Cherishing HIS Gift

The Grat Commission

The Great Commission

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Cherishing HIS Gift’

©September 8, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 8, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #632: ’God’s Redeeming Love’  (- taken from John 14 and 16)

         Opening Prayer Hymn #102, Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Let us pray…

It was not that long ago that my son Jeff purchased his first pair of prescription lenses. Unlike the lenses available in my youth, the frames and comfort available for the youth today are far better today. However, I found it interesting that Jeff’s comments regarding what he could now see with his new glasses were identical to my own and my first pair. Jeff marvelled at the fact that he could now see the individual leaves on the trees. No longer were the leaves a clump of green. Before he had glasses, Jeff’s view of the world could be characterized by the expression of “not being able to see the trees for the forest”. The improved focus brought a better understanding as to the detailed nature of each tree.

At times, our view of our surroundings often lack clarity and we miss an appreciation for what it is we see. Sometimes we need to focus on the small details like the leaves to understand the whole tree.  In other words, while it is good to be able to get the big picture or the general overall view of one’s circumstances, often it is more important to see the small details, so that we correctly understand what it is that we see.

Now to see the gospel of Jesus and the details in the Bible, God has provided us with the Holy Spirit, so that we may view both with a spiritual perception or. Without the Holy Spirit our vision is missing the spiritual details and our understanding is greatly diminished. For non-believers, it is a matter of receiving, by faith, the gift salvation through Jesus and then receiving the Holy Spirit.  We have in the Holy Spirit, the Lords perfect prescription for our spiritual nearsightedness.

BLCF: discipleship

And for believers in the gospel of Jesus, it is allowing the same Holy Spirit help see the path that God has intended us to follow.

We need to appreciate what we see, as God intended it to be seen, from a spiritual perspective. In our faith walk, as believers in the Resurrected Christ, we need to allow the Spirit’s guidance to help us see the scriptures from a Spiritual rather than worldly perspective. The Holy Spirit allows us to see and understand the Lord’s Way and truth, as well as to see the path which he desires us to follow.

When asked their opinion as to which chapter in the Bible is the most important, Biblical scholars can give one of a variety verses, including Psalm 23, John 15, or Revelation 5. Many Biblical scholars choose a chapter from the Book of Romans.

Why Romans? Here are a cross section of scholars and their reasons for choosing Paul’s epistle:

  • Ray Stedman: “the most powerful human document that has ever been penned.”
  • John Piper: “Which of us, who has tasted the goodness and glory of God in this great gospel, does not count the book of Romans precious beyond reckoning? . . . there is no greater exposition of the Gospel of God than the book of Romans.”
  • Donald Grey Barnhouse: “Every movement of revival in the Christian church has been connected with the teachings set forth in Romans.”

And within Romans, which is the greatest chapter? Opinions differ, of course, but most will answer, “Romans 8.”

Romans Chapter 8 includes the following familiar verses, which give us a better understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

                             

  • 1-6) Life in the Spirit:  1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • 12-17) Heirs with Christ 12 So then, brothers,[d] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[e] of God.  15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
  • 28)  Future Glory: 28And we know that God causes all things to work together for good[f] to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
  • 31-39) God’s Everlasting Love: 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[g] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[h] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Footnotes:

  1. a.       Romans 8:1 Some manuscripts add who walk not according to the flesh (but according to the Spirit)
  2. b.      Romans 8:2 Some manuscripts me
  3. c.       Romans 8:3 Or and as a sin offering
  4. d.      Romans 8:12 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 29
  5. e.      Romans 8:14 See discussion on “sons” in the Preface
  6. f.        Romans 8:28 Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good
  7. g.       Romans 8:31 Or who is
  8. h.      Romans 8:34 Or Is it Christ Jesus who died… for us?

Paul is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest proponents of the Christian Faith in general, and specifically the Gospel of Christ. Paul’s contribution to spreading the Gospel of Jesus included authoring over half of the books of the New Testament, as well as performing the Lord’s Great Commission by actively spreading the gospel of Jesus. The Great Commission, which in the Christian tradition, is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples, that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. It has become a tenet in Christian theology emphasizing missionary work, evangelism, and baptism.

If we look in Matthew 28:16-20, we read the instructions the Resurrected Christ gave the disciples before His Ascension to Heaven, referred to as The Great Commission:

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) The Great Commission

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

BLCF: great_commission

This was not the first time that the disciples had doubts, and possibly misgivings as how to embark on such a Commission. Having received the power and blessing of the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room, at Pentecost, one would think that understanding the Lord would not be a problem, particularly for the eleven disciples, who had first hand exposure to lessons that Christ taught. But many times we read those students of Christ would take a parable for a factual story or tend to mistakenly take either a literal or worldly view on a statement intended to be strictly spiritual parable. Perhaps because of these doubts, and the tendency of both believers and non-believers, to take Christ word’s literally, when they were not intended, we see that the disciple Paul was called by Jesus, as Paul was on the Road to Damascus.

