Tag Archives: truth

So, What Are You Thinking?

Peninsula Community Church 

August 4, 2019

Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

To fully understand this passage we must know that this is a continuation of Paul’s discussion from the prior verses. How do I know this? I know this because Paul ends the passage with this statement of promise “and the God of peace will be with you.” Wow! If I do these things then the God of peace will be present in my life. Think about this. Last week we found that prayer and focusing our attention on God produces in us a peace that passes all understanding. It is a peace that is beyond our capacity to understand or for that matter comprehend the depth of the peace that comes from prayer. No matter what comes we can have peace and can rest in Christ’s peace.

This week we will direct our attention on another aspect of walking in peace. You see what we focus our thinking towards can affect our peace. How many of us ever talk ourselves out of being at peace? You begin with a problem and rather than deal with the problem you begin to meditate and think about that problem or person. Suddenly, your imagination goes wild and you begin to develop a narrative that is not based on truth but one that is based on distorted thinking and half truths.

As we preview these passages we find there are two imperatives within this verse that must be considered. The first imperative is that we need to think about what Paul is saying. It is noteworthy that the word here for “think” is one that really means “to dwell.” In other words, we give these words great consideration and we do not glance over them lightly. The exact Greek used here is a present imperative which means we thought this way but we continue to think this way. It is a way of life resultant in a life of peace. 

William Barclay rightly observes that…The human mind will always set itself on something and Paul wished to be quite sure that the Philippians would set their minds on the right things. This is something of the utmost importance, because it is a law of life that, if a man thinks of something often enough, he will come to the stage when he cannot stop thinking about it.

The second imperative is that we are to put into practice these things. Yes, we need to be actively engaged in thinking about these things, but we must also put them into practice. Too often we think, but never act. It is time to act and set in motion these things so we can live in peace. 

I have said it a number of times. Our thoughts will determine our outlook on life and where we focus our attention our emotions will follow. Through this passage we come to realize that our thoughts and actions will also have an effect on the level of peace we will experience. To live in peace we must engage the truths presented through Paul’s writings in verses 8 & 9. It is here that he lists eight qualities that every passionate follower of Christ ought to consider when processing issues in their life, the thoughts they entertain, the words that are spoken to them, and the messages they receive. This thought process goes hand in hand with Paul’s admonishment in 2 Corinthians 10:5-6. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. 

The first of these directives is to consider the truth. In life, we can be so susceptible to the lies of the enemy. He is so skilled at packaging lies in such a way that makes the lies acceptable and believable. Sometimes one of the lies that is propagated is that we are not good enough or that we are a failure. Another lie is that there is no hope. Another lie is fear even in our obedience to Christ. Another is confusion when events happen in us, to us, or around us that we do not understand. But rather than believe the lies, we are to think on that which is true. We do not just think about truth, we put truth into practice, so that our emotions are changed and we are fortified in God’s truth. 

As we look at this idea of truth, here is one definition of truth that might help you. To be true means to be in line with what actually is. In the case of a passionate follower of Christ, our truth most always be in line with Scripture and with God’s word. We do not allow truth to be aligned with lies or falsehoods. As we align our understanding of truth with the truth of God’s word and the character of God, we can only then begin to focus on that which is real truth.

Secondly, Paul commands us to think on what is honorable. This word relates to that which is worthy of respect or entitled to honor. It means to take life seriously. It is to think on that which is lofty and majestic as opposed to that which is vulgar, crude, frivolous, or trivial. We should think on those things that lift the mind rather than dragging the mind through the gutter. This includes our language, our response to people, what we watch, what we believe in social media, and for that matter the 24 hour news cycle.  

 

Thirdly, Paul command us to think on what is just or right. John MacArthur suggests that the word used here refers to the perfect harmony with God’s eternal, unchanging standards as revealed in Scripture. I agree with that statement. We live in a day where the idea of ultimate righteousness and Godly justice is ignored, and even mocked. We have a mixed up understanding of what true justice is about and too often we determine what justice is by one’s skin color, social standing, position, bank account, or personal opinion. But again as passionate followers of Christ, we must stay focused on God’s standard for justice which is always right.

