Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 4:48 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “He Reached Down.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 4 (NASB). Bond-Servants (vv. 1-6) Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have all been given a ministry. We have all been commissioned to make disciples of Christ of people of all nations, baptizing and teaching them to obey all of Christ’s commandments. We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth, so we are to let our light shine before other humans. We are to turn our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have strayed from the truth, back to Christ. We are to “save others, snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 1:23). As well, we are to speak the truth in love to our fellow believers in Jesus so that we may all grow in Christ to maturity. We are each to do our part within the body of Christ as assigned by God. We have all been given spiritual gifts of the Spirit of God, too, which we are to use, in the power and working of the Spirit within us, in ministering God’s grace and comfort to the body of Christ for our mutual edification, encouragement, instruction, training in righteousness, healing, and comfort. In order to be used of God effectively in ministry in the lives of others, we need to be walking in the light in daily fellowship with our Lord, forsaking sin and self, and putting on faith. We need to be walking the talk – all in the power of the Spirit within us - in other words, and not just talking the talk. We must also renounce (reject, abandon) things hidden, i.e. secret sins of dishonesty, manipulation and the twisting of truth for the purpose to deceive naïve minds. We need to speak the truth in love, not hide the truth in order to please humans, saying pleasant things only, which is what their itching ears want to hear. We need to not use human marketing schemes to trick and manipulate impressionable minds in order to sell “the church” to the world, either. And, we need to not dilute the gospel message to make it more acceptable and less offensive to the people of this sinful world, as well we should not entertain the world via sinful and worldly practices thinking that we are just “connecting” with them in order to “win them.” But, what are we winning them to? – Not to the Jesus of the Bible, most certainly, but to a false Christ and a false gospel and a false church created and sustained by humans, and not by God/Christ. So, what is this gospel we preach? It is Christ crucified, risen, ascended to the Father, interceding for us, having given us the Holy Spirit to regenerate and to sanctify us, and then coming again one day soon to receive his bride to himself and to judge the earth. It is that when Jesus was crucified on the cross he put our sins to death with him, buried them with him, and then, from the dead, rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death. It is that we are saved by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, and not of our own works, lest any of us should boast that we accomplished our own salvation, which is impossible. And, it is that the faith required for salvation includes repentance and obedience, no longer walking after the flesh, but now walking after the Spirit in order to please God and to live godly, holy and upright lives in this present age while we wait for Christ’s return (See: Luke 9:23-25; John 6:35-65; 10:27-30; Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 8:3-14; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:8-10; 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24-25; & 1 Jn. 1:5-9). Yet, just because we don’t hide the truth but speak it plainly does not mean everyone sees or hears the truth, for Satan has blinded the minds of many people, and he uses slick master-manipulators with smooth talk and forked tongues to do his bidding, too, who convince many people that they can “believe” in Jesus and have the hope of eternity with God, and yet not have to repent of sin or obey the Lord Jesus at all. They tell them many lies in order to convince them that their sin no longer matters to God, and that they can continue living sinful lifestyles absent of submission to the cross of Christ and still go to heaven when they die. But, this is not what the Bible teaches. It teaches that the righteous requirements of the law, because Jesus was our sin offering, should be fulfilled in us who are not on a continual course of conducting our lives according to the sinful nature, but are on a continual course of conducting our lives according to the Spirit (See: Ro. 8:1-17). In Earthen Vessels (vv. 7-12) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. The treasure within us is the gospel of our salvation. It is Christ in us, the hope of glory. It is us dead to sin, but alive to God; our old self crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone having died has been freed from sin. We should, thus, count ourselves dead to sin, but living (present-continuous) to God in Christ Jesus. We should no longer let sin have dominion over us so that we obey its evil desires. Sin should no longer be our master, because we are not under law, but we are under grace. When we were slaves to sin, we were free from the control of righteousness. Now that we have been set free from sin, we have become slaves to righteousness (See: Ro. 6:1-23). Yet, this treasure exists within earthen vessels, i.e. within our earthly bodies. So, what does that mean exactly? It means that we are still susceptible to