Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Uncategorized

Living a Life of Grace and Freedom in Christ

Author: Charles Hegwood

When I was a student, I thought of the word ‘freedom’ as that one moment on the last day of school as I walked out the door. The promise of summer and all of the fun that it would bring could be felt riding on the breeze. I could wake up late with no real schedule. The chains of study and homework were at least temporarily loosened and I was free. Well, mostly free. Temporarily free. Thanks to God that freedom in Christ is much more permanent and much more valuable than a brief reprieve from schoolwork. Paul talked about freedom from sin and death. He talked about freedom in Christ. Hear the words of Paul as he pleads with his readers to stand firm in the freedom Christ gives and avoid placing the law’s yoke back around our necks.  

What is Freedom  

There is beauty in the freedom we have in Christ, but what does it mean to be set free? Freedom in Christ is not freedom to sin. We are not to think of being free as an excuse to sin and do whatever we want, all the while waving around the credit card of grace. Far from it. Paul’s definition of freedom is wrapped up in the context of Galatians chapter 5.  

The issue in the Galatian church was that they wanted to place the yoke of the law back on their shoulders. They wanted to be circumcised because they thought that circumcision would grant them favor in the eyes of the law and the eyes of God. Verse 2 helps the reader to understand the mindset of those seeking circumcision. Paul stated that “Jesus would be of no advantage.” This should alert us that these men were trying to obtain or add to their salvation in another way apart from Christ. The cultural law was familiar and therefore comfortable. Paul, however, relates their previous state to that slavery. Freedom was new and scary for these men. They were quick to retreat to what they knew. They wanted circumcision as a “faith and…” This desire displayed a lack of faith in Jesus according to Paul.  

For us today, it is not a question of circumcision. It is about us chaining ourselves to other practices with the hope of obtaining salvation or holiness apart from Jesus. The add-ons are often the former things we left behind before submitting our lives to Christ. Those things are comfortable and easy. These add-ons could also be extra behaviors too. We may feel insecure about our faith in Jesus and therefore try to add qualifications on top of Jesus’ sacrifice. This is an attempt to further be justified, which is our way of telling God, “you are not enough to save me, let me help.” This is textbook legalism, obsession over obedience apart from faith in Jesus.  

What Freedom Looks Like 

The freedom in Christ that Paul speaks of, frees us from sin and from trying to earn God’s favor. Paul said in many other places that we are not to crawl back to our sinful lifestyles. Some in the church at Galatia thought the blood of Christ was not sufficient for them and therefore they must do more to earn their own righteousness.They then crawled back to their old beliefs and practices. Paul called for freedom from the chains of earning God’s merit because the reality is you cannot. Freedom in Christ is the knowledge that because of Jesus, God is pleased with us. God sees the righteousness of Christ when he looks at us. This is great freedom. Freedom is the grace of God poured out on us. Do not throw extra steps into salvation. In verse seven, Paul called this action disobedience to Christ.  

Where Freedom Is  

Freedom in Christ is found in our daily lives. As I mentioned earlier, freedom from doing things to earn salvation does not equal doing nothing. A believer who is enjoying true freedom in Christ still lives an obedient life to Christ. This believer does not go through life uncaring about what they do, say, or think. Freedom manifests itself in your interactions with people and when no one is looking. Paul was saying that freedom in Christ was the freedom to obey Christ. This means we do good things to please Christ. Doing good things to please God is far different than doing good works to earn God’s favor. Do you see why this is freedom? We never have to wonder if we have done enough good to be righteous. So do not do what the believers in Galatia were doing. They were trying to add extra works to earn God’s salvation in their lives and in the lives of others. Be free to obey Christ because you love Him, and not to earn His love for you.  

3 Important Questions to Ask of Freedom and Grace 

As we wrap up this discussion of freedom in Christ, we must ask ourselves how we apply this text in particular and the freedom of Christ in general to our lives.  

  1. What freedom in Christ truly looks like? 

We have to be aware of the patterns in our lives that we tend to fall back to. If you are like me, a result-oriented person, your temptation might be to add results as a measure of salvation. This is folly and sinful according to Paul.  

  1. Where is freedom in Christ in our lives? 

We need to see this freedom in the good things that we do. It is refreshing to think that as believers, God already loves us . Doing good works is but the icing on the cake of our relationship with God.  

  1. Have I added works and actions to earn faith or call others’ to do so? 

Do good works as an outpouring of your love for God. Help your brothers and sisters embrace their freedom in Christ, breaking free of the shackles of legalism. It is after all, for freedom that Jesus set you free, so be free to live for Christ.  

Categories
Spiritual Development

Living for the End: How We are called to a Life of Holiness

Author: Charles Hegwood

Have you ever wondered how you should live in light of the end times? I mean if the world will end in fire and creation will melt away, what do we do with our time now? Live it up? Be oblivious? Or live like there is no tomorrow? I remember sitting in a Systematic Theology class and hearing the professor say, “the end of all things is near, and I know many of you are hoping it comes before this test and paper are due. But Peter said you should be found preparing for both when Jesus returns.” Every student was hoping the Day of the Lord would come before the day of the test. But the professor’s words ring true. In light of the end, be found doing what God called you to do. Be found living a God-honoring life. In 2 Peter 3:13-18, Peter told us how to live as we face the end of all things. Peter commands all believers to live holy lives as we eagerly await Jesus’ return.  

 A Firm Promise to the End 

2 Peter 3 is all about the end times. It is after all the end of the letter and Peter is giving us his parting words. His words are also encouraging believers as they wait for the end to come. We must ask ourselves if we believe that the end will come just as Peter said it would, what then should we do with our time and our lives now? Peter would answer that with a firm promise that the destruction of the old creation is much less about destruction and more about a renewal. The promise Peter gives us is that the old creation will be destroyed and there will be a new heaven and a new Earth. Peter encourages his reader to hope in the promise of that new heaven and new Earth. Yes, the old will be destroyed, but the promise is that God will make all things new. That is good news in tough times. We can hope in the promise that God will make a new place for His people to dwell with Him. As we consider the end times and the scary imagery used in 2 Peter 3, let this promise of a new creation bring you hope and peace.  

In the Meantime  

You may be wondering, but how does this settle the question of what we are to do in the meantime? Do we just sit idle until this happens? The answer to that is in verse 14. “Therefore,” marks a purpose for what had just been said. It was verse 14 that my professor had in mind as he encouraged us to continue writing and studying. “As you wait, be found without spot or blemish.” As we wait for the promise of the new heaven and the new Earth and as we wait for the current creation to fail, be found living holy lives and doing the things of God. The world ending is not an excuse to do whatever we want. Instead, it is every reason to “be diligent” and put effort towards being active living in holiness.  

Peter is pushing us to be found doing godly things by Jesus when He returns. It is like preparing for the arrival of a baby. What do you do? You get things ready to bring the baby home. If you are awaiting a meeting with an honored guest, you are getting the house in order. The promise of Jesus’ return that Peter talked about should also inspire us to prepare ourselves for His return as we would a baby or an honored guest.  

If Jesus tarries, then we take that as an opportunity to share the gospel with more people. Take the patience of Jesus in returning as a time to get your life and the lives of those around you in order. God’s patience should inspire us to go to the nations and proclaim the good news to those who have no hope. Share Christ in the meantime. So let us answer the question, what do we do in the meantime? We share the gospel and live lives that are pleasing to the Lord.  

Practical living for the End  

As Peter concludes his letter, he reminds his reader that Paul has also written about these things. Peter encourages the reader, and us, to know Paul’s teaching. This is practical advice. As we seek to live holy lives in light of the End Times, we need to grow in our knowledge of God. Put simply, read and know your Bibles. You will grow in the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Peter warns us however, that Scripture can be difficult to understand and that some people use it wrongly for bad purposes. So Peter commands that we, therefore, take care and be diligent in knowing what Scripture rightly says. Read your Bibles and read them well. Stay away from Bible teachers whose lives are marked by lawlessness for they will only lead you away. Find Bible teachers whose lives are marked by Jesus and learn to read Scripture from them. So as we wait for Jesus let us live holy lives, share Christ, and read God’s Word well.   

Conclusion  

Hear the words of Peter as we think about Jesus’ return. One, these promises are sure. We can trust our God. Two, we are to be diligent in living holy lives marked by repentance and grace. Three, share Christ as we wait for His return. And four, we are to read and know God’s Word so that we can grow in our understanding and knowledge of Him. In doing these things we may be found by Jesus without spot or blemish seeking Him in everything we do. Go and do likewise.  

 

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Prayer Spiritual Development

Peace in Chaos

Author: Rachel Kidd

Joy is peace dancing. Chaos is peace undefined. 

-F.B. Myer  

Baptist minister and prophetic evangelist Frederick Brotherton Meyer is best known for his part in the revival. Fittingly, his words on peace describe not a still peace, but rather one that moves, a living, active sort of peace.  

Revival happens when God’s presence brings hope and new life to His people, a renewal of faith, energy, and worship. Revivals tend to be on a large scale, inciting broad social change and inspiring zealous action.  

In short, revivals are not typically associated with peace. Many would describe revivals as chaotic, even sometimes energetic, and impassioned. Yet, they are also places of profound joy and peace, springing with God’s presence.  

I understand Myer’s description of peace as a spectrum, where joy becomes abounding peace personified and defined by the act of dancing. On the other hand, peace can also be utter chaos in its undefined and unregulated state.  

Without a clear definition and boundaries, peace can easily descend into chaos. God has the unique power to create, define, and transcend peace. Without the scripture, peace lacks the anchor it needs to exist. God and His word are the grounding force that defines peace, breathing it into our lives.  

 Peace, Defined 

You turned my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. –Psalm 30:11 

Here in Psalms, God is described as a giver of joy, the source of a joy so profound, it overwhelms deep sadness and grief. A sackcloth was a piece of clothing made from rough, unfinished fabric worn by the Israelites in times of mourning.1  

By replacing the fabric associated with grief and death with fibers made from pure joy, we see God working to define peace as joy. This joy is manifested through dance, transforming into praise from tears.  

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,  a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. –Ecclesiastes 3:1-:4  

A scriptural support for the idea that peace exists on a continuum, this verse describes seasons of life. There is a time for everything, like the seasons change from summer to fall, from winter to spring, so we have times of sadness and times of joy. 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. –Romans 15:13  

Romans encourages us with the hope of believing, praying joy and peace over those who believe in Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s a beautiful reminder of the power of faith and the peace that follows.  

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. –Isaiah 55:12 

A prophecy of peace, this verse proclaims joy in the name of the Lord that is expressed through singing and clapping.  

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  

—John 14:27  

Jesus reminds us that He leaves us in peace, that He is the source of peace. He calls us to live not in fear and worry, but in peace that is not of this world.  

Peace Framework 

The concept of the peace framework helps us break down what it means to curate a peaceful life and truly understand the steps needed to take towards peace. There are three sides to the peace framework triangle; place, provision, and physical health.  

Each month in this series, we will dive deeper into each piece of the framework and get a better understanding of how we can apply these concepts as we create a peaceful life.  

 Much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Peace Framework provides a structure that helps us understand the components of a broader concept. It breaks down something that can be difficult to grasp into pieces that are much easier to understand. 

  1. Place:  
    • Your environment, whether physical, mental, or social. 
    • Your place can impact your peace for the positive or negative. 
  2. Provision: 
    • Your belongings and monetary provisions that sustain you.  
    • Whether you have enough or not enough, the worry of providing for yourself and your family impacts your peace. 
  1. Physical Health 
    • Your well-being, safety, and mental stability.  
    • In times of sickness, whether physical or mental, people often experience a lack of peace.  

Each piece of the peace framework is applicable to everyone, regardless of where you live or your socioeconomic status. Helpful frameworks are broadly applicable and are easily adaptable to nearly anyone’s experience.  

 This series will delve deeper into each aspect of the peace framework and how we can apply the concepts to our lives, along with biblical knowledge, for a more peaceful and joy-filled life.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

That Sinking Feeling

Author: Rachel Kidd

Jesus Walks on Water 

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.   

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” –Matthew 14:25-29  

Many of us heard this bible story retold to us in Sunday School as kids, intended to encourage our budding faith in Christ. I don’t think it occurred to me then how miraculous, how frightening it would be to truly see someone walk on water in front of me.  

Sinking Feeling 

When I was 16, I had the privilege of traveling to Israel on a school trip. That incredible experience connected me in a very tangible way to the Bible that I grew up reading, making it come alive.  

My group took a bus to the Dead Sea, a greatly anticipated final stop on our educational tour. In our swimsuits and sandals, our tour guide made sure we understood that the salt concentration in the water would be unlike anything we’ve experienced before and would make our bodies buoyant. 

As prepared as I thought I was, I cannot quite describe to you the shock I felt when I slipped into the oily, crystalized water. Like a ball of dough being dropped in hot oil, you don’t sink. Instead, the thick water immediately pushes you back up and cradles you on the surface.  

 I had never felt anything like it, floating on the Dead Sea. It defies logic, upends everything you thought you knew, the principles of the universe you previously believed were concrete and unchanging.  

I can imagine that even though the disciples knew that Jesus performed miracles, seeing Him walk across the water would have been incredibly shocking. Defying the laws of gravity in front of their very eyes, upending everything they thought was true.  

 I probably would have screamed too, out of fear and disbelief. I can’t even imagine Jesus then asking me to walk out to Him, asking me to suspend my understanding of the world. I certainly would have been afraid, even knowing Jesus was right in front of me.  

Peter the Rock  

I think we are often judgmental of Peter, who’s failings are frequent throughout the Gospels. It can be easy to do, but we also should be mindful to remember Peter’s strengths and successes too.  

Peter was the only man in the boat on the Sea of Galilee to step off and into the storm. And yet, we only remember the fact that he sank because he took his eyes off of Jesus.  

Peter demonstrates incredible discernment, only walking on the water once he is sure that it is in fact Jesus, and that He has called him to do so.  

When Peter does stumble, he calls out to Jesus for help; “Lord save me!” and Jesus does. He models responding to Jesus’ call and asking for help when we need it.  

Peter is often the face of doubt, impulsivity, and misjudgement. But, he is also a great church leader, the one who Jesus called the rock. He becomes who Jesus called him, the Rock.  

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Purpose 

Like Peter and His other disciples, Jesus called ordinary people to His ministry. He used people who may have otherwise been discounted and ignored for His purposes, which often ran in opposition to the religious leaders of the time.  

In Mark 7, Jesus is sitting down to a meal with the Pharises.1 Instead of cleansing themselves in the proper way as per tradition, Jesus and His disciples simply sit down to eat.   

The Pharisees are appalled and rebuke Jesus, asking why He allows His followers to eat with unclean hands. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach, replying:  

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” 

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. –Mark 7:6-8 

Jesus explains that it is the soul, the inner part of man, that makes us reflections of God the Creator. It is not our outer bodies, our external appearances, our cleanliness that makes us righteous in the eyes of God.  

He then declares all food clean, again defying the Jewish tradition of eating Kosher.2  

“Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) –Mark 7:18-19 

Jesus says that nothing from the outside can defile a person, rather it is the inside that defiles them. It is not dirty hands, unclean foods, or unfit friends that we should be worried about. He instead places the blame on the internal and the spiritually dark.  

“…sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” –Mark 7: 21-23 

Jesus consistently and persistently flipped the rules and traditions of His time on their heads. He upturned natural laws like gravity even, calling Peter to walk on water and raising people from the dead.  

He calls ordinary people, people that will likely be scared by these abrupt changes to their world, to have faith. He calls even people like Peter, sinking Peter, to be the rock of the church and fulfill extraordinary purposes.  

Categories
Prayer Spiritual Development

What is True Peace?

Author: Rachel Kidd 

In a tumultuous world riddled with anxiety and pressures ranging from irritating to life-threatening, we are constantly battling attacks to our peace. We are also bombarded with potential solutions for our anxieties, from spa days and self-care to therapy and medication.  

While these things are certainly beneficial and often life-saving and necessary, it is impossible to substitute any of these solutions for a relationship with God.  As believers, we know Jesus as the peace that passes understanding. He is the source of true peace.   

Finding Peace in Hard Times  

There is no doubt that life is hard, for everyone. We all experience the pain, heartbreak, and stressors of being human. While our experiences differ greatly based on our age, socio-economic status, and location, part of being human is going through hardships.  

 Particularly as Christians, God tells us that difficult times are to come, that we will face persecution and difficulties because of our faith. These trials, while seemingly impossible in the present, are used by the Lord to fortify us and bolster our character and faith. He provides us with strength and peace, enabling us to get through even the most difficult of circumstances. Leaning on Christ through earnest prayer and petition, casting our worries on Him, brings peace in dark times. When I feel discouraged, lonely, hurt, or scared, I open my Bible to find comfort. Praying and pouring over the Word promotes peace and a feeling of security, helping you grow closer to God.  

Peace in the Scriptures 

If you are feeling anxious, scared, discouraged, or alone, these verses may be what you need in those moments. Read these verses for a breath of God’s peace in your overwhelming day.   

Philippians 4:11-13 

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 

Paul is an excellent biblical example of finding the peace of the Lord in even the most dire of circumstances. He was beaten, imprisoned, and alone- yet he remained joyful and thankful to God. Paul reminds us that he understands our pain and that anything is possible with God.  

Matthew 5:9 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 

When you work to bring peace in your relationships and to others, God is sure to bless you. Blessings are not always tangible on earth in the form of money or possessions, but Christians can find comfort in the knowledge of heavenly rewards.  

Psalm 29:11 

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. 

When you are a believer and walk in faith, God calls you His and blesses you with strength and peace.  

Isaiah 26:3 

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  

In the Old Testament, in Isaiah, we are told that there are two conditions that must be met before God can bless us with peace. First, we must keep our minds steadfast, or resolute in our faith, and we must fully and completely trust in Him.   

Philippians 4:6-8 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  

Paul tells us that our thoughts are connected to our peace. When we ruminate on pain or darkness, we feel unsettled and discouraged. But, when we think of good and lovely things, even when those things are hard to find, we feel uplifted and encouraged. While it can be difficult to take control of our thoughts, doing so can make a dramatic difference in our emotional state.  

2 Corinthians 13:11 

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.  

Paul encourages us to live in a joyful community, fostering a spirit of peace and unity with our brothers and sisters. When we are in harmonious relationships with others, God blesses us with peace.  

Colossians 3:15 

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  

We are called to be thankful for what God has given us, allowing Him to rule over our hearts with peace.  

Romans 5:1 

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  

 Being faithful and sanctified through trials enables us to grow close to God and find peace in Him.  

To read more on peace and Paul’s explanation of the conditions God sets for peace, check out Prescription for Peace.