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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Kindness and Severity

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! (Romans 11:12)

Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. (Romans 11:22)

There’s one part of these verses I would like to point out, “Otherwise you too will be cut off.” That’s something of a scary thought. How can someone, who is already saved, be “cut off” from salvation?

First, we need to understand how someone who’s already saved can be “cut off” from salvation… So that we can avoid it.

God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

Perhaps the question would be better asked, “What is God’s kindness, and how do we ‘continue’ in it?” – Well by this point we all surely know what God’s kindness is. It’s his sending his son to die for us, but does anyone “continue” in that?

And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. (Romans 11:23)

We can see from this that it means not continuing in unbelief… Which automatically assumes that in order to “continue” in Jesus’ death and Resurrection, we need to believe. A little more specifically, it mean’s believing that through Jesus’ death and Resurrection, we are saved. But why even bring this up? What’s Paul’s point? To warn them to always trust in God’s strength and not their own? To put the fear of the Lord in them? Or maybe to reveal a mystery?

Second, what exactly was Paul’s point?

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27)

To some extent, yes, Paul’s point was to reveal a mystery. He was revealing the “mystery” of how they were saved. As it happens, he also revealed the “mystery” of we’re saved as well. Not by our own “kindness” (works), in fact, that’s the thing that will pretty much ensure that we aren’t saved. Instead, it’s by what Jesus did for us, namely, dying for us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

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The Potter and the Clay

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” (Romans 9:18-19)

Why is it God would, even though apparently made me to do something wrong, (like Pharaoh, who talks about in verse 17), how come he still counts it as sin? I was only doing what he made me to do. Surely the blood isn’t on my hands, it must be on God’s! He after all made me to do it, and I can’t change.

First, if God has made me the way I am, then why is it my sin is still counted to be on my head? … What have I done wrong? Nothing… After all, God literally made me to do it.

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– (Romans 9:20-23)

Is this how Paul answers the question? By simply saying to bad so sad, I’m a vessel for good use and you’re one for dishonorable use. If that’s it, I don’t see how there’s any hope for anyone. After all, we can’t change. We’re only here to show God’s mercy to the vessels for honorable use, through our own destruction.

even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:24)

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 9:30-33)

I can’t do enough good to reach the standard the law puts up, I know that, it’s the very reason I’m an object of dishonorable use. I can’t change, therefore I can’t meet the standards the law puts up, and hence, the object of wrath status. But it seems this passage is suggesting another way, it seems to be saying that if I believe in a rock, I will be able to change. How does that make sense? – And looking at it that way, it probably never will make sense. The “rock” that smashes our old self to little clay bits, and then rebuilds us in his image, is called, Jesus.

Second, we need to know how change from object of dishonorable use, to object of honorable use… As I’m sure neither of us wants to stay the same way we are.

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

First we have to stumble and be humbled, before we can be brought up. That’s why Paul notes that Jesus is a stumbling (humbling) block. But, after we realize that we can’t save our self, and that we will remain an object of wrath forever unless something changes, what then? How can we change? We can change by being changed by Jesus, aka, the potter, who has the ability to change what he has created.

That’s it. We’re called, we confess, we believed, we’re saved. Being transformed, is far easier than trying to transform yourself. However, some people, such as Pharaoh choose not to accept the call… This is where things can get a little confusing, but I’ll try to explain it simply… God made Pharaoh to refuse Moses, despite the many plagues, but Pharaoh chose to do so. We have free will, but that free will is being controlled by the person who made free will (as well as the person who he gives the free will to). He did that, in order to show the Israelites his mercy, in that they weren’t affected by the plagues. My point in saying all this being, everyone is called to Jesus, but some people “refuse to accept it”. To quote myself:

You choose to follow God, yet all along it’s actually God choosing you to follow him. – God isn’t a cruel God, in fact, instead he’s an extremely unjust God, in that instead of destroying us, he gives us a means of salvation. Yet people who turn down that salvation, can’t really say God is cruel God. (The Wrath of God Is Coming?!)

