Blog

Until Christ is Formed in You

There is a misconception that once you become a Christian, everything is sunshine and rainbows—life is easy. In reality, once you become a Christian you still have problems, and there is still a lot of work involved and growth that needs to happen. When Paul wrote to the Galatians he spoke of the work and pain associated with being a Christian.

My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,

Galatians 4:19 NKJV

While referencing the need of growth, Paul uses an analogy to help them understand his feelings toward them and his expectation for them. His analogy is the birth and raising of a child. I have never personally experienced birthing a child, but I did watch my wife and I was an eye witness to the pain and work of having a baby.  I have also experienced the concern when you see your child struggling, the fear that she may not develop as she should or be in danger, and the pain associated with seeing them fail but knowing it is part of the growing process. These moments I believe is what Paul was going through with the Galatians.

The reason there was pain, is because he saw them as his children. He loved the people of this congregation and when he saw them struggling, it hurt. His expectation for them was to allow Christ to be formed in them, in other words to allow the example and teachings of Christ to become a part of them. This was obviously something they were working towards but struggling. This is difficult because it means changing who you are to be more like Christ.

It was also becoming more difficult because there were false teachers coming and misguiding the Galatian Christians. There were those who believed that in order to be a Christian you needed to follow certain aspects of the law such as being circumcised. They kept guiding them back to the law, yet Paul was telling them to follow Christ and be free from the weak and beggarly element of the law. His advice is to leave the law, and stand fast in the liberty which Christ made us free and don’t become re-entangled with the yoke of bondage.

The struggle to be more like Christ was not an isolated problem. It is a problem which many Christians faced. Paul told the Christian in Rome to be conformed to Christ rather than the world.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1-2 NKJV

You can see that he also told them that a part of being able to do this was offering yourself as a living sacrifice to God. It is through offering yourself and renewing your mind that you can be formed to Christ. This means that not only do we need to make ourselves less and Him more in our lives but we also need to learn who He is so we can transform our minds to be like His. Jesus gave us the perfect example of this type of service and sacrifice to be who God wanted Him to be…

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Philippians 2:5-9 NKJV

First, Jesus humbled Himself to be who God wanted Him to be. He took on the form of a servant, and was obedient to the point of a horrific and excruciating death. Second, we can have this same type of mindset which will help us be more like Christ. As the passage continues, it speaks of God exalting Jesus and that through Him the Father is glorified.

Just as it was in the first century, the struggle is real for us today. When we are baptized into Christ and put on Christ we do not automatically become like Christ. This takes a lot of work. As Christians in 2019, we need to conform to the image of Christ and become like Him. I believe two key components will help us on our journey to be more like Christ; to make ourselves less and learn about who Jesus (His qualities, His characteristics) and start imitating. It is also helpful to have someone like Paul to help by loving, laboring, and encouraging.

My prayer is that Christ can be formed in myself and in you. Join me in the effort and commitment to learning who Jesus is and being more like Him.

Based on a sermon from Beau Boan at Concord Church of Christ on 4/7/19.

Put on the whole armor of God

Did you know that the devil is real? The Bible describes the devil as our enemy a great deal. It began in the garden of Eden when the devil tempted Eve to sin against God by eating the forbidden fruit. In the Old Testament book of Zechariah, the writer describes the devil accusing someone as unclean and sinful and therefore unfit for salvation and cleansing. In the New Testament, the devil is described as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. The devil is real and threatens us with spiritual warfare. We are in a war! Fortunately, God has given us tools to equip and prepare ourselves in this battle against the devil.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

(Ephesians 6:11 NKJV)

As the writer continues, he talks about the nature of our war against the devil—a spiritual war. He then instructs us what the armor of God is and how it can help us.

The belt of truth

The writer tells us as soldiers to gird ourselves up with truth. When you think about all of the armor of a soldier, you do not often think of a belt. Yet the writer mentions this tool first. The belt in the Roman armor was important because it held the sword sheath, and therefore the sword. Without the belt, you were likely without the sword. Also, the belt had leather strips attached to it to help protect the thighs but also giving freedom to be able to quickly and easily maneuver in hand to hand combat. One of the most amazing things we have on our side is truth. When in combat with the devil we need our sword (the Word) for protection. The truth is found with the Word of God. We can use truth to help us quickly and easily maneuver around the enemy while also protecting our foundation.

