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The Wise Men’s Gifts

Peninsula Community Church

What is the Meaning of Christmas? Lessons from the Magi!

December 9, 2018

Matthew 2:11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

It is hard to believe that a year has passed and that we are celebrating Christmas and are looking at the gifts we will give and what gifts we will receive. For me personally, I love the Christmas season. In particular, I love the wide eyed giddy response of our grandchildren as they open their gifts on Christmas morning. I am also amazed at which gifts become their favorites so quickly. Sometimes the one we think will be their favorite is often discarded for the more simple ones. At times, I have even witnessed our kids and grandkids playing with the boxes more than the gifts purchased. 

As you consider the gift giving process, how many have ever received that gift that you have to stare at it in order to understand its value or even what it is. At one of our churches, we would have a Christmas party for our adults and one of the gifts that was sure to show up was a silver pine cone. You see, one of the families in the church during their family gift exchange had receive this as a gift. When they opened it they could not understand the gift and always joked about it as it was so cheap and looked like something bought in a dollar store. They gave the pine cone to the white elephant exchange and it soon became a cornerstone of the Christmas celebration each year. The question each year would be who would get the silver pine cone? It was the responsibility of the one receiving the pine cone to to keep for a year, and they had to regift it the following year.

In the passage before us, we find the wise men opened their treasures and offered gifts to the Christ child. These gifts were not just random gestures but were specific in nature and carefully selected to honor Jesus. They presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. At first glance these gifts seem interesting for a child. In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts, scholars believe that these three gifts were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus Himself. With that in mind let us consider the meaning of these gifts. Adrian Rogers gives us three ideas about the gifts that are worthy of our attention today. 

First, the gift of gold represents His sovereign dominion. Gold was a present for a king, the most precious metal of that day. Gold was a symbol of royalty. To honor royalty you would present them with gifts of gold. Therefore the gift of gold by the wise men recognized this was no ordinary child. This child was a King. He was King Jesus. He was King of kings and Lord of lords! They didn’t cuddle this child, but they bowed their knee in reverence and in worship.  

Adrian Rogers on a memorable trip to Washington DC, stated that he had an opportunity to speak with the President of the United States. In conversation with the President, Adrian stated that He heard the president was visiting his city the next day. The president offered for Adrian the opportunity to ride back to Memphis with him on Air Force One. Adrian responded, “Why, Mr. President, that would be an honor, but I have a plane going back today.” The President replied, “Well, if you can arrange it, I’d love to have you.”  Adrain did not hesitate but he quickly made a hotel reservation, bought a toothbrush, and cancelled his flight. Why did he do that? It was because you do not get those invitations every day! 

Later Adrian had this thought, “You rearranged your schedule, made a reservation, and spent another night just so you could spend a few moments with that man.” Although he would do it again, he thought, “How much difficulty did you go through? And how would you compare that to what you do for the King of kings?” Adrian stated that his heart had convicted him that sometimes he was more impressed with men than with Heaven’s King. How about you?

Secondly, the gift of frankincense represents His sinless deity. If gold was a gift of wealth for a king, then frankincense was used to worship the King. Frankincense was a form of incense that was burned in worship. It is a reminder of the incense of worship found in the Old Testament structure of worship established in Exodus by God for the Children of Israel. Frankincense had a woodsy and fruity smell to it. It was a beautiful fragrance that ushered in the praise of God. These wise men recognized the sinless deity of Jesus, who was deserving of their worship. Remember Matthew’s words. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him… (Matthew 2:11). These pagan astrologers were overcome with the power of this tiny child and they worshipped Him.

In Isaiah 9:6 verifies this. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Jesus was not only born a king, He was God in human flesh. He came to live a sinless life so that He could take on all of our sin. The three wise men recognized this gift to human kind by offering Him the gift of frankincense as worship. 