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

 

 

 

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FirstFruits

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

Why does Paul bring out that we are, “the firstfruits of the Spirit,”? What’s his point? What does it even mean to be the, “firstfruits of the Spirit”?

First, we need to figure out what it means to be the, “firstfruits of the Spirit”… In the Old Testament, everyone in everything they did would offer a “firstfruit”. People make firstfruits, how, therefore, can people be “firstfruits”?

Whether Sheep wool, or actual fruit, or anything. A part of  everything was to be offered to the Lord back in the time of the Old Testament. Paul calls us “firstfruits of the Spirit,”, because He’s the one who cultivates us, and “grows us into Christ,”. we, therefore, aren’t “ours”, but instead God’s. Just like the wheat doesn’t own itself, the farmer owns it; we don’t own our self, instead, The Spirit (of God) does. But what does it mean to be, “owned by God”?

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:33-34)

It means we’re God’s elect, and it means only God can charge us with sin, and only Jesus (the one who died to save us), can condemn us.

Second, we need to figure out what exactly all that means…

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

To put it in the simplest possible way. What “all that” means, is that we are not our own. The one who predestined, conformed, called, justified, and finally will glorify us is the one we belong to.

46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46-48)

The fact that we are not our own, is the only way we can obey that command. However, this brings a new question up, “even if my life isn’t my own, I’m not perfect and I never can be!” How does all this combine? We need to be perfect, but we can’t be. We don’t own our self, Jesus does, but even so, it still remains that I’m not perfect.

9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

There is a reason Christ died for us. He died for us, and in doing so, made us his. He, “justified” us, we had already been predestined, than Jesus called us, then died for us to justify us, and now that we’re saved (justified), when we “die” we will be glorified. The command to, “be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly father is perfect,” is an impossible command for us to obey. Only through Jesus’ perfect on our behalf, can we be saved.

But now, we have one final question to answer.

Third, what does it matter that we’re not our own, if Jesus died for us anyway? … So what if we’re not our own, I don’t see how we’re any different because of it. In short, because Christ saved me, I no longer have to work my way to Heaven, and therefore can live however I want! (Right?)

Wrong, actually.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3-5)

We are not our own, meaning that we are no God’s. Meaning that we have died to sin, and now live in Christ. We still live in flesh, but we live in flesh, and therefore are imperfect, only when we are “glorified” will we be perfect, but what it means now is that we will not be “captured” by anything.

“Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Basically, it all ends up meaning this:

We have been saved. Through our salvation, we have died to sin and now live in Christ Jesus. But this is not a “license to sin,” on the contrary, as I already mentioned it means we’ve died to sin. Now, we are not our own, but instead we’re Christ’s and his alone. But, because we still live in flesh, we are imperfect as of now, and still fall to temptation. But Jesus has given us the ability to stand against it.

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-16)

He’s given us the Gospel, the Spirit, the word of God, truth, readiness, and peace (among other things).

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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The Sermon Today

Hello again!

The sermon today was on Galatians 4:21-31.

The pastor had a total of 3 points on how we’re “sons of the promise”, and they are:

1. We are like Isaac (vs. 21-23).

We are like Issac, in that we are the son(s and daughters) of the promise.

2. We will be persecuted by those who live under the law (vs. 28-29).

People who don’t have free grace and are under the law don’t like people who do have free grace and aren’t under the law. Pretty simple really.

3. Cast out the “fleshly thinking” (vs. 30-31).

Here’s what the pastor said, “If me, or Patan (the other pastor), ever strays from preaching the Gospel to you, please immediately come to talk with us about it so that we can stop, and start back on the right track” (at least, that’s what I think he said), He might have said more on the subject, but I mainly remember that part… The point being that, like what Paul was saying to the Galatians, we should not let our flesh tell us what to do. Which in this case, means not being under the law. In essence, we should “set our minds on the Spirit“, which we already found out means that the Spirit sets our minds on himself.

