You Are Not God (Proverbs 30:1-9)

God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). That great truth of Scripture runs contrary to the main message of this sinful world. We live in a world that constantly encourages us to believe that we can run our lives on our own. Media, friends, and our own sinful hearts cry out that we are in charge of our destinies, that each of us is the captain of our own soul. But then we read or hear God’s Word, and we remember that we are not God. The Bible tells us that we are but dust and mist, here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14). God is eternal and everlasting. As Jesus said, we cannot add one hour to our allotted lifespans; our destinies are truly in the Father’s hands (Matthew 6:27).

Today’s passage from Proverbs 30 reminds us of the central theme of the book – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Real wisdom is found in humbling ourselves under the almighty power of God (vv. 2-4). Wisdom comes from knowing and believing God’s Word and letting His Word lead us to a deeper trust in the Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 5-6). Wisdom is asking God to provide for our needs and then worshiping Him rather than the material stuff that He allows us to enjoy (vv. 7-9). And wisdom teaches us to seek our Father’s protection from evil and temptation so that we may honor His great name with holy living (v. 9).

Are you seeking real wisdom today?

The Text (Proverbs 30:1-9)

30 The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh—an inspired utterance.

This man’s utterance to Ithiel:

“I am weary, God,
    but I can prevail.
Surely I am only a brute, not a man;
    I do not have human understanding.
I have not learned wisdom,
    nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
    Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
    Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
    Surely you know!

“Every word of God is flawless;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
    or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

Questions to Think About

  1. In what ways do television shows, commercials, and social media (i.e. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook) encourage people to think that they can be their own gods?
  2. How has God used different life circumstances and events to teach you that He is God and you are not?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

When God Cries (Ephesians 4:30-32)

When we sin, God cries. He not only cries, but grieves. He feels a deep anguish of His Spirit, a mix of holy anger against the evil of our sin and divine compassion for us as His beloved children. God’s grief over the horrible nature and painful results of sin has existed since sin first entered the world. Surely He wept to see Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit and suffer banishment from Paradise and spiritual and physical death. Right before the Flood, the Bible tells us that when God saw all the wickedness of the human race, His grief was so intense that He was “sorry” and “regretted” making us (Genesis 6:6). Throughout Israel’s history, when His people rebelled against His commands and ways, God has grieved (Psalm 78:40; Isaiah 63:10). When Jesus looked out at the city of Jerusalem in the final days before His crucifixion, “He wept over it,” because it had been doomed by its people’s unbelief in their Messiah (Luke 19:41-44; remember from Heritage Studies 6 that this prophecy was fulfilled when the Romans burned Jerusalem in AD 70). And in today’s passage, we read that when believers sin, it causes God’s Holy Spirit inside of us to grieve.

Christians cannot lose the Holy Spirit, who has “sealed” us for “the day of redemption” (our final glorification with Christ in heaven), but we are warned that we can grieve Him with our sin (Ephesians 4:30). When that happens continually and we don’t repent, our conscience can become dull with sin as we lose fellowship with the Spirit and lose the peace of feeling His presence. Grieving the Spirit constantly is not God’s desire for His children! Notice the timing of this serious warning to avoid grieving the Spirit. Paul has just finished reminding Christians that as new creations filled with new Christ-like natures, believers ought to live new lives worthy of our new identities (Ephesians 4:17-24). Examples of this include telling the truth instead of lying, giving instead of taking, and encouraging instead of tearing people down with our words (Ephesians 4:25-29). Paul is about to finish the examples in verses 31-32 by talking about the overall heart attitude that the believer should maintain – being loving and forgiving instead of mean and bitter. But before he does this, the apostle gives us a very important motivation. He wants us to change our ways so that we do not grieve our God and Savior, the One who loved us enough to send His own Son to die for us. God is saying through Paul that we should avoid sin and do right because we love God and don’t want to hurt our relationship with Him. May we do our best today to give our Lord joy instead of grief.

The Text (Ephesians 4:30-32)

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Questions to Think About

  1. When you are tempted to sin, what motivates you to resist sin and do the right thing instead?
  2. Have you ever thought about your sin causing God to grieve? How could that truth change your attitude about sin?
  3. If you are a Christian, are you trying to live a life pleasing to the Lord right now, or are you grieving His Holy Spirit that lives within you? How can you tell?

