I am pleased to announce that christcenteredlessons.com reached the milestone of 10,000 visitors as of today. We have reached people in 33 countries around the world and 43 of 50 states. It is my desire that this site continues to provide information that allows others to learn more about God, Jesus Christ and of their love for us.Your prayers, ideas, thoughts and opinions are always appreciated.In Christ,Chuck
Sunday, October 25, 2009 - Set apart from the World
In a report on a recent poll, the Gallup Group concluded: "Churchgoers do not differ appreciably from non-churchgoers in matters of moral and ethical behavior."It is stated that the gap between religious thinking and human thinking has narrowed over the years to the point where there is little or no gap anymore. The gap has narrowed mostly as a result of the "religious" coming around to the world’s way of thinking, rather than by the world being converted.In other words, the "religious" have become "conformed unto the world" and not the world conformed unto Christ.
Scriptures teach beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christians, God's Chosen people, are to be different from those who are in the world.Paul tells us in Rom. 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Living in the world and living by the world's standards are NOT the same thing. God will NOT allow us to face any situation that we can't overcome (1 Cor. 10:13).
The Bible says that Children of God are brought out of the darkness of the world into the Light of His dear Son.We are to be the lights of the world since we abide in Christ and follow His example.Consider the following passages:
Matt 5:14 - You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hiddenJohn 8:12 - Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. Col. 1:12-13 - …giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His loveI Thess. 5:5 - You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darknessI John 1:5-7 - This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
The reason we are to be different is that we have been bought – bought with the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.Acts 20:28reminds us, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
We are a chosen people, a special people inasmuch as the gospel is addressed to all (Mark 16:15-16), all who believe and obey it are chosen to salvation.In Peters declaration to those who were being persecuted, he reminded them that “…you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (I Peter 2:9)."
With this understanding we realize that there are certain marks on children of God that show distinction and possession by God.
1) Our entire walk in life is different.Eph. 5:8-10 encourages us that“…you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.”When we walk in sin, we walk in darkness of the truth, but when we learn of the truth as it is in Jesus, we can walk according to the teachings of his life.The fruit of light, of knowing and doing this truth of God, is to produce a life in goodness and righteousness and truth.
2) We walk by faith and not by sight.Pauls reminder to the church at Corinth was, “…we walk by faith, not by sight.We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (II Cor. 5:7-10).”
These are but a few examples that show us that we, as children of God, are different from the world.
The people that associate with you each day, whether it be at school, work, games, etc., can they tell a difference between you and those in the world? Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - Christian Love for One Another (adapted by CD)
Matthew 22:37; 39 - Jesus said to him," 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' In one form or another, the word “love” occurs approximately 250 times in the OT and 250 times in the NT.Love is shown in it’s purest form in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners (enemies of God), Christ died for us.That death provides an opportunity for salvation to those who will love and obey God as much as he loved us.
What about love between Christians? Sometimes they can be the most unchristian of all relationships.
Love isn't that fuzzyheaded feeling that comes when boy meets girl at summer camp; that's infatuation. It's not a hormonal rush that makes a person crave the body of the opposite sex; that's lust. It's not some lofty, idealistic super-spiritual abstract quality that makes you want to do good things for other people; that's good will.
Real "love" is not an idea, not a feeling, not even a motivating factor for behavior; it is behavior. It is a determined commitment of your will to actively demonstrate real love to the person whom you claim you love in a way that proves that you love that person more than you love yourself. It is the willing, joyful desire to put the needs of others above that of your own, the supreme example of which is God's love for us.
Real love is not physical and it is not sentimental. It is not imaginary and it is not exaggerated.
Rather, it regularly gives indisputable evidence of its genuineness through the selfless, sacrificial actions that you do for those people you say you love in a way that makes a difference each and every day of your life.If applied, the words of 1 Corinthians 13 could revolutionize society, putting an end to divorce, spousal abuse, child abuse, neglect, misguided priorities, and unchristian attitudes toward others.
Consider the following passages:
Eph. 5:25 – Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it
I Pet. 1:22 - Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently
John 13:34,35 - A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
I Corinthians 13 is truly one of“The Great Chapters of the Bible.” So, to help us better understand and invite its principles into our lives, let’s watch it unfold with the importance of love (vs. 1-3), the identity of love (vs. 4-8a), and the incessant durability of love (vs. 8b-13). If applied, the words of I Corinthians 13 could also help us prevent the cynicism and suspicion that contribute to extremism, politics, and brotherhood division. And, if applied, the words of I Corinthians 13 could even help us be more attractive to those outside the church and more effective in our efforts to reach them .
The Importance of Love (vs. l-3)
As the chapter begins, we learn that love is more important than anything we say (v. 1), anything we have (v. 2), or anything we do (v. 3).Such is true because love seasons what we say.
Col. 4:6 - Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one
Love governs the use of what we have. John 3:16-18 - By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
Love motivates us to do what we should do. I John 5:3 - For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome
The Identity of Love (vs. 4-8a)
Beginning in verse 4, study will reveal seven positive qualities and nine negative qualities of love. So what do we learn from these verses about Christian love?
