 35 Jesus spoke about our not knowing when "the Master" would come.
Finally - Watching is an activity to do in prayer, 1 Peter 4:7 - "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers." In prayer we should be "watching" over our Christian family praying for their protection and their readiness to serve the Master. We should be praying for believers in their active ministry reaching out to the lost. We should be watching in prayer for those who are facing trials and tribulations, remembering those who are held in bondage for their faith, Hebrews 13:3.
Let us be Watchful!
John 17:20 NKJV - "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word."
I hope in some way I can show you some of the exciting things in this verse that have inspired and encouraged me.
First, Jesus was looking far, far ahead as He prayed. He certainly prayed for the many people who sincerely believed in Him and followed Him in His earthly ministry. Remember, there were "many" disciples beyond the original twelve. But Jesus prayed for the many millions who would believe on Him in the centuries to come. This is one of the clearest verses you will find in Scripture where you and I are included in Jesus' thoughts and prayers! Maybe that doesn't "hit you" as much as it does me, but I see a very personal prayer Jesus prayed. His requests in this prayer were not just for a "crowd" of people. In His own omniscient and omnipotent way, Jesus prayed for every last believer in verse 20!
Second, Jesus knew we would respond to the word preached starting with the ministry of His apostles and the many other disciples who "went everywhere preaching the word." Acts 8:4. And that word is continuing to be preached today and you and I have a part in that preaching! Jesus knew we would also carry the message to the lost!
Third, I get excited every time I hear of someone coming to know Christ. I have a lot of missionaries I pray for and I'm always thrilled with the reports of people getting saved all over the world! I can see the prayer request of John 17:20 being answered almost every day!
That blesses and encourages me a lot! Hope it does the same for you, too!
John 17:17 NKJV (part two) - "Sanctify them with Your truth, Your word is truth."
I want to stress the importance of recognizing what Jesus desires and doing your part in "answering His prayer requests!" We often pray that God would do what we want but when we get a chance to clearly see what God wants shouldn't it be our desire to please Him?
God's Word is truth. I often found myself talking with skeptics over the years. I remember a man stopping by St. Paul's House in New York City where I served for 12 years. He looked in on one of our worship services and he made a critical comment about what we taught and scoffed at the idea that God was real and, if He was, that He really cared for people. I challenged him to consider that the Bible said God certainly is real and He really does show His kindness. Then I added this thought: "What God says is truth and no matter whether you believe it or not will not change that fact. Truth will always be Truth!" He scoffed again and walked away.
Here's a statement that people used to say years ago: "God said it; I believe it; and that settles it!" That sounds like a great confession of faith in God and His Word! But, I had a deacon in a church I pastored years ago who said it like this: "God said it, and that settles it whether I believe it or not!" Our belief in what God says doesn't make His truth anymore truthful! And even if I don't believe what God says that doesn't make His truth untruthful! Truth will always be Truth!
Let God's truth change your life. And, remember, sanctification is a process. There will always be need to keep your life clean and pure for God's glory. Be sure to daily spend time in God's Word for it to continue its purifying work in your heart.
John 17:17 NKJV (part one) - "Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth."
This is just one short passage of one of the greatest prayers in God's Word. After Jesus shared His personal words with His disciples in John 14-16 He takes time to talk with His Father before He will go to the cross. I have often wondered if Jesus prayed this with His disciples present or was this part of His Gethsemane prayer where He would also say, "...not My will, but Thy will be done."? Here Jesus shares some of His most important thoughts and we are given the privilege to "listen in."
I remember my Uncle praying out loud in his room which was directly over our living room. He prayed out loud, and though I couldn't hear exactly what he was saying I knew he would pour out his heart to God for many, many people which of course included our family. It was an experience I've never forgotten.
Jesus prayed about several things which included this request for His Father to sanctify His children. The word "sanctify" is the same word for "holy" and it basically means "to be set apart." It's God's way of saying that we, His children, are very special to Him and He has set us apart for His glory and for His use. The word also carries with it God's desire to keep us "clean and living a righteous life" that would honor Him. He knows that His plan for our lives requires us to be "fit for the Master's use," 2 Timothy 2:21 KJV.
The question here is this: are you helping Jesus see His prayer answered? If the Word of God is used to sanctify us are we spending time in God's Word for its power to work in our lives? We know the great teaching of Psalm 119:11, "Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You." This is a way in which God's word sanctifies us. The power of His word is fantastic! (More about this tomorrow).
1 Samuel 20:42 (partial) NKJV - "...The Lord be between me and you..."
Over 50 years ago I remember reading this verse and recognizing, "What a good place for God to be in any relationship!" I saw that when God is between myself and any other person, then God is more important to me than anyone. And that's what God wants. Matthew 6:33 speaks of "Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..." which means keeping Him and His will foremost in our hearts and minds.
Now, if someone is between my wife and myself, then somethings wrong. No person, thing, or activity should ever be more important to me than my wife. But, when it comes to God, I've seen something I know I've shared before. Please get this clear: WHEN GOD IS WHERE HE BELONGS IN MY LIFE THEN EVERYONE ELSE CAN BE WHERE THEY BELONG IN MY LIFE! That means that if God is first place in my life, then even my wife will then be where she belongs in my life. And don't think for a moment that with God "between" my wife and myself that He will separate us! God forbid! What will happen is that He will bring us even closer together! With God between her and myself then both of us see each other through our "God lens!" And we see how blessed we are to have each other and how we can focus on the really important matters in our lives.
Now, this principle works with our friends, with any acquaintances we might have, with our jobs, our education, our hobbies, with anything! Putting God between all of the above keeps our priorities in order. We'll find our worship is directed towards our Savior, not on occupation! We'll yield to God and not to the enticements of others, no matter how innocent they may be. We'll look at life through God's eyes and we'll look at one another the same way. How "clear" is your vision today? If you look at work, for instance, as more important than God and His Word and His people, you're not seeing clearly!
Ask God to step into His proper place in your life.
Daily commentary and insight from Pastor Eckardt.
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Mt Ephraim Baptist Church | 25 S. Black Horse Pike | Mt Ephraim, NJ 08059
Senior Pastor, Stephen A. Eckardt | Email: email@example.com | Phone: 856.981.7288