A Tale of Two Natures

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Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”  (Philippians 2:3–8, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The contrast between our old nature and new nature could not be more apparent than in these few verses.  We can not “hyde” our old nature.  It can only be transformed.

Our Old Nature

Selfish Ambition – Being chiefly concerned with one’s own personal profit or pleasure, and by a strong desire and determination to achieve success, with little or no consideration for others.

Vain Conceit – Having an exaggerate sense of self-importance and an excessively high opinion of one’s abilities, or worth.

Our New Nature

Unselfish Servanthood – Willing to attend to the needs or wishes of others before one’s own needs and wishes.

Obedient Humility – Submission to others coupled with modest view of one’s own importance in deference to the importance of others.

Our example is Christ.  He had the exact same nature of the Father. “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”  (Isaiah 46:9–10, NIV 1984).

He had no selfish ambition.  He “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”  There was no vain conceit, only obedient humility.  Submitting to the will of the Father. First by setting aside His divine nature and “being made in human likeness.”  Second, by becoming “obedient to death – even death on a cross!”  Crucifixion.  The most horrific and humiliating form of execution ever devised.

My Advice – “[O]ur attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”  He is not asking us to do any more for Him than He was willing to do for us.  What have we given Him?

I Gave My Life For Thee

I gave My life for thee, My precious blood I shed,
That thou might ransomed be, and raised up from the dead
I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?
I gave, I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?

My Father’s house of light, My glory circled throne
I left for earthly night, for wanderings sad and lone;
I left, I left it all for thee, hast thou left aught for Me?
I left, I left it all for thee, hast thou left aught for Me?

I suffered much for thee, more than thy tongue can tell,
Of bitterest agony, to rescue thee from hell.
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee, what hast thou borne for Me?
I’ve borne, I’ve borne it all for thee, what hast thou borne for Me?

And I have brought to thee, down from My home above,
Salvation full and free, My pardon and My love;
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?
I bring, I bring rich gifts to thee, what hast thou brought to Me?

Frances Ridley Havergal, 1860.

 

 

 

Where Are Your “Eyes” Fixed?

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Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (Hebrews 12:1–3, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Look where you want to go, because you usually end up where you’re looking.  If your focus is on the problem, you may not see the solution.  This is a paraphrase of Dr. Dan Diamond, motivational speaker, author, coach and disaster physician, from a WebEx I attended today.

What’s hindering (making progress slow or difficult) us from growing in our faith?  Why do we get so easily entangled (caught up or involved) in worldly things (“the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does” – 1 John 2:16, NIV 1984), that take us off course?  Are we really looking (“fixing our eyes“) where we want to end up?  If not, why are we so surprised that we don’t end up there or that the progress in getting there is so slow?  Think carefully (“consider”) about these questions.  Then maybe we can throw them off and “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

My Advice – “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” (Yogi Berra).  Fix your eyes on Jesus.  You’ll end up where you’re looking and not someplace else.

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 My book “Got Spiritual Milk?” can help you keep your focus.

Lying, and Testing, and Baiting, Oh My!

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Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.  (Matthew 4:1–11, NIV 1984).

My Musings – We can learn a lot from how Satan came after Jesus, and how Jesus responded.

  • Lying – While it is true that Satan is a liar and the Father of lies. He is also a master at it.  Rather than a direct “frontal attack” bald-faced lie, he used a subtler indirect approach.  He did not claim that Jesus was not the Son of God.  He attempted to plant doubt in Christ’s mind when He was weakened from forty days of fasting. “If you are the Son of God?”  And how did Jesus counter the lie?  With truth – “every word that comes from the mouth of God.
  • Testing – Similar approach. “If you are the Son of God?”  Kind of like, “since you are the Son of God, He’ll take care of you right?  Make Him prove it.”  More seeds of doubt. And the response. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”  God has nothing to prove, and we shouldn’t need Him to prove it.  The cross says it all.
  • Baiting – “Here’s an easier way.”  Not true.  Remember, Satan is a liar.  The old bait and switch.  “Isn’t this what you want?”  Not that way.  bow down to someone other than the Father.  Being “given” kingdoms instead of building His Kingdom?  Being “given” subjects in these kingdoms rather than the subjects voluntarily entering into His Kingdom?  Hollow deceptive promises that result in just the opposite of what was offered.  Abdication of the Kingdom.  What is Satan trying to get us to abdicate?  How should we respond?  “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.