Third, the gift of myrrh represents His sacrificial death. Myrrh was a valuable substance used to embalm the dead. Stop and think of the significance of this. They were bringing a child something used to embalm the dead? They recognized that this little one was born to die. Myrrh was also used as a narcotic to dull pain. Upon the cross, they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh, but instead of taking myrrh to numb His pain, Jesus tasted death for every man. Whether or not the wise men fully understood all this, the Holy Spirit impelled them to make these gifts and the Holy Spirit recorded them for our benefit. 

Of all the gifts they might have chosen, they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, recognizing His sovereign dominion, His sacred deity, and His sacrificial death. So as believers living in this generation, at this time, what is our take away? What do we learn from this story recorded by Matthew more than 2000 years ago. Well! It teaches us so much about how we approach God and what we give to Jesus on a regular basis. 

One of the first lessons we learn is that it is more blessed to give than to receive. There is inherit value in giving to others. And, it is even more of a blessing to give without strings attached or to gain something in return. In Acts 20:35 Paul gives us great insight into the power of giving freely.  In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Notice the Wise men did not come to receive as much as they came to give. And, they gave well, but in the giving they received a greater understanding of the one they worshipped. Too often we are a spoiled people who want to get rather than give. 

We should give our best. The story of Cain and Abel remind us of the need to give that which comes from our best and not just from some of our fruit. We find that Cain gave some and Abel gave his best. Genesis 4:3-5 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 

Notice the comparison here. Cain gave “an” offering. Abel gave the firstborn and the fattest of his flock. Abel was not haphazard in choosing the gift but he made a specific choice. Cain’s gift was random while Abel chose and gave his best. Cain’s gift of “some” spoke to a deeper issue of the heart that was revealed when God honored Abel’s gift over Cain’s. And we know the rest of the story. Cain killed Abel out of jealousy and rage. 

To give our best we may need a heart adjustment. We give our best to the best. Sometimes we do not give as we should because we are hardened or we want to just get by. This happens often when our giving is just a matter of getting it off of our check list, or to get praise for our gift. 

Sometimes we want others to give what we ourselves are not willing to give. We want forgiveness but we fail to give forgiveness. We want grace but we ourselves fail to give grace. We want people to give us some slack but we do not give others room to fail or mess up. We want others to accept us as we are, but do little to accept others as they are. We want love but do not extend love. We want respect, but fail to respect those around us. We must be willing to go above and beyond in giving gifts not because of what we receive but for the joy of giving. 

Luke knew this and that is why he wrote the following in Luke 6:37-38. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

What will you give Jesus this Christmas? That is the question for us to consider. For His sovereign dominion, will you give Him your wealth? For His sinless deity, will you give Him your worship? For His sacrificial death, will you give Him your life and your witness? My wealth, my worship, my life, and my witness belong to my Lord. And according to His Word, so does yours. What will you do? What will you give?

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What does Christmas mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.

Peninsula Community Church

What does Christmas mean? Lessons from the Wise Men.

December 2, 2018 

Matthew 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Today, we begin a new series for this Christmas season. Over the next four weeks we will focus on the lessons we learn from the Wise Men who visited Jesus after His birth. We will begin this week by looking at the journey of the wise men. As we look at this story, there are a couple of things that stand out. First, they were on a journey to find Jesus. The fact is we all need to be on  a journey to find Christ in our life and bring glory to His name each and every day. The truth is we are all on a journey of some kind. It is our choice to make this journey to find Christ. Secondly, they were on this journey together. The fact is we can do a lot by ourselves but we can do even more when we take this journey together. And finally, while we need each other we need to find the Savior for ourselves. We cannot expect others to do that for us.

As we look at these Magi, wisemen, or kings we find there is not much history given to us to define who they are. In our passage today, we find that they came from the east. That is all that we know. That is all of the history that Matthew chooses to reveal to us. From his short note we know they were magi or wise men who had traveled from the east and they had traveled a great distance. As we study this you might be a bit surprised at who these men were. 

