Archive for December, 2012

December 31st, 2012

Will You Endure Sound Teaching?

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV)

Truth is becoming more and more relative, or so it would seem, in our culture today. To say something is absolutely true, especially in religious or philosophical circles, is unpopular at best. Sometimes such statements are even met with anger and animosity. The true follower of Christ, however, should take care to not fall into our culture’s trap, recognizing that there are certain things that are absolutely true, including the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because the gospel is absolutely true, we should welcome both its preaching and its proclaiming in our lives. We should welcome its preaching to us because we know that in hearing the gospel, we can become more like Christ. Our purpose is to reject sin and pursue holiness, and we need people in our lives to remind us of the gospel to push us toward that end. We should also welcome its proclaiming in the midst of any circumstance and regardless of consequence, knowing that without it the people around us will perish under the wrath of God.

Does your heart come alive when the Word of God is taught, or would you rather hear the philosophies of man? Do you feel encouraged when the truth of Scripture is spoken over you, even in rebuke? Or do you prefer to be flattered even when it is not genuine? We are not perfect yet and need pruning on occasion; the true follower of Christ welcomes the truth, even when it is inconvenient, in order to achieve that end. Will you endure sound teaching? Will you demand it? Will you teach soundly even when it costs you for the good of those around you?

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 358:  2 Timothy)

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Associate Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Monday, December 31st, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category 2 Timothy, Teaching, Word of God.
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December 30th, 2012

Remember the Cloud of Witnesses

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)

Building upon his list of some of the most faithful people in all of Scripture, the author of Hebrews now challenges us to remain as strong and vigilant as those before us in the face of adversity or temptation. Whatever situation comes your way, know that someone has walked through something similar and has proven faithful. Are you trying to lead a people out of bondage from a powerful empire? Well, look to Moses, who in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds allowed the Lord to work miraculously through him. Have you been called to sacrifice your one and only promised son by the Lord? Look to Abraham, who trusted even when he did not understand, allowing the Lord to deliver his son at the right time. Have you been attacked by a lion lately? Well, look to Samson, whose God-infused power allowed him to tear apart his attacker.

While almost certainly none of us have been in as precarious positions as these, knowing that men just like us stood firm in the face of extraordinary circumstances should give us hope that we can stand when we face obstacles ourselves. Many have gone before us and finished well. Many are proving faithful in our midst presently. There is no reason that you cannot set aside your weights and run this race with endurance. Do not be overcome by thinking that you are the only one. Remember the examples we have and set out to emulate them as you serve our worthy God.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 357:  Hebrews 11-13)

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Associate Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Sunday, December 30th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Faith, Hebrews, Witness.
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December 29th, 2012

The Importance of Christ’s Deity

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:11-12 (ESV)

The sacrificial system was always a temporary fix, both in practicality and in God’s overarching redemptive design. The sacrifices offered were never able to speak to the fullness of sin’s offense, nor compensate adequately in holiness. Yet, the coming of Christ revealed the purpose of the sacrificial system: to establish a process by which Christ could ultimately justify God’s offer of salvation and permanently atone for sin. His deity is essential to this provision. If Christ is not infinite, as God alone is, then His sacrifice cannot even remotely account for the entirety of our sin. Secondly, if Christ is not eternal, then that accounting cannot span the expanse of time from the beginning of creation until His return. Christ, then, must be both man and God for Him to be able to secure an “eternal redemption.”

For centuries, there have been those who try to minimize the importance of Christ’s deity, suggesting that He was simply a good man or a skilled teacher. Make no mistake, though, without the deity of Christ, there is no salvation. If we fail to affirm the fullness of the God-man, then we rob our faith of its power. Defend the teaching of Christ’s deity and be thankful that He became sin Who knew no sin so that we could become the righteousness of God.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 356:  Hebrews 7-10)

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Associate Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Saturday, December 29th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Hebrews, Incarnation, Jesus.
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December 28th, 2012

Jesus is Greater than Moses!

“For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses– as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.” Hebrews 3:3 (ESV)

The whole Bible is about Jesus.  From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture is concerned with revealing the glory of Christ, initially in revealing our great need for Him, followed subsequently by His unique role in God’s plan of salvation and the anticipation of His triumphant return. Even the great leaders of our faith are meant to point out how Christ was uniquely better than our best. Moses is a great example. Moses did great things for the Lord in leading the people of God out of the bondage of slavery, but even as great as he was, he was still flawed. He was a man who lacked faith in the Lord at times, grew impatient and angry with the people God asked him to lead, and acted impulsively, ultimately leading to his inability to enter the promised land.

