Christianity 201

March 20, 2017

He Wants Us to be With Him in His Glory

Tomorrow, I’m posting a review of a new collection of C. S. Lewis works wherein I noted that  Lewis wrote: “The symbols under which heaven is presented to us are (a) a dinner party, (b) a wedding, (c) a city, and (d) a concert.” Today’s devotional contains the wedding banquet theme presented in many depictions of the end times.

To do so, we pay another return visit to the blog of Gordon Rumford, one of the most faithful devotional writers online. I think the example by which he frames this best illustrates what Jesus is saying in the prayer which forms the key verse. Click the title below to read at source.

Who do you really wish to be with?

I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,
and to see my glory.”
John 17:24 (NIV)


View in your web browser here

I often am enlisted to drive one or another of my grandchildren somewhere. Occasionally it is to church but mostly to or from school. It is a great opportunity to engage them in conversation and learn more about their world and how they see it. I love this time and am thankful that I live close to them in order to be with them so frequently.

Some time ago I drove one of them to a banquet at school. Then, when the time came, I picked her up to drive her home. When my granddaughter got into the car she enthusiastically said that she had won an award and showed me the plaque with her name inscribed and a description of her achievement.

I knew that the banquet was only for the students and staff but I still expressed my disappointment that I could not be there to hear her name called and see her on stage to receive the honour. I was very proud of her and her diligent work to gain such recognition.

It is such a pleasure to see those we love recognized and honoured in front of their peers. To be able to say to others I am related to the person honoured brings such joy to our hearts.

This is what Jesus is getting at in our verse today. He has troubled the disciples by saying He is going away and now He lets them hear His words indicating He wants them with Him where He is going. He adds to that request the reason He wants them with Him.

It is a concern to Jesus that His people see Him in all His glory. Since Jesus humbled Himself by leaving heaven and becoming a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” He now wishes the disciples to see the eternal glory He would re-assume in heaven.

Many of us have invested loved ones in heaven. They have gone ahead to be with Jesus and we wish to be reunited with them. This is indeed a good thing to wish for in our lives. It will be a grand reunion and there will be so much to catch up on and share at that time.

However there is a wonder in heaven that goes far, far beyond the reunion with loved ones. It is to see Jesus Who is the centerpiece of heaven. Ultimately it will be Jesus will Who receives the attention and praise. Anna Cousins… puts it like this:

The Bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land.

Who do you really wish to be with? Jesus indicates that those whom the Father has given Him are those who will be with Him. Have you decided that Jesus is the One you really wish to be with? He invites you to come to Him and be one of His chosen people for all eternity. Will you come?

Further reading: As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of the earlier words of Jesus in John 14, “I go to prepare a place for you… I will come again and receive you unto myself.” (Yes, I know, KJV is how I memorized it as a child!) As it turns out, just a few days prior, Gordon Rumford wrote another devotional based on a verse in that same passage.

July 17, 2016

Who are the children of God?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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Children of God•••by Russell Young

Many esteem themselves to be children of God.  Being such allows a person right to all of the privileges that belong to a son, including the inheritance that God has provided for his children.  Paul wrote: “You are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed (put on as sinking into a garment) yourself with Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27, NIV) This passage identifies that “marking” by the Spirit of the one who has made a confession of faith.  Since they have been baptized through confession and through water, they have been clothed with Christ through his Spirit. The redeemed person must remain clothed with Christ, however. (Jn 15:4, 5, 7, 10)

John has identified a son in a different way. “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:10, NIV) John has made a distinction between those who are children of God and those who are children of the devil.  This distinction is presented as being based upon a person’s doing.  According to John the person who is a child of God must do what is right.  Many make the claim that they are a child of God because of a confession that they had once made.  The distinction between ‘doing right’ and ‘confessing faith’ needs to be made clear.

The believer becomes a child of God through faith-persuasion that God exists and is able to reward those who diligently seek him-but his faith may not last.  The Lord requires faith expressed through obedience to him (Heb 5:9) to the end (Mt 10:22), and stated that the Father would cut out those who do not bear fruit. (John 15:1) A son does the will of the Father and is obedient to Christ throughout his lifetime.

The Lord taught, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:34-35, NIV) The son does not sin.  He will honour the Father’s provision to gain victory over it through obedience to the Spirit.  In another place Paul, who had recorded that sonship was achieved by faith, stated, “For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:13-14, NIV)

The sonship achieved through the marking of the Spirit must be proven through the believer’s walk if his or her state is to become permanent and if he or she is to be adopted as his child, a position for which they are waiting (Rom 8:23).  Paul has recognized the distress that God’s children (and all of creation) feel in this world as they wait for their adoption to be realized.

A person’s walk in the Spirit identifies him or her as a child of God. They have learned to walk as Jesus did (1 Jn 2:6), and they have been conformed to his likeness (Rom 8:29).  They have the characteristics of the parent, the Father. Paul has written, “For of this you can be sure:  No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Further, he has listed that neither fornicators, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, the covetous, etc. will inherit the kingdom. ” (1 Cor 6:9-10) Those who practice such are not sons but are slaves to sin because he has provided all that is necessary to avoid it; their place in the family will not be permanent. “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin.” (1 Jn 5:18, NIV)

In his revelation the Lord said, “He who overcomes will inherit all of this (the New Jerusalem), and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21:7, NIV) It is the one who prevails over sin or who gets the victory who will be a child of God.

Who are the children of God?  They are the ones who have humbled themselves before God and have accepted the lordship of Christ in their lives.  They have obeyed him and have overcome the world and the evil one, and have been conformed to the likeness of Christ.  Their practice has been to live righteously and to defeat evil through the power of the Spirit.  Their old self has had to be put to death so that Christ has become their life.

The believer is not to be cavalier about the honour of sonship offered him or her but must be prepared to work it out with fear and trembling. The plan of God is to have a royal priesthood, a holy kingdom, children who have become a fit sacrifice for his presence (Rom 15:16).    Those who have given in to the sinful nature will not be adopted as his children and will be separated from him forever. (Mt 13:41)


November 16, 2015

The Holy Spirit Working In and Through The Church

“We don’t need the Holy Spirit. We have technology.”

Yes, someone actually said it. They said it in a church I attended years ago in a pre-computer, pre-Internet age when technology wasn’t all that it is today. And yes, I’m certainly hoping they said it tongue-in-cheek.

But the sentiment behind that statement rules in many of our local churches, district offices, national denominational headquarters, parachurch organizations and mission agencies. We are self-sufficent. We can do this. We don’t need help.

This Sunday morning our pastor referenced Judges 16:20 (italics added)

He [Samson] awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.

Samson, who is more of an anti-role model in scripture, has had his hair [the source of his great physical strength in conjunction with his Nazarite vow] shaved off, and once again has been tied up as he has been in two previous tests of strength. This time around however, he’s not going to be able break free. Matthew Henry writes about this (paraphrased)

He couldn’t help but notice his missing hair as soon as he awoke, and yet said, “I will free myself as I always did before after waking up…” …Perhaps he thought to shake himself free even easier than with the previous tests, and that his head would feel lighter, now that his hair was cut, little thinking how much heavier the burden of guilt was than the weight of long hair. He soon found himself in a never-before-experienced predicament …and yet even then doesn’t have awareness that the Lord had departed from him: he did not consider that this was the reason for him being in a different state.

Many have lost the favorable presence of God and are not aware of it; they have done something that provoked God to withdraw from them, but are not aware of their loss, nor ever complain of it. Their souls atrophy and grow weak, their gifts fall into disuse, circumstances starts going wrong with them; and yet they don’t credit this to the right cause: they are not aware that God has departed from them, nor are they in any hurry to reconcile themselves to him or to gain back his favor. When God has departed we cannot continue in a ‘business as usual’ mode.

Pastor Jeff also shared this quotation from A. W. Tozer (emphasis added)

If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95% of what we do would go on, and no one would know the difference.

That’s a rather sad commentary. Does this happen? Is it possible that “God has left the building?” In Romans 8:38-39 Paul tells us,

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But there are things we can do to impair the relationship between us and Him. In a long article — that’s worth seeing — George Kirkpatrick lists some of these things:

1 – Grieving the Holy Spirit
2 – Wrath
3 – Clamor and Sowing Discord
4 – Evil Speaking
5 – Unbelief
6 – Following false prophets and false teachers
7 – Sexual sins
8 – Free thinkers
9 – Jealousy and Anger
10- Unequally yoked to unbelievers
11- Rebellion against God’s authority

If the Holy Spirit was taken out of your situation, your family, your community, or even your church, would anyone notice the difference?






