Benefits Package: H.C. Question 43

What further benefit do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?

Romans 6:5-14 – For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master,because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Colossians 2:11-12 – In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Romans 12:1 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Ephesians 5:1-2 – Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

2 Corinthians 12 – Thorn in My Side

Read 2 Corinthians 12

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Have you ever had someone our something that was in your life that continually harassed you and never left you alone?  It’s so incredibly annoying and frustrating and it seems to go on and on making life more and more miserable.  Paul talks about this here, someone who has perhaps been talking behind his back or saying that Paul is somehow “less” of an Apostle than others.  It is possible that this is the person who Paul called to be disciplined in 1 Corinthians.

In any case, Paul’s reaction to this can be a learning experience for us as well. Rather than wallowing in misery over what was surely a rough situation, Paul allowed God to speak through it, realizing that the Spirit was teaching Him not to become conceited.

Being humble is an important lesson to be certain.  I think, however, Christians take things like this too far.  We focus on being humble, even making idols out of it.  God teaches Paul something deeper about humility, though, that is important for us too: His power in the midst of it.

Boasting about our humility doesn’t make much sense; it is the very opposite of what it means to be humble.  However, in our weakness, God’s strength is shown in ways we probably never thought imaginable.  Really, this is the point of humility, not to show how humble we are, but rather how great God is.

This seems to have been Paul’s point all along.  While the church in Corinth is questioning him based on human strengths, Paul continues to point them not to himself or what he has endured, but to the power of God and the message of the Gospel.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

I wonder what would happen if our churches, rather than boasting in the strength of their programming,looked to and relied on the power of Christ…

I wonder what would happen if our churches, rather than boasting in the number of people they have in their seats on Sunday, looked to and relied on the power of Christ…

I wonder what would happen if our churches, rather than catering to the vocal few that have the most money, looked to and relied on the power of Christ…

2 Corinthians 5 – Ambassadors for Christ

Read 2 Corinthians 5

In bringing the message of Christ, Paul did not ever rely on his abilities as a philosopher, a great speaker, or any sort of great physical presence to be the driving force behind his message.  Instead, he allowed God to speak through him so that Paul’s message was actually God’s message.  He trusted that the Holy Spirit would work in the hearts of the hearers and that the Word of God would not return empty, as Isaiah 55 says.

He takes this posture of humility because he knows where the true power of the Gospel lies, and it isn’t in human achievement.  Our Bodies are mortal; from the moment we are born we are already beginning to die.  If eternity were a timeline stretched before us, our time on earth in this life would be unrecognizable, smaller than the point of a needle.

That seeming insignificance, though, is not Paul’s point.  In fact, his point is just the opposite; our lives have eternal repercussions both for ourselves and possibly for others too.  Without Jesus, we are hopeless.  But when our hope is in Jesus Christ, our lives take on new meaning and new power through the working of the Holy Spirit in and through us.

Indeed, Paul calls us “Christ’s ambassadors,” and reminds us that we are given the same ministry that Christ had on this earth: the ministry of reconciliation.  We are heralds of the Kingdom, proclaimers of grace, witnesses to the love of God that we experience daily.  It is, as Paul says as if God were making His plea to the world, to those who do not know His love, through us.  And while the message of the Gospel does not depend on human abilities for its power or substance, God calls us to live and speak in such a way that all the world may know His great love for everyone.

Day 153: Job 39-42; The Lord Answers Job

Again today, I think it makes most sense if we also include Job 38 in our discussion for today as it is the beginning of God’s response to Job.  Also today we have come to the end of Job.  We have seen the long dialogue and the questions.  We have learned appropriate ways to respond to God in the different situations that we find ourselves in.  In this we have also seen good ways to support our brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors in their pain and struggle in life by virtue of the example set by Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar in how not to be a good friend in time of need.

"The Hands of the Creator" Photo Credit:

“The Hands of the Creator”
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Today, though, we hear the Lord’s response to Job’s challenge of God.  Again, I see the point made here that God is not worried about our questions.  There is no pressure that God buckles under.  Indeed there is nothing to big or to small for the Lord to contend with, and He makes this abundantly clear in His response: “Who are you… Where were you… Can you do these things?”  God is asserting His God-ness… the fact that He is wholly other… completely and totally above all things.  He asks Job question after question and I can just see Job feeling a little smaller after each one.  God covers everything from the star in the heavens, to what happened at the time of creation, to His strength above and providence toward all creatures.  Without a doubt, when the people of Israel would read this, the narrative of creation in Genesis 1 & 2 would come rushing back into their minds.  Perhaps they would be reminded of the story of Noah and the great flood in Genesis 6-9 or of Moses and the 10 plagues that so vividly displayed God’s power over all creation in Exodus 7-12.