21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

 24 These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:

   “Be glad, barren woman, 
   you who never bore a child; 
shout for joy and cry aloud, 
   you who were never in labor; 
because more are the children of the desolate woman 
   than of her who has a husband.”[e]

 28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[f] 31Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:21-31)

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Todays Sermon

 

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Abilities… And Our Stunning Lack of Them

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. (Romans 7:14-18)

If doesn’t have the ability to obey the law, than who does? Paul was a Jew of Jews, the most zealous of the zealous, he says as much in Philippians (3:4-6), and he didn’t have the ability to carry out the law? Then it must be impossible! How can anyway be saved if even Paul doesn’t have the ability to obey the law?

First, we need to know how we can be saved! … Is it even possible, if no one can obey the law?

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:24-25)

Does it really matter if we obey the law inwardly but not outwardly? No, it doesn’t matter how much we want to do something, so long as we don’t. And vise versa. So why is Paul saying things like, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”? He seems to be reveling in his inability to obey the law!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

And that, is how we’re saved. Not by trying and completely failing to obey the law, but by believing in God’s son, Jesus’, ability to obey it on our behalf.

Second, what now?

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

Now, we set our mind on the Spirit. And how do we do that? As it happens, we don’t actually set our minds on the Spirit, instead, the Spirit sets our minds on himself.

Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. (Ephesians 4:23)

Finally, there is one more point I would like to make: What now? Now, we are sons of God!

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (Romans 8:12-16)

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Slaves to Christ

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

Just one main question here this time; how can someone be a slave to obedience? I understand how someone can be a slave to sin but a slave to obedience? How does someone even become a slave to obedience?

First and foremost, we have to find out what exactly, “being a slave to obedience” means… What’s Paul talking about here? What does he mean by, “slave to obedience,”?

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Romans 6:17-19)

According to the above verses, being a slave to obedience means first, being set free from slavery to sin. On the other hand, it does  mean presenting the members of our bodies as slaves to righteousness which leads to sanctification. – I’ll put it this way, being a slave to righteousness/obedience, mean’s being a slave to Christ, who is the perfect manifestation of both righteousness and obedience, and through whom we are set free from slavery to sin. But why, comes the question, would we want to be “set free” from sin? It’s certainly seems better than being a slave to obedience!

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (Romans 6:20-21)

Why would we want to be set free from sin? Because the end of that is death.

Second, how does being a slave to Christ effect us? … How does it affect our actual lives, aside from the obvious bit about eternal life?

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23)

Being a slave to God means we “bear fruit”. But, since Paul isn’t referring to us turning into trees, what does that mean? What fruit do we bear?

 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25)

The fruit we bare, is love, joy, peace and the rest. All of which leads to one thing, sanctification. Which simply means that we’ve been “set apart” from the world… And in turn, that leads to eternal life.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Our Bodies are Not Our Own

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

How did we die to sin? What exactly does that even mean? And if I died to sin, why is it I still sin?

First, we need to answer some questions… For example, how did we die to sin again?

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6)

We died to sin when it was crucified. Well, of course, another important question seems to come, “If I’ve died to sin, why do I still sin?!”

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (2 Corinthians 4:11)

We still sin because we’re human. Paul’s point is that being a Christian doesn’t mean we can “sin all we want,” but in fact the opposite. It means that we have died to sin and live in Christ. – We no longer live in sin i.e., though we still sin, we aren’t trapped by it.

“Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Second, we need to know why it’s so important to realize we’ve died to sin and now live in Christ… What’s the point?

For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:7-8)

I’ll put it things this way: we have died to sin, we cannot live in it any longer. Instead, we now have no choice but to live in Christ. To live in sin is death, and we now realize that.

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)

To know what I just said, is to realize we’ve died to sin and now live in Christ. That’s why it’s so important to realize it, and why Paul brings it out so often. When we become Christians, we recognize that we no longer can just do whatever we want to, instead, our bodies are the very temples of God himself! Why would you want to defile them?

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

I belive both my own, and Paul’s “points” in this passage can be summed up in this verse:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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