Notes

  • While we know that God the Father and God the Spirit are not human, we must remember that they are still Persons just like Jesus the Son, who is both human and God. The Christian God is a personal God. When the Bible talks about God as experiencing emotions, we should not be so quick to always dismiss this as just “talking in human terms so that we can understand.” There is some of that in the Bible’s descriptions of God (references to His arm and His hand, for instance, are not to be taken literally unless they are talking about Jesus in the flesh). But we are made in God’s image, and I think that includes emotions. God’s emotions are always pure and without sin, but they are emotions like those we experience in our daily lives. Just look at Jesus in the Gospels! He laughed, He wept, He got tired, He felt compassion, He rejoiced, and He loved. We would not want to worship the passionless God of Greek philosophers and Enlightenment Deists. No, the God of the Bible is a real Person (actually, He is three Persons – Father, Son, and Spirit) who invites us into a personal, eternal relationship with Him based on His love and grace.
  • God cares a lot about forgiveness. Of all the holy behaviors with which Paul could close this list, he chose forgiveness to sum it all up. Remember from the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35) that the servant who could not forgive his coworker of a small debt was severely punished by the master who had forgiven him of an impossibly massive debt. The ability to truly forgive others from our hearts is incredibly important because it reveals that we have understood the great forgiveness that God has extended to us. When we meditate on how much Christ has forgiven us, it becomes easier to show love and grace to people who sin against us, especially other believers.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

“Have To” Or “Get To”? (Ephesians 4:25-29)

To outsiders, Christianity often looks like a bunch of rules. To lost onlookers, the faith seems like a bunch of “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” (mostly just “Don’t’s) that a harsh, uncaring God laid down to keep us from enjoying our lives. According to this mindset (which even some professing Christians maintain), Christianity is all about how we shouldn’t do this or that fun thing and we ought to do boring things like read the Bible, pray, and go to church (a place where we ought to sit and watch other people do boring things like talk about the Bible and pray). There might be some cool music to listen to at church but there might not; either way you would rather being playing or watching soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, or volleyball, catching up on homework or chores, or just relaxing in front of an electronic rectangle. This is the “Have To” approach to Christianity; it is nothing but a dead and lifeless religion that saves no one. “Have To” Christianity is a sinking ship that people under 55 have been jumping off as fast as possible during the past 5-10 years. They seek instead to find community and fulfillment in youth sports, material possessions, family recreation, good food – anything they can cling to that will temporarily take their minds off the difficulties of school, work, and life in general. It is a tragic misunderstanding of what Christianity is all about.

Real Christianity offers life, hope, joy, and peace for all who are willing to pay the price of surrendering themselves to the God of the Bible. Real Christianity is based on a personal relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ. This mindset sees commands like those in today’s passage, commands like “Stop lying and tell the truth” and “Stop using foul, mean language and start encouraging others with your words” not as things that we “Have To” do but things that we deeply want to do and “Get To” do with God’s help. Real Christians are people who love Jesus and want to do what He says because they understand all that He has already done for them. Jesus is the one who loved us enough to die for us! He took the punishment we justly deserved to rescue us from the penalty of eternal suffering AND to give us the power to live new lives. Now we can love God and other people with godly words and actions born out of godly thoughts and desires. Reading the Bible is something that we “Get To” do so that we can hear the loving advice and encouragement of our Heavenly Father. Prayer is something that we “Get To” do so that we can have deep conversations with our Savior and Lord who knows and loves us more than any earthly friend or relative ever could. Attending church is a joy because our church is not just a place we “Get To” go to but a spiritual family that shares our love, thankfulness, and commitment to Jesus Christ. And obeying God’s commands like those Paul describes below is something that we “Get To” to do each day to show our love and gratitude to the One who saved us from death and hell and hopelessness. Real Christians believe that all of God’s laws and ways are good and just and we willingly pray each morning, “Help us, Lord Jesus, to do Your will with joy today.” May God open all of our hearts to see Christianity as He intends it to be.

