Weekly Bible Insights

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In the Word

Weekly Bible Insights

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Hebrews 9

This chapter compares and contrasts the Old Covenant sanctuary (Tabernacle, 9:1-5) with all of its functions and the New Covenant sanctuary, which is where Jesus Christ now ministers, in heaven. The author wants us to understand that the New Covenant sanctuary and the work of the Great High Priest is far superior to any earthly counterpart.

 

God ordained all that was in the Old Covenant: The Tabernacle, its ministers, the priests, and articles (Lampstand, Table of Showbread, Incense Altar and Ark of The Covenant) and regulations. Though divine in their origin and pattern, these were temporary, mere earthly representations foreshadowing better, greater, heavenly realities.

 

The lampstand points to Jesus Christ the Light of the World. The Table and Bread of Presence point us to God’s provision in sending Jesus the Bread of Life. The Golden Altar reminds us of Jesus Christ and his continual ministry of intercession for his Bride. Finally, the Ark of the Covenant reminds us of the blood of Christ shed for us, Jesus being our “mercy seat” or propitiation.

 

Not only were the physical objects symbolic, so were the actions of the priests. They served regularly in the Tabernacle performing their duties, offering sacrifices for sin, both in front of and behind the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. God’s presence was inaccessible to regular worshippers: only the priests had direct access to God the Most High.

 

These earthly objects and functions were temporary, pointing to their heavenly and eternal counterparts. We no longer need the building, the priests, or the regular sacrifices of the slaughtered animals. The animal blood offered as a sacrifice for sin could not change the heart. It did not bring moral purity. There is no remission of sin or purification from sin without the shedding of blood. All of this was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ who willingly offered himself, as the once for all, final, complete sacrifice for sin. He provides eternal redemption and he changes the human heart.

 

Believer in Christ, our works or sacrifices will never merit the favour of God. This is given to you, imputed to you, because of Christ’s finished work on your behalf. In him you have an eternal inheritance of blessing. His work of redemption is sufficient and is finished. His ministry of intercession is effective and continues. Jesus stands in our place, on our behalf before his Father.

 

Both Covenants were established by blood but Christ is the better sacrifice. He is the mediator of the New Covenant. He is the spotless Lamb of God. His is a one-time sacrifice of his own blood, putting away all sin for all who trust in him. Through Christ we have been cleansed and purified.

 

When Jesus died, the veil in the Temple was torn, opening the way for anyone to come and live in God’s presence. Through his shed blood we have complete access into the Holy of Holies. Therefore, we ought to come boldly to the throne of grace and find God’s grace as we journey through life eagerly anticipating our eternal home in God’s presence.

 

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28 ESV)


Prayer

 

Father, thank you for sending your Son to be the Saviour of the world, the new and better way. What we could not do, what sacrifices could never cover, what good works could never earn, Christ has done for us, and we are eternally grateful. Indeed, by the cross, it is finished!

 

Christ is our boast and our hope. In him, the old is gone and the new is come. Come Lord Jesus. We are eagerly awaiting your return, and our homegoing. In your glorious matchless name we pray. Amen.

 

Lead Pastor Jody Cross

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Hebrews 2

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1 ESV)

 

With these opening words from Hebrews 1, we find the first of five admonitions in this letter. This strong warning alerts us to not neglect our salvation, and thereby protect ourselves from drifting away from biblical truth.

 

As you consider your own walk of faith, reflect upon how easy it is to drift spiritually. Isn’t it easy to become distracted, complacent, or comfortable? When we do, significant problems arise in our lives. The devil is all too ready to influence us to neglect God’s Word, prayer and corporate worship. However, as we read in this chapter, the war of the ages was fought and won at the cross, and we stand on the side of the Victor, Jesus Christ who,

 

…himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14b-15 ESV)

 

This chapter helps us to realize how great a salvation we have. This salvation was purchased through the incarnation and death of Jesus at a great cost and provides great blessings and promises. Here we understand that what was given to humanity at creation and subsequently lost in the fall, was restored at the cross, and will be fully realized in glory. Next to the Gospel accounts, Hebrews speaks of the humanity of Jesus more than any other New Testament letter. 