(1) Love helps us live in peace with others. “Love suffereth long [macrothumia, from macro, “long” and thumia, “to be fierce or angry,“ thus, “long in coming to anger”], and is kind; love envieth not [zeloo, “does not boil” or “is not zealous”].Instead of aggressively and impetuously seeking revenge, love responds to the harm caused by others with kindness.
Romans 12:10,17-21 - Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men…If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(2) Love helps us keep ourselves in check. “Love...vaunteth not itself [“will not ‘play the braggart’ or ‘play the toad”‘]: is not puffed up [“inflated”].Love will not ambitiously direct attention to self out of some kind of inflated ego. We are NOT in competition with each other! Love desires the best for all and does NOT relish in perceived failure.
Phil. 2:2-4 - fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
(3) Love, simply put, helps us be better people. “Love...doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own.” Love is the chisel that crafts gentlemen and ladies out of the most rugged and unrefined. It is able to do so because love chips away self-centeredness.
Gal. 5:13-15,26 - For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
(4) Love helps us control our feelings.“Love...is not provoked [“sharpened or stirred to anger”],” taketh into account of [“does not calculate”] evil.Love clips away the barbs of “irritation and [the] sharpness of spirit” that prohibit a pleasant nature.That being true, there is not the tendency to act like an accountant and record the mistakes of those loved.
(5) Love helps deepen our Bible-based convictions. “Love...rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth.“ The psalmist wrote, “All thy commandments are righteousness” (Ps. 119:172). In keeping with the same thought, Jesus said, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). So, with love, one cherishes the will of God and is disturbed by anything less.
(6) Love helps us feel for and reach out to others. “Love...beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” What a quartet! First, love will “bear” [stego, “protect, hide, conceal, or cover with silence”]‘ the mistakes of another
I Peter 4:8 – And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."
Second, love will graciously “believe” the best in others and keep one from becoming an impetuous, professional critic (Matt. 7:1-5).
Third, love will generously “hope” for the best and will refuse to make any premature conclusions about others (John 7:24).
Finally, love will “endure” [hupomeno, from hupo, “under” and meno, “to remain,” thus, “to remain under”] whatever it receives and proactively reshape it into something beautiful (II Tim. 2:10).
The Never-Ending Durability of Love (vs. 8-13)
As the chapter comes to a close, Paul underscores the greatness of love.
First, in pointing to the greatness of love, Paul made a prediction about the miraculous gifts of first century times. “Love never faileth: but...prophecies, they shall be done away...tongues, they shall cease... [and] knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.” Love never “faileth” [ekpiptie, from ek, “out of” or “away” and pipto, “to fail”].A man might “fall out of” sight in quicksand (Acts 27:17). A ship might “fall” onto rocks and be destroyed (Acts 27:29). A Christian might “fall away” from the grace of God (Gal. 5:4; I Pet. 3:17). A flower will always fade and “fall” victim to the cycle of nature (James 1:11; I Pet. 1:24). But true love will never “fall out of” the heart or “fall away from” its place of prominence in the life of a Christian.
To emphasize this principle, Paul contrasts love to the charismatic gifts of “prophecy, tongue-speaking, and knowledge.”These were to either “be done away“ or “cease” with the coming of “that which is perfect” [teleios, “that which is complete”].Interpretations vary on the identity of “that which is perfect.” The key to identifying the “perfect” most surely rests in the passage itself; yea, in the specific terminology of Paul’s contrast. Look carefully. He spoke of “prophecy” and “knowledge” as “parts,“ [meros, “portions”]19 of something whole or “complete.” So let’s ask: What is the completed form of miraculous “prophecy” and miraculous “knowledge“? Is it not the word of God? Scripture? The “perfect law of liberty”? (James 1:25). But, watch. Even when the miraculous came to an end with the completed revelation of God’s will, even then love was to continue! It existed in the days of the miraculous and it was to exist beyond the days of the miraculous. “Love never faileth.” That was the point Paul was giving emphasis to. In trying to correctly interpret segments of this passage, let’s not miss its overall emphasis! Love is something that never fails and is, by implication, something that we should constantly nurture.
Second, in pointing to the greatness of love, Paul employed two illustrations.“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child; now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face.” The days of the miraculous gifts and revelation-given-in-parts were described as the days of “a child”; whereas, the days of completed revelation were likened to adulthood or one‘s becoming “a man.”Too, the days of the miraculous and revelation-given-in-parts were compared to seeing the obscure image of God’s will in “a mirror”; whereas, the days of completed revelation were spoken of as one’s seeing the will of God “face to face.”
But, again, love was to exist in both settings of time. It existed in the days when bits and pieces of God’s will were being made known through “the holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3:3-5), and it was to continue even after those days.
Finally, in pointing to the greatness of love, Paul made a comparison. “But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love. ” What a statement!With “faith“ we look upward to God and are submissively molded by his precepts.With “hope“ we look onward to God and are encouraged by his promises! “Faith” motivates. “Hope” anticipates! But “love” is greater than both are.