 

Fourth, think on that which is pure e.g. free from defilement and that which is uncontaminated. Jesus is holy, and because He is living in us, we too must be holy as He is holy. We do not talk much about the holiness of God and God’s admonishment for us to be holy, but our minds must remain pure in our thoughts, in our deeds, and our words.

Fifth, we think on those things that are lovely. It is here that Paul focuses on that which calls forth or evokes love and admiration. These are the sorts of things that are endearing. We are three part beings: body, soul, and spirit. We need to feed our souls with things that are lovely just like we feed our bodies with good physical food. We should be feeding our spirits on the word of God of daily and in large doses.

 

Sixth, think on that which is commendable. We should think on that which is praiseworthy and avoids giving offense or adding to one’s offense. We fail too often to commend others of what is praiseworthy in one’s life. We all need encouragement and we all need to hear “Well done!” from time to time. In fact, I would suggest that most studies show that we all need to hear well done much more than what we are doing wrong. The fact is our deeds and our thoughts ought to move people to admiration and praise. So the question is “Are we concentrating on the good things we see in others, or do we dwell on their faults and shortcomings?” 

 

Seventh, is there any excellence in what I am thinking. Too many Christians settle for mediocrity. They are okey with just getting by. Others look for the negative faster than they see the good and many are quick to express that through complaining and grumbling and the judging of one’s character. But there is a huge difference between “excellence” and professionalism and performance. Excellence is doing everything to the best of one’s ability as enabled by God, and in such a way that no one is distracted by it or is tempted to give credit to anyone but the Lord. Professionalism and performance are man-centered and are concerned with drawing attention to a person or persons. The pursuit of excellence should direct attention to God. Think on that.

 

Finally, we should think on that which is worthy of praise. Certainly here we mean the praise of God and not man. By this I think he means the sort of conduct that wins the affection and admiration of others, even non-Christians. 

 

In the final analysis Paul says that we are to think on these things but we must also enact these things and put them in motion. The full of effect of peace only comes as we put these things into practice. May we do that as we continue to grow in the grace and love of God!

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

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

 

 

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Breaking the Power of Offense

Peninsula Community Church

March 17, 2019

Mathew 5:21-24 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

This morning I want to deal with the issue of offense and anger in our life. Over the last few weeks I have been encountering this topic in many different ways. In our men’s study we have been dealing with the Biblical principle that we do not have the right to be angry or least stay angry. I also heard a message from Steve Furtrick from Elevation Church about letting go of our offenses. It seems that wherever I turn, this subject has been popping up. So, it seems to me that God is saying something to us, or maybe He is just communicating with me personally.

I love our passage this morning because Jesus does an incredible thing as He speaks to His disciples. He turns up the heat if you will. He infers here that our hearts are critical to everything we do. It is not just the actions we take, but it is the motivation of our heart that makes the difference. Proverbs 23:7 reminds us that “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” In this passage, Jesus raises the bar on murder when He says that it is not just a matter of the act of murder that makes it murder, but if we hold anger against another person we are guilty of murder. Why did Jesus do this? He knew that if we allow anger and offense to fester it will result in emotional, mental, and verbal murder. 

You see. Jesus understood a powerful principle that effects us as believers in Christ. Jesus communicated through this passage that the horizontal and the vertical relationships in our life must be in sync. The vertical relationship is our relationship with God. It is the specific connection we have with Him. It is how we respond to Him and how we show Him our love. The horizontal relationship is our relationship with those around us. As believers, the way we deal with people must match our love for God. We need to show love, forgiveness, and grace just as Jesus did to us. The problem however is that there is a disconnect between our relationship with God and our relationship with others. We cannot say we love God and hold anger or offense in our heart when God has forgiven us of so much. 