The breastplate of righteousness

A physical breast plate covers the torso and protects the vital organs from injury. Righteousness is what helps protect us from potential deadly spiritual blows from Satan. Someone who is righteous is someone who is justified. There is none who are righteous alone, we get our righteousness as a gift from God. It is this righteousness that is vitally important to keep us from death.

Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace

A solider needs good footwear when going into battle. Imagine a fully armed soldier. He has his sword, his shield, his helmet, his breastplate and his belt…but his feet are completely bare. This is strange and dangerous. With covered feet you not only have protection from debris but it also gives the soldier a peace of mind. In short, proper footwear allows a soldier to step freely and without fear while he turns his full attention to the battle at hand. The gospel of peace here is the same gospel that is mentioned through the New Testament. It is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ which saves us and gives us peace with God. As a soldier of the cross, we have been given a duty from our commander, to preach the gospel. As we announce the good news of God’s Kingdom, we will spread His way of peace around the whole world. Having our shoes on, we are ready to move, to spread these glad tidings to others.

The shield of faith

Up until now, Paul’s description of the armor of God has been limited to items we wear. We put on the belt, the breastplate and the shoes, and they essentially hold themselves up. The shield is different. The writer tells us that the shield is something we must take up and use it to protect ourselves. The shield is very important in battle. Because of its sheer size, soldiers were offered a great deal of protection from enemies. Because of its slight curve, it was able to deflect attacks without transferring the full force of the assault to the man holding the shield. It was also able to deflect even the more vicious blows that may have been deadly. Our faith acts as a defensive tool for us in our war against Satan. A shield guards, just like our faith can guard us from spiritual attacks. A shield deflects the fiery darts of doubt, worry, and temptation thrown by Satan. Faith is something that is of great substance. A great faith can protect us and sustain us in battle, but with a small flimsy faith we may not be able to succeed and may die.

The helmet of salvation

A helmet protects the head from the attacks of the enemy. A Roman helmet protected, but also had special ceremonial meaning that denoted rank and standing. Salvation basically means to be saved or delivered from something. Our sins kill us and Satan knows it. Being in a spiritual war, Satan will use any weapon he can, to make us commit sin. Jesus died for us so that we might be saved from sin. We can receive tremendous hope and comfort by focusing on the incredible sacrifice Christ gave to save us and the amazing Kingdom that is the goal of our salvation. This hope works like a helmet to protect our minds from the discouragement and despair in this world. We need to keep the hope of our salvation secure and ever on our minds to help us in this war.

The sword of the spirit

I do not believe you can think of a soldier without thinking about him carrying a sword.  A sword is both an offensive and defensive weapon and so is the spirit. We can use it to defend against attacks from those who would try to mock God and His word. We can use it offensively to go out and teach, actively. Rather than waiting for the forces of evil to come to us and having us use the word to defend, we need to be active in waging the warfare ourselves, going forth into battle and preemptively teaching God’s word to others.

We put on the armor of God to effectively wage war against our enemy, the devil. Without it, we are helpless—but with it, we are soldiers of the living God. Have you put on your armor? Are you prepared to use? Your enemy is coming whether you are ready or not. We should heed the words of God and put on the whole armor of God!

Based on a sermon given by Nathan Springer at Concord Church of Christ on 3/31/19.

The Road to Change

https://www.istockphoto.com/gb/photos/highway

Before Paul was known as an apostle, he was known as Saul of Tarsus—a persecutor of Christians. Due to his zeal in the Jewish religion, he dedicated his life to trying to eradicate Christians. As a Jew, he saw Jesus as a liar and the Christian movement as a threat to his life as a Jew. With each Christian that died, or was tortured into turning against Christ, Saul believed he was doing the work of God and protecting God’s people.

In Acts 8, it mentions that the persecution against Christians became so great that many Christians fled from Jerusalem. Saul was at the front line of that persecution. He was not satisfied with Christians just leaving Jerusalem, he wanted them either dead or to turn against Jesus. Therefore, he got permission from the chief priests to pursue them into other cities. So he chased after them to Damascus.

On his way to Damascus, he was breathing out threats and slaughter to the disciples of Christ. When he was almost to Damascus, he was confronted by Jesus. The Bible tells us that a light shined from the heavens around Saul, and all he could do was fall to the ground. Then a voice spoke to him, and asked him, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul likely knew who was speaking to him, but he asked the voice who He was.