Yet the passage that we encounter today is not simply about God’s power above all things and His ability to do whatever He wants because He is God.  Though we believe this to be true in some respects, we also believe that God cannot and does not act outside of the character of God; a “limitation” (if you can call it that) that God has placed on Himself.  God is the True measure of Love, Grace, Mercy, Holiness, Truth, Justice, etc.  He will not act in any way less than what that is.  However, He is still God and His knowledge and wisdom, the Will of the almighty, it completely beyond our comprehension and God is reminding Job, humanity, and specifically the people of Israel of this very truth.

The Lord Answers Job Out of the Whirlwind Photo Credit:

The Lord Answers Job Out of the Whirlwind
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Which brings us back to the very people we have been following so closely up until this book.  We may have taken a step back in time, or a side step in the on going narrative of the people of God, yet really… we haven’t… because this message is directed specifically at them.  In many ways Job is representative of the people of Israel, God’s chosen people.  The life of this nation, in many ways, reflects the life of Job.  They were blessed beyond compare, chosen by God to be His people and to be a blessing to the nations.  Yet, like every nation and every person, they encountered some hard times when they seemed to have lost it all.  Really, this happens several times over the course of the history of Israel and each time it does, the people fall victim to the gods of other nations, the “friends” that try to come and offer comfort.  God’s people even begin to question God and turn away from Him, thinking that their ways are better than God’s.  Interesting that God doesn’t show up in a whirlwind and put them in their place as He did with Job.  And yet… in some ways He does.  Perhaps it is not so direct, so obviously right in front of them, but God’s work always seems to bring them back around.  Whether it is slavery in Egypt, Wandering in the wilderness, defeats in battle, or even exile from their land, God always works to bring them back to Himself.

And this… this is the Truth behind the story of Job and the story of the people of Israel.  God has called them, through no merit of their own, and even when they turn away, God is quick to forgive and quick to restore.  We see this here with Job.  He does not remain obstinate and indignant about his current situation, but quickly falls to his knees and admits his own wrong doing.  This is a lesson for the people of Israel and for all who follow God.  The ways of the Lord are above and beyond our comprehension, yet no matter where we find ourselves, no matter what we have done, if we turn to God and repent of our sins, God is quick to forgive and to restore.  Whether we are walking on the path that the Sun is shining down on or the road marked with pain and suffering, we must cling to the hope that we have in God almighty, our ever-present, all powerful God who promises time and again that He will never leave us and He will never forsake us.

Day 52: Deuteronomy 3-4; Take care, lest you forget these things…

So continues the memory of the journeys of Israel through the wilderness to the present time, that being the end of the book of Numbers at which Israel has now occupied all the land east of the Jordan River that they will inherit.  Here we see too a small blurb of Moses pleading with God to forgive him and allow him to go into the land.  After over forty years of leading Israel and talking “face to face” with God, He says, “O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours?  Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.”  40 years and God has only just begun to show Moses His greatness… what a statement!  Moses has lived what, for most of us would be a majority of our lives, and he feels he has barely scratched the surface of God’s magnificence.  How amazing and how true!!

As he continues in his address to the people of Israel, Moses echoes this statement, reminding the people of the greatness of God.  He says, “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?”  He also reminds them, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children”  This we will expand on tomorrow when we read Deuteronomy 6, but here his point is well taken.  The people of Israel have seen marvels and wonders that an overwhelming majority of people that live on this earth will never see.  Moses says REMEMBER THESE THINGS!!!  And then he reminds them again, “take care, lest you forget these things!”  Again, the continuation of this passage and its importance will become apparent tomorrow, and throughout the whole of the reading of Deuteronomy.

After all this, Moses draw to a conclusion what could be considered the “preamble” to the recitation of the Law.  He has reminded the people of the greatness of God and of His faithfulness to the people.  He has talked about the power and might of God as He has been with them throughout these past 40 or so years.  He concludes with a statement that, I think, impresses upon them and us the foundation for all things: “know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

It is with this in the forefront of our minds that we move forward in remembering the Law…