Steve Furtrick has suggested and this is confirmed by Scripture that we need a mirror more than we need a magnifying glass. We need to look within and deal with the condition of our heart before we look outside ourselves to control or judge others. The problem with living with a magnifying glass mentality is that we attempt to deal with everyone else’s problems and do little to fix our own problems. As we talked last week, if we are not careful, we will try to fix the speck in someone’s eye while we are walking around with a huge log in our eye. Too often, we think that everyone else is sick and we are offering others the solutions to problems which are actually within us. Jesus words speak deep into our spirit and tells us to get our act together before we judge others or hold onto an offense. 

Jesus continues this discussion by saying that when we are angry we tend to say things and react to things in unhealthy ways. Jesus speaks of insulting our brother. He stated that in the cultured His day you would be liable to the council. Even more hateful is to call someone “Racca” or fool. I do not know exactly what Racca means but it was the very worse thing you could say to someone. In fact, Jesus says that it was so egregious that the one using the word would be condemned to the fire of hell. That seems drastic but it illustrated how powerful offense and anger was. Jesus is saying that if we do not deal with our anger a living hell will erupt within us. What starts in the heart does not stay in the heart. What starts in the heart often flows from the heart and hurts others. In fact, when we are hurt, angry, or offended we probably have said or at least thought of saying some things that would cause us to be judged if anyone heard us. 

If we do not deal with an offense we will build a fence that will divide us and separate us.

Do not forget that this is the primary tactic of the devil. He is the enemy of righteousness and real relationships. Remember it is John 10:10 that reveals the mission of the devil. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. The enemy’s role has been and continues to be to divide and destroy. If he cannot destroy, he will divide. He often uses the smallest of offenses to divide us and eventually destroy us. 

You know how it works there is a small offense and you feel you handle it quite well or so you think. But not too far down the road there is another small offense that is added to the previous offense. Then there is another small offense that is added to the previous offense and suddenly the offense has grown and is now bigger than life. The garbage was not taken outside. The underwear was left on the floor, again. You did not say I love you. You did not acknowledge me. Whatever the incident, we become offended and if we do no deal with it that offense begins to grow into anger which leads to bitterness, resentment, and hatred. The result is that we shut people off and we shut them out because we are hurt and do not want to deal with them anymore.

The progression is one that moves from small offensives until we are walled in by offense. When this happens the enemy has been successful in dividing and destroying us. It happens in families, on the job, with neighbors, friends, and it happens in our marriage. When you think about marriage it is the prime example of the kingdom of God. That is why the enemy is so ready to divide and destroy marriages. Someone has said that many divorces are not a sudden act but a series of offenses or wrongs that are never dealt with. It is a death by a 1000 cuts. This happens in all of our relationships when we do not positively respond to the offenses we encounter. 

As we look at this subject we must understand that we will encounter offensive situations but to be offended is a choice. Here is the point. We can be offended or we can choose to let go of the offense. Unconfessed offense and anger leads to a life that is less than we should have, but a life that surrenders offense is ready to let go of every sin. For that reason Jesus tells us that we are to leave our gift at the altar and go be reconciled with our brother. The solution to offense is forgiveness. Notice this occurs while we are at the alter. Why do we communicate with God? It is because in our communication with God, our hearts are exposed. That is why it is critical that we spend time with God.

This week I had a number of opportunities to be offended. Some were bigger than others but some were small. For example, I was in line at the checkout and the lady in front of me cut me off to get into the line. I felt my blood pressure start to rise when she began to pull stuff out of her cart and she had 31 items in the 12 item lane. And then, she needed a pack of cigarettes and began to discuss the kind of cigarettes she wanted after the cashier brought the wrong ones to her three times. After all of this, she fumbled with her pocketbook and could not find her money. Then the credit card she finally used was not any good. Meanwhile, there I stand with my two little items that I wanted to buy, get out of the store, and get back home. 

My initial response was to feel the hair on the back of my neck begin to bristle but then I remembered our study on Tuesday night, and listening to Steve Furtrick’s sermon. I realized that I had to let it go. Was it an opportunity to be offended? Yes! I had every reason to be angry and offended that this was going on right there in front of me, but I had to make a choice. Rather than being offended I chose to let it go. I admit that it was not easy, in fact I wanted to be angry but knew I could not based on what God had been teaching me. 