And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Acts 9:5 NKJV

The picture portrayed by the Lord here is an ox who is rebelling against his master, so the master pokes him with a prick which was a sharpened stick used to rouse the ox to perform the act the master wanted. In this act of rebellion, the ox was only hurting itself. It was at this point in the conversation with the Lord, Saul came to the realization that like an ox kicking the prick, he was working against God and hurting himself. For the past several months, Saul had been sinning against God.

In his desperation, he asked Jesus was he needed to do. The Lord told him to go into Damascus and wait and he would be told what he needed to do. Saul got up ready to go into Damascus but he was blind. He had to be led into Damascus by those who were travelling with him and had witnessed these events. He was blind and did not eat nor drink for three days.

While waiting for the next set of orders, Saul sat prayed. Then the Lord shows himself to a disciple named Ananias. He told Ananias to go visit Saul and give him the next set of orders. When Ananias visited Saul, he told Saul that the same Lord who visited Saul on the road to Damascus, came and visited him also and wanted him to give him a message. The message Ananias gave to him was how to fix the sins he had committed against God.

Ananias told Saul,

And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

Acts 22:16 NKJV

This message was very direct. It showed the urgency of the situation and how to fix the sin problem. I want you to notice something about this situation. At this point, Paul still had his sins.

  • Despite a personal visit from Jesus, he still had his sins.
  • Despite confessing Jesus as his Lord in front of witnesses, he still had his sins.
  • Despite and obvious period of sorrowful repentance, he still had his sins.
  • Despite his sincere praying for 3 days, he still had his sins.

It was not until he was baptized that his sins were washed away. By doing this, he was calling upon the name of the Lord. This phrase means that Saul is calling on the authority of God to perform a work that only he can perform—washing away sins. Being baptized was Saul submitting to God’s chosen process for forgiveness of sins and therefore calling on the authority of God.

Saul arose and was baptized. He was changed from a zealous Jew who persecuted the Church of God to an ambassador of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.From there he lived a life dedicated to preaching the gospel. He proclaimed the glorious gospel which saved him and he knew could save others.

The conversion of Saul can teach us several things. It can teach us that just because you are religious and think you are doing right—you may be wrong. It is important to pair zeal and knowledge (Philippians 3:4-8; Romans 10:1-3). It can teach us the plan of salvation. Salvation comes from God through Jesus Christ. Saul took several steps which were necessary for his salvation. He changed his belief system and started to believe Jesus was the Son of God. He confessed Jesus as Lord before men. He repented of the sin he committed while a zealous Jew who persecuted the Church. He was baptized for the remission of sins calling upon the name of the Lord. Finally, I believe we can learn that God is capable of cleansing those who are persecutors, blasphemers, injurious, and full of sin and using them for His glory. We see a brilliant picture of this in the story of the transformation of Saul.

Based ona sermon given by Jeffrey Wells at Concord Church of Christ on 3/13/19.

Jesus—Priest and King!

For generations the Jewish people had looked for the prophesied Messiah. Each generation prayed that the Messiah would come during their time and for years the people were disappointed. Each time the Jewish people were placed under the bondage of other countries (Assyria, Babylon, Rome) the Jews prayed for their salvation through the promised Messiah. To the Jewish people, the Messiah meant salvation, redemption, and power for the all of Israel. They wanted a kingdom that would be the world power for eternity.

When David was king over Israel, God made a covenant with David, that His seed would be established over His Kingdom forever (See 2 Samuel 7:12-16). After God made this covenant with David, he wrote about this Messiah in the context of a powerful anointed king (See Psalms 2). He wrote of a person who would be given all of the kingdoms of the earth as an inheritance, God would give Him everything. The picture painted in Psalms 2 is a Messiah who is all powerful and able to conquer any and all who challenge Him.

Later on, David wrote of the Messiah:

The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.

Psalms 110:4 NKJV

In this statement it would seem that the Messiah would be a priest, God had promised this and it would not change. In the Old Testament, you can read about God’s priests during the time of the law of Moses (see Leviticus 16). They were the only ones who were able to enter into the most holy place of the temple (where God dwelled). They were the ones who would offer sacrifices for the people’s sins.

Under the law of Moses the king and high priest could never be the same person.  Both being a king or high priest depended on genealogy. The kings were from the tribe of Judah and the line of David while the high priests were from the tribe of Levi and the line of Aaron. 