 

In verses 6-9 the writer here quotes Psalm 8:4-6, speaking of the exalted role given to humanity. To Adam and Eve was given the creation mandate, reflecting God’s image as they ruled over creation as God intended and commanded (Genesis 1:26-28). That however, was not fulfilled in Adam, for rather than ruling over creation we were ruined by sin. However, thanks be to God, Jesus shared in our humanity and restored what was destroyed and lost.

 

The great cost paid was Jesus coming to earth in the incarnation. He was made like us in every way, except he was without sin. The Word became flesh (John 1:14), shared our humanity, tasted death for us, and is now crowned with glory and honour at the Father’s right hand.

 

One troubling verse in this passage is this,

 

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10 ESV)

 

What does this mean that Jesus was made perfect through suffering? Was he not perfect? Was he sinful and then was made sinless? Commentators understand this to mean, not that Jesus was sinful but that rather, in his suffering Jesus demonstrated obedience to God’s will, and to the cross, and thus through suffering, fully identifies with humanity and thus fully qualifies as our representative and substitute. Through his work of atonement, Jesus reversed the effects of the fall, defeated the devil and gives life and freedom to a world enslaved and without hope.

 

As brothers and sisters of the Lord, as children of God, as offspring of Abraham, we have this assurance that Jesus has been where we are. He has suffered (like we will never understand). He has been tempted and therefore can help us, coming to our aid as a faithful, merciful High Priest. This is our great salvation; let us not neglect it or the One who gives it.

 

Prayer

 

Father, we praise You for so great a salvation purchased at so great a cost. Hallelujah, what a Saviour is Christ our Lord. Man of sorrows, thank You for all You have done for us.

 

Prone to wander, Lord, we feel it. O conqueror of Evil, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the snares of the evil one. You have walked this road and You can help us. Do help us Lord, we are weak but You are mighty. O come to our aid and help us to live to Your praise. Amen.

 

Lead Pastor Jody Cross

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2 Timothy 3

2 Timothy 3:10–17

 

In this passage, Paul advises Timothy about two types of people, how he should interact with them, and what makes them different from unbelievers. So, to start off, Paul describes the evil men by describing them in this way:

 

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Tim 3:2–5)

 

While this is quite the lamentable list of attributes, Paul condemns these people's way of life saying that they will go from bad to worse, constantly being deceived. There is nothing worth emulating about this lifestyle, it is ultimately vapid and pointless. Paul’s instruction to Timothy is to avoid these people.

 

The next message Paul has for Timothy is different than one of prosperity and pleasure. In verse 12 Paul states that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Paul uses his own life as an example of this when he recalls his persecution at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. This guarantee of persecution for the lives of believers goes back to what Jesus said to his followers in John 15,

 

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:19–20 ESV)

 

As Paul continues, he instructs Timothy to hold onto the Scriptures he has known since he was a child. Why does Paul give such emphasis to Timothy to stay knowledgeable in the Scriptures? Because those Scriptures that Timothy had were God-breathed and they have wisdom that will lead to salvation. And those same Scriptures Timothy had, we have today and they are able to provide us with that wisdom that leads us to salvation.

 

This goes to show the immense importance of the Holy Scriptures in the life of a believer. Loving God and His Word, and obeying God’s truth is ultimately what distinguishes us from a person who emulates the lifestyle of the person described at the beginning of the chapter. Those who love God’s Word and seek to live a life pleasing to Him, when living by the Scripture are a people who are complete and equipped for every good work in Christ Jesus.

 

The Bible teaches us the way of God. It is used to rebuke us in our sin, it will correct our understanding and lead us to righteousness. As we desire to follow after God and lead lives of righteousness, we must remember that persecution is promised for those who follow Christ. The world will love its own and hate those who are set apart for God. Secondly, we must not fear persecution because we have a good God who is greater than the world. He has given us the Bible so that we can know Him and be conformed more into his image.

