Monthly Archives: November 2018

Grace, Gratitude, and Glory

Peninsula Community Church 

Grace, Gratitude, and Glory!

November 25, 2018 

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

In Paul’s writings to the church at Corinth, we find this short verse and as I was contemplating what to share for this thanksgiving Sunday it was this verse that caught my attention. What I love about this verse is that it shows a direct correlation between grace, gratitude, and God’s glory. It is here that we find a couple of interesting things. First, we encounter the idea that as grace is extended and multiplied it leads to increased thanksgiving and gratitude. As grace is extended and gratefulness is realized God is glorified. So, in a nutshell, by receiving and extending grace to others and having a heart filled with gratitude, we proclaim God’s glory and we acknowledge that He is supreme in our life. Then finally all of this is for our sake.

Here is the deal. As more people come to know God’s grace and the power of thanksgiving, gratitude grows exponentially. When we truly understand the power of grace in our life we cannot help but respond with thanksgiving and gratitude. Think about it, the more I understand the awesomeness of the work of the cross in my life, the power of the resurrection, the magnificence of the ascension, and the steadfastness of Christ sitting at the right hand of God making intercession for me, I become more overwhelmed with gratefulness and thanksgiving.

Secondly, the more we look for grace in our life, the more we will find it. The more we walk in thanksgiving and gratefulness, the more we will see grace. And, the more we witness grace being revealed in our life the more we will see God’s glory being revealed which leads to being more grateful. Just this past weekend I witnessed the power of grace when I visited with my family in Alabama. I saw over and over again the great grace of God being revealed through healing and the power of restoration. Because of the grace of God who restored my relationship with my family, I was overwhelmed by that grace which led me to exuberant thanksgiving and praise. 

As we look at this topic, we must come to one conclusion. It is hard to have a grateful heart and be selfish at the same time. It is hard to experience the grace of God and be ungrateful. It is hard to truly witness and see all that God has done and not break into exuberant thanksgiving and praise. With that said, I do not know about you but I have so much to be thankful for.

To the casual reader, you will not see it but in this passage there is a play on words that helps to deliver Paul’s point. Watch this. The word in the Greek for grace is the word for CHARIS. The word Paul uses for thanksgiving is the word EUCHARISTIAN. Notice something about this word. At the root of the word for thanksgiving is the word CHARIS which means grace. Perhaps, a better translation of the word would be gratitude. With that being the case, let me translate for you. At the center of thanksgiving there is grace and as we experience His grace we are filled with gratitude.

From this, we find there is a close relationship between grace and gratitude. Unless we see this relationship, we will not really know what gratitude truly is. The understanding of grace must be at the center of all we do and all that we achieve. When grace is active in us, we will have a grateful heart. Why? It is because we will begin to understand that we do not deserve what we receive, but we receive it because He is a worthy God who gives great and precious gifts to everyone. When our lives are lived by grace and all that grace has to offer us, we will be moved toward a lifestyle of gratitude. This leads to God’s glory being revealed in a greater way.

It is also noteworthy that the word EUCHARISTIAN is where we get our word eucharist or communion. It is at the table of the Lord that we experience the grace of God in some amazing ways. It is at the table of the Lord that we are reminded of what He has done for us, what He is doing in us now, and the promises that are ours in Him for the future. No matter what comes it is the grace of God that directs us and provides for us. That should fill us with gratitude so that we celebrate all that He has done is us and through us. Grace is not earned but it is a gift of God. Because we recognize the grace we have been given we will more likely give back to God a lifestyle of gratitude and thanksgiving. That brings me to a question. What would our lives and the world around us look like if we exhibited hearts filled with gratitude and thanksgiving?

