Faith Not Sight

November 28, 2022

I don’t like the fact that our bodies disappoint us with aging or disease or both. Somehow it just doesn’t seem fair that the best body we will ever have is at age 18 (at least in this life). We see the aging process in others, but eventually we have to admit to it in ourselves. What Paul called “the outer person wasting away” is observable in life (2 Corinthians 4:16).
 
Yet Paul placed beside this unwelcome fact another wondrous observation. In Christ, the inner person can continue to grow and become better. “Our inner person is being renewed day by day” (1 Corinthians 4:16). God is transforming us to become more and more like His Son. Our character, our kindness, and our love can grow and mature throughout our lifetime. The best our inner person can be in this life may be the day we breathe our last.
 
Paul compared this body that disappoints us to a tent (1 Corinthians 5:1). Tents are temporary. They are fragile and frail in comparison to a permanent structure. The disappointments of our bodies are reminders we are sojourners here. We are just passing through; this is not our enduring home. A tent may become frayed and worn until it wears out, or it may be suddenly pulled down, but it is never permanent.
 
The God who renews our inner person also builds us a permanent dwelling. As Paul wrote, “[W]e have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (1Corinthians 5:1b, ESV). In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul described our physical bodies with words like “perishable”, “dishonor”, “weakness”, and “natural”. While the resurrection body that we await at Christ’s return is described by words like “imperishable”, “glory”, “power”, and “spiritual”. The transient will be swallowed up by the eternal.
 
The processes of the outward wasting away and inward being renewed take place in the course of daily life. Daily life filled with its ups and downs, its trials and temptations, and its moments of doubt and faith. Paul used the word, “groaning”, to describe this present life. He spoke of “slight momentary affliction”, although slight affliction doesn’t seem to adequately describe Paul’s life (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). He could only call it that when weighed on the balance with eternal glory.  The eternal outweighs the transient and makes the walk of faith worth it all.
 
Paul had confidence that to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord. The God who is doing a great work of renewing and transforming in our inner person is also preparing for us a permanent dwelling place. Eternal glory is worth it all “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7, ESV).


He Who Comes to God Must…

November 22, 2022

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NAS95)

We need to clearly understand the message that it is impossible to please God without faith.  No one will be accepted by God without it.  We can multiply good works, but without faith, God will not be pleased.  We can have a great knowledge of His word, but without faith, God will not be pleased.  We can be very “religious” people, but if we don’t truly have faith, God will not be pleased with us. But what is faith? This verse gives us two essential elements of faith that must be understood if we want to come to God.

First, the one who comes to God must believe that He is.  We must believe that the God of the Bible exists.  Many will say that they believe God exists, but they go about their lives as if He does not.  It is not merely saying the words “I believe in God” but ordering your life in such a way that reflects your belief that He is real, He is present, and that He is all-powerful. 

Many people stop with this first condition of faith.  Believing that God exists is a necessary part of faith, but this alone is not sufficient.  The second thing that we must believe is that God rewards those who seek Him.  To be pleasing to God, we cannot think of Him as a distant, uninvolved God.  We must believe that He is actively involved in our lives, that He actively rewards those who will listen to His word and respond to it, and that He blesses those who will come hard after Him.  How are you doing with this?  Sometimes we carry on like God doesn’t see what’s going on in our lives, or that He doesn’t care, or that He is not able to help us.  Brothers and sisters, we need to trust in the promises of God and not waver in our belief that He will reward us!  This is the second essential element of faith, and without it, we cannot be pleasing to Him.

As you read through the rest of Hebrews chapter 11, you will see these conditions of faith played out again and again.  Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, all of these found favor from God because they believed that God is and that He rewards those who seek Him.  We too will find acceptance, favor, and reward from God if we will do the same.       

—Scott Colvin


Ransomed

November 15, 2022

Why did our Savior come to earth?  Jesus said, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28 NAS95) Jesus came to offer His life as a ransom.  This was the heart of His mission.  What does it mean?

A ransom is the price paid to emancipate a slave.  When this price was paid, a slave was said to be “redeemed.”  You and I were enslaved to sin.  As Jesus said, “…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:34 NAS95) In order for us to be set free from this bondage, a price had to be paid.  Because God is holy and just, He cannot and will not simply ignore sin.  Sin must be punished.  For us to escape the punishment due and to be set free, Jesus Christ had to pay our ransom.