 

Prayer

 

Dear Lord God, we pray that we would earnestly desire to follow after Christ's example and not live like the world does. We thank you that you are greater than any persecution we may face. We stand firm in the knowledge that you have overcome and that in you we too have nothing to fear.

 

Increase our desire for your Word and may we look to it for instruction and correction. Equip us with your wisdom and prepare us for the good works you have for us.

 

In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

 

Timo Stubchen

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Proverbs 31

Throughout the book of Proverbs are several key character types including the wise, the fool, and the simple. Readers are urged to be the wise, those who know God’s covenant and are developing the skill to live out that covenant through everyday situations. The beginning of wise knowledge is the fear of the LORD, the fear of Yahweh. (1:7)


Proverbs 31:10-31 is an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with a letter from the Hebrew alphabet. It portrays a person who embodies the full character of wisdom in all areas of life, a concrete ideal of wisdom lived out.


Throughout the book, the author has frequently addressed sons, fathers, and other men. So it is unexpected but delightful that for his ideal of fully realized wisdom, he addresses a woman. It drives home the point that the wisdom teaching of Proverbs applies to all of God’s people of both genders.


The passage begins with a rhetorical question -- “An excellent wife who can find?” – which has been answered earlier in the book “a prudent wife is from the LORD” (19:14). The covenant-keeping God is the source of wisdom and wise women. The author launches into a description of a broad range of manual, commercial, administrative, and interpersonal skills in which she shows her excellence.


She works diligently and skillfully with vigour and planning. She shows a broad range of manual skills, working with her hands, planning what is necessary even for the servants to best benefit the household. Her careful preparations and skills enable her and her family not to fear the weather or even the future, but she wears strength and dignity as though they were her own clothes. Her excellent work and her noble character have contributed to her husband being raised to sit with the elders of the land.


Her work is not simply confined to her own household, but she engages in wise and discerning dealing with outsiders, evaluating and purchasing property and returning a profit in her dealings. This is an image of remarkable financial independence for a woman in the ancient world.


Finally, her work is not just to the benefit of her own household, but in generosity and compassion she opens her hand to the poor and the needy. Her home is a place of wise guidance and kind teaching to those seeking direction.


The result? She is praised by her grateful husband and children, including public recognition for her wise excellence. 


The example of the Proverbs 31 woman is formidable. She shows what wisdom looks like fully fleshed out in all parts of life, engaging with diligence and intentionality all the parts of her day and her years, all of her tasks within the family and without. All of us -- men and women -- are challenged and encouraged to a life with the same breadth and depth of intentional wisdom.


Remember, Proverbs began with the note that the beginning of knowledge is the fear of Yahweh. The description of this epitome of wisdom ends by recognizing that she, this excellent and praiseworthy woman, is above all a woman who fears Yahweh. May we too be women (and men) who fear Yahweh and live intentionally in his wisdom.


Prayer


Father, you grant us deep and profound wisdom through your Word, and you enable the living out of that wisdom through your Spirit who lives in us. Give us grace and strength and conviction to live our days and our years, inside our family and outside with others, diligently engaged in loving you above all things, and loving our neighbours for your name’s sake. We ask for mercy and for transformation, in the glorious name of your Son! Amen!


Tom Gee

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The Proverbs of Solomon

A common challenge with reading a book like Proverbs is getting lost in the text. It’s hard to remember exactly where you were, or what proverb you read last. A modern-day proverb aptly warns us of this kind of situation, when we “can’t see the forest for the trees.”

 

So let’s step back for a moment to survey the forest of Proverbs, before we focus on the Sayings of the Wise. The book of Proverbs is traditionally divided into a few sections:

  1. A Father’s Wisdom (1-9)
  2. Proverbs of Solomon: Part 1 (10-22:16)
  3. Sayings of the Wise (22:17-24)
  4. Proverbs of Solomon: Part 2 (25-29)
  5. Final Wisdom (30-31)

 

Compared to the first section of Proverbs, which made an argument for the importance of wisdom, the collection of Wise Sayings (which Proverbs 24 is right at the end of) probably seems much more random. It doesn’t really feel like there is a uniting purpose or theme, or a narrative driving the section. And that’s exactly right! This section is a collection of proverbs, which by definition are short and pithy, but unrelated, wise sayings.