So which would the promised Messiah be? Would He be a King who is over all things or a Priest who is able to approach God and offer sacrifices for sin? At first this seems like a major contradiction, but God promised that the Messiah would be both perfectly.

Take the silver and gold, make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the Lord Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord.
He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

Zechariah 6:11-13 NKJV

The Messiah was prophesied that He would build the temple, bear the glory, and sit upon the throne as both King and Priest. This shows that God’s servant, the Branch, is going to sit on His throne in the temple not under the law of Moses, but He will be King and Priest under the New Covenant.  God’s servant, the Messiah, will be both King and Priest by the decree of Almighty God and not because of human genealogy.  The office of king and priest will merge in Him because of the decree made by the holy God.

If you look back at the passage from Psalms 110, David wrote that He would be a powerful King that sat on His throne, but also a “Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”.

Before the law was given to Moses, the Bible records that Melchizedek came to Abraham and blessed him.  Melchizedek was both a king and priest.  He was the king of Salem and at the same time a priest of the most high God (See Genesis 14:18). This means that the promised Messiah would also be able to sit on a throne of power and authority, but also approach God to give sacrifice for sin.

After Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took infant Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord. At that time, two different people (Simeon and Anna) stopped and praised God because of Jesus. Simeon called Him the salvation of the Lord, and Anna told all those who were looking for redemption about Jesus (See Luke 2). They knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah!

In Acts 2, after Jesus had died, been buried, and raised from the dead, Peter proclaimed that Jesus had been raised up to sit on His throne (See Acts 2:30,33)!

If you look in Hebrews 5, you will see that the writer proclaimed Jesus as the Priest and King according to the order of Melchizedek!

And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,”

Hebrews 5:9-10 NKJV

Then in Hebrews 10, we see that Jesus did exactly what needed to be done to be both King and Priest!

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Hebrews 10:12-14 NKJV

He approached God and made a blood offering (His own blood) which would compensate for ALL sins, forever. Then He sat down on His throne as the great and all powerful King.

Jesus was the answer to the Jews’ prophecies and prayers for salvation and redemption. He is also the answer for our salvation and redemption today! Because of what He did in His sacrifice, He is the perfect Priest and the perfect King— He is the promised Messiah.

Based on a sermon given by Lynn Stiles on March 3rd, 2019 at Concord Church of Christ.

“Stir What Ya Got”

Many years ago, Mr. Ralph Dreesen was the State Advisor and Supervisor for Agricultural Education. He gave an address that was titled “Stir What You Got” , teaching about how to realize the potential of the students placed in your class that particular year. The idea of using what you have to do the most good is very similar to what God does with us.

What talents, gifts or skills do you have?

  • Can you lead songs? Then lead songs.
  • Can you lead a prayer? Then lead prayers.
  • Can you teach/preach God’s word? Then teach/preach.
  • Can you visit the sick and widows? Then make visits.
  • Can you welcome people to the assembly?  Then provide welcomes.
  • Can you visit with neighbors or classmates about God? Then evangelize.

The Bible is full of stories of people who risked it all to accomplish the task God had given them.

  • Noah built an ark to save his family and animals as directed by God.
  • Moses led a nation out of slavery.
  • Gideon led 300 men into battle against 135,000 Midianites.
  • David fought Goliath armed with only a staff, a sling and five stones.
  • The Apostles took the gospel to the uttermost parts of the world despite tremendous persecution and death.

You might say “Well, I’m not as good as they were…” You may or may not be. But God is still God and Christ will equip and strengthen you to complete His tasks.

7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:7, 11-16 (NKJV)

Christ has provided us with the gifts or skills we need to accomplish the tasks God has assigned to us! Christ descended to the earth to live as a man, He provided the gospel to mankind, He established the Church and died for our sins.

Paul identifies some positions that were established by Christ. These positions were established for three reasons:

  • To help us to become complete.
  • To help us to be doers of the work.
  • To edify one another.

The expected end result: To be unified in the faith.

We are not to be as children who are naïve and easily influenced. As Christians, we are to speak the truth in love and continue to grow in all spiritual things. We are also called to work together, like many members of body, to accomplish God’s will (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-31)

Have we identified/examined our gifts? Are we using our gifts? Are we developing and improving our gifts? Are we using those gifts to serve God?

Are you “stirring what ya got?”

Based on a sermon given at Concord Church of Christ by Danny Wells, an elder from East Main Church of Christ in Stratford, OK on 2/24/19.