And Jesus paid an awful price to purchase our freedom. He paid with His own life.  God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, lovingly gave His life to redeem us from sin.  As Peter writes, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Peter 1:17-19 NAS95) Jesus, the precious, spotless lamb of God paid for our souls with His own blood.  He gave His life a ransom for many.

We were ransomed at unfathomable cost.  That Jesus, God in the flesh, would suffer and bleed and die for us is breathtaking.   What is your reaction to all of this? What does it stir up in you?  Thankfulness?  Yes.  Joy?  Certainly.  But according to the verse above, the ransom that was paid should stir up fear in us.  It should elicit great awe for God and for Christ.  That fear should cause us to stay away from sin, realizing the price paid.  It should cause us to carefully consider the words we say, the things we pursue, and the way we treat one another. 

Jesus paid it all!  And we owe our all to Him!  Let us thank God today for the precious blood of Jesus.   

—Scott Colvin


Reaching Out to the Lost

November 8, 2022

I heard someone say recently that they used to teach that if you don’t baptize at least one other person, you “can’t go to heaven.”  I was appalled at the statement, and thankfully the one who made it had come to recognize his error.  We need to be careful about making pronouncements that the Lord Himself never made.  We need to be careful about binding things on people that the Lord never bound.  We can create feelings of unnecessary guilt in people about evangelistic outreach.  Some will think, “I am not a teacher,” or “I don’t know what to say or how to say it,” or “I am not good with words,” and therefore they feel guilty and inadequate.  The truth is we are not all teachers!  We are not all evangelists!  God gave some as evangelists and teachers (see Ephesians 4:11).  If you’re not sure exactly what to say to lead someone to Christ, that is okay!  You can still have a profound impact for the gospel.

Paul writes to the church at Colossae about reaching out to the lost and says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word…that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.  Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:2-6 NAS95) This is how we can all have a hand in reaching the lost.  Be devoted to prayer.  Pray for God to open up opportunities for the word.  Live a life of wisdom around those who are outside of Christ.  Look for opportunities to speak with grace to others.  These things have a powerful impact on leading people to Christ.

Of course, if anyone is going to be saved, the gospel of Jesus Christ must be taught and understood.  The gospel is the power of God for salvation, and it must be proclaimed.  We all have different, essential functions in the body of Christ, and God has given some the ability to teach and proclaim the gospel message.  If you know of someone who might be open to hearing, but you’re uncomfortable leading a study, reach out to another member of the body.  God can accomplish much in us if we will work together as a unit.  May we all continue to look for opportunities to reach people with the saving message about Jesus.

—Scott Colvin


What Does the Bible Say About the Unborn?

October 21, 2022

While the debate rages in our nation about abortion, it is important that we remind ourselves what the Bible says about the unborn. Unborn babies are very precious to God. They are a blessing. They are a work of His hand. They are to be protected.

Listen to the words of this Psalm. “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14 NAS95) The unborn are woven together by God Himself in the womb. God forms their inward parts. This phrase is not only speaking of the flesh, bones, and organs of the child, but it is a reference to the spiritual heart and mind of the child. Though a baby is still in the womb, God has already formed their innermost being. They are a living soul! The work that God does in the womb—that He did for each one of us—is fearful and wonderful!

The truth that unborn babies are living, sentient souls is seen in the account of the unborn John the Baptist in Luke chapter 1. When Mary, the mother of Jesus, visits Elizabeth, the mother of John, we read, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.” John, before he was born, reacted to the voice of Mary, and leaped with joy! Unborn children have awareness. They have emotions. I am reminded of my own children. My wife tells me that they used to jump and kick in the womb when they heard my voice. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences.

Unborn children are the most precious, the most innocent, and the most vulnerable among us. What will God do with a society that refuses to protect them?

What will God do with a society that allows for the slaughter of the innocent in the name of convenience? God cares deeply for innocent children and has risen up in times past to protect them (take a look at 2 Kings 21:10-18)! May God continue to open eyes and hearts. May He strengthen our resolve to help protect the unborn.