As we study Scripture and we compare the Christmas story with Biblical truth, we find that we have many incorrect ideas about the wise men. First of all, the Scripture never says there are three wise men. The Scripture simply states that wise men came from the east. The number of wise men associated with this story most likely came from the number of gifts that were presented to Jesus. Secondly, by the Biblical account we do not know their names even though they have been given the names of Casper, Balthazar and Melchior. One of the most interesting historical fallacies for me is that Bishop Reinald of Cologne believed he found the skulls of the wise men. His proof was that their eyes were still in their sockets and they were gazing toward Bethlehem. Believe it or not they are on exhibit in a priceless casket in a great cathedral in Europe. It is also noteworthy that around the manger we often find the shepherds and the wise men together but most scholars believe the wise men arrived much later in the story and were most likely not together with the shepherds. 

Now that I have blown your image of the traditional Christmas story let us look at the facts. Here is what we do know for sure. The wise men, the magi came from the east. They saw a star and followed that star to Jesus. Many scholars believe for us to understand who the magi were, we should go back in time to the story of Daniel. The magi were magicians and astrologers. They studied the stars and were well acquainted with astronomy. John MacArthur and others suggest these magi were a part of a priestly tribe from the Medes and Persians. King Nebuchadnezzar had enlisted the services of these soothsayers and interpreter of dreams to be his confidants. In the story of Daniel, we find that God had positioned Daniel to be over all of the magicians and astrologers. 

When you think about it what an amazing step taken by God. It is possible and most likely that Daniel shared the hope of the coming Messiah with the magi of his day. We also know that the magicians of Daniel’s day failed to interpret the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and God anointed Daniel to do so. This peaked the interest of the Magi and they most likely passed the stories of Daniel down through the ages including the hope of this coming Messiah. 

As we return to our story the idea of them taking a journey is important to the story and it lends itself to the understanding of our own journey to Christ. So for today, we will focus on the idea of the wise men taking this journey. In part, we must remember these men were Gentiles and not Jews. They were nonbelievers which is curious since they were pursuing the Christ child. They did not know Christ but they were pursuing Him, because they were being drawn to Him and they had heard the stories about Him.

For that reason, these were the last guys you might have thought would be on a journey to find Christ. They were not what the Jewish leaders would have agreed with. The point here is that God draws all of mankind to Himself. He is not a respecter of persons. He calls all men to salvation. So no matter the rank, the position one has in life, or one’s occupation, God is calling all men to seek and find Him. And the beauty is that if we take this journey we will find Him. It is my believe that there are many are on a journey to find Christ but it is a different journey than what we took perhaps. 

The fact is we might be surprised to find who may be bowing before a Hebrew and heralding him as king. At Jesus’s birth, recognize how the tables have turned. This time, a star led the Magi into exile, sojourning in search of the scepter rising out of Israel (Num. 24:17). This time, they do not find a man seated at the right hand of Nebuchadnezzar, but a child seated on his mother’s lap. As they bow and worship, they become the first to recognize the end from the beginning. This child would surpass Daniel as chief of the magi.

Second, they were on the journey. They were not passive. They were seeking the Savior. They acted upon what they saw. They knew the stars and what the stars had spoken. Not only were they motivated by way of the star, but they genuinely wanted to find the Christ child, the Messiah. This is an important point for us to consider. To find Christ, you have to be searching and if you look for Him you will find Him. 

These men were seekers.  They wanted to know the truth. They studied the stars. They studied religion and it is supposed that they were students of the Jewish faith. They looked for wisdom. The wise men even looked outside of their own tradition, outside of their own religious background. They were not content to just sit and passively take in what they were told. They were seekers. In our world, today, there are those who are seeking answers to life problems. They are searching for answers and they are looking for something that works. They need something to hold onto. That is why this Christmas season is the best season of all to share the message of the Gospel. 

I love what Jeremiah says to us in Jeremiah 29:10-14 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. That was the promise to Israel, it is the promise to those who call Him Lord, and it is the promise to everyone else. Seek and you shall find. 