 

This part of the book is really best enjoyed meditatively with a cup of tea, so after each individual proverb you can pause to reflect, as you sip your tea.

 

Because these sayings are mostly unrelated to one another, and feel somewhat random as we read through them, this is also a section that will read very differently in different seasons of life.

Ten years ago reading Proverbs, I was sure every verse was written to young men.

Five years ago, I was sure it was all about husbands and wives.

This year, I’m sure every verse is about children, and wisdom for parenting.

 

Different passages will stand out to you as you read and reflect on Proverbs throughout your life, as your situation and the challenges you are facing change. But you can be sure that no matter where you are, and what you’re dealing with, Proverbs has something to say about it.

 

30 Sayings of the Wise

 

We can survey the 30 Sayings in Proverbs 22:17-24:23 as a small picture of the whole book. In my own study, I find it useful to ask two questions when reading through Proverbs:

  1. What is the emphasis of the text?
  2. What stands out to me?

 

First then: What is the emphasis of the text?

Or to put it another way, what theme or idea appears the most?

In these 30 Sayings, a father is imparting wisdom to his son. What does the father emphasize?

The father himself says that his wants his son “to be honest and to speak the truth.” How does that theme appear in this section?


Second: What stands out to me?

 

Today I noticed this proverb in particular, and I was encouraged to seek the wisdom of the Lord:

 

           Eat honey, my son, for it is good;

              honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.

           Know also that wisdom is like honey for you:

              if you find it, there is a future hope for you,

              and your hope will not be cut off. (24:13-14)

 

So what stood out to you? What speaks to your life right now? What is the Holy Spirit nudging, encouraging or exhorting you with? Read through the Thirty Sayings again, and notice what grabs your attention. Meditate and pray over it, and as you do ask the Holy Spirit to continue to work in your heart through the wisdom of the Word of God.

                                                                                                               

Prayer

 

Holy Spirit, we thank you for your very presence in us. We thank you that you are indeed the one who is with us, indwelling our very hearts as a temple of God. Would you continue your work of illumination, making clear not only the meaning of the Bible as we read, but how our lives and hearts must be refined by it. Would you make clear to us today and this week, how what we’ve seen in Proverbs should grow and change us. Amen.

                                                                

Peter Brown

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Philippians 4

This final chapter of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Philippi is a collection of practical and pragmatic commands — “agree together”, “rejoice in the Lord”, “don’t be anxious” — followed by two paragraphs of thankful instruction from a grateful apostle.


Tucked in the middle of the chapter is an oddly abstract paragraph (vs. 8–9) that seems to simply say, “think good thoughts” and “do good stuff.” Let’s unpack this together.


Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.


Paul was not a shallow man of only happy thoughts. He did not shy away from hard conversations, strong expressions, evaluating circumstances critically, and calling for harsh steps to deal with sinful circumstances. In fact, it might have been all too easy to focus on the severe challenges facing himself and the churches and be consumed by the affliction and suffering around him. After all, he is writing from prison.


Similarly, we too can be consumed by the suffering and evil around us: the bad news whether personal, national, or international; war; corruption; poverty; politics; injustice; immorality; sin and temptation; personal suffering, family suffering and the suffering of other Christians. And all of these deserve our attention, our empathy, our sacrifice, and our prayers.


But Paul says we must not stop there. Despair, damage, and depravity are not the whole story. Paul calls us to guard our thoughts, even amid affliction, to make room and time for other thoughts. Let’s dip our toes into the original Greek to flesh out the terms.


He gives us six specific categories followed by two summary categories of things we should be dedicated to thinking about. The command is “think on,” “continually let your mind dwell on”.

