No Condemnation

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1So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.  Romans 8:1-2
I love these verses. So encouraging. Can you imagine being sentenced to death? Death because of independence from God, brokenness and willful rebellion against God. But now in Christ. You are not condemned. You are freed from both the sentence or eternal consequence AND the power of sin over you! If you are in Christ, there is no condemnation from God.

Are you correction adverse?

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People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life, but those who ignore correction will go astray. Proverbs 10:17

When a close friend or even someone outside of your circle of comfort identifies an attitude, action, or belief that is wrong what do you do? How do you respond?

Are you reactive? Or, are you responsive?

A reactive person is correction adverse. Immediately feels judged and condemned, even disrespected. A reactive person will lash out at the one who has offered a corrective criticism. The reactive person feel diminished as a person if their attitudes, actions, or beliefs are called into question or if they are called to give an account. There is a kind of foolishness shaping the reactive person and it will lead them astray.

The responsive person is celebrated as a wise one. The responsive person pauses and considers whether there is anything true in the criticism and corrective word. The responsive person is willing to change his or her mind. The responsive person has found their identity not “in being right” but in truly being righteous. The responsive person is not diminished by correction but embraces the opportunity to apply discipline to their life and thereby enter the pathway of life.

So you, are you correction adverse? Or are you responsive to correction?
It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance, and therefore to Jesus and His pathway of life! There is no discipleship without responsiveness to correction.

The matters of giving and receiving.

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13For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.  Philippians 4:13-14

So many Christians have memorized Philippians 4:13. Especially in the West we seem to love this verse. It gives us hope. It calls us to persevere through difficulty with Jesus. And that is exactly what Paul has to say. Much of our obedience to Jesus as Christian leaders requires us to enter periods of plenty or periods of hardship with a sense that it is “me and Jesus.”

But this verse is not meant to be a triumphal declaration for individualistic Christianity. I’m afraid we may use the verse to condition a hyper-individualistic expression of the motto, “Its just me and Jesus.” Paul is actually setting his struggle in the context of community. He knows Jesus is sufficient. Paul also knows Jesus calls His people into a life of service to each other to share in the troubles of others. The NIV translates verse 14 this way, “Yet, it was good of you to share in my troubles.”

Our experience of pain is truly our own. Pain is subjective. However, while our experience of troubles may at times seem to be just about “me and Jesus,” we are still meant to be a person in community. Paul knows the Philippian congregation cares about him. In fact, he accounts in verses 15-16 that they were the first to support him financially when he set out to Macedonia. Support through difficulty can be received when you are a person in community. Paul describes it as the matters of “giving and receiving.” The exchange the Spirit of God brings to the community of Jesus is not just of money, but is also of encouragement, a listening ear, exhortation, prayer, prophetic words, comfort, songs, Scripture, and sacrificial service.

Are you taking the time to make connections in your church?
Are you entering into the graceful exchange of giving and receiving?

Get in shape…spiritually.

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8“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 9This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.

11Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.   1 Timothy 4:8-13

Training. Training requires a plan, discipline, and a vision of the goal. Recently I saw the picture of a friend of mine who competed in a body building contest. I was blown away! I hardly recognized him. He looks like a different man! He has been training.

To be a Gospel-Shaped disciple of Jesus is to enter into a relationship that does indeed require our active participation! The Christian requires training in godliness.

You need a vision of the goal: Paul points Timothy to be fully enjoying his relationship with Jesus and becoming like Him.

You need a plan:  Paul encourages Timothy to get into the Scripture; get into life with the Church and to share what he is learning with others.

You need discipline: Paul encourages Timothy to keep tabs on what he says, in the way he lives, in his love, his faith, and his purity.

What kind of spiritual shape are you in these days?
Are you enjoying Jesus and becoming like Him?

Are you connected with the Church and sharing what you are learning?

What’s happening in your speech, your lifestyle, your love, your faith, and your purity?

They lost the love.

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2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  Revelation 2:2-4

I had a funny conversation this weekend. A group of us were talking about a popular chain restaurant close to the campus. One person said, “Oh that place is really missing stuff, its not that great; its terrible.” So I ask, “What is it missing?”

Now at that moment, I was wondering if its menu was deficient. Or if this was a nutrition complaint coming at me. But no.

She said, “They have lost the love.”

Me: “They lost the love?”

Her: “Yeah. They don’t show any love.”

Wow!

Franchises typically pride themselves in having all the same stuff. But love can’t be franchised or systemized. Love must be made fresh daily.

So it is in our relationship with Jesus. As the church, we can do all the common work of being church, but if we do not allow our hearts to be renewed by the Spirit and drawn again to the joy and delight of Jesus in the Gospel, we will have “lost the love!” Just going through the motions, while commendable, is far from the life Jesus has called us into. In fact Jesus notices both the quality of the work and the “add-ons” created by love. He calls to us just as he did with the church of Ephesus to enter again into the heights of a life inspired and fuelled by Him. “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”