Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Message of the Cross: How shall we respond?

Once we have heard and understand the message of the cross it remains only for us to choose how we shall respond to the message. So how should we respond to the message of the cross? Let us consider the counsel of Paul.
"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:1-18)
The message of the cross is the message that we have been freed from sin. We are no longer the slaves of sin, bound to obey its lusts, but we are now free; free to stop sinning and free to give ourselves to righteousness. Through the cross we have been crucified with Christ; crucified to the world, crucified to our old way of life, and crucified to sin.

Through the cross we have been given a precious gift; the ability to say "no" to sin. Previously we were slaves of sin dutifully obeying its will, but now we have been set free, free to say "no" to sin and "yes" to God. Because we have received this free gift through the cross, Paul charges us to "not let sin reign in your mortal body." Our response to the message of the cross is to put an end to the reign of sin in our mortal bodies. Paul further confirms this when he says,
"So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:12-13)
Now that we have been set free from sin through the power of the cross we must now put to death the deeds of the flesh; to put an end to sin in our bodies. The cross has made us able and now, through the help and power of the Holy Spirit, it is time to cease from sin and begin to live a life of righteousness.

What a glorious gift we have been given. What incredible good news is ours through the cross. What hope we now have; a hope of righteousness. Given this good news and our new and holy calling in God, Paul commands us,
"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3)
Paul commands us to "walk worthy," not that we might become worthy, but because we are already worthy. Jesus, through His death and resurrection, has made us worthy of Him, His kingdom, and His calling. Seeing that we are worthy, let us walk in a way that demonstrates that worthiness. Let us walk in a way that outwardly expresses the righteous and worthiness we have in our spirits; let our outward expression reflect the inward reality we have in Christ. We are worthy, so let us act like it.

This is our response to the message of the cross; to put away sin and to live the new life that has been purchased for us by Christ. Our response is to live righteously and holy before God that we might fulfill what was spoken by God so long ago, "be holy, for I am holy." (Leviticus 11:45)

David Robison

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Prophet's Reward: Mt 10:40-42

"He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." (Matthew 10:40-42)
This scripture has always been a difficult scripture for me to understand. For example, what is a "prophet's reward" or a "righteous man's reward" and how do they differ? Should I prefer one over the other or are they both one and the same? Given that others have sought to explain this passage, I too will offer my thoughts.

The Greek word used here for "reward" does not mean a prize but rather a payment or wages. It is the same word Jesus uses for "wages" in the following verse: "the laborer is worthy of his wages." (Luke 10:7) A prophet's reward is the eternal rewards credited to his account for his service to God. Similarly, a righteous man's reward is the eternal rewards credited to his account because of his righteousness before God. These rewards are what Paul referred to in his letter to the church at Corinth.
"Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
Notice that these rewards are not necessarily immediate rewards but rather rewards to be given to us at the end of the age. Jesus confirms this when, referring to His own coming again, He says, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done." (Revelation 22:12)

There are two lessons we can learn from these rewards. First, the one who ministers and the one who receives are the same. The same reward is given to the prophet as is given to the one who receives the prophet. The prophet is not greater than the one who receives him even though the one receiving him may not be a prophet himself. Those who minister are not greater than those who receive, they both receive the same reward from God. We sometimes believe that the great men and women of God are special, but the truth is that, in God's eyes, everyone who receives Him, either in service or in receiving those sent to server, are the same and are both worthy of the same reward. This should help us to not minimize our value before God just because we may not have a ministry of our own and also to keep us humble if we do have a ministry, remembering that we are not greater than the people we server.

The second lesson is, it does not matter who we are receiving if we are receiving them in the Lord. When we receive a person because they are sent by God or because they are God's, we are receiving God. When we receive the prophet sent by God we are receiving the one who sent Him. When we receive a disciple of God then we are receiving the God who is his master. What matters is not the stature or prominence of the one we are receiving, but the name in which we are receiving them; what matters is not man but God. No matter who it is, if we receive them in the Lord, then we have a reward. This is what Jesus meant when he told the parable of the sheep and the goats. At the end of the age the King of Glory will assign rewards to the sheep.
"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'" (Matthew 25:37-40)
When we receive someone in the name of the Lord, event though they be among the least, we receive the Lord and we have our rewards.

So how do we receive someone in the name of the Lord? Paul tells us,
"Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)
The key is not to receive anyone according to the flesh; based on how they look, how smart they are, their position in the church or community, etc. Rather we should look with the eyes of the spirit to see the new creature they have become in Christ. Previously they may have been a thief or an immoral person but now they are the righteousness of God in Christ. In the flesh they may be lowly and of no esteem, but in Christ they are choice and precious in His site. To receive someone in the name of the Lord is to receive them with the eyes and heart of God; to see and receive them as God does. When we do this, our reward in heaven is sure.

David Robison

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