  • Think on things that are true (alethe). Morally upright, dependable, and real.
  • Think on things that are honorable (semna). Serious, dignified, even noble.
  • Think on things that are just (dikaia). Marked by justice, righteousness, fairness.
  • Think on things that are pure (hagna). Holy, innocent, even sexually chaste.
  • Think on things that are lovely (prosphile). Those things that inspire love, that are pleasing, agreeable, and gracious. 
  • Think on things that are commendable (euphema). Appealing, well-spoken of, reputable.
  • Think on things that are excellent and worthy of praise (arete, epainos). Virtuous, marked by goodness, praiseworthy and worthwhile.


Do these describe my thoughts throughout the day? Am I deliberately cultivating the disciplines (and delights!) of dwelling on things that are true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise? That sounds like a beautiful place to dwell!


But how? Paul doesn’t leave us hanging. Although he’s given a broad description of where we should seek to dwell, he also gives us foundational blocks for that inner life. Verse 9 tells the Philippians to take the things that they have learned from him, received from him verbally, heard about him and seen exemplified in him … to take these and not only think on them, but to do them. To put them into continuous practice.


The Apostles’ teaching and their examples, laid out for us in Scripture, are true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praise-worthy. Although there are things beyond Scripture that also fit those categories, memorizing and meditating upon the Word of God is a tremendous way to dwell where we should be. To be who we should be.


And the result? “The God of peace will be with you.”


Prayer


Father, grant us grace to dwell deeply on these things. To meditate long on what you reveal to us in your Word. To be marked by lives, internal and external, that continuously dwell and continuously practice this beautiful life you lay before us. That you, the God of shalom, may be with us. In the glorious name of your Son! Amen!


Tom Gee

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Ephesians 3

Prayer can sometimes feel confusing. Sometimes we feel the need in prayer to not ask for too much or to not demand anything from God. Other times we can pray in a way where we do not come to God with an attitude of reverence. While other times we just don't know what to say in prayer. 

 

In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul prays for the Ephesians, and I want to pull out three elements that we read that are valuable to remember when praying to God.

 

Firstly, we see HOW Paul comes to prayer. Paul prays with an attitude of humility towards God. From the very start of the prayer, Paul states:

 

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. (Eph. 3:14-15 ESV)

 

Paul is showing an example of humility and submission to the call of God through the outward gesture of bowing. Like how people bow to earthly nobility, our attitude during prayer should be one that understands what a blessing and gift it is that we are able to communicate in this way with the Almighty God. It is this understanding that should lead to humility and reverence.

 

The second element to Paul's prayer is the WHAT; what is Paul praying for? Paul is praying for spiritual blessings on the Ephesians.

 

That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19 ESV)

 

Paul remembered the churches in his prayers, and it would be expected that he prayed for their physical needs. But in this passage we see him pray specifically for their spiritual needs. Paul prays that the Ephesians would be rooted and grounded in love and that they would be able to comprehend the love of God that is so boundless. Paul’s true desire for this church is for spiritual blessings. In that same way, the true desires for the Christian life today should be spiritual in nature. All things will eventually pass away aside from our relationship with God; in light of that, our true desires should be for spiritual growth.

 

Finally, Paul prays with an understanding of WHO he is praying to. 

 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21 ESV)

 

Why does Paul pray with humility towards God? Why does he pray with such boldness for spiritual blessing? Paul does this because he knows the God whom he is praying to is the One who is able to do more than we could ever imagine.

 

God is more powerful than our finite minds can understand, and he is worthy of all glory and praise. The same God who created all things, the same God who chose the Israelites and was faithful to them, and the same God who sent Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for sins once and for all, for all who believe, that is the God who is worthy of all glory. That is the God to who we can pray to.

 

Prayer

 

Dear Lord God, we pray to you today knowing we serve a powerful God who is glorious and worthy of praise. We pray that our ultimate goal in life would be to be Christ-centred and that we would seek your spiritual blessings.

 

Please continue to grow in us the knowledge of the love of Christ and may we reflect that to others in our lives. Lord God, we pray we would be encouraged by your power that is at work within us, and may we seek out opportunities to grow in our understanding of Christ's love.

 

In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

 

Timo Stubchen

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Galatians 2

Why do we need a Saviour? Because we are lost and dead in sin and can’t save ourselves. If we could save ourselves, there would be no need for the Gospel. If we could earn our way to heaven by the obeying all of God’s law, we wouldn’t need Jesus. He alone is the Saviour of the world and our only hope.

 

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. (1 John 4:14 ESV)

 

How is a sin stained person declared righteous before a holy God? Many believe that if a lifetime of good works outweighs our evil deeds, God will accept us and we will be declared worthy of heaven. Sadly, many are deceived and live in this hellish error. Paul teaches,

 

…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16a ESV)

 

In Galatians 2 we find Paul contending for the unity of the church and the purity of the gospel (see 2:5). He wanted to advance the gospel that was given to him by revelation from God, but here he had to defend and guard it against the influence of those who taught that it is not merely Christ alone who saves us, but Christ PLUS good works.

 

Paul was afraid that what had happened in Jerusalem would also happen in Galatia. Because of influence of the false brothers, some believers were being led back into the slavery of living by obedience to the law as the partial means of their salvation. Contending for the Gospel meant that Paul had to publicly confront Peter and his inconsistent behaviour. At one point Peter ate with Gentiles (as one free in Christ), but upon seeing the disdain of the Judaizers (false believers), he pulled back from eating with the Gentiles because of fear of the circumcision party. This betrayed faithfulness to the Gospel.

 

Judaizers taught that Christians must observe the Law of Moses as a necessary part of salvation. Their doctrine of was a mixture of the grace of Christ AND personal good works. We read more of how this false doctrine was dealt with in Acts 15. Peter’s behaviour affected other leaders including even Barnabas, and Paul was compelled to stop this hypocrisy in its tracks. 

 

In our place, Jesus Christ absorbed the full wrath of God that was the just sentence of breaking God’s law. He took we what deserved to receive. This was the drastic price paid for salvation, and there is no other way to be saved but for the grace of God in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).

 

When we turn to Christ as Saviour, we die to the law, that is, to our old way of living, and to any and all other means of salvation. You don’t earn your salvation or make God love you more because you come to church or read your Bible 7 days a week. Our life is in Christ. In Christ we are already loved and accepted. Christ is freedom from the law and freedom from justification by good works. With him we died and with him we live and are justified.

 

Does that mean that we are free to live as we choose? No. We still do “good works” (see Titus 2:14, 3:8) but this is not to earn our salvation, but rather, to live gratefully in response to God for his gift of salvation.

 

Prayer

 

We give you all the praise Father for we are free at last. Free from performance. Free from earning your affection or forgiveness. Free to live in your amazing grace. It is our story and it is our song, and all because of Jesus. With him we are crucified. In him and by him we live. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. And the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us. Amen.

 

Lead Pastor Jody Cross

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2 Corinthians 8

At the present time your surplus is available for their need, so that their abundance may in turn meet your need, in order that there may be equality. (2 Cor. 8:14, CSB)

 

At once, the instruction in this chapter is both uncomplicated and difficult. It prompts generosity. It raises questions about the way we think about our finances. It examines the relative economic status of our brothers and sisters and opens our wallets according to our ability.

 

Here’s a summary: Paul is calling on the Corinthian Church to fulfill their commitment to send a monetary gift to a church in need (see the original instruction in 1 Cor. 16:1–4). The Church in Corinth, while certainly not wealthy, had more to share than did the poorer Jerusalem church.

 

To make his plea for generosity, and rather than exact the gift, Paul points to the example of another generous church—one in Macedonia. Here were brothers and sisters who lived in desperate financial straits. In Paul’s view, this would have excused them from sending a gift the size they did. But even their “extreme poverty”, when joined with their personal experience of God’s grace, “overflowed in a wealth of generosity” to the Jerusalem saints.

 

Having already heard some radical things from Paul, you might expect him to require the same sacrificial gift from every believer (give more than you can!). But instead of giving beyond your ability, he asks, simply give according to what you have. This, when accompanied by eagerness, is a good gift.

