Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chapter 6 - Goodness

   $ Galatians 5:22-26 and Colossians 3:12
  In the Bible it talks about Christ being righteous and those who practice being righteous, are of him. (1 John 2:28-29)  Now goodness can’t be studied unless we look at righteousness, for righteousness is the essence of goodness.

Righteousness: Act of being in accordance with what is just, honorable, and free of guilt or wrong.  It is upright, virtuous, and noble.
Goodness is described this way: bountiful, sound, whole, well-founded, commendable, having a standard, virtuous, kind. Having character, being righteous, having humility.
  Now goodness is something achieved, not given like a super power, it has to be maintained through faithfulness and discipline (self-control).  Now goodness is not the necessary element to being saved, on the contrary being saved is the declaration that your old self and ways have been shed so that you can receive God’s saving promise and grace.  You receive when you declare, believe that Christ is your savior, and “go and sin no more.”  Goodness is something we are called to pursue after we have been saved and see that we are a changed person. (It cannot be achieved without Christ’s sacrifice being accepted in our hearts.)

2 Corinthians 5:21: For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

  Christ even says in Matthew 5:6: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.  Pursuing goodness (righteousness) is not an easy thing, is hard to pursue goodness in a world that is no longer good, it is filled with very evil things which pull at us more than the good things.  However, in that God states that even then when he sees the hunger for righteousness He will not let us down, but rather be faithful and fill us.
  This promise is also in Psalm 37:23-24: The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand.

  We have to remember too that we cannot achieve goodness on our own, in Psalm 16:2 it reminds us that our goodness is not of ourselves, but of God in us.

Psalm 16:2: O my soul, you have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from you.”

  Goodness (righteousness) is something we cannot achieve without God, goodness wouldn’t even exist unless God existed because he IS goodness.  That’s why God couldn’t look at Christ as he hung on the cross, because Christ had taken on the evil sin of the world and God is pure goodness, and because evil and goodness can’t be together God had to look away.  Now here is a kind of an interesting thing (in my opinion) take the extra ‘o’ out of goodness and you get godness, so as we pursuing God’s character, which we are called to do as we are called to pursue “Christ-likeness).
In Romans, it talks about how those who pursue goodness will continue in his goodness (and as we’ve seen in the previous verses will be upheld and blessed by God), but those who fall away and don’t return will be cut off.

Romans 11:22-23: Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.  Otherwise you will be cut off.  And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

  If you have a slight advanced knowledge about plants and such you will know that when you graft a plant you are taking a plant shoot and putting it with another plant so that they join and grow together, they create a ‘union.’ (Interesting picture, huh?)
  Many times growing up I have heart people many times say that they couldn't serve a God who is so harsh or so quick to burn people, well I got news for you, if you are a parent (or if you work with children like myself) you realize that God is not condemning God, but rather a fatherly God.  Parents give children many chances (in order to let them have the opportunity to do what is right, for they have been taught what is right and therefore know what is right), however, when the child doesn’t seem to get it or seems to start taking advantage of the grace of the parent, the parent then has to punish the child in a way that will make them get the message to “shape up.”  Think about it this way too, if someone keeps abusing us in any way, shape, or form we tend to drop them, “hey if they are going to just abuse our friendship, take advantage of me, or keep being devious, I’m not going to deal with them anymore.”  (Does that sound familiar?) It’s funny how that’s how we react as people and then we expect God to be different!?! It’s kind of selfish to act like God should except people no matter what, but come on why would God want to dwell with people who have declare pure hatred of him? Do we dwell with people who hate us? Do we dwell with people who we hate?   No. (No remember back to kindness and gentleness we are not supposed to hate people, but some of us deal with hatred which is the same as hate, instead we need to kindly dislike the behavior and love the person.)  Also you have to really pay attention too, because as you read the scriptures Christ always has way out and a way for us to still except him and to get another chance.  It clearly states that in the second half of our Romans verse.  So, I think that if people claim that God is a ruthless hateful God who just destroys, you have to ask them, ‘well how well do you know God’, because my God, the God in the scriptures is a God of justice and of second chances. (Every  time I say that statement ‘A God of second chances’ I always think of the ‘Veggie Tale’ song from Jonah sung by the veggie angels, “Our God is a God of second chances.”)

  Now that we know what goodness/righteousness is let’s take a look at what it does:
Philippians 2:14-16: Do all things without complaining or disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of the life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

Psalm 15: Lord, who may abide in your tabernacle? Who may dwell in your holy hill?  He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart; He who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes eyes vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; He who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

  One who bathes in righteousness is conscious of his sin and understands that it is sin, and in response then turns, asks for forgiveness, then goes and sins no more.  For the righteous see with truth glasses and they act with humility and Christ wisdom.

Ezekiel 20:43: And there you shall remember your ways and all your doings with which you were defiled; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight because of all the evils that you have committed.

  Later on in our study we will be talking about love, peace and joy.  We will discover that the scriptures talk about how when we follow Christ and his example we are reward with Christ’s peace and joy.  In Proverbs it talks about following the word will find good and trusting in the Lord will bring happiness! We just finished studying faithfulness and looking at God’s faithfulness and I think that because we see that God has always stayed true his promises we must then remember and be faithful in our end of the relationship so that we can take part in the peace and joy He has to offer us!

Proverbs 16:19-20: Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.  He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.