October 6, 2015

Retelling the Story: Paul in Prison

Acts 24.5 “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him.  By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”

A few weeks ago at Thinking Out Loud, I looked at a book which retells many of the well known gospel narratives in modern language. This is type of exercise that can be really effective or go rather badly. I guess much depends on the audience.

From the point of view of the writer, however, this is an excellent way to study scripture. Forget lectio divina or the inductive study method; if you really want to lock into a passage, either be a scribe and copy it out, or be a translator and attempt to pass on the information to a different group of people. You have to really slow down and read the text in a way that people often don’t read in a busy world.

The latter is what our friends at Flagrant Regard did this week with two chapters from Acts. Click the title below to read this at source.


Excerpted from THE TIMES ROMAN, circa A.D. 60.

* “In a shocking series of events this week, a Jew and former member of the religious sect known as the Pharisees, laid into Caesarea’s most esteemed overseer, Felix of Arcadia, with a diatribe about ‘justice, self-control and the supposed ‘coming judgement”, causing the governor great consternation.

As has been provided to us through his transcriptions of all the goings on with respect to the movement known as ‘The Way’, Luke – a Jewish doctor – recorded that Paul, who is also a Roman citizen, has been accused of causing a disturbance in Jerusalem for both Romans and Jews in the area. Though Paul was to stand on trial in Jerusalem before authorities there, an assassination plot was uncovered to take out the Nazarene cult-leader and it was then he was secretly escorted by no less than 270 members of the Roman guard to Caesarea, where he would appear before Antonius Felix, the area governor.

Governor Felix, apparently well acquainted with ‘The Way’, a new religion that combines Jewish beliefs with the understanding that Jesus, a putative healer, self-proclaimed king and savior of all of mankind, would also have known about the alleged resurrection of this ‘Christ’. (Members of ‘The Way’ continue to claim this resurrection event as being true despite the fact that their Christ was crucified under Roman decree for crimes of insurrection.)

In the Caesarean court at Paul’s preliminary hearing, a representative of the Pharisees, Tertullus, stated that in Jerusalem, Paul had been causing a disturbance. “He agitates trouble in Jewish communities throughout our empire as a ringleader of the heretical sect known as the Nazarenes. He even tried to desecrate the temple!”

Paul, a weary looking man with poor eyesight – hardly an imposing figure – was then brought before the respected governor and allowed to represent himself in his own defense.

The Tarsus native proceeded to detail his account of events: that he went to ‘worship’ in Jerusalem just twelve days before and while in Jerusalem did not argue publicly, stir up crowds or cause civil disorder within the city. He then summarized what he believed was the reason his accusers became aggressive toward him:

“I have a hope in God that there will be a resurrection of both the just and unjust, which my opponents also share. … Perhaps my crime is that I spoke this one sentence in my testimony before them: “I am on trial here today because I have hope that the dead are raised.””

After hearing this, the most noble governor dismissed the hearing, promising a decision on the issue when the commandant of Jerusalem arrived to provide his evidence on the matter.

But it was a few days later, when Paul was graciously allowed to enjoy the company of the felicitous governor Felix, that things went south for the radical preacher.

Given an opportunity to speak freely of his faith in the Christ and possibly persuade the governor of the supposed ‘Good News’ message being taught by members of the infant religion, he made a grave error in judgment. Rather than pay homage to the esteemed Felix by complimenting him on his education and knowledge of The Way, Paul expanded on his beliefs by addressing the extreme importance of ‘justice, self-control and the coming judgment’.

Our revered governor was made to feel extremely uncomfortable – fearful, in fact! – due to Paul’s choice of subject matter. How dare this Jew turned Nazarene-follower address a most noble judge and Roman overseer in such a manner! It would have been far more prudent to secure the governor’s interest in (or possible conversion to) the new faith by stating how forgiving of sins the Christ was. Or that if one were to just believe in the Christ, pray a particular set of prayers or offer a specific type of offering, they would be guaranteed a place of honor in the afterlife.

Had Paul remained somewhat reserved with respect to his more incendiary beliefs, he very likely could have secured a shorter stint in Roman custody; the estimable Felix would surely have responded favorably toward Paul had the more positive aspects of the Nazarene faith been furnished during their time together and if Paul had thought to offer a generous donation to Rome’s interests via the fiduciarily responsible governor.

But such was not to be. Paul remains in prison and most likely will stay there until the esteemed governor Felix steps down and retires with his family to his beautiful summer home in Pompeii, near Herculaneum, in two short years.”