The Text (Ephesians 4:25-29)

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfullyto your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you approach Bible reading and prayer as things that you should do or things that you want to do? Explain.
  2. When you attend church, are you usually bored? Why or why not?
  3. Do you believe that God’s “rules” in today’s passage are good? Why or why not?

Notes

  • It’s important to notice that with each of the commands in today’s passage, Christians are told to stop doing something evil and instead do the opposite good thing. Every negative is replaced with a positive. This is the great secret to joyful, victorious Christian living! If we only work to stop sinning, we will fail because we have nothing to replace those sins in our hearts and lives. But Jesus taught that instead of focusing on the bad stuff that we can’t do, Christians should spend their time thinking about and doing all the good things that we can do that please God and show love to others. Then we will fulfill the reason that we were made – to worship God by doing His will.
  • One way to find out if you are really a Christian or not is to start seriously trying to live the Christian life as the Bible teaches. Before people get saved, there is often a period of struggle where they start trying to deal with sin in their lives and change their ways and find that they have not got the power to do so. Then they cry out to Jesus and He comes into their lives, saves them, and starts helping them to do His will! This is my (Mr. Reel’s) testimony, the testimony of C.S. Lewis, and the testimony of countless other Christians throughout history and today. Try asking your friends and family about how they came to faith in Christ and see how many can relate to this experience. You will probably find it to be a more common story than you might think.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

New Creations (Ephesians 4:17-24)

Can people really change? Can a habitual liar become an honest and trustworthy person? Can an ill-tempered hothead become a man or woman of peace? Can a lazy, greedy fool become someone who works hard and gives to others? Can a cussing gossiper become a clean-speaking encourager? Can a bitter, unhappy, grudge-holding person become a gentle, kind, and forgiving friend? YES! By the power of the Holy Spirit and faith in the Son of God, sinful people really can change into the holy men and women that God wants them to be. Jesus Christ really can change us into His likeness from the inside out – this is the very heart of the Gospel message. We truly can become new creations!

In today’s passage, the apostle Paul urges us to live like the new people of God that we have already become by our saving faith in Jesus Christ. Lost people (“the rest of the Gentiles” – verse 17) can’t help sinning. They walk in darkness and lack the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit inside them. The lost person’s mind is blinded by spiritual ignorance and his heart is hardened by sin and selfishness. The unbeliever is a prisoner of and slave to his or her sinful thoughts, desires, and attitudes. As Paul described it in Ephesians 2:1-3, the person without Christ is literally “dead in sin.” But if you have truly been born again by God’s Holy Spirit, you are no longer dead – you are alive in Christ! Now you have a new, Christlike nature on the inside to help you overcome sin and starting thinking and acting like Jesus! And the equally awesome truth is that the new heart that God has given you really wants to live like Jesus. Before you did not really want to change – deep down you loved your sin more than God. But now that new “Jesus on the inside” nature hates sin the way that God does. That new Christ nature loves what is good and holy. The old sinful nature is still inside you, but you don’t have to obey it anymore. By learning how to abide in Christ and walk with Him in faith, you really can live like the new creation that God has already declared you to be. The rest of Ephesians is going to paint us a more detailed picture of what that new life will look like. May we all “put on the new self” (verse 24) today and every day!

The Text (Ephesians 4:17-24)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Questions to Think About

  1. When did you become a “new creation”? In other words, when did you first begin to experience the power of Jesus Christ on the inside giving you hatred for and victory over your sins?
  2. How can reminding yourself that you are a new creation help you right now in your struggles against sin?