To be a passionate follower of Christ we must be grateful people. Let me ask you? How is your attitude. Are you known more by being grateful or more as a complainer? If your attitude of gratitude could be literally measured, how much would your gratitude weigh, or is it masked by a complaining, ungrateful heart. Your answer to that question will make a difference in how you effect others and how you represent Christ. Here is a thought? Are you leading people to God’s grace or away from His grace? Are your actions leading others to rejoice and give thanksgiving? Are your actions leading people to give glory to God, or do your actions result in the opposite? An honest evaluation may be needed. You might need to ask someone close to you to help you answer either of those questions. 

How are you representing the grace of God that you have received? What do people see in you? Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty person? Are you the Debbie downer that always seems to find the negative in every event, activity, or action that is taken? Perhaps the reason is that we have been closed off to the grace of God. Perhaps our eyes are blinded by the issues and cares of life, so that we miss the grace of God in our life. 

There is a story told of two men who were in a hospital in the early 1900’s. Both men were very sick. One man who was near the window would spend his day describing and giving thanksgiving for what he saw outside. The other man who was bedridden and who could not see the window from his bed began to be jealous of this man as he shared what he saw. The man by the window would go into great detail about the trees, the wind blowing, the children playing, couples walking in the park next door, and father’s playing with their children. The man who heard all of this became increasingly agitated and ungrateful. One night the man by the window began to gasp for air and he could hear the man struggling to breath. Rather than call for help, he allowed the man to die. Once the man was removed from the room, the second man asked if he could be moved next to the window so that he could see the sights that had been described to him. The nursing staff although bewildered by the request agreed to move him there. The man however hung his head in shame as the window he longed to be near did not oversee a park at all but rather all he could see was a brick wall. The man and the nurses talked about what he heard the man describe. The nursing staff replied that it was impossible for him to see those things as the man was totally blind. Here is the moral of the story. The man near the window knew how to seek the best from life. He lived with a heart filled with gratefulness and joy. The new resident by the window died a few days later filled with regret and anxiety over his decision to allow the man to die. 

As we close, we must consider that before we think our lives have to be perfect in order to receive His grace and live in gratitude, we are reminded that this passage is sandwiched between verses that remind us that we have this treasure in jars of clay. Life is going to throw us some curve balls and we will face all sorts of issues in our life. We are also encouraged to not lose heart because there is growth taking place within us. One part of that growth is the expansion of our understanding of grace and all that God has given us according to His good pleasure and will. The grace we receive orients us in such a way that we do not faint at the difficulties and problems we face on a daily basis. The grace which preserves us in trials and works life in us is being made greater because it is being multiplied. The result is that a greater number of recipients are sharing in His grace, which causes gratitude to abound to the glory of God.

Finally, in the end, all of this is for our sake and it is for God’s glory. It is for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. The prospect of standing before Christ surrounded by his spiritual children at Corinth so excited Paul that he says in verse 15, “It is all for your sake.” It was for the purpose of extending grace to more and more people so that it might increase in thanksgiving to the glory of God.

To God be the glory!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The New Me!

Peninsula Community Church 

The New Me!

November 11, 2018 

Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

I love some of the advertisements that promote certain weight loss products. They usually show the amount of weight loss by way of two contrasting photos. The first is a picture before weight loss and the second is one after weight loss. It is interesting to me that when you look at some of these photos it seems that the before weight loss picture is often taken from the worst possible position. It is a side profile view, with poor lighting, little makeup, and so on. The after weight loss picture is taken with bright lights, makeup, and the best side showing on the photo. Paul in this passage is in essence taking a before and after picture for us to see where we have come from, and how much we have achieved as believers in Christ. The difference is that he does not use any special lighting or photographic tricks, he simple gives us an honest contrast of the difference.

 

In this passage Paul takes a snapshot of what a mature, committed, passionate follower of Christ looks like. He contrasts the old man with the new man who is in Christ. He identifies  certain attributes and characteristics that formulate our actions and reactions to the world around us before our relationship with Christ. But he also gives us the contrasting view of what a passionate follower of Christ looks like. You see the passionate follower of Christ has put off falsehood, and they now live in truth. They used to get angry without dealing with the anger quickly, but now they are quick to settle the anger before it gets the best of them. They used to steal and take advantage of others, but now they are honest. They do a good days work with the reward of helping others. They no longer talk down to others. Their language encourages and builds up rather than corrupts and tears apart. Finally, instead of being harsh they are now gentle. Wow what a change! Wow what a difference between the old man and the new man.  

The question for us is why is it necessary to examine all of this? The reason is evident in the first verse of Ephesians 4. It is here that Paul lays out an argument for how we are to live. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3). Notice the contrast between way the world lives and how passionate followers of Christ should live their life. Paul urges us to walk in a manner, certainly a different manner, that is worthy of the calling to which we have been called. We have been called to a new way of living. We have been called to put off the old man which is controlled by lies and deception, but the new man is led by true righteousness and holiness. 

In Ephesians 4:17 Paul reemphasizes the fact that we do not live like the world when he stated. Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. What’s the point being made here? It is that we cannot behave like the culture around us. We cannot act like those who deny Christ, or those who acknowledge Christ but who reject His power and His relevance in their life. 

Last week we saw this exchange as a three step process. First, we put off the old self which is corrupted by deceitful desires. Second, we renew our minds. Third, we put on the new self which is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. In Ephesians 4:25-32 Paul defines in real terms what it means to “put off the old self” and to “put on the new self.” In these verses, Paul shows us a set of contrasts to compare the old with the new. As we read these contrasts, we must remember this is not simply a behavior change. We do not just stop this and then do this. These actions are a response to the renewing of one’s mind. It is a process. As our minds are being taken out of the world and into the word, we will supernaturally stop certain behaviors and will participate in other behaviors. It is also noteworthy that true salvation requires change. If there is no change after salvation, then one may want to consider one’s salvation. 

From this verses, I suggest five key areas that highlight a transformed life in Christ. Let us look at these. First, our integrity is affected by this transformation. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Notice by putting on the new man and the renewal of our mind, we put away falsehood. The corresponding response is that we live from a perspective of truth. We do not just reject lies, we live by God’s absolute truth. The old man was defined by deception and lies, but the new man is defined by a life of truth and reality. Walking in truth is a response to the transformed life. 

There is power in living in truth. Mark Twain is credited with saying that “if you never tell a lie you never have to remember the truth.” What a freedom! What a way to live! Living in truth also means that we do not have to be something we are not. We do not have to misrepresent ourselves with our neighbors and friends. We can be real and that is certainly freeing. There is an amazing freedom when as a new man we walk in truth and not in the power of past lies. As passionate followers of Christ our lives should be marked by an attitude of honesty and truthfulness.

Second, our emotions are affected by this transformation. Paul exhorts us to Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. While we use to respond in an unrelenting anger, we now address our anger quicker. When one does not deal with anger from a Biblical perspective, there is a tendency to respond without a filter. In so doing, we say things and do things that have lasting negative effects. We can also clam up and make life miserable for everyone around us. 

It is noteworthy that Paul does not condemn anger, but rather he suggests there is a better way to deal with anger. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we responded to anger differently? What if we actually talked about issues? What if we actually listened to one another? The problem is that when we walk in unhealthy anger, we begin to focus on the lies that have been propagated. We feel we have to fight for our rights and our way of thinking. The issue here is not whether we are angry, but how we handle anger. Anger left to its own demise leads to bitterness. When bitterness takes root, bitterness begin to control our actions and our responses.

Third, our responsibility changes. When living as the old man, we were often tempted to take the easy way out. It was easier to steal and cheat than it was to work an honest job. When we exchange the old for the new, we no longer seek to take the easy way out but we work and we work hard. Paul stated Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Notice what Paul is saying here. You use to steal but not any more. You should now do an honest days work so that you can bless others as God leads and directs you. 

The motivation given for work was not to accumulate wealth, but to have something to share with others. We were takers but now we are givers. Why? It is because we have learned to work and achieve good things which leads to provision, so that you can help others and not just mass great wealth. In so doing, we become less self centered and more others focused. 

There is another view to this as well. Sometimes we can deplete others by our actions. This is true especially when we walk in anger, we have corrupted talk, and we deal in falsehoods. We steal life from others by our actions and our words, but when we learn to give more than we receive, life will change for us and it will be a positive change. We will bless rather than take away. 

Fourth, our communication changes. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Rather than corrupt language that destroys, we speak life. The word corrupt means to decay, rot, or become bad. In the language of the day, the word was used of rotting vegetables. Paul is saying do not let any corrupt or decayed language come from your mouth. Rather than destructive language we now speak in a way that manifests grace and life. This does not mean that we never deal with problems, but we always work from the position of grace. We look to build up and not tear down and not cause rottenness.

Finally, our demeanor changes. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Rather than harshness, we are gentle with those we encounter. I think we can agree there is a lot of harsh rhetoric in our world today. We would rather yell, scream, accuse, judge, and diminish others rather than speak the truth in a way that is gentle and kind. The old man was bitter, but the new man is tenderhearted. The old man was filled with wrath and slander, but the new man is forgiven and offers forgiveness to all they encounter. After all our model for this is Christ. He is the template and our new life comes from Him. We forgive and live differently because He has forgiven us. As a result our very demeanor begins to change and we begin to live differently in every area of our life.  

So if you had a picture of your old man and one of your new man, what would they look like. Are you making progress? Are you living differently today? Are you a different person because of Christ? I trust that is the case! 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Put on the New Man

Peninsula Community Church

Put On the New Man

November 4, 2018

Ephesians 4:20-24 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Scripture on several occasions speaks about exchanging the old for the new as a spiritual act of acknowledging God’s ways and His plan for our life. Paul in particular paints this picture of taking off and then putting on. In our passage today, we have a sense there is an imperative on our part to make this happen. This imperative challenges us to ponder the relationship between our faith and the ordinary affairs of our life. We all have faith to some degree and it is how we work out our faith in every day life that makes a difference. 

Research shows us that how we respond to others and how people respond to us can be conditioned on what we wear. The studies show that what we wear effects us psychologically and emotionally. Reader’s Digest reported that one study suggested that what we wear can even create a greater desire in us to exercise and workout. So, what we wear is important. While physical clothing is critical, what we wear spiritually is just as critical.

In essence, Paul is exhorting us to put off our old self. He is saying change your clothes and change what you wear. Paul is saying that we should take off the vestiges of our previous life which is focused on one’s self and is motivated by sin. In place of the old self, we put on the new self which represents a life focused on Christ and a new way of living. What Paul is doing is setting up a stark comparison between the old man and the new man. The old man is ruled by deception but the new man is ruled and guided by true righteousness and holiness. 

John Piper suggests that in verses 17-21 there are multiple layers of corruption we must deal with. He states that our root problem is a hardness of the heart. Because of the heart being hardened one’s understanding is darkened. A darkened understanding leads to a gross ignorance of one’s true reality. This ignorance causes individuals to yield to covetousness and licentiousness without little or no filter. This results in an insatiable desire for the wrong things. Since these desires are in not in alignment with Christ, poor choices are made over and over. This leads to a life of guilt and nothing of eternal significance is accomplished. When all is said and done, to function from the ideology of the old man causes one to be alienated from the life of God. Our hardness, darkness, ignorance, promiscuousness, and futile behavior are the marks of living dead men. But, there is hope because we can put off that old man and put on the new man that is full of life and vitality. What was hopeless now has life. What was dead is now alive. 

As we read this exhortation, the wording here supports the idea that we are to do something. We cannot depend on others to take this action. It is our personal responsibility to take off the old self. It requires discipline and steadfastness to God’s plan for this new life. And yet while it is our responsibility, God empowers us to do this. He has provided the means and He has made the way for us to accomplish this task, if we will surrender to Him and take steps toward Him. 