Third, it is noteworthy they were on the journey together. Here is an important fact to understand. There is a need to be on this journey but we need one another along the way. We cannot isolate nor can we muscle our way through on our own. We need to be on the journey with others.

God uses people in our life to help us find Him. It might be a friend. It might be a neighbor. It might be a coworker. It could be the pastor. It could be a Sunday School teacher. The possibilities are limitless but God uses people in our journey to lead us to the Savior. I had that. I was not following Christ when a group from the youth ministry of our church barged through the door of my house to kidnap me and bring me to the church. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes knew the power of this when he wrote Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Fourth, they stay focused. Herod tried to distract them and get them off focus but they stayed the course and followed through until the end. King Herod tried to trick the wise men into betraying where Jesus was so he could kill Him, but they avoided Herod because they were warned by God. They could have been decapitated if Herod had found out! The point is do not let anything or anyone distract you from your search for Christ!

Stay focused, and ask God to grant you wisdom as to what you spend your time doing. Which of these are distractions in your life: money, IT devices, Facebook, time-consuming hobbies, not taking responsibility for personal spiritual growth, attending church events more than pursuing God, or prioritizing self over all else. The fact is we need to seek Him and put God first regardless of the cost.

Finally, while we are on the journey with others we need to find Him for ourselves. It is corporate journey but it is a personal decision to look, find, and accept the Savior. We cannot blame others nor can we use others as an excuse. 

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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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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Dressed for Battle

Peninsula Community Church 

Dressed for Battle

October 28, 2018 

Ephesians 6:10-13  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

In today’s world many professions have a dress code of sorts. Football players wear uniforms. These uniforms identity the team, the player’s number, and their name, usually. The uniform in essence serves to identity who they are, whose team they are on, and it provides a level of protection or security. A fire fighter wears turnout gear which includes a helmet, a jacket, pants, boots, gloves, and ID badge. These items are worn to identify who they are and for protection. A police office wears a uniform with a badge, a bulletin proof vest, a radio, and cameras. These items serve to identify who they are and the vest, camera, and radio serves to protect them. The same is true in regards to the spiritual armor Paul calls us to wear. By wearing the armor, we are identified by our Lord and people know what team we are on. By wearing the armor we are protected from the enemy’s schemes. To be effective we must wear it. It cannot stay in the closet.

It is noteworthy that in our passage, Paul instructs us to put on the whole armor of God. As I was preparing for this, I was struck by the fact that he exhorted us to put on the whole armor, the complete armor, all of the armor. The insinuation is that we are not to go into battle half dressed. Doing so makes us vulnerable and gives room for the enemy to attack the areas not covered by the armor. Without the whole armor of God we are in fact set up for defeat because the enemy is very aware of our weaknesses when we are not fully dressed. Our enemy is the master of distraction. He is the master of deception and falsehood. He is the master of distortion and he seems to know right where to attack because he knows the spots that are uncovered. 

We are to put on the complete armor therefore we cannot pick and choose which part we will wear. We must put on the complete armor. Why is this? It is because we are less than effective when we pick and choose what pieces to wear. Paul exhorts us to stand in God’s strength and we do that best when we put on the whole armor of God. In doing so, we stand and do not give room to the enemy. We stand strong so he does not advance against us or the kingdom of God. As believers, we are to stand because God is the One who wins our battles.

In preparing for this, I was thinking about what Paul exhorted us to do. It was critical enough that he said it twice. I had an amazing thought in this regard. If this armor protects us from the schemes of the enemy, then we need the complete whole armor to fight against and counter those schemes. We cannot go into battle half dressed. For example, it is possible that we can put on the helmet of salvation but fail to put on the belt of truth. We are saved, or at least we believe we are, but our actions and thoughts are not founded in truth, because we do not have the belt of truth securely fastened. The result is that we become tormented by falsehoods, lies, and half truths presented to us. We begin to believe the lies and live as if the lies are true. The result is that we believe we need to work harder, strive more, and be more perfect. We can believe that we are never good enough or righteous enough for God. The result is that we are never satisfied with our relationship with Christ, with others, or our circumstances. We feel defeated because we have not settled the truth in our minds that we are believers who are saved by faith and through His grace.

Without the belt of truth, we will have a distorted view of God and of ourselves. From the beginning of time, the enemy has been at work to distort the truth and cause mankind to believe the lie about who God is and what He requires. It is for that reason, so many think that God is angry with them, and that they have done too much for God to redeem them or set them free. The helmet of Salvation along with the belt of truth leads to correct thinking. 

It is also possible that we can have the helmet of salvation on but fail to strap on the gospel of peace. When this occurs, we tend to look to other sources rather than the gospel of Christ to bring us peace. In the end, this causes confusion about our identity and whose we are. In our world today there are so many voices that are speaking into our life. Media continues to tell us we are not good enough unless we drive a certain car. We are not beautiful unless we wear a certain makeup or drink a certain drink. We are not attractive unless we wear a certain aftershave or dress in a certain way. If we could only win the Mega Ball or the Power Ball drawing! These voices tend to give us a false identity. They cause us to strive to be something that God never created us to be. 

When pastoring in New York, I had a lady call me to ask my advice about a very important subject but I had to chuckle because she prefaced the question with “I have talked to my psychiatrist, my psychologist, my counselor, my medical doctor, and my other pastor, and I was wondering what you thought.” One of her major issues was the confusion she had because too many people were speaking into her life and were giving her conflicting opinions. She was not looking for truth, she was looking for the answer she wanted to hear.

There are a lot of great people in the world with a lot of worldly wisdom and wise sayings. But, we need more than witty sayings, and worldly wisdom, we need the power of God at work in our life. We need the power of the gospel to guide and direct our steps. We need the wisdom of God to be at work in us. That wisdom only comes from the gospel of Christ. When our feet do not have the gospel strapped on we will be misdirected and misguided. That is why David stated so clearly that God’s word was a light unto his path. It was the source of his decision making and it was the source of his hope (Psalm 119:105). Without the Gospel of peace, we can roam aimlessly through life and never realize that we have been called to a greater purpose. That calling is to influence those around us. We are called to go where God leads and do what God calls us to do. 

We can have on the helmet of salvation but fail to secure the breastplate of righteousness. Without the breastplate of righteousness we can believe that we have to work to be good enough. We try to live by the rules without grace. We try to tow the line without the power of God. We fail to remember that we are righteous by His righteousness. It is only through His shed blood on Calvary that we are righteous. It is imputed to us and not earned. That is truth.

We can have the helmet of salvation but forget to wear the sword of the Spirit. The sword is one of two offensive weapons we have. Without the sword of the spirit we are often more reactive than active. We are often misguided in our focus in terms of our enemy and who that is. Without the sword of the spirit we try to fight battles in a way that God never intended. We try to fight battles that have already been fought and won by our Lord. We become weary and tired because we are fighting with weapons God never intended for us to use. When we surrender to the Spirit, we will have His power to assist us and guide us. 

We can also have on the helmet of salvation but not hold the shield of faith to extinguish the fiery darts that the enemy flings at us. Without the shield of faith we are susceptible to the darts and painful parts of life. Sometimes faith is all we have to make it through. We do not see the future very clearly, but faith keeps us going. We do not know how we will endure, but by faith we keep moving forward. After all faith is the assurance of things hoped for and confidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). The fiery darts seek to cloud our vision, but by faith we see through the darkness to the light of day. 

Finally, we can have the helmet of salvation but miss out on the greatest offensive weapon we have and that is prayer. Without prayer we easily become discouraged and distraught. Prayer is the greatest weapon we have in our arsenal. Prayer is our connection with command central. It is our connection with God alone. It is the source of power. 