Paul’s conversion was significant to us, and Christ’s Commission in many ways. Paul was raised in the Jewish tradition, and had Roman citizenship. Interestingly, before his conversion, Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus, a non believer, employed as a persecutor of Christians, having watched the garments of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Saul’s profession was to see that believers in the Resurrected Christ arrested and eventually executed, as a threat to the State of Rome.

Several years ago, I had an interesting exchange with an American Customs Officer at Pearson Airport while passing through U.S. Customs on a business trip to the States. It was a year or so before 911, and Canadian visitors to the U.S. could enter if they provided two pieces of identification such as a birth certificate and valid driver’s license. The American Customs Officer, having noted that I was born in the US told me that I could get a US Passport, to which I replied that I was a Canadian Citizen. The officer replied that that did not matter, that being born on US soil entitled me to citizenship by right of birth. I tried to explain that in order to become a Canadian Citizen, I had to renounce my US Citizenship.

In the Rome of Christ’s time, a similar attitude of entitlement existed, based on your status of citizenship. On the top of this pyramid of class distinction was the Roman Citizen, which gave the person rights and freedoms under Roman law.

Next were the so called free individuals, though not entitled to the benefits of a citizen, they had many freedoms of travel in the Empire and to practice commerce, within limitations. This group included foreigners who did not have birthright. One way these individuals would be able to earn status of being a citizen of Rome, was to enlist in the Roman Legion or Army. If you managed to survive five years of service fighting wars and insurrections, you would be granted your status.

Finally, on the bottom rung of the Roman social ladder, we have the slave, who had no status or entitlement under law. The slave was considered to have equal status as chattel or property, and could even be put to death at the whim of the master, with no legal repercussions under Roman Laws. There was no legal protection for the life of a slave. A slave had to remain within the confines of his master’s property or suffer punishment or death. On rare occasions, slaves might be granted their freedom, at the whim or discretion of their master. A slave’s legacy to his descendants is enslavement, sadly this is their birthright.

In some respects, many Jewish believers viewed themselves as Citizens of God’s Kingdom, with a birthright to God’s favour similar to the Roman Citizen’s view of having a birthright to Caesar’s favour. A non-believer, under certain circumstances, could convert to Judaism, provided they were deemed acceptable. Any perceived history of violation of Mosaic Law, such as divorce, adultery, disease or even physical disability was believed justification to disallow conversion of the gentile and expulsion from the faith congregation for existing members. Such judgement should be reserved solely for the Lord.

In some respects, we tend to apply the same harsh judgement upon ourselves and others within Christ’s Church. This is why the Lord elected to send Paul to correct this mistaken view. If all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, who are we to judge or say who may or may not enter God’s church? Remember the criminal who was crucified beside Jesus at Cavalry? He was given the promise to  join the Lord in Paradise within the day, because of his faith, in spite of his transgressions.

Though we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins, giving all the gift of salvation and sanctification, without discrimination or qualification. This removes any restrictions to receiving God’s gift to the Jew and Gentile, Greek and Roman, man and woman, alike. As we are all born into slavery of sin, what sins we have committed, and what good deeds we have done does not cut it with the Lord, we all share the judgement of death.

However, if we confess our sins and accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we are washed of sins, no ifs, ands or buts about it. In other words, through Christ, we are freed from the shackles of our sins, and are born again free from further judgement or persecution. We are exempt from condemnation and the judgement of death. In return, the only expectation of us by the Lord is to agree to undertake the Lord’s Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

In his response to Christ’s Commission, Paul made three Missionary journeys to spread the Gospel. Paul’s work included visits and letters to Church’s to help clarify the Gospel message to many of the new Christian churches. This clarification was necessary, to bring a better vision and understanding of the important details found in the Gospel Message.

Paul's Vision

Paul’s Vision

When we read John 8:34, we see a reference to being a slave to sin:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

 

If we were to interpret the reference to a slave in John 8:34 literally, we might see someone in chains forced to do the bidding of a master. And take this view with the fact that an Angel of the Lord freed Paul, who was chained in a prison; it is easy to see that someone might tend to misunderstand what is being said.

Paul helped to clarify the meaning of enslavement caused by sin in Romans 8:2:

For the law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

But how is it possible that we, as Spirit led believers in the Resurrected Christ, confuse the meaning of the Lord’s Word?