 

It’s as simple as that. Find out what your brother or sister needs, and if you’re able, meet the need.

 

The act of giving is an act of grace (vv. 6–7). It gives you the privilege of sharing (fellowship, koinonia) in the ministry to your fellow believers (4). It is an expression of genuine love (8). Perhaps best yet, it paints a picture of Jesus, who gave up his riches for our prosperity (9).

 

You also don’t know when you’ll be in need. While you might be able to open your home today, you might need your sister to do the same for you tomorrow. As you give to others and they give to you, you share, or experience fellowship, with one another. And you re-experience the grace of Jesus who gave himself for you.

 

Today, consider what your brother or sister’s need is. See how you could meet that need. And experience the joy of Jesus through giving according to what you have been given.

 

Prayer

 

Father, you have given me beyond what I deserve. I know you have shared everything with your Son so that as I’ve been united with him, all that you have given to him, you generously give to me. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for your kindness in doing this by placing me in Christ.

 

Now I’m asking that you’ll give me the same spirit of generosity. Would you give me a mind for the needs of my brothers and sisters, and to meet their needs according to what you have given to me. Glorify yourself in our fellowship, and through us beyond us to the Church and world in need. Amen.

  

Blair Hanson

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2 Corinthians 1

Suffering Together

 

Paul opens this second letter to the Corinthians by recognizing the suffering and persecution that the Corinthian church is enduring (v. 3-11). Although the persecution of a first century church may feel like a distant reality to us, the suffering of Christians is an ever present reality in our world. Although the context and kinds of suffering certainly change, the existence of suffering is a reality in our broken world, as a direct consequence of the rebellion of mankind in Genesis 3.

 

And so even as we do “life together” with fellow believers, whether it’s enduring our own, or sharing in theirs, suffering will be a reality of our life. And as an ever present reality, there are several things we can learn from how Paul understands and addresses the suffering of the Corinthian church.


1. All Suffering is Suffering.

 

Even though Paul and his companions were clearly enduring suffering that was far more severe, to the point that they “despaired of life itself … (and) felt that we had received the sentence of death,” the suffering of the Corinthians was no less real. Paul, amidst his own affliction, extended to them empathy and prayer, and encouraged them to find mercy and comfort in Jesus Christ.


In our context, the suffering of fellow believers cannot be forgotten because of objectively worse suffering elsewhere. And although our response may differ, all suffering is suffering.

 

2. Comfort is found in Christ.

 

Paul reminds the Corinthians that comfort is found in the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction,” and “through Christ we share abundantly in comfort…” Paul himself believed: “He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”

 

Ultimate deliverance from suffering is only found in Christ. No matter what we endure on this earth, or what suffering we experience, we have been, and will be, ultimately delivered by Jesus Christ. For us then, where do we expect comfort, mercy, relief, and an end of our suffering, to come from? In recent days we have been tempted to seek an end to suffering from medical professionals, government officials, and protests. But ultimately, we will only find comfort in Christ.

 

3. Suffering is Purposeful.

 

You may have noticed that every time Paul addresses his own suffering, or that of the Corinthians, he follows it with a “so that” statement. Each time, we’re told the suffering they were enduring was purposeful.

 

They suffered so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (v4)


 “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort…” (v6)


Even when he despaired of life itself, Paul knew “that was that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (v9)

 

We often struggle in vain to find the “deeper meaning” of our suffering, to understand how it fits into what God is doing. And may never know. But it should be enough to know that we suffer so that we can comfort others who suffer, and so that our faith will be strengthened as we are forced to rely on God, not ourselves.

 

Prayer

 

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all comfort, we pray that you would help us to remember that our own suffering is purposeful, and to comfort others who suffer as an outpouring of the comfort we receive in Christ Jesus. Would suffering not cause us to look to our own strength, but to seek your strength, mercy, and comfort. Would we continue to bear one another’s burdens, and above all things point one another to Christ, on whom we have set our hope, that he will deliver us again. Amen.

                                                                

Peter Brown

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