A Spiritual Church

October 15, 2022

The church began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) with the outpouring of the Spirit and the preaching of the gospel. The miraculous manifestations of the Spirit were to confirm the new revelation given by the Apostles (Hebrews 2:4). Although I do not think we should expect to see in our lifetime the things that were marks of the Apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12), I believe we are to be a spiritual church.

We are to be a spiritual church because our faith is based on the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus told the Apostles: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into al the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12-13, NASB). Scripture comes to us because of “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21).

We are to be a spiritual church because Christians have received the indwelling Spirit when they were baptized (Acts 2:38-39, Acts 5:32). The Spirit is a motive for holiness (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit aids us in our struggle with sin (Romans 8:13). The Spirit is said to produce in us the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

We are to be a spiritual church because of prayer. One of the hallmarks of the church in Acts is prayer (Acts 2:42, 3:1, 4:24, 6:4, 12:12, 13:3, 14:23, 20:36, 21:5).

What we should be and could be is not always what we are. Paul in addressing the problems in Corinth says that he ought to be speaking to spiritual people, but in reality they were carnal (fleshly), still babes in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1). May the word of Christ dwell in us richly, may we not grieve the Spirit but mature producing the fruit of the Spirit, and may we learn to pray without ceasing. These are the things that characterize a spiritual church.


Joining In Praise

October 11, 2022

On this Lord’s Day, we join together in praise of our awesome God.  But it is not us who begin this worship.  No, we will enter the throne room of God, in the spirit, to join with worship that is ongoing—that never ceases—in heaven. 

“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.’ And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed and were created.’” (Revelation 4:8-11 NAS95)

Our God is worthy of praise!  He is the creator! He is Holy!  He is the Almighty!  Let us join with these heavenly beings in falling down before the throne to worship Him in reverence and in awe. 

And let us, throughout the week ahead, take time to praise God individually.  His praise should be in our hearts, and also on our lips.  Not only should we praise God in our minds, but we should express our praise to him with our mouths; in prayer, in song, in reminding another of His goodness and glory.  We should do this when life is good and also when life gets hard.  Our God is intrinsically worthy of our praise, no matter what is going on in our lives, and we do not worship Him merely to get something in return.  Yet, God is gracious.  He gives so much in return as we praise Him. In times of turmoil and heartache, if we would praise Him with our hearts and our lips, we will find help.  We will find strength.  We will find a renewed perspective on life.  Praising God will help us to stop wallowing in our own troubles and to fix our eyes on Him.  As we praise Him, we are reminded that He deeply cares for us and that He can handle any problem we may be facing.  What renewed vigor and hope worship brings.  Let us be people of praise in our daily lives and as we gather together as His redeemed people this Lord’s Day.

—Scott Colvin


Faithful in Little Things

October 3, 2022

It is very clear in the teachings of Jesus that He is concerned about our faithfulness in little things. As Jesus concluded His parable of the unrighteous steward, He said this: “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12 NAS95)

In the parable of the minas in Luke 19, the master said to his faithful slave, “Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.” (Luke 19:17 NAS95)

Two important principles are laid out in these verses. First, we see that those who are faithful in the little things will also be faithful in the big things. Those who will not be faithful in little things will be unfaithful in much. Second, we see that God gives more to those who use what they have been given. The faithful slave had a relatively small amount of money entrusted to him, but because he used it wisely, much, much more was given to him by the Master.

Can you see how these principles will play out in our own lives? If we want to grow in wisdom, we must ask ourselves, are we being faithful with the wisdom God has already given? If we want to be used in greater ways in the kingdom, we must ask ourselves, are we fulfilling the roles we have already been placed in? Are we wondering why we have grown stagnant in our spiritual growth? Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if we are neglecting the little things. Are we being faithful in our speech, or do we let so-called “minor curse words” come from our mouths? Are we being honest with others, or do we think that “little white lies” are no big deal?

The “little things” are a big deal to Jesus. We will never move forward spiritually if we willfully neglect them. But if we will be faithful in little, we will also be faithful in much. If we will faithfully use whatever God has given, He will entrust us with more. Let us strive to be good and faithful servants of our Lord.