  On your own I would encourage you to look at the beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-11 and remember in the beginning of this study we saw that it takes self-control and humility to enable us to be successful in living the Fruit of the Spirit.  It takes humility and self-control to develop righteousness, for righteousness is (as we saw at the top) being free of wrong and just, well we have been told that we are free of wrong when we seek forgiveness of the Lord, and when we seek we fill find.  (But it takes humility to get there!)
So in conclusion, remember that Jesus loves you; he wants you to be successful and to lead a deeper and full life that honors him and brings you closer to him!

2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chapter 5 - Faithfulness

  $ Galatians 5:22-26 and Colossians 3:12

Faithfulness:  Allegiance to a person, loyalty, complete trust and devotion.

Devotion:  Being so familiar with someone or something, your constant full attention is given to that someone or something, making a ‘close bond.’ An intimate knowledge on someone or something.
 This makes me think of the song ‘All in All’ where it talks about how God is your strength when you are weak, the treasure that you seek, when we run dry he fills our cups, when we are down he lifts us up….and so on.  Do you pursue God like that? Is God someone that you have such a fire for that no one can turn eyes away from his amazing glory.  When you want something, really really want something most times we will stop at nothing to attain it, do we pursue God with that kind of passion?
   Let’s define an ‘intimate knowledge’ of something or someone.

Knowledge:  the Greek word to ‘know’ means to have a knowledge that perfectly unites the subject with the object.
In other words, it’s a person being so familiar with another person that they can predict (or almost predict) what the other person is about to do next.

Intimacy: inner most, marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity.  (Having intimacy is have ‘knowledge’ of one close to you)
   I find to better understand this it is required to look at God’s faithfulness to us.
(Verses 1-8 talk about how Israel is the chosen nation, and how all the other nations shall fail):

Deuteronomy 7:9-10: “Therefore, know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps a covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep his commandments; “and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them.  He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. 

   So right here this verse says that God is a faithful God to his people, and he is even faithful in his promises to destroy the people who deny and refuse him.  God is a God of his word.
Now the Psalms are just filled with praise of God’s faithfulness, mercy, love, and so on…but we are only going to look at one in this chapter.

Psalm 103: 1-14 (This is a Psalm of David):  Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your inequities, who heals your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies, who satisfies  your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.  He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to children of Israel.  The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.  He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.   He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.  For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.  As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.  For He knows our frame; He remembers we are dust.   (Please read the whole chapter 103 on your own it is very powerful)

   This passage is just such a shining light of hope for me, it talks about what a loving God he is and talks about how consistent he is, especially in his faithfulness.  I think it too shows his deep understanding, where it says that he “knows our frame and remembers we are dust.” What a beautiful picture of him remembering that he formed us from the dust of the ground and that we can be fragile, which is why I love how it talks about in Jeremiah 31:3 how God is gentle in his pursuit of us.  And I love how in Psalm 139:13 it paints a picture of how he never lacks understanding of who we are, he knows us with such a deep intimate knowledge that we cannot say he doesn’t know what we need, we need to face up to the fact that we are the ones who truly don’t know what we need. 
   I am so thankful that God is not like us humans in the ways we hold grudges against each other and struggle to forgive (even for the smallest things) it shames me sometimes when I think of people who grate my cheese every time I see them, and I have to ask myself, for what?  That’s when I realize that I am still holding onto a past wrong that I just need to grow up and let go of.   I am so relieved and thankful that God is not like that at all, his mercies are fresh and new every morning.  He is ready and wanting to give us another chance!

Lamentations 3:22-25: Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore, I hope in Him!”  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

   And lastly God even tells us that he knows what he is doing and tells us that he is faithful to us especially when we call on him.

Jeremiah 29:11-14:  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.   Then shall you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.   And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found of you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord,  and I will bring to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.

   As we look at God’s faithful character, we have to ask ourselves: if he is so faithful to me, why is it so difficult for me to be faithful to him and what he has called me to do?  I have to ask myself that all the time, there are times where I am struggling to stay faithful to finish writing this study, but I keep pushing myself to do it.  Even though I have fallen behind in my posting dates I am going to push through this to the end, because God has always been faithful through the big things in my life, why shouldn’t I be faithful in the small things of him?

   We are told that without faith it is impossible to please God; think about it this way, why would God require us to be faithful to him, because he knows that if we don’t have a part in the up-keep of our relationship with him, we will grow lazy and slowly drift away from him. (Please read: Hebrews 11:6)  And the farther away we are from his presence the harder it is for us to come back to him.  So not only is it a respectful thing to do in our intimate relationship with him, but also the healthier thing to do.  I hope to later on do a study of the armor of God, in order to study how we can prepare ourselves for the battles we face every day. For now let me say this, we need to fight for our relationship with our almighty God who so faithfully and lovingly pursued us even when we turned our back on him, he has our best interest in mind and we need to fight for that.  We need to fight by consistently going into the word and praying, being quiet in his presence and surrounding ourselves with the fruit of the spirit and people so support us in our fight.
In Psalm 63 it shows us exactly what a faithful relationship to Christ looks like, please read the entire chapter on your own for it is a very powerful passage.

Now in conclusion the Bible tells us to do this:
2 Peter 1:5-11: But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue,  to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.   For if these things be yours and abound, you will be neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.   Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Savior Jesus Christ.