The idea of mistakenly taking a literal view of enslavement could come from thinking confusing thinking that Jesus was talking about the Hebrews, who were enslaved in Egypt. If we recall how obstinate and ungrateful the people were after God freed them from Egypt, it seems that Moses was not chosen to free his people from enslavement to Pharaoh, but rather to end their enslavement to worshiping worldly idols such as the golden calf and separation from the Lord.

We see this in Nehemiah 9:1 and 16-17:

1Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads.

Cross references:

A.Nehemiah 9:1 : Nehemiah 8:2

B.Nehemiah 9:1 : 1 Sam 7:6

C.Nehemiah 9:1 : 2 Sam 3:31

D.Nehemiah 9:1 : Josh 7:6

16“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

The encouraging aspect of this verse in Nehemiah is the hope that in spite of all that they heard and saw, they chose to turn away from God’s leadership and return towards a life of slavery in sin, God still loves enough to forgive and not willing to forsake them.

The Bible is a powerful work, with themes and quotes often used in many of the great works of literature. Leaders, politicians and social activists have used the scriptures to illustrate their cause or to put “punch” in a speech.

When Dr. Martin Luther King, a renowned  minister and social activist gave the speech where he said  that the “ truth will set you free”, he was speaking more about social injustice towards the Black American, including a history of literal enslavement, rather giving a Gospel Sermon on spiritual freedom as found in John8:31-37(ESV):

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.

Jesus speaks of believers or followers who desire to kill him because they have yet find the faith to accept the truth of his words. This is in line with what is said 1Corinthians 1:18:

“For the message of the cross seems folly to those on their way to destruction, but to us, the saved, it is God’s power.”

The challenge for us as believers and teachers of the Gospel, is to keep our focus on the words of the scriptures, and in that sense understanding what is written to be taken literally and what is written to be taken as a parable. This is where we need to allow the Holy Spirit to temper our understanding of the scriptures, rather than relying on our worldly knowledge to misinterpret God’s Word.

BLC: until_the_end_of_the_age

As the descendants of Adam and Eve, we all are born as slaves to sin. It is our birthright and legacy. Alone, we cannot overcome sin’s judgement of death. If, however, we have faith in God’s gift of Salvation from sins condemnation through the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, confess our sins, and trust in Him. We are rescued from sin, no longer a slave to the world. The truth of the gospel of the ‘Word made flesh’ who is our Lord Jesus has set us free as found in Luke 2:68 (see front of the bulletin):

May the Lord God of Israel be blessed indeed! For God’s intervention has begun, and he has moved to rescue us, the people of God.

BLCF: discipleship_def

Even though our birthright is death through sin, we are also entitled through Christ, to being rescued from death, and to receive the gifts of salvation and sanctification, through the Holy Spirit, as heirs with Christ, we see in Romans 8:12-17:

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

While our choice in faith does not preclude us from suffering, it does promise that we may share, with Christ, salvation and glorification as a reward for our faith.

The gift of salvation is free. Let us cherish God’s Holy gifts of forgiveness and sanctification through Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, to convict and guide us. And may we honour these precious gifts by our keeping faith in the Lord and sharing His Gospel throughout the world. This is all the Lord expects in return. God has corrected our spiritual vision by way of the Holy Spirit. He has given the means to see, but it is up to us to use it in the manner God intended.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Ascension-of-Jesus

Hymn #413: God Is My Strong Salvation

 

Benediction (Philippians 4:5-7): A Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

BLCF: Commission_wordle

Do We Seek to Edify: Ourselves or HIS Church?

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Do We Seek to Edify: Ourselves or HIS Church?’

© June 2, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin – June 2, 2013 

Let us pray…

At first blush it would seem that the topic of this Sunday’s message has something to do just with languages or tongues.  While the account of  the Tower of Babel does  explain how it is that we have such a diversity of languages and people over the face of the earth, there is much more  to the story, which may sound familiar to a lesson we recently shared, that being how Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan in the Garden of Eden in Genesis, Chapter 3.

Temptation in the Garden

Adam, Eve and the Serpent

You may recall that Satan appealed to Eve and Adam, who was with her, that by eating the forbidden fruit, they would be elevated to the same level as God in their understanding of good and evil. Fearing that they would next eat from the Tree of Life, God exiled Adam and Eve from the garden both as a punishment for their transgressions and to prevent them from doing another. Genesis 3:22-24 (ESV):

 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Confusion Of Tongues

Confusion of Tongues from the Tower of Babel

Now, back to the tower. For centuries, the human race has aspired to be at a higher plane, as evident by the building of structures such as the Eiffel Tower, Empire State building, CN Tower, Burj of Dubai, and so on. While like the Tower of Babel, most of these towers afford an overview of relatively low nearby terrain.  I recall when the CN Tower in Toronto, there was a three month wait for dinner reservations at the tower restaurant. We had some friends of my sister visiting from Sydney, Australia. My dad thought it would be nice to take them to restaurant and enjoy the view of the city and lake as far as Rochester, New York. On the evening of the reservation a foggy cloud bank rolled in and all you see from the tower was parts of Toronto Island.

