I'm a big fan of multiple genres of music, and there's a song that was released some years ago that speaks about being "stuck in a moment." That's probably a concept most of us can identify with to some degree. Sometimes our circumstances can feel so "all-consuming" to the point that it's hard to see beyond them. We get stuck in a moment. Instead of seeing what's further up ahead, we struggle to see much further beyond the four walls that surround us. But hope is a very real thing and something we shouldn’t let go of. So what truths should we hold onto if we’re tempted to lose hope?
There are many things that we all do that force us to compromise with that we know to be right. But because we sometimes want to do what we want to do, regardless of the consequences, we can invent creative excuses to justify all kinds of behaviors.
This, by the way, isn't new to us. Mankind has excelled at this practice from our earliest days and it always gets us in trouble while also impacting the nature of our fellowship with God. What are you currently excusing in your life that really needs to be rooted out? What are your favorite excuses for doing whatever you want?
If we took an honest self-assessment of our lives, I think each of us could probably identify a few areas where we've been blessed with gifts or privileges that others may not have necessarily received. In your life, those privileges might relate to where you were born, when you were born, what kind of health you've experienced, the strength of your family of origin, your educational opportunities, or the financial blessings you've been given. It might also be possible to identify ways in which you've been privileged spiritually.
What are you doing with the gifts and privileges you've been given? Are you grateful for them? Are you using them to bless others? Are you allowing those gifts to impact your life the way God intended?
Self-righteousness is disgusting, but it’s what many people in this world expect to experience when they encounter devoted Christians. Quite possibly, someone they have encountered in the past has left them with that impression, or maybe they've bought into the ways Christians are stereotyped in the media. Maybe they've even been on the receiving end of hurtful condemnation from a person who professes to believe in Jesus. Have you ever struggled with self-righteousness?
Years ago, I was in a hardware store and from a distance I saw someone I knew. Typically, when that takes place, I'll take the time to say "hello", but on this particular occasion, I didn't want to. The man I saw had just created a lot of conflict for some mutual friends, and I didn't want to engage him in conversation because I didn't want to get drawn into the drama. So I pretended like I hadn't seen him. I kept shopping and tried not to be seen. To my knowledge, he never knew I was there, but it felt very strange to try to walk through the aisles of the store while actively hiding from him and pretending I didn't know he was there.
In many ways, that's the way a large percentage of humanity lives their lives in regard to God. Instinctively, they know He's there, but they're doing their best to pretend He isn't while doing everything they can to avoid running into Him. There are consequences for doing this, and a dark side to living with this kind of disbelief that Romans 1:18-32 illustrates.
Prayer is a beautiful and powerful thing. When Scripture speaks of prayer, it's describing the privilege we have as those who trust in Christ, to come to God personally, collectively, and directly, and communicate with Him. In prayer, we can praise Him for who He is, confess our sins and struggles, thank Him for the work He's accomplishing in our lives, and make requests for His divine help and intervention.
Various aspects of God's nature are so different from our daily human experience that it can be challenging for us to comprehend them. In time, as our trust in the Lord matures, we may come to accept the fact that these things are true of God, but we'll also probably spend a considerable amount of time wondering how these things work.
So why should it matter to us that God is self-existent? And what difference does it make to trust the fact that God is sovereign over His creation?
God wants us to live righteously, but how can we practice righteousness when, by nature, we're sinful people? And how can anything we do be considered righteous since all aspects of our lives have been tainted by sin? Our God is pure and far above everything He has created, but still His righteousness is made available to us, and in blessing us with it, He remedies this dilemma.
Are we as thankful for God's justice as we are for His love and mercy? Truthfully, as we'll demonstrate in a few moments, God's justice, love and mercy go hand in hand. They compliment and work perfectly together. Still, most often, we tend to be more thankful for God's justice when it's applied to someone else than we are when it's applied to us.
Let's consider God's capacity for just a moment. He's not only "high capacity", He's "infinite capacity." He never sleeps or slumbers. He is perfect in all His abilities. There isn't a single thing that He doesn't know, and there is no one more powerful than Him. And unlike humans who can only be in one place at one time, He is everywhere at the same time. This is amazing, and just like the Psalmist said in Psalm 113, "Who is like the Lord our God?" The answer, very simply, is no one.
As we look at what the Scriptures tell us, we can learn amazing things about who the Holy Spirit is, what He's doing for us, and how He's seeking to guide the direction our lives take. He makes a point to unite us as the family of God, so let's not make the error of forgetting Him or His union with the Father and the Son.
I have often said that becoming a father has given me new insight into God's loving and sacrificial heart toward His children. I understand His love a little better than I used to. I identify with His willingness to sacrifice for our benefit more clearly. I have even come to appreciate His willingness to discipline us for our own good in a new way.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central event of our faith. Everything we believe rests on that singular event. If Jesus did not rise from death, our faith would be pointless. If our Savior is dead and buried, then we are still spiritually dead, chained to our sins, and destined to spend our eternities as rebels who are banished from the presence of God.
But Jesus is not dead. The tomb is empty. He rose from the grave just as He assured His followers He would. Because of His resurrection, we can be assured that we who believe in Him will also rise from death. As we trust in Jesus, He lives within us. The grip sin had on our lives has been broken. The command Satan had over us has been nullified. The sting of death has been replaced with the assurance of everlasting life.
I bring this up today to encourage our hearts with the truth that Jesus took the time to explain to His early followers. We don't need to be troubled, because everything is going to work out. Jesus has secured the ultimate victory, on our behalf, over everything that was torturing and defeating us. This is the kind of confidence Jesus was seeking to instill in His followers after His resurrection. As we look at this passage, and attempt to foster the same kind of confidence in Christ that His early followers were developing, there are several questions, based on this passage, that are worth asking.