My Advice – Learn from the Master.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”   (Hebrews 4:15–16, NIV 1984).   Confidence, and mercy, and grace.  Oh my!

 

No Little Things

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Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?  (1 Corinthians 5:6, NIV 1984).

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.  (James 2:10, NIV 1984).

My Musings – There are two principles being conveyed in these two passages.  There are no little sins, and little sins lead to growing sins.   “Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think, there are no little things.”  — Bruce Barton.

The oxygen tanks on Apollo 13 exploded because the heater thermostatic switches were overlooked when the rest of the system was upgraded to a higher voltage, causing them to overheat and ignite in the oxygen rich environment.   The space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch because the O-ring seals used in the joint between the two lower segments of the right Solid Rocket Motor were not designed to handle the unusually cold conditions that existed at this launch.  Little things, big consequences.

  • Just One Point – It only took the one sin in the Garden that led to the fall of all mankind.
  • A Little Yeast – It only took one glance at Bathsheba bathing that led to the larger sins of adultery and murder.

We often think it’s such a little thing and violate the principle of James 2:10.  Or, just this once and violate the principle of 1 Corinthians 5:6.  Jesus sent His Son to die on the cross for the little sins as much the big sins.  There was no sin so small He did not have to die for and no sin so great that He would not die for.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit  to dwell within us to and provide the conviction necessary to make sure the yeast of sin does not work through the whole batch of dough.

My Advice – There are no little things.

 

Sent Into The World

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I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.  My prayer is not for them alone.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.”  (John 17:9, 15–18, 20, NIV 1984).

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33, NIV 1984).

My Musings – It is a human trait that we often say things with equal passion and deep conviction that are contradictory.  A first impression of the two passages above, quotes from the lips and heart of Jesus, that they are also contradictory.  We might dismiss this as merely a manifestation of His fully human nature but not a reflection of His fully divine nature (perhaps we’ll discuss this apparent contradiction in a future musing).  But we would be missing the point altogether.

In the first instance, Jesus speaks about protecting us from (insulated in) the evil one, while not praying that we be taken from (isolated from) the world.  He is, in fact, intentionally sending us out into (included within) the world while not being part of (integrated into) the world.  In sending us out as “aliens” into the world, He us sending out into hostile territory.  There we will encounter natural dangers (curses of a fallen world) and be confronted by supernatural dangers (curses from a fallen angel).

Jesus does not pray that we be protected from natural dangers.  Some He will prevent and some He will permit, according to His divine will. But not without eternal purposes.  But He does pray for protection from supernatural dangers though a new divine nature (“if anyone is in Christ He is a new creation” – 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 1984) and indwelling by the Holy Spirit (“I will not leave you orphans” – John 14:18).  This does not mean we will never give in or bow down to supernatural confrontations (temptation, persecution), but it does mean that we do not have to give in (“for the grace of God teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live upright and Godly lives in this present age” – Titus 2:12, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Just say no (by the grace of God).

Hunger Pangs

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Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  (Matthew 4:1–4, NIV 1984).

My Musings – What are we hungry for?  A better job?  A bigger house?  A fatter bank account?  A comfortable retirement?  Some would just like to have a job.  Some would like to no longer live in the streets.  Some have nothing in their wallet, much less a bank account. Some have no hope for retirement.  But whether you have exorbitant or modest wants, there is something the we all need to hunger.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Be filled, but stay hungry.

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Today’s musing was inspired by Teaching Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on March 8, 2020. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

 

Not One, Not Any

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No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “No.”  A small word with a big meaning (not any, not one).  You think the temptations you face are peculiar to you, that they are more difficult to deny yourself than what others face.  In reality they are quite common.  You might think that the temptation is unbearable, but God promises that it is. Not only that, He promises a way out.

The problem is, we often choose to ignore the way out when (not if) we are tempted.  We choose to give in.  The key word here is choice.

My Advice – As much for myself (maybe more so) as for others – choose wisely.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
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