We exchange the old for the new because the old clothes represent what we were, but as Paul says this is not how you learned Christ. That is who you were, but it is not who you are now. What was in style then is no longer vogue now. We put off our old self, because we are not that person any more. We are a new creation and serve to glorify Him in this new way of life.

While the old man is based in a hardened heart and in deception, the new man is based in a heart that is alive, renewed, and focused on truth. Here, Paul instructs us to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. The new man looks a lot like God, because we are created after His likeness in true righteousness and holiness. We can live out the demands of the old self and be manipulated by the deceptive ways of our old man or we can be renewed in God’s righteousness and holiness. True holiness is contrasted with the lust of deceit which is foundational to decisions made by the old self. The new man however functions from the depths of truth. The old man is motivated by the lies of a life a part from Christ. The new man is motivated by a life founded in Christ and in relationship to Him. 

We no longer have to live from the deception of sin but from the power of truth based in God’s righteousness and holiness. Notice something here. Righteousness and holiness is not something we put on. However, when we put on the new self we are taking on righteousness and true holiness. We can finally begin to live as we were created to be: righteous and holy. 

While Paul exhorts us to put off the old self, he also gives us a critical step that must be taken to help us to be the person we are called to be. We do so by being renewed in the spirt of our minds. Paul knew that the mind is the one organ in the body that most effects the outcomes of our life. He knew that, in the end, the mind is the entrance way to the heart and that what we believe and what we focus on determines outcomes and determines our perspective on life. 

This is a reminder of Paul’s words in Romans 12:2. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Paul is saying we can allow the old self to be conformed and manipulated by the world’s schemes and attitudes, or we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The choice we make determines the focus of our life and determines how we will live life. This is critical because we worship that which we focus on. 

The renewal of our minds does not happen in a vacuum nor does it occur by osmosis. We have to take progressive steps toward making this happen. There are many things that happen to us without effort but we must take the step to renew our mind. How do we this? We do so through prescribed spiritual disciplines. 

First, we must be students of God’s word. When we are students of God’s word, we begin to understand God’s purpose and plan for our life. God’s word is a textbook for living. The Bible speaks to our heart. It gives us commands to follow. It instructs us on sin to avoid. It instructs us on the knowledge of God, so we see whose we are in Him. In reading Scripture, we get to know God more, and we get to experience the grace He gives us through the pages of His written word. 

We also need to engage in worship and prayer. This is not just corporate worship, but the personal prayer and worship we do in the secret place of our prayer closet. We meet with God on a personal level. It is there we experience God’s grace and power in a new and exciting ways. We pray and communicate with God. It is there we receive His support and His wisdom. We not only communicate with God, but we give Him the opportunity to communicate with us. It is in our private closet of worship and prayer where we grow and we begin to understand God more. Let me ask you. If you had an opportunity to talk to your favorite author, your greatest hero, or your favorite person in history everyday in a private setting, with no one around to interrupt you, would you do it. We have the opportunity to meet with the greatest man who ever lived every day all day. We do that through our worship and prayer. 

We also renew our minds as we join in fellowship with other believers. We stimulate others in their growth and we are stimulated in our growth by their words and their actions. In fellowship, we are challenged with ideas and processes that force us to think about our ideologies and the way we think. It is the iron sharpening iron that causes our minds to be renewed. It is in fellowship that we are encouraged and we encourage others.  

Paul closes this passage with a list of a number of aspects of what this life looks like when we are renewed in our mind and we are putting on the new man. Time does not allow us to look at each one of these but listen to Paul’s words of Ephesians 4:25:32. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Here is the final point. We cannot control others. We cannot be responsible for how others respond to God, but we are responsible for ourselves. We are responsible for how we walk out being a child of God and taking on the new man. Will you accept that challenge? Will you accept that new way of life? It is an adventure and an adventure worth taking. Will you wear a different set of clothes today? He will empower you to do so!

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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