But the Tower of Babel was to be constructed to heaven as a monument to its builders, before they disappeared or were dispersed. Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV):

The Tower of Babel        

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Tower of Babel

Confusion of Tongues

It is ironic that a tower built as a testimony to its builders, so that they would not be forgotten or dispersed, ended up being the reason God made them become no longer unified in language and they were dispersed throughout the world.  History indicates that the tower eroded so that the lower portions fell away. There were some writings that indicate that Alexander the Great had located the remnants of this tower and intended to rebuild it. This plan was abandoned after the untimely death of King Alexander. Which brings us to the next Scripture verse, Psalm 2:1-6 (ESV):

The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed

2 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

To aspire for something, is a desire to reach a higher plane, where, by definition:

as·pire  /əˈspī(ə)r/

Verb

  1. Direct        one’s hopes or ambitions toward achieving something: “we never        thought that we might aspire to those heights”.
  2. Rise        high; tower.

People seek to achieve or they aspire, not to be confused with inspire, as in the works of the Holy Spirit. The definition of inspire is as follows:

in·spire /inˈspī(ə)r/

Verb

  1. Fill        (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, esp. to do        something creative: “his enthusiasm inspired them”.
  2. Create        (a feeling, esp. a positive one) in a person: “inspire        confidence”.

Biography courtesy of the United States Air Force:

Those who aspire seek to be filled with pride in self, while those who inspire, seek to have others filled with the Holy Spirit. An example of aspiration may be found in the sonnet, High Flight written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. Portions of this poem appear on the headstones of many interred in Arlington National Cemetery, in the U.S., particularly aviators and astronauts. John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was an American Pilot Officer serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was born in Shanghai, China in 1922, the son of missionary parents, Reverend and Mrs. John Gillespie Magee; his father was an American and his mother was originally a British citizen.

Magee came to the U.S. in 1939 and earned a scholarship to Yale, but in September 1940 he enlisted in the RCAF and was graduated as a pilot. He was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941.

In August or September 1941, Pilot Officer Magee composed High Flight and sent a copy to his parents. Several months later, on December 11, 1941 his Spitfire collided with another plane over England and Magee, only 19 years of age, crashed to his death. His remains are buried in the churchyard cemetery at Scopwick, Lincolnshire.

High Flight

John Gillespie Magee Jr

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/highflig.htm

High Flight – By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds –
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

“Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God.”

While the sonnet is beautifully worded, it is an example of the flesh’s desire or aspiration to reach God in a manner that is not in harmony with the Spirit of God. An irony here is that the author, a son of missionaries, composed prose that presumes the protagonist, a pilot, could fly high enough in something he built to touch the face of God.

To reach God and Heaven requires not a tower, or an aircraft or any other worldly means. To reach the Spiritual plane mandates us not to take actions that are the result of aspiration, but to follow inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit to achieve that state of Spiritual Grace which allows us to lead others to find His Grace, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 (ESV):

Mystery and Victory

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ

In this passage, we see the difference between the mystery of the flesh, which is of the world, and the victory that goes to the Holy Spirit. To achieve this state of Grace, we must replace our human impulses by our faith in Jesus Christ, Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV):

Jesus the Great High Priest   

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

You may recall that after being anointed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus was taken to a desolate place, where he fasted and was tested by Satan. Jesus was brought to a high place and offered by Satan all authority over all that he saw from that great height. But Satan failed to tempt Jesus, as our Lord did not aspire to grow his own personal power and authority or to be placed upon an equal plane with God the Father. Instead, Jesus, in a perfect example of faith, replaced conceit and ambition with humility and obedience, Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV):

Christ’s Example of  Humility    

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And the confusion we still observe from Babel today, tends to interfere with not only building of towers of aspiration, but the building of the church body if we aspire to build the church in a worldly manner. Such confusion hampers both the health and growth of the church body, as we read in, 1 Corinthians 14:6-18 (ESV):

Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsidersay “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.

The body of members that compose any church are subject to a Spiritual standard where the mind and the spirit are in harmony. This facilitates an understanding among the members and eliminates confusion and misunderstandings which hamper growth of the church body through the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Tall towers of the world

Towers: Aspire to Heaven or Inspired from Heaven?

Hymn #355: Higher Ground (I’m Pressing on the Upward Way)

Communion: Responsive Reading #626

 Benediction (Colossians 3:17):

 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.