The question sometimes is what if I cannot resolve the offense or hurt. This could be because of a death, a divorce, or other major separation that may have occurred. The principle for us is that what we cannot resolve, we can release. This is not always an easy thing to do. But it is necessary. We cannot always resolve every problem, but we can release the hurt and pain. That is the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness allows us to let go of the offense and the anger we confront. That is why Paul made the following statements. Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:31-32. 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. And then in Colossians 3:8. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

The final point I wold like to make today is that once you are free do not go back. Paul in Galatians 5:1 paints us a picture. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Since this is a decision, we must decide that we will not go back to the offense. The temptation for us is to return to that offense because in the offense we can justify our anger, bitterness, and hurt. That has a binding effect on us. God wants us to be free and released from the burden of offense so that we can live free and whole.

As we consider this we must remember the One that is our greatest example. He was offended. His friends denied Him. His closest ally betrayed Him. He was falsely accused. He was beaten for a crime He did not commit. But when it mattered and He was about to take His last breath, He communicated this line that challenges us and convicts us, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” Forgive them! That sometimes is the hardest thing we can do or request of God. Forgive them. But it is Jesus that empowers us to speak those words. They are words of power and grace and they are freeing. He died so that we could be free from our offense and from the power that offense holds over us. Let it go and be free. 

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

Copyright © 2019 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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Grace and Truth

Peninsula Community Church

Grace and Truth 

September 2, 2018

John 1:14-17  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

As we read Scripture, there are some words that blow me away, as I try to understand them. The word grace is one of those words. Within this word there is so much truth that bears our consideration. For that reason, over the next couple of weeks, we will look at the amazing grace that has been given to us. We will explore the duality of grace and truth, as well as grace and mercy. We will consider what it means to be a good receiver of grace, but also what it means to be a good giver of grace. Additionally, we will consider how to give ourselves much needed grace personally. An understanding of grace is critical as we encounter those who are EGR people, and when we face EGR moments in our life. Do you know what EGR people and moments are? They are people and moments in our life where Extra Grace is Required. Of course many times, we are that EGR person, even to ourselves. 

This week we will begin our study by briefly defining what grace means. In that regard, we find that one of the most common definitions of grace is “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.” To understand grace is to understand that grace is receiving what we do not deserve. We receive the blessings of God not because we deserve them, but because of who He is and because it is He who is giving them. The fact is, grace has been and continues to be the mechanism by which God gives us everything we need for life and spiritual growth because none of us are worthy in ourselves of God’s grace and blessing because we have all sinned.

In our passage today, we find that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. That is a big deal. Christ freely came to give us grace. That is the linchpin of our salvation and it is the cornerstone of the belief system we live by. Without grace, there would be no free salvation. Without grace, we would have to work and work hard for our salvation. We would also have to work hard to keep our salvation. Without grace, there would be no hope for us. We would worry about making it to heaven and being acceptable to God. Without grace, we would be forced to attempt to reach a level of holiness and righteousness that is unattainable, apart from grace.

The Word, Christ, became flesh and He dwelt with us. That is grace at its best. Christ freely left heaven to come to earth and be an example of what life could be and should be. Think about this, the God of Heaven came to live among us. He did not just come to earth as an observer or an uninterested party, He came to live among us. That is amazing to me. He did not have to, but He did. He did not have to give up heaven, but He did. He did not have to humble himself, but He did. He did not have to forgive me, but He did. That is amazing and that is grace in action. 

The second aspect of this passage is that grace and truth are inseparable. There is a sense, by some, that grace is an excuse to sin and do whatever we please, whenever we want to. That is not the objective of grace at all. Grace is never an excuse for sin, but it is a means to receive forgiveness and healing. Unfortunately, there are some who believe in hyper grace that says we can do whatever we want because we are under grace and God will cover our sin. While that is true to some degree, grace can never be an excuse for sin, but it is the primary reason to seek forgiveness and redemption. 