Notes

  • Verses 17-19 should make us weep. When we read about the desperate and helpless condition of people without Christ, we should weep with joy and thankfulness that God has saved us from the tragic state of having been separated from Him by our sinfulness. At the same time, we should weep with sorrow and compassion over the lostness of our unsaved family, friends, classmates, and travel team coaches and teammates. And we should pray and pray hard, giving thanks for own salvation and pleading with God for the salvation of the lost people whom He has placed in our lives.
  • Verse 23 is short but very important. It is saying the same thing as Romans 12:2 – that to really change you need to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The battle for our spiritual growth is fought and either won or lost in our minds and hearts. That’s why we need to read God’s Word slowly and carefully each day. We need to listen to Christian music, pray, and spend time in uplifting conversation with other growing Christians every day. And we need to do these things honestly with a humble desire to meet with Jesus and do what He says. Our minds and hearts control our words and actions. If we put on Christ’s new nature that is already inside us while putting off the old, sinful thoughts and desires, we really will be changed into His likeness from the inside out.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Serving and Growing Up Together (Ephesians 4:7-16)

God gives Christians gifts so that we can use them. He wants us to learn what our spiritual gifts are. He wants us to learn how to use these gifts in serving the rest of the body of Christ and being a witness about Christ to the outside world. Some Christians are given the job of preaching and teaching the Word. Pastors and other leaders are given to the church to build up the faith of other believers and help them grow into Christian maturity. But the preachers and teachers are also supposed to equip their congregations to find, develop, and use their own spiritual gifts. Many of these gifts are described in other passages of Scripture. Romans 12:6-8 mentions prophecy, serving, exhortation (encouragement), giving, leadership, and mercy. 1 Corinthians adds faith, healing, miracles, discernment (understanding spiritual matters, especially regarding motives and decisions), and the interpretation of speaking in tongues. While some Christians believe that some gifts like healing and miracles are no longer used in most churches today, all Christians agree that many of these gifts are still found among God’s people. Also, many Christians think that there are other gifts and talents (like music) that are not specifically mentioned in the New Testament but are still abilities that can be used for serving the body and bringing God glory. The main point of verses 7-12 of today’s passage is that there are no bystanders in biblical Christianity – all the members of Christ’s body have talents and gifts that God expects them to joyfully use in His service.

In verses 13-16, Paul explains one of the major purposes of our gifts – helping each other grow in our relationships with Christ. God does not want His disciples to wander like sheep and to be tossed about like tiny ships on a vast ocean by all of the false teachings of this world. God wants all Christians to be active members of local churches. He wants us with God’s people at least once week, hearing the truths of the Bible taught, explained, and applied to our lives. He wants us in strong relationships with other Christians where we can serve each other with our different gifts and thus become mature believers. As a Christian school, we provide a loving community for students to hear the gospel and live out their Christian faith. But NRCA is not a local church. We are not covenanted together as a body of believers who hold each other accountable the way that a local church does. We provide opportunities for students to grow in their relationships with Christ, including hearing biblical teaching and finding and using their spiritual gifts. But parents do not attend school here and participate in those spiritual activities – only their children do. Today’s passages is talking about families, parents and children, serving and growing together in local church settings. For this reason, we strongly encourage all of our students to learn to serve and grow up as Christians in their local churches with their families, with our school providing an environment that supports parents and churches but does not replace them.

The Text (Ephesians 4:7-16)

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high,

    he took many captives
    and gave gifts to his people.”

(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you discovered your spiritual gifts? If not, this is something your pastors and other mature Christian leaders in your church can help you with. God wants us to know our gifts, which include things that we enjoy and are good at. You might also ask one of your church leaders or your Bible teacher about a spiritual gift inventory (quiz) like this: Spiritual Gifts Test
  2. Are you using your spiritual gifts in your church right now? Why or why not?
  3. Do you want to become a mature Christian? What needs to happen in your life right now for you to keep growing in your relationship with Christ?

Notes

  • Ephesians 4:7-9 is a paraphrase of Psalm 68:17-18, which describes the carrying of the Ark of the Covenant to the top of a mountain in celebration of God’s victory over His enemies. In today’s passage, Paul applies the imagery to Christ’s triumph over sin and death and Satan when He died on the cross and then rose from the dead. He rescued Christians from being “captives” or slaves to sin, death, and Satan and then gave us spiritual gifts to use for His glory.
  • Notice in verses 13-16 that as Christians mature together spiritually, they become more unified as the body of Christ. Healthy churches and Christian schools will be full of believers who are both strong in personal faith and godliness and close together in the loving fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual maturity and unity are our goals for NRCA and our community’s churches.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel