Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Strength and Blessing of Humility

            Jesus made many “I AM” statements recorded in the gospels. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”   The word “gentle” is the Greek word praus, which means to be humble. It is used in Matthew 5:5 to describe those who will inherit the earth, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” It translated with the word “humble” in Matthew 21:5, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey…’” The word “lowly” in Matthew 11:28 is the Greek word tapeinos, which is translated in other passages with the word “humble.”

         The word “humble” means to bow down, to be lowly. It is the opposite of being high-minded. A high-minded person looks down on others. A humble person sees greatness in others and in God. A humble person does not put herself or himself down as much as they lift others up and have chosen to see the goodness in others, especially in God.

Jesus was always seeing greatness in others. He could see and sense faith in the people He was around. Faith is the greatness in a person’s life. He gave hope because He could see what the Father wanted to do and was about to do. Most of all, He saw the greatness of the Father as He walked in God’s will.

In choosing to see the greatness of humility in the life of Jesus, you are humbling yourself. God has promised to build greatness in the one who is humble. Look again at 1 Peter 5:6 – 10,  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

The humble will suffer in this world. This is a guarantee. But God uses suffering in the life of the humble to build a greater strength than the suffering. He heals, makes strong, undergirds, and builds a deep foundation as a result of the trials in life. The phrase, establish you, in the verse above is the Greek word themelios, which describes the solid foundation upon which a building, city, or nation is built. It also has the meaning of steadfastness. Jesus used this word when He told the parable about the man who built his house upon the solid rock of hearing His word and doing it (Matthew 7:24).

As God builds deeper and deeper strength in the life of the humble, they are able to stand stronger and stronger through the storms of life. As they go through these trials, standing (exalted), their life becomes a witness to the love and power of God. The thing that humbles others, exalts the humble, and bears witness to Christ and the blessing of strength in Christ. This is one of the ways of God, and it is who you are in Christ.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Spiritual Rebar

         God’s promise, according to 1 Peter 5:6 – 10, is to exalt those who clothe themselves with the gift of humility in Christ, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Humility is a gift from God that you activate with the desire and prayer to be humble. As you do, the work that God activates in your life is to exalt you. His desire and work is to go deep in your life with His strength.

Each of the four words used in the verses above, describing what God promises to do, are foundational words. The first word, “restore,” is a word describing healing, mending, equipping. The second, “confirm,” is a word describing the strength of a broken bone that has been healed and has become stronger than before.

The third word, “strengthen,” is the Greek word steridzo, which means to undergird with reinforcement. Those who work with concrete know the importance of having reinforcement in the wet cement of a foundation. It is essential for the strength of the structure, which holds up the building that rests upon it. It is in place before the cement is poured. Without it, the foundation is flawed and will soon crack with great damage to the building. God’s idea of exalting is to build strength in the foundation of your life. Before you can go up, you must go down.

The spiritual rebar God desires your life to have in the foundation of your life is essential for the spiritual structure He wants to build on it. The good works He has prepared for you to walk in are heavy with His glory, and only a solid foundation with steridzo, spiritual rebar, will hold it firm and in place. God builds with eternity in mind.

Humbling yourself before God means to go deep with Him, to bow low to the foundation of your life, and with Him to work on the foundation. Being humble means to recognize the greatness of others as greater than yourself. Humbling yourself before God means to recognize the greater strength of the foundation He desires to build in you and with you, than any you could ever provide for yourself.

Today, ask God for a greater intimacy with Him and a deeper obedience to Him. These are the spiritual rebar of Christ, which will give your life a solid foundation for Him, forever.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

You Learn From the One You Trust and Praise

         The phrase, “…we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” is from Psalm 100. This is a powerful song of praise and instruction. The first thing you notice about the psalm is the relationship between praise and sound doctrine. The first two lines are expressions of praise, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” Psalm 100:1 – 2. This is praise. Praise is directed to God, but it is also inviting to others. Praise attracts. Praise invites. Praise is the result of a revelation of God. Praise has a strong element of witness in it because it makes known what has been made known.

         The next line is instruction; sound doctrine. “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3. This is revelation. Something to know, something to learn. And the point is what it follows; praise. You will learn from the one you trust, the one you praise, the one you advertise for. Right or wrong, you learn from the one you praise. Many have learned from sources that were misguided, landmines waiting to explode; but were trusted. As a result false teaching was learned; false identity accepted. This is why it is so important to study the Bible, to learn sound doctrine, especially when identity is the subject!

         The sound doctrine that is presented is vital. It is God who made you. You belong to God. You are His and He is love. His desire is that you know Him and His eternal love for you, and that you learn of Him to love. The image of being one of His sheep is touching, for a good shepherd provides the best pasture for his sheep and fights for them. It reveals the true nature of God, and the view that He has for you and one you can have for yourself from His eyes and no one else’s. If you will trust Him. This is important in learning your true identity; whose eyes are you receiving it from and do you trust them? You can trust the LORD God.

         The last line returns to praise because of what has been revealed in the third verse, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name.” Psalm 100:4. Praise always follows revelation. Praise is always inviting. It is a witness of who you know. Sound doctrine follows praise because it seeks to know more of what has been revealed. And when you learn sound doctrine, more praise is the result because more is revealed as you learn of Him who loves you. Knowing your true identity as a result of knowing God leads to praise, which then leads to more revelation and sound doctrine.

         This psalm ends on a note of praise and sound doctrine, “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:5. Declaring the goodness of God is praise. Knowing that his steadfast love endures forever, his faithfulness to all generations is sound doctrine. But again, the point is that you will learn from the one you praise.

         Starting your time with God each day in the Psalms, with a different psalm each day, followed by Scripture readings from the gospels and the Old Testament, is the request to know God by the revelation of His word. It demonstrates to God the request, “Lord, I want to know You by revelation, from Your word.” Praising the Lord during your time with Him is the result of paying attention when He does reveal something of Himself to you. Saying back to God in praise and gratitude is the first step in praise, then finding opportunities to share with someone during the day that particular attribute of God is the invitation, or the witnessing part of praise. As you do, sound doctrine will result, and true identity begins to be seen with clarity and joy. Hallelujah!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Being Exalted With Inner Strength

Jesus was called the Lamb of God. When John was on the island called Patmos he was told to look, “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb, having been slain, standing…” Revelation 5:6. The Lamb of God had conquered and was exalted to the place of highest authority, the Throne of God. But the way to the Throne was through suffering, through the cross.

         Your true identity is found in Christ. You are the lamb of Christ. Just as Jesus suffered, so must you, but with the promise of God that He will raise you up. His promise is certainly seen in the promise of a resurrected body one day. But you do not have to wait until then to be raised up. God has many ways to raise you up.

         The word “humble” is a word that describes a lamb. Some may think of humility as being a weakness. In the view of the world, it is; but not in God’s Kingdom. Humility is a total abandonment of personal strength in exchange for the strength of Someone greater. A lamb is totally reliant upon another for protection, for provision, for life. A lamb does not worry. A lamb is a picture of trust. Jesus totally trusted in the Father for everything. As one who has received His life as yours, you too, can cast all of your cares upon Him, because of His great care for you.

         God’s promise, according to 1 Peter 5:6 – 10, is to exalt those who embrace and clothe themselves with this gift in Christ, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” But being exalted by God is not what you may think.

         The first word describing how God exalts is the Greek word katartridzo, which means to be healed, restored, equipped. The second word in the verse above is “confirm,” which in Greek is stuenoo. This word is related to katartridzo in that it describes the results of healing. Surgeons tell us that bones that are broken, then healed properly, are stronger than before. This is the meaning of the word stuenoo; stronger than before.

         God exalts with the strength from His healing. When you turn to God for inner healing, casting all of your wounds upon Him, He restores and gives greater strength than before. This healing strength frees you from constant pain, distraction, and deception associated with a life of sin in a sinful world. Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. God’s grace heals your wounds and in your weakness, His strength is given in full.

         Your true identity is a wounded lamb, now standing, with greater strength than before, because of the healing you have received in Christ. Today, clothe yourself with the humility of Christ, with a total reliance upon His life in you and your identity in Him. The very things that have set you back, will move you forward in Christ, as you cast them all on Him. He is your healing. He is your strength. In Him, you are stronger than ever before.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Behold the Lamb of God

John the baptizer identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” God had revealed His Son to John as the one who was to come, the one who was before John. The Father called Jesus His Lamb. Jesus learned and knew His identity and purpose from the Father. You also learn and know your identity from the Son, the Lamb of God.

         As the Lamb of God, Jesus knew His life would be sacrificial; His life would be for others, fulfilling the purpose of the Father. Another term for this is the word humility. Paul wrote to the Philippian church using this word, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…” Philippians 2:5 – 9.

         As the Lamb of God, Jesus humbled Himself to the Father, and in humble obedience carried out the will of the Father, giving Himself for the sin of the world. God exalted Him by giving Him the Name of names. The sacrifice of Jesus was made in light of the promise of the Father. The same is true for you. You are also a lamb of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. As His lamb, your life is also to be lived in humble obedience to Christ. And like Jesus, the life of sacrifice is lived in light of the promise of the Father to be exalted. But your exaltation is not to a place of being worshiped, but rather as a light on a hill, as a witness of Jesus Christ. What an honor it is to be a witness of Jesus Christ.

         Peter wrote to the church in 1 Peter and said it this way, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you…And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:6 – 10. The four words that Peter used to describe what God gives to those who humble themselves are instructive.

         The first word he used is the word “restore.” This is the Greek word katartridzo, which means to mend, to heal, to restore to health. It is used in Mark 1:19 to describe what James and John were doing when Jesus called them; they were mending their nets. As fishermen worked, the nets would get torn constant use. Each day they would katartridzo their nets. This word is also used in the great blessing of Hebrews 13:20 – 21. In that passage it is translated “equip you.” God equips you by healing and restoring you.

As you live a life of humble obedience to Christ, as His lamb, a life of sacrifice, your life will get torn and tattered by abuse, by persecution, by suffering. But God has promised to heal your wounds, to mend the areas of brokenness, to restore you, so that you can continue being a fisherman of men, a blessing of God for the world. Tomorrow, the word “confirm” will be studied.

         For today, humble yourself as the lamb of the Good Shepherd by casting all you burdens upon the Lord, for He cares and loves you deeply. Take one of the phrases from the Scriptures above and memorize it to pray it back to God today.