When discussing grace, we find that too often grace is equated with the idea of a free pass. We see sin, and somehow we imagine that God gives us a free pass, but when grace is combined with truth we realize that we cannot ignore sin but rather we must confess it. We are living in a culture that encourages the minimization of sin, and the cover up of unrighteousness, particularly if it is our sin and our unrighteousness. Our culture scoffs at taking responsibility and accountability. We are quick to give a free pass and to receive a free pass but that is not entirely what grace is about. True grace gives us the power to give forgiveness and seek redemption, because, we recognize these things are freely given by a gracious God. We do not have to hide them, but we can expose them and be delivered from them.

True grace does not ignore truth, but the real power of grace starts with truth. It is grace that settles the score that is against us and it is that grace that sets us free. It is by grace that we are redeemed. It is by grace we are given the free gift of salvation. So you see, grace is the undeserved favor of God. 

As I was preparing for this message I read an interesting take on how the Lord’s Prayer illustrates God’s grace in many ways. Let me explain. It begins by calling God “Our Father.” We do not deserve to call Him Father, but by grace we have been adopted into His family. We ask for His kingdom to come. We do not deserve His kingdom, but he allows us access. In this prayer we ask for “daily bread” we do not deserve, and for forgiveness we cannot earn, and for deliverance from temptation we cannot overcome, from a devil we cannot defeat on our own. This prayer from beginning to end is a frantic cry for undeserved favor. It is call for grace. Why? Because grace changes us. As we encourage truth, God’s grace turns rebels into citizens, orphans into children, enemies into friends, and an adulteress into a sinless bride.

The second aspect of this passage is that For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John here makes a great theological statement. He states that the law came through Moses. This is critical for those in John’s day as they understood the concept of the law. The law was all that was available to them to deal with their sin. The problem however is that the law was good at pointing out sin, but it did little to remove sin. John understood this and that is why John’s next statement is so powerful. The law came from Moses, but the fullness of grace and truth came from Christ. 

Paul understood this when he wrote the following in Romans 5:20-21. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The law increased the trespass by revealing what was wrong.  Grace came so that where sin abounded grace was there in great abundance. In other words, there is no sin beyond the ability of grace to cover and redeem. The law calls us to work harder. Grace calls for us to trust God. The law does nothing to heal, but grace restores and heals. 

The law was limited but grace came in the fullness of all we needed. It does not lack anything. The law continually demands righteousness from man, while grace gives righteousness freely to man. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins (Romans 3:21-25). Listen to romans 4:15-16. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

The law is connected with Moses and works; grace is connected with Christ and faith. The law demands that blessings be earned; grace is a free gift. I love this quote “The law was given by the servant, and made men guilty. The grace which came by the King freed them from guilt.” In His grace toward us, God says, I see your sin and I have made a way for your specific sin to be dealt with upon the cross of Christ. You do not have to cover it up, ignore it, or try to deal with it on your own. Because of Christ, you have an avenue to be free of your sin. How? We confess, repent, accept his grace, and you will be completely forgiven.

Here is what God’s word says to us. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7). For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:17). Grace amazing!

So where do you need grace today? What sin or wrong is haunting you? What are you trying to cover up and hide rather than deal with? Where do you need to confess sin and receive His grace? That can be done and the riches of His grace is available to all who will seek Him. Turn to Him, repent, confess, and accept His grace, today. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Spirit of the Lord Brings Freedom

Peninsula Community Church

The Spirit of The Lord Brings Freedom 

July 24, 2016

Good morning! To be honest with you I did not anticipate that I would be sharing this message this morning as I had thought I would be in Richmond welcoming our new little prince into the family. But, as He often does, God had a different plan. With that said turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 and let’s read together.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

As we look at this passage this morning let me ask you a question. How many times have you found that people reject the truth? Have you ever tried to share undeniable truth with someone and they defiantly reject the truth that you are offering? For us, who know truth, the truth seems so believable and right and yet, there are those around us who resist the truth and the path of righteousness. We find that such blindness to truth comes from two sources. First, the god of this world blinds us so that the truth is not revealed. Secondly, truth is rejected when there is a desire to believe a lie more than to accept the truth.