The author of Hebrews uses these truths to amplify the glory of Christ for a Jewish audience. Yes, Moses was a great leader. Yes, he was a father of our faith, but he was and is not Jesus. Jesus is greater than Moses, for while Moses was a prophet of God, Jesus is the Word of God incarnate. Jesus is greater than Moses, because although Moses led a specific people out of physical bondage, Christ provides freedom for all people from the bondage of sin and death. Jesus is greater than Moses in that Jesus is the only way to the promised land and will certainly be there when we enter. Jesus is greater and is alone worthy of our worship, praise, and devotion.

As followers of Christ, we must be wary to not fall in love with a leader more than who that leader should be leading us toward. Our devotion must first always be to Jesus, for no leader regardless of his worth on this earth comes close to the glory that is Christ’s!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 355: Hebrews 1-6)

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Associate Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Friday, December 28th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Hebrews, Jesus, Moses.
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December 27th, 2012

A People for His Own Possession

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV)

We have been saved individually, yes, but we have also been saved for a purpose. We have been called to be reconciled to Christ, but we have further been called to be a part of a people, a people fashioned by God for the purposes of God. We are being formed into a royal priesthood to mediate the presence of God upon the earth, interceding for its people. We are being formed into a holy nation, not confined to a geopolitical location but rooted together in the Spirit of God. We are being formed into a people for His own possession, personifying His communicable attributes and displaying His redemptive plan in us for the world to see. We are being formed into a people whose sole purpose is to proclaim the marvelous excellencies of God!

What an incredible privilege it is to be the people of God. We are simply called to brag on this God Who has so radically saved us. The beautiful thing about our calling is that the marvelous excellencies of God never run out. He exists infinitely, meaning there is no limit to all that He is. His goodness is infinite. His love is infinite. His mercy is infinite, and because of this truth, we should never want for material to proclaim.

You have been saved to be a part of a proclaiming people. Today, look back over this past year and see how God has been faithful to you, and as you map out His faithfulness take time to proclaim His marvelous excellencies as displayed in your life as part of this redeemed people.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 354:  1 Peter)

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Associate Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Thursday, December 27th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category 1 Peter, People of God, Testify.
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December 26th, 2012

Teach Sound Doctrine.

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1 (ESV)

As the people of God, we have a responsibility to teach His revelation faithfully. The Word of God was given to us to reveal the character of God and His eternal plan to unite all things to Himself in Christ. Scripture is precious, and every follower of Christ should do his or her best to diligently study it and read it, seeking to know Him more as a result. We should be passionate about this pursuit, as in reality it is a pursuit of God. We should desire daily to spend time in Scripture, knowing that in so doing we are spending time with the Lord.

Many today, however, do not make the time to study and meditate on God’s word, strengthening their knowledge of doctrine. They believe this kind of practice to be the responsibility of only the “called,” and rely upon them to feed them their acquired knowledge, as a caring mother does for her baby. But this is not the mandate given to the Church. Pastors are called to equip, not spoon-feed. Every individual has a unique responsibility to both learn the essentials of their faith and proclaim it to those who do not know.

Do you know the Word of God? Have you allowed scholars to sharpen your understanding of doctrine? Do you seek out trusted perspectives to shed light on issues in Scripture that are hard to understand? Commit today to take ownership of your faith, reading and meditating on truth so that you may be able to follow Paul’s challenge to Timothy and teach sound doctrine.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 353:  Titus)

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Associate Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Wednesday, December 26th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Doctrine, Titus, Word of God.
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December 25th, 2012

Peace to You

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” 1 Timothy 1:1-2 (ESV)

Typically in Paul’s epistles, he greets his reader by wishing upon them peace, a peace that he rightfully acknowledges is only possible with the coming of Christ. This peace provides one of the many things for which we can be thankful on Christmas day, for it is a peace that has been the chief longing of all of creation ever since the fall. The “shalom” or peace written about in the language of the Jewish people was more than simply a cessation of fighting; this word for peace carried with it the idea of completeness or soundness. Peace, then, in the eyes of the Jewish people was a setting right of all creation, which of course was fractured with the introduction of sin. Peace meant a restoration of relationship between God and man; peace meant wholeness.