As a soldier, you would never go to war without proper training, weapons, and protective gear. The Bible is our training guide. Our life experiences and our spiritual walk become our boot camp. The temptations, trials, and attacks we face are all a part of the warfare. As a Christian engaged in spiritual conflicts, you must never leave home without the armor of God! And let me tell you it is much better than American Express. 

As we close, I came across this prayer in regard to the armor of God. Let me share it with you. Equip me, Lord with the belt of truth. May your truth rule in my heart and be in my mind and on my lips today. Equip me Lord with the breastplate of righteousness. Apart from You there is no righteousness, but through Jesus I have been “born again” and made righteous in Your sight. May I live as a righteous person. Equip me Lord with feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. May I reflect the Gospel in my words and actions, that through me, with my every encounter, others may be drawn one step closer to You. Equip me Lord with the shield of faith. May I take You at Your word concerning promises about the present and future—promises of everlasting love, abundant life, and so much more. Equip me Lord with the helmet of salvation. Remind me that nothing can separate me from Your love and that I’ve  been saved by grace. In Your grace, help me to say “no” to all ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life (Titus 2:12,13). Equip me Lord with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. May Your Holy Spirit reign in my life and bring to my mind just the right Bible verses to be in my heart and on my lips. May I be “filled with the Spirit” and ready with Scripture as You were, Jesus, when the devil tempted You. And, finally, keep me in an attitude of prayer. Remind me to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions.” Cause me to be alert and always praying for the saints; to be joyful and to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Preparing for Battle

Peninsula Community Church 

Preparing for Battle

October 14, 2018 

Ephesians 6:10-13  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

This is the third installment of our stronghold series. Today, we will begin to focus our attention on the preparation needed for battle. As many of you know, I am a football fan and particularly an Alabama Crimson Tide fan. When it comes to football, there are a couple of things that every team understands they need to do before the next game. It does not matter who the foe is or how big the opponent might be, the preparation is generally the same. 

Throughout the week the team and the coaches are reviewing film from previous games and from the games their opponent has played. They are looking for weaknesses, finding strengths, and looking for patterns that can be useful on the field of play. They do not just watch film, they are also on the practice field preparing and running plays that will be used in the game. They are in the weight room exercising and they are doing PT on the field. Why is this? It is so they will be prepared for the battle that will take place on the field of play. They want to be stronger, faster, and smarter than their opponents. 

In this passage, I believe that Paul gives us some insight into how we can prepare for battle against our opponent. We must realize that we cannot wait until we are in the battle to prepare, we do so in advance. When it comes to football teams, they do not wait until game day to prepare. They are preparing everyday for the next game. They prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally. Think about this, can you imagine what would happen if our arm forces waited until the day of battle to prepare and learn to fight. Football teams and armies prepare before the battle. For us, there should be no exception. We too need to prepare and be ready for battle before we face the enemy. We must also acknowledge that our battle does not take place on Saturday at noon or Sunday at 1:00 PM. The fact is we are in this battle every day. 

As we look at Paul’s words, we gain a better understanding how we can prepare for the battles we face. The first insight from Paul is that we need to know our strength. More importantly, from a spiritual standpoint, we must understand where our strength comes from. Even more so, we must know Who is our strength. Paul begins this passage with the words be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Be strong in the Lord! What a powerful request/command by Paul. When it comes to the battles we face we must recognize that our strength is not in our ability, but it comes from the Lord. Scripture is replete with instructions about strength. In 2 Samuel 22:40 we find David making this statement of truth. For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. As we prepare for battle, we must know that our strength comes from the Lord. 

The word used by Paul for strength is the Greek word “endunamousthe.” The root of the word is the Greek word “dunamis.” The idea presented by this word is that the power is resident within. Dunamis is where we get our word dynamite. Endunamousthe literally means to impart ability or to empower. Paul is saying here that we are empowered to fight this battle because of the power that is resident within. As the power of dynamite is resident within the dynamite, so also all of the power we need is already resident within us. The real power of dynamite is not fully realized until the fuse is lit and the powder within the dynamite is ignited. 

Our power comes from God and not from anything we do on our own. That is all of the power we need and it is unleashed when we need it. John Piper reminds us that we are empowered through our union with Christ. Our connection with Christ empowers us and imparts to us great strength. That is why the words of Isaiah 40:28-31 are so awesome. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Look at the use of the word strength in Isaiah’s passage. God does not tire or grow weary. He is always at work on our behalf. We do get weak and we faint in the activity of life. When that happens, He increases our strength. Secondly, while everyone faces struggles that weaken them and cause exhaustion, those who wait upon the Lord shall see their strength renewed. Think about that. We can be weak and weary, but God’s power, the power resident within us, empowers us to keep going, to keep enduring, and continues to enable us to overcome every issue we face. 

To have that kind of insight brings joy and that joy is found in the wellspring of His strength. In Nehemiah 8:10 we find that we do not have to be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. John Piper stated that it’s a remarkable point delivered to Nehemiah and a people who were ravaged by war, weakened by insecurities, and constantly reminded of their own fragility. And this is where we find our strength: for life, for pain, for trials, for marriage, for child-raising, for missions, for everything. The strength we need for this life is found in the essential joy of God. Paul also recognized this inherent power when he stated I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). 

Secondly, while we need to know our strength, we also need to know our enemy. In this passage Paul reminds us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. When it comes to football teams they can get distracted by the hype and the media that is seen and heard. They can focus on the negatives or they can get overconfident in the positive press. They can also get distracted by looking beyond the game they are now playing. They are not in the moment and are looking to the wrong enemy. You see their battle is not with the media or the fans, it is against the team they are playing. 

The enemy also loves to get us distracted to the degree that we begin to fight against the wrong enemy. Know this! Our family is not the enemy. Our job is not the enemy. Our friends are not the enemy. Our enemy is the demonic forces that are at work against us that desire to neutralize us and diminish our effectiveness in the world around us and the community we live. That is the enemy we need to face.

Finally, while we must know our strength, and our enemy, we must also know our equipment and get prepared for battle. In the case before us, we must put on the armor of God. We must be dressed for war and for battle. We must put on the armor provided for us. When the team enters the field they must be prepared for the game. They suit up. They have on their shoulder pads, their helmet, their cleats, and so on. They are suited up and ready for battle. 

Let me give you one thought about this idea of suiting up and being ready for battle. There this an incredible story in the Old Testament. David had consulted with Saul. David agrees to fight Goliath as no one else was stepping up the plate. After Saul and David agreed to allow David to fight Goliath, Saul offered David his armor. David refused it as it did not fit him because it was not the right armor for him. You see the world will try to get you to wear armor that you were never intended to wear. The problem was not Saul’s armor. The issue was this was not God’s plan. David’s trust was in the Lord. He had learned to rely on the strength of the Lord. It was not the armor he wore, as much as the spiritual armor that protected him and kept him safe.

The world is ready to give us all kinds of armor to wear. It does not mean that the world’s armor is always bad it just means that it is not always the best or God’s best. Think about it. Positive thinking is certainly a mindset we need. But a positive mindset without God creates in us a spirit that is self-focused, arrogant, and self-serving.

It is also important to note that the armor of God is something we wear all of the time. We are active in the battle, not reactive. When the enemy attacks your thoughts, it is not the time to try and put on the helmet of salvation. When the enemy presents you with the lies about who you are, and who God is, that is not the time to put on the belt of truth. When the enemy presents false doctrine that is not the time to try and find the sword of the spirit. We are equipped before hand, because we know we face our enemy all of the time. That is because we never know when we will encounter one of his schemes that want to take us out. Over the next couple of weeks we will review the armor we need to wear and how those parts of the armor is best used for maximum effectiveness. 

For now how are you doing? Do you know where your strength comes from? Do you know your enemy? And lastly, are you prepared for battle by knowing your equipment? Doing so allows us to be effective and gives us the upper hand in conquering the enemy and the strongholds in our life. 

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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