As we look around our world, we do not have to look too far to see the results of this around us. Notice how Paul starts this passage. Paul stated that there were problems but there is also hope. That hope is found in Christ. Paul also makes an interesting observation. He notes that Moses had to place a veil over his face because the people of Israel were not ready to receive the truth and thus they missed the hope that was available to them. In essence, Paul is saying that this was the way things were but that was not the way things had to be.

You see the reason Moses would place a veil over his face is that the Children of Israel could not see what God had done in Him. The reason was simple. The children of Israel had hardened their hearts and they were not ready to receive what God had done. They saw, but they refused to allow the work of God to make a difference in their life. They closed God out and they kept God at a distance. We see this evidenced in the way they lived. One moment they would be praising God and they would deny and reject Him in the next moment. Why was this? It was because the truth had not found its way into their heart. They were rejecting the truth and the ways of God.

Paul also addresses this when he makes the following statement in 2 Corinthians 4:3-11. He says and even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

Though different, Paul is presenting the same message. The god of this world had blinded the mind of the Corinthians so they could not see the light of the gospel. Their minds had been blinded so that the word of God cannot penetrate their heart. You see when we share faith with others we must understand that many have had their minds darkened and their minds cut off from the light of truth. But that is not the end of things.

Rather than give up we can stand strong as God promises us that the light can shine into darkness. You see no matter how dark one’s life might be the light of the gospel can penetrate the darkness. Notice what Paul says in our text this morning when one turns to God and the veil is removed, truth is revealed and life comes rushing in. Then Paul makes a powerful statement that should be held close to our hearts. He states that the Lord is a spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Because the Spirit of the Lord brings freedom we realize three things that come from the spirit of freedom.

First, the Spirit of the Lord brings freedom. By way of the spirit of the Lord there is freedom to receive the grace of God. By way of the spirit of the Lord there is freedom to change. By way of the spirit of the Lord there is freedom to live in truth and not in darkness that leads to a hardened heart.

I love one of the first messages that Christ spoke. It was the initiation of His ministry. We find it in Luke 4:18-19 that Jesus proclaims “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon Christ and He has been anointed to proclaim the good news, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. The ministry of Christ is to bring liberty and that liberty is available to those who turn to Christ.

Elmer Townes had this to say about revivals and the experience of witnessing the move of God in one’s life. He says that we are to seek intimacy with God rather than the hand of God. In other words while God moves in us He calls us to seek His intimacy. He wants a relationship. In his book “The Worlds Ten Greatest Revivals,” in regards to the great revival of 1904, Townes states The changed lives of converts resulted in reductions in crime, drunkenness, and gambling, along with increases in honesty, truthfulness and chastity throughout Great Britain. In America throughout the nation, political reform was effected as corrupt district attorneys, mayors, governors, senators and assemblymen were replaced with those perceived as honest. Why was this happening? It is because the Spirt of the Lord came and things began to change. The Spirit of the Lord brought freedom and change. How many would like that kind of change?

Second, the Spirit of the Lord shines His light in and the darkness goes. Now that is a powerful statement. You see He is the light of the world. In Him there is no darkness. In Him there is no shadow of darkness. He is the light. And where He is there is light as well. So yes, one’s heart and mind might be darkened by the god of this world but that does not mean that is where they have to stay.  It is for that reason that I love this year’s VBS theme. It is Following Jesus The Light of the World. He is the light. He brings hope and He brings us freedom. Jesus is the Word and it is the Word that is a lamp unto our feet and a light on our path.

Third, the spirit of the Lord comes to transform us into the image of Christ. You see, not only does the Spirit of the Lord change sinners but it changes us as well. First of all because Christ is in us, we find that we do not have to wear a veil. We have an open invitation into the presence of God. We can behold the glory of God. What is the glory of God? It is the character of God being revealed in us and through us.

Often I am asked what a mature Christian looks like. I would say to you today that a mature believer is one that looks like Christ. Are you being transformed into the image of Christ? Are you being changed? If the spirit of the Lord in us we will find that we are being transformed. Once again the idea of transformation is to be totally changed. We are not what we were and we are not going to be what we are now We are changing and we are being changed for His glory and for His honor.

We must understand that our model is not anyone person here on earth. We have some good role models but they are still human and humans will fail and will fall short of the glory of God. That is why Christ must be the model of our transformation. The spirit of the Lord transforms us into His image. How much do you look like Christ? That is the measure of your success and maturity as a believer.

Will you stand today in recognition of your need for the freedom that comes from Christ? Will stand and receive the truth that we need a revival in our hearts? Will you acknowledge that the revival must begin in us?

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – Belt of Truth – Getting It to Together

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Belt of Truth – Getting It to Together

May 17, 2015

Ephesians 6:14-15Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

This morning we continue to look at the idea of dressing for success by putting on the whole armor of God. It is to be noted that Paul begins this passage with the command to stand. The term standing expresses the idea of not giving up any ground that has been gained, especially by way of Christ’s victories in our life. When watching football, you will hear the commentator say that the defense is taking a goal line stand. What they are saying is that the defense is setup to stop the advance of the offense whose desire is to cross over the goal line for a score. This is the idea of standing and standing strong. It is to position ourselves so as not to give up any territory to the evil one. Many a football game has been won and lost from this position. The word also expresses the idea that when we have done everything we know to do, we keep standing against the schemes of the enemy to avoid his advancement in our lives. We don’t give up and we don’t give in. While not inclusive let me give you a couple of thoughts here. We give up ground when we believe the lies and half truths spoken to us and about us. We give up ground when we live with unconfessed sin. We give up ground when we continue to rehearse and live in the past experiences that have brought us pain and hurt. And, we give up ground when we give into the temptations that come our way.

In this passage, Paul begins to describe the armor that is necessary to take this stand. The first piece of armor in Paul’s list is the belt of truth which is fastened around the waist. To fully understand what the belt of truth is, we must understand the use of the belt in Paul’s day. First of all the belt was used to secure the tunic or the robe of the warrior. This was necessary because the tunic or robe was a long loose fitting garment. If not secured, the tunic would impact the ability of the soldier to effectively do battle as it would get tangled in the soldiers legs or in the armor itself. If this occurred, the soldier’s ability to fight the enemy was diminished and his focus would be on the problem with his armor and not on the ability to fight.

The second purpose of the belt was to secure the rest of the armor. The belt was that piece of the armor that tied everything else together. Without the belt, the armor would not fit properly. The result would be a lack of protection for the soldier because there was the potential of vulnerable spots being exposed. Without the belt being in place during a fight, the soldier might find himself in an awkward state as he would have to hold his tunic, or clutch his armor with one hand, and fight with the other. Such a situation would expose the soldier to the tactics of the enemy.

In this passage, Paul is relating to a well known visual for the Ephesians so that they could grasp the spiritual application of the principle. Paul emphatically states that we must put on the belt of truth. We have discussed the belt but we must also understand the meaning of the word “truth.” The word for truth is “althaea” and it speaks to both the intellectual aspect of truth as well as the attitude of truthfulness and integrity as a character trait. Truth, therefore, is not just the accuracy of specific truths held by a person but it is also the quality of truthfulness. This simply means that the Christian is to not only have an understanding of truth intellectually, but the Christian must be truthful in every area of their life.

The best way for me to illustrate this is with a story that is found in Chuck Swindoll’s book Growing Deep in the Christian Life. In the book, Chuck tells the story about a man who bought a bucket of fried chicken for himself and his date one afternoon. However, when the fast food restaurant gave him his order, they inadvertently gave him a bucket of money from the day’s sales instead of the fried chicken he ordered. After driving to the picnic site, he sat down with his date to enjoy some chicken when they discovered that instead of chicken, they had been given over $800! Once they saw the error, the man quickly took the money back to the store, because he considered himself to be an honest man. As you might imagine, by this time the manager of the restaurant was frantic. The man who had taken the money got out of his car, walked into the store to return the money. He became an instant hero. The manager was so thrilled. He was so thrilled in fact that he wanted to call the newspaper to have them take a photo and have this real life hero’s story published. The manager being excited was quick to compliment the man on his honesty. However, the man was also quick to respond “please don’t do that!” Then he leaned in and whispered to the manager, “You can’t do this because the woman I’m with, is another man’s wife.” The moral of the story is that the belt of truth must be applied to every area of our life and not just to some areas for it will expose us to the tactics of the enemy who will use such an opportunity to attack and destroy our testimony and our life.

As with the soldier in battle, we must secure the belt of truth around our waist. This is needful because for the believer the belt of truth brings security. You see when a believer does not have the belt of truth in place we will be vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy. We will walk in fear because we are not dressed for success. Conversely, when the belt of truth has been secured, the believer in Christ will be complete, stable, and ready for every battle. The fact is, when the arrows of deception are flying around and unjust accusations explode around us, we need the truth and we need the truth of character to keep us from falling apart.

Spiritually, we must understand that security and truth is found in the Word of God and that real security is only discovered when the word of God comes alive in our hearts. This is the idea represented by Paul in this passage. To be secure, we must bind the word of God to our hearts. We will be ineffective in our walk with Christ if we are not allowing the word to transform and change us. If our character is not being changed by the truth of the Gospel, there is a good chance that we are not fastening or putting on the belt of truth. Without the belt of truth, we end up living an inconsistent life. Without the belt of truth, we will be entangled with issues and problems that will hold us back and trip up us. We will in essence be trying to hold onto the issues of life and fight a battle at the same time.

In our current culture we do not have to look very far to see that biblical truth is no longer a viable concern in most lives. In fact, truth is no longer valued as the basis of one’s actions or thinking. Too many live as if anything goes. Rather than fastening on the belt of truth, society rejects truth. |And the sad commentary is that many churches and believers today are also rejecting truth. The result is that the acceptable boundaries of God’s word are being moved and reestablished. As a result, society has become unstable. It is interesting to note that people who have forgotten the belt of truth in their life often scratch their heads wondering why life is filled with confusion and why there is such evil in the world.

A second idea is that the belt of truth prepares us for battle. Peter confirms this in 1 Peter 1:13-16. Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy. The word used in this text for “prepare” is the same word in Ephesians for “fasten.” It gives us the sense of preparing for battle. In Peter’s case, we prepare the mind and in Paul’s case we fasten the belt of truth to our inner most being. Notice that Peter calls the follower of Christ to not conform to the passion of one’s former ignorance, but live as one who has been called to holiness. Peter understands that our passions are not always based in truth. We can never measure the validity of truth by virtue of our feelings or our emotions. Our feelings can come and go and they can change so quickly. Feelings and emotions are most often based on our circumstances and the environment that we are experiencing at the time. Truth does not change, while one’s feelings continue to ebb and flow. The point is, we must always let truth dictate our actions and not our emotions.

Jesus also recognized the need for being prepared when he stated the following. “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks (Luke 12:35-36). What Jesus is communicating is that we must be continually dressed for action as we do not know when we might engage the enemy. The children of Israel before leaving Egypt were called to prepare themselves as well. Moses wrote. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover (Exodus 12:11). They were to eat and work but they were also to be prepared for the Exodus. As believers, we must put on the belt of truth so that we are prepared to face whatever battle, temptation or concern comes our way.

Finally we must understand that the belt of truth is more than just head knowledge! In John 8:31-32 we find that Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him,“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Here is a point that must be made. The factual reality of truth does not free anyone. We must know the truth and properly apply the truth into our lives. It is the truth properly applied that sets you free and not the truth itself. Notice the key here. It is the abiding in the word of God that allows us to fully know the truth and it is that truth that sets us free. Therefore, truth rightly applied is the source of our freedom, our stability, and our victory. We too can experience the freedom, stability, and victory that comes from having the belt of truth fastened and by rightly applying the truth to our lives.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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