No wonder, then, we proclaim at this time of year, “Joy to the world. The Lord has come!” Is there any more joyous statement? All of creation feels the tension of sin; all of us feel the separation between us and our Creator, and now we have a way to mend it. Christ came to take upon the weight of our sin and impending punishment. He took upon the brunt of God’s wrath, waging war against the tyranny of transgression, so that you and I could have peace with God the Father through Jesus Christ, His Son and our only hope.

On this beautiful Christmas day, then, fellow brother or sister in Christ, I wish you peace, a peace that is only possible because of the very object of our celebration today: Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 352:  1 Timothy)

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Associate Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Tuesday, December 25th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category 1 Timothy, Peace, Restoration.
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December 24th, 2012

You Work Out As God Works In.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV)

We are not dependent upon any man, woman, or spiritual mentor in order to grow in our faith in Christ. No, for the Lord is at work within us! The same Spirit of God that raised Christ from the dead is the same Spirit that inhabits us at our salvation, breathing in us new life and allowing us to work out the effects of our salvation. The Holy Spirit shapes and molds us into the image of Christ by revealing truth to us in the Word of God and convicting us over our sin.

He works on the inside of us so that we can work on the outside. As we are shaped into the image of Christ, we must begin to act like Him. Paul calls us later in chapter 2 to “do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Phil 2:14-15 ESV). Obviously, such behavior goes against human nature, but that is precisely the point. We act differently because we are different as a result of the gospel, and our actions testify to its transforming power.

Do you act differently as a result of the gospel? Do you practice the type of humility personified by Christ? Do you do everything without complaining or grumbling? You have been called to live as Christ, but you have also been empowered to do so by the Holy Spirit of God. Live in that power today to put on display the transforming power of Christ within you.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 351:  Philippians)

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Associate Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Monday, December 24th, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Holy Spirit, Philippians, Transformation.
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December 23rd, 2012

The Purpose of the Church

“…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:10 (ESV)

As the Church of Jesus Christ, we are called to proclaim the manifold wisdom of God to both creatures on the earth and rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. We are called to unveil God’s redemptive plan, forged in eternity pasty, by which He seeks to unite all things to Him in Christ Jesus, Whose propitiatory work now makes intimacy between God and creation possible. We are revealing the hope of everything!

What an incredible calling we have, and yet so often we lose focus. We make the church experience about us, focusing on how a given church meets our needs or perhaps how it doesn’t. We jump from church to church, seeking the most entertainment value or the best childcare. Now, all of these secondary issues are not completely unimportant, but they are just that. They are secondary. In the consumer-driven world in which we live, we must take extra precautions to not fall victim to that mentality in the Church, remembering that our calling to the body of Christ is much larger than a social event. No, it is the hope of the world!

Today, remember the calling of the Church to make known the manifold wisdom of God, and further remember the boldness and confidence that is yours in Christ Jesus to accomplish this calling. Is there someone you know this Christmas who needs this hope? Speak boldly and tell of His glorious worth.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 350:  Ephesians)

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Associate Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

 

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Church, Ephesians, Proclamation.
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December 22nd, 2012

How Do You Overcome Sin?

“These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” Colossians 2:23 (ESV)

We live in the cross-section of the redeemed and the fallen. As the redeemed people of God living in a fallen world, the presence of persistent sin is still possible, falling victim to temptation even though we know its limitations and shortcomings. The question then becomes how one overcomes such sin. Should we submit to the human regulations mentioned by Paul, choosing simply not to handle, taste, or touch objects of temptation? Should we resort to asceticism or self-flagellation? Paul teaches we should not, as such actions may have the appearance of religious behavior but do nothing in terms of stopping the indulgence of the flesh, as anyone who has tried them can attest.

Paul writes that the key to overcoming sin is not focusing on the sin but rather on Christ. Think about it. If all you do is tell yourself to stop doing the sin, then your focus is entirely on the sin most likely leading to temptation. If, however, you avert your attention away from the sin to the satisfying truth of Christ, then suddenly, as the old hymn suggests, the things of this world become strangely dim.

Dear child of God, are you struggling with persistent sin? Do not beat yourself up consistently, living in condemnation. Rather remember who you are in Christ, repent, and refocus on the heavenly things He provides. Having done that, once again recognizing that you have died with Christ, then put to death what is earthly within you, living fully as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.

Chronological Bible Reading Plan: (Day 349:  Colossians, Philemon)

Grace and peace,

Jared Richard
Associate Pastor (Online Devotional Guest Author)
Follow me on twitter at: http://twitter.com/jaredrichard

 

Author Stephen Trammell
Posted Saturday, December 22nd, 2012 at 1:00 am
Category Colossians, Sin, Victory.
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