He Set His Heart

September 20, 2022

The Babylonian Captivity is difficult to imagine. The temple was destroyed, and much of Israel’s religious practice had to cease. How do you keep the faith alive in such a hostile environment? Part of the answer is found in the life of Ezra, a priest and scribe.

“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10, ESV)

Set His Heart to Study the Law. The phrase “set his heart” is the main verb of this sentence followed by three infinitives, things that Ezra does. Let me suggest that Ezra sets his heart to do each of them, to study, to do, and to teach.* The first thing to notice is that Ezra as priest and scribe studied the law. But I appreciate how it is expressed: “Ezra had set his heart.” The verse not only expresses the idea of Ezra studying but also the commitment that Ezra made to study. Commitment is important in accomplishing goals. As a scribe, Ezra may have made hand copies of Bible scrolls. Having grown up in a world with photo copiers, it is difficult for me to imagine hand copying anything of significant length, but I suspect the discipline would make the text of a copied book very familiar. Study takes effort because it is more than reading. It is the attempt to understand. It involves working through some difficult passages. It requires understanding certain passages in light of other passages.

He Set His Heart to Do It. The study of the Bible is not to be just an intellectual exercise. It is to be applied and lived. Ezra understood that and modeled it. We have sayings like “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one.” The reality is we need both, but the saying emphasizes that we need to see it lived. Those who proclaim God’s word must also walk the walk. People must see in us that we take the Word of God seriously in our own life. The scripture must be transforming those of us who preach and teach. Ezra is a positive example of this.

He Set His Heart to Teach. In Ezra 8, we see that Ezra is commissioned to return to Jerusalem. He is a prepared man for an important work. When he arrives in Jerusalem, he is confronted with a problem, “the people have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations” (9:1). Teaching also includes correction. One of the great teaching scenes in the Old Testament is in Nehemiah 8:1. The people are gathered to the Water Gate in Jerusalem. Ezra reads from the law from early morning to midday. Helpers were moving among the crowd to help the people to understand (Neh. 8:7).

Ezra had a tremendous task of bring Israel back to Torah. And in fulfilling that task, he leaves us a powerful example. We also need to study scripture, practice scripture, and teach scripture. Ezra was faithful in these things because of his commitment. He set his heart.

—Russ Holden

*Devotions on the Hebrew Bible, ed. Milton Eng and Lee M. Fields; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 161.  


Bringing Up Children in the Lord

September 11, 2022

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 NASB 1995) Fathers, what are we doing to bring up our children in the Lord? We have a solemn responsibility placed before us, and if we neglect our duty, the sad truth is that our children will likely not remain faithful to God when they grow up. There are many who have deep regrets that they did not place nearly enough emphasis on the spiritual education of their children when they were young. Now their children have drifted away, and their souls are in grave danger. Don’t let that be you! Let it not be said of us that we didn’t give our all to bring up our children in Him!

What is the discipline of the Lord? It is education and training in the ways of God. It is not merely correcting and reproving our children when they do something wrong—although that would be included—but it is teaching and showing them who the Lord is and what He expects from us. Fathers, you have a charge from the Lord to provide education and training that places Jesus Christ at the very center of your children’s lives.

What is the instruction of the Lord? It is counsel and warning about stopping or avoiding improper behavior. Children can easily get on the wrong track in life. Fathers it is your role to steer them back onto the narrow path of righteousness.

Are you providing for your children’s spiritual education? Are you training them in the ways of the Lord? We place a lot of emphasis on our children’s secular education—learning to read, write, do math, etc. As fathers, we place a lot of emphasis on teaching our children how to do household chores, or throw a football, or cast a fishing line. But are we neglecting the far more important things? The eternal things? What are we doing to teach our children to pray, to worship, to serve others, to love God and His word? What are we teaching and modeling with our example? Do our children see our love for God and His church in us? Do we make spiritual things a priority in our families, or do much lesser things take precedence? Our children certainly see what is important to us and it teaches them volumes.

Fathers, the souls of your children are in your hand! This goes for mothers, too. Let us not neglect our duty as parents. Let us not look back with regret. Our number one priority as parents should be to lead our children to the Lord! May God wake us up and help us in this all-important endeavor.

— Scott Colvin