In one form or another, the word “love” occurs approximately 250 times in the OT and 250 times in the NT. Its importance must be recognized, its identity epitomized, and its greatness repeatedly emphasized (John 13:34, 35). That is why we include the “Love Chapter of Scripture,” I Corinthians 13, among “The Great Chapters of the Bible” and turn to Christ, “the lamb of God, which taketh.
"God is love."(1 John 4:8) Our love is a manifestation of the love of God in our hearts. We become a reflection of God as we exhibit the characteristics of love. One cannot please God without love. Tuesday, October 13, 2009 - The Uncertainty of Peter Luke 22:31-34 - And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." But he said to Him, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." Then He said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me."
Peter is a case study for us when it comes to the topic of uncertainty in our faith.
We first see mention of Peter in Matthew 4:18 when he and his brother Andrew, both fishermen, are called by Jesus when, in verse 19, he says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”He has the honor of sitting at the Master’s feet during the Sermon on the Mount; a sermon where, “…the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
He sees the amazing power of Jesus as he heals epileptics, paralytics, those who were demon possessed and those with various diseases and torments.He sees the impact of Christ’s healing in his own family when in Matthew 8:14-15, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, who was lying sick with fever, by simply touching her hand. Christ demonstrates his power over nature by calming the seas at the urging of his disciples yet Peter, when faced with a similar situation, does not have the faith to walk on the water after being urged by Christ to come.The turbulence of the storm scares him and he begins to drown. This often resembles our lives as we see and experience the power of God in his creation and the continuing control he has through his providence.We read the words provided for us in the Scriptures that “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).Yet all these proofs can wither away in an instant from peer pressure or our own “turbulences” in life; causing us to change how we think and how we conduct our lives.
We see Peter as the confessor of Christ in Matthew 16:15-18when Jesus asks, "…But who do you say that I am?Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”We too are great confessors of Christ when we are with the “flock”, but how bold are we when we are out in the world? On the night when Christ was taken, we see that Peter is adamant that he will defend Christ even to the point of taking up arms and physically defending him.John 18:10 states, “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear.”We, at times, adamantly defend Christ, the word of God and what it says and means to those who question us.But how far are we willing to go?Are we willing to lose a job, friends, and/or family for the cause of Christ?
Peter shows that when the perceived price (his association with Christ possibly costing him his life) got too high, he denied Jesus at the top of his voice!What are you willing to sacrifice for Jesus?He asks you to “…Be faithful until death…” (Revelation 2:10).This does not mean be faithful until the day you die.It means be faithful to the point of losing your life in defense of your faith.
Are we ready to pay the price for our faith?
Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - Uncertainty in Our Faith
Life is full of uncertainty.
Webster's Dictionary defines uncertainty as lack of sureness about someone or something. Uncertainty may range from a falling short of certainty to an almost complete lack of conviction or knowledge especially about an outcome or result.
The economic times we live in have caused many people to find themselves uncertain about their financial situation, or whether they will be affected by downsizing at their place of employment. Others are consumed by changes they need to make in order to plan for retirement because their 401K has lost half of its value.
Uncertainty in the secular aspects of our life is spurred by a lack of faith or trust in individuals, situations, circumstances, promises, etc. These are all things that have no certainty associated with them; they, and the eventual outcome, can change regardless of what decisions and/or actions we decide upon.
Unfortunately, Christians often find themselves confronted with uncertainty regarding their faith. Often this uncertainty stems from some negative situation that occurs in our life and causes us to wonder, "How can that happen? Aren't I doing all that God is asking me to do?" We need to understand that it is Satan who knows those things that cause us to be shaken, to wonder, to doubt, to be uncertain and he does everything within his power to use those things against us.
Uncertainty regarding our faith can have serious consequences. Christ is very plain in Matthew 12:30 when he says, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters abroad." He describes these people, in Matthew 13:20-21, as "having no root.”The passage states, "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles." This is NOT a mind which is stubborn or rebellious; it simply lacks knowledge and understanding. These individuals do not count the cost or understand there is a daily cross to bear. They are unsteady.
Ephesians 4:13-14 describes the answer to our problem. The passage states, "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting." Knowledge of God allows us to avoid being tossed to and fro or to be uncertain. How do we build our faith where uncertainty will not abide? R tells us, Our faith is to be found in hearing (listening to the word through our heart as we read the sacred pages) the Word of God. Christ tells us in that this Word is God's Truth to us; his promise to those who are found faithful. Our ability to overcome uncertainty is found in our desire and willingness to not just read the Word, but study it so that we can unlock the complete message that God has for us!
When you examine the Christian life, there is nothing that should cause us to be uncertain. Christ tells us in John 14:1-4, "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know." The reality that Christ will come again is communicated all through the New Testament. The way to receive the reward that Christ has promised is also clearly stated. Matthew 7:21-27 tells us, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." Obedience to the truth, God's Word, provides us the ability to be covered by the Grace of God.
Matthew 16:24 states that "...If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."“the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11)“do all things” (Phil. 4:13).
Titus 1:1-2 - Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which