Correspondent for The Times Roman, Martinus Chrestus

© Flagrant Regard, 2015

*Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 23 thru 24

October 2, 2015

A Servant’s Heart

Phil. 2:19(NIV) I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

Today we pay a return visit to the blog of Harvest Pointe Fellowship in Evans, Georgia. This resource has been on their site for over a year, but is a good fit for us here. Click the title below to read at source.

Deeper In God’s Word – The Heart Of A Servant

Most often, we don’t have much faith in the results of public polls but sometimes we get useful information from the Gallop polls. One Gallup poll taken recently (and supported by Barna) has produced statistics that will shock many of us. In some ways the outcome was positive. In some ways the outcome of the poll was very negative. The poll found that never in the history of America has church attendance been so high. It is encouraging that church attendance is at an all time high in America. We look back to previous generations and we tend to glorify the days past as a time when church attendance was common. But according to the Gallup poll never in the history of America has the attendance of Christianity been so high as it is now.

But then the second part of the poll reveals the discouraging aspect of this poll. Never in the history of America has church attendance made such little difference. In other words, many are attending church and many are coming more than ever before but the problem is the influence the Christian has on society. Never has Christian influence been so weak. It could be said, that we have a real problem with the absence of Christian character today.

The passage of scripture that Chris taught us from on Sunday addresses this problem. In Philippians chapter 2:19-24, we meet two friends of the Apostle Paul. These were real men who quite literally display the character of Jesus Christ that Paul has been writing about.

First, we meet Timothy in verses 19-24. As Paul writes about him we see that the underlying quality that marks the man is Jesus Christ. We see that Timothy is an exceptional man. Paul says, “I have no one like him.” Wouldn’t you like to have that written about you? I know there must have been many things at which Timothy did not excel. With his frail body, I am sure he was not much of an athlete. He could very easily have been beaten at sports, or possibly surpassed in learning. But there was one area where no one even comes close to this man, and that is in his selfless care, his demonstration of genuine and anxious concern for the welfare of others. Here he is demonstrating that peculiarly Christian virtue, that distinctive mark of the presence of Christ within: selflessness (Berkley). That is what the Lord Jesus said of himself, “Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.”

Recently, I read a definition of meekness that I think is awesome. I’ve been searching for a definition of that word for sometime. I don’t know any word in Scripture that is more thoroughly misunderstood than “meekness”. Most of us think of meekness in terms of weakness. We picture some spineless wimp who lets everyone walk all over him. But of course that description would never apply to our Lord. What did he mean when he said, “I am meek”? I found that “meekness is that quality which receives injury without resentment, and praise without pride” (Pettigrove). Timothy is demonstrating that utter unconcern for the rights and privileges of self, and an outgoing, deep and genuine concern for the needs of others.

I am not sure exactly what Paul means when he says, “for all others look after their own interests.” But, I think this reveals a frustration that as Paul searched among his acquaintances there in Rome for someone to go to Philippi, he sadly found no one with a selfless character. Evidently all of them turned him down. Not because they couldn’t do it. I’m sure Paul would not have asked them if that had been the case. But they turned him down because they were interested solely in their own concerns. They all had perfectly good excuses why none could undertake the journey to Philippi. The only one to whom Christ’s business was his business was Timothy. You can imagine what an encouragement he must have been to the apostle’s heart as he is longing to send someone to the Philippians to help them with their problems and everyone turns him down simply because of their own selfish concerns. But Timothy says, “All right, Paul, I’m ready to go-any time, any place, anywhere.” Like a sprinter in the starting blocks, he was sitting on ready. This was the selflessness of this young man. No wonder he was always a channel of power wherever he went, as he went ready to be an instrument of God’s grace (MacArthur).

This is the question. Are we self-satisfied with ‘random acts of kindness’ which may cost us little? Are we really in a constant state of readiness? As we consider the incomparable sacrifice of our Lord on our behalf, can we do less than worship Him with all we have and are?

Prayer: Father, teach us to be a people who genuinely care for the welfare of others, and who are willing to demonstrate that care in selfless acts of service.

Deeper In God’s Word,
Tom Renew

C201 New LinkMission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of Christian blogs and websites. Sometimes two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. Your suggestions of articles and websites to consider are always welcome.

Scripture portions from various translations quoted at Christianity 201 are always in green to remind us that the Scriptures have LIFE!