sin, decay, disease, weakness, fear, and death. So, that is why Jesus said we must daily take up our cross and follow him and why Paul said, “I die daily” (to sin and to the world, and in suffering for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ). It is why scripture says we are being made holy (present-continuous) – See: Heb. 10:14. It is also why in Romans 8:13 we read that if we live according to the flesh we are about to die, but if, by the Spirit, we are putting to death (present-active) the deeds of the body, we will live. It is also why scripture teaches that we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ (See: 1 Co. 15:49; 2 Co. 3:18; Col. 3:10; Ro. 6:5), which is a process and will not be complete until Christ returns. It is the same as the scriptures teaching us that we have been saved (past), we are being saved (present-continuous), and we will be saved (future) when Christ returns (See: Ro. 8:24; 13:11; 1 Co. 1:18; 15:1-2; 2 Co. 2:15; Eph. 2:5; 2 Tim. 1:8-9; Heb. 5:9; 9:28; 1 Pet. 1:5, 8-9). Because the treasure of our salvation, by God’s grace through faith, lives within these flesh bodies, it shows that this “all-surpassing power” (the gospel) is not from us, but from God. Amen! We can do nothing in our flesh to earn or to deserve our own salvation. It is a gift from God via Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf so that we can be set free from the penalty of sin, and slavery to sin, and so we can be free to walk daily in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, in the power and working of the Spirit within us. Yet, it is a gift we must receive by faith, and that faith involves repentance and obedience – no longer on a continuing course (walk) of conducting our lives according to the sinful nature, but on a continuing (ongoing; progressive) course of conducting our lives according to the Spirit. So, when we go through hardships, persecutions, sufferings, oppression, bewilderment, and/or being beaten down (physically or emotionally) by others, we can rely upon the Lord and his strength so that we don’t fall to pieces, give up in despair, or allow it to utterly destroy us, for we are not abandoned. God is always with us to give us strength, hope, healing, comfort, encouragement, instructions, leadership and wisdom so that we can keep moving forward in our faith and in our walks in the Spirit. He will never leave us. Also, when we go through these times of difficulty, our Lord is sanctifying and purifying us and is making us into the likeness of Christ, and we are being made holy by him. He is pruning us so that we will be even more fruitful for his kingdom (See: John 15). We are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, not just in us having to endure hardships and persecutions, but in God humbling us and in us daily dying to sin and self, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal bodies; so we learn not to rely on ourselves but on God. The Christian life is a process of putting off the flesh and of being conformed to the likeness of Jesus. Most of the teachings of the New Testament are written to the church – to believers in Jesus Christ – and are instructions on holy living and on putting off what belongs to our flesh. If we were perfect at the moment we first believed in Jesus, and we remained that until we went to be with our Lord, we wouldn’t need all these teachings on holiness and on forsaking sin. We wouldn’t need to be pruned. As well, we might be tempted toward pride and self-sufficiency, since there would be no need for us to be being given over to death for Jesus’ sake if we are already perfect. Yet, we are not yet perfect, and so we press on in the faith and in the strength of the Lord and in the power of the Spirit within us. Our Afflictions (vv. 16-18) Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. What might cause us to lose heart? Certainly hardships and persecutions would be on the top of the list, but I also believe our war against Satan and sin (See: Eph. 6:10-20) can also be discouraging, at times, and may lead us to want to give up hope. Yet, we should be encouraged because, though our bodies are decaying, our inner self, which is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, is daily being transformed – God continually transforming and renewing us in our relationships with Jesus Christ. Amen! So, we can endure, because these afflictions are producing (a process) in us holy living, separation from the world, the purifying of our hearts, dependence on God instead of on our flesh, and a desire for God, for his Word and for obedience to Christ beyond human reasoning or understanding, and which God uses for the advancement of his kingdom. So, we need to get our focus off the things of this world, and fix our eyes on Jesus and what is eternal. He Reached Down / An Original Work / February 3, 2014 Based off Psalm 18 How I love You, Lord, My Rock and my strength. My God is my fortress; I hide in Him. He is my shield and the horn of My salvation, whom I praise. I have found my refuge in Him. He reached down from heaven And rescued me; Drew me out of waters So deep, I’d sink. He delivered me from Satan And my slavery to sin; Gave me hope of heaven with Him. My God turned my darkness Into His light; Opened up my blinded eyes; Gave me sight. As for God, his way is perfect. He gives strength to stand secure. I have found my vict’ry in Him. My Lord lives! Praise be to my Savior God, Jesus Christ, who died On a cruel cross. He is my Rock and the source Of my salvation, whom I trust. I will give praise always to Him.