When I was in a rock band in college, one of the songs we played was called “Free” by Chicago. We would sing “I just want to be free.” There were lots of songs in the 60s and 70s about being free. We wanted to be free from war, free from rules, free from authority, free from anybody telling us how to live our lives. But you know what? I wasn’t free. I was a slave. I was a slave to sin. I was a slave to the rules of the church I grew up in. I was a slave to a guilty conscience. Until Jesus saved me, and then, little by little I learned that in Jesus I was really and truly free.
In Galatians 4, Paul addressed the church on their freedom in Christ…
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principlesof the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. GA 4:1-11
The main point Paul makes in this passage is that believers have a new identity in Christ. We are no longer slaves but are redeemed, adopted, filled with the Spirit, and heirs with Christ. We have come to know God, and are known by God as his children.
OUR STATE BEFORE CHRIST – ENSLAVED (1-3)
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,though he is the owner of everything,but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principlesof the world. Galatians 4:1-3
Paul says that in the world, a child may be the heir of a family fortune, but while he is a child, his life is really no different than a slave, even though “he is the owner of everything” – the whole family fortune may really be his, but “he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.” In other words, he is not free. He is under guardians and managers. He has to do whatever they tell him. Paul says In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principlesof the world.
Before Christ we were like children under guardians and managers, we were enslaved to what he calls the elementary principles of the world. What are these?
For Jewish Christians the elementary principles were the Old Testament laws and man-made laws which they had created. For Greeks the elementary principles are “human systems of religion”. Greek religion had all kinds of rituals and sacrifices which they were required to do..
The “elementary principles” which the Jews and Gentiles had were kind of like the ABC’s. It would be like if all you ever did was keep going over the ABCs and never really learned to read or discover the joys of books but your whole life was just going over the ABCs. Before Jesus, though Jews and Greeks practiced religion, they were slaves.
A really good passage to help us understand this is CO 2:20-23:
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 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 2:20-23
All the man made religion in the world just enslaves and has “NO VALUE in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” Paul encouraged the Galatians, that as those whom God set free, they should not turn back to slavery again:
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! GA 4.9-10
I was raised Roman Catholic. As a Catholic I had to observe a lot of man-made rules and regulations. For example, I had to go to Mass every Sunday. If a Catholic missed it was a mortal sin – a sin that killed all grace in your soul. I was taught that if you skipped Mass and didn’t go to confession and you died you would go to hell. There were many other rules, like you could eat no meat on Fridays during Lent. You had to go to confession at least once a year. You had to marry a Catholic – if you didn’t the non-Catholic had to promise to raise the children as Catholics.
All these rules and regulations seem spiritual – but they had no value in stopping me from indulging my flesh. And they enslaved me.
WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:4-6
God sent Jesusto rescue us
God redeemed us
God adopted us
God freed us
God made us fellow-heirs with Christ
God assures us
Let’s look at what God has done for us in more detail:
God sent Jesus to rescue us
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law (4)
What a sacrifice God made to redeem us! He sent forth his one and only Son! He gave up his Son so that he could rescue us who had rejected him and hated him, and disobeyed him, and shook our fists in his face, and make us his own children. Jesus, the one who created all things, the one who sustains all things by his word, was “born of woman” – he became a human being. The mighty creator, the God of all power, was born a baby – weak, helpless, totally dependent on his parents. He couldn’t feed himself or dress himself. He was subject to hunger and thirst and pain. He was “born under the law.” He knew what it was like to have to keep the Jewish law and observe days and feasts and offer sacrifices and to not eat certain foods. In a sense, he experienced the bondage that we all do under the law, except that he kept it perfectly, flawlessly. He never once failed to keep the smallest commandment of the law.
God redeemed us
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, (4-5)
To “redeem” means to pay a price to purchase someone.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—GA 3.13
The curse of the law was that if you broke the law you would be cursed by God. You would die. You would have to suffer the everlasting wrath of God. Jesus became a curse for us when he hung on the cross. He was cursed by God. He bore the wrath of God against all our sins. Not only did Jesus suffer the physical pain of being crucified, but he suffered the curse of being cut off from God. He had enjoyed perfect fellowship with God the Father from all eternity. But when Jesus hung on the cross, he had no experience of that fellowship. He hung in total darkness and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
God “purchased us” with the blood of his Son. What a price he paid to make us his sons and daughters.
God adopted us
to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (5)
God has made us his very children. He has given us the same status as Jesus the Son – we aren’t God, but we are sons in the sense that Jesus is the Son. God is our Father.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3.2
We are God’s very children! Even the angels who never sinned can’t make the claim to be children of God. God has exalted us above the angels! It is important to remember that not all human beings are God’s children.
God made all humans, and he loves all humans, but until he saves us, until we believe in Jesus Christ and call upon him to be our Lord, we are not his children.
And think about this – we weren’t seeking to be adopted. Just like most of the time in human adoptions it is parents who seek a child. Especially when parents adopt an infant. That child wasn’t seeking to be adopted – the parents seek the baby and adopt him or her.
We weren’t praying “Lord, please adopt me as your son or daughter.” No! We weren’t seeking God. The Bible says no one seeks for God. But God sought us out, when he sent Jesus. Jesus said he came to seek and save that which was lost. God sought us out to adopt us. And just as a human child who is adopted has nothing to offer the parents, we had nothing to offer God. But he sought us, saved us, adopted us and gives his riches to us.
God freed us
So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (7)
YOU ARE NO LONGER A SLAVE! You are no longer a slave to man-made religion and rules and rituals. You are no longer a slave of sin. I don’t care if you FEEL like a slave, you are NOT A SLAVE.
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Romans 6.6-7
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6.12-14
We are no longer slaves of sin! No longer does sin have dominion over us. This is the truth! You may feel like you are enslaved to sin, especially if you have been giving in to it. But you are no longer enslaved to sin. Our feelings are not always the truth. But God’s word is the truth. Sin has no dominion over you. If you believe in Jesus, then you are free from the dominion or rule of sin. Now, the Holy Spirit gives you power to overcome sin. Pray! Ask God for help! And thank him that sin will have no dominion over you.
God made us fellow heirs with Christ
So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (7)
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. (16-17)
We “will share in the inheritance of Jesus. What belongs to Jesus will also belong to us. Christ gives us His glory (John 17:22), His riches (2 Corinthians 8:9), and all things (Hebrews 1:2). We are as welcome in God’s family as Jesus is; we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6, NKJV). All that belongs to Jesus Christ will belong to us, the co-heirs, as well.” GotQuestions.org
It would have been amazing and incredible if the only thing God did for us was to forgive us and bring us to heaven. But he makes us joint-heirs with Christ. We will share in Christ’s rewards! I can’t even fathom what that will be like! How incredibly generous is our God!
God assures us
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (6)
When we believe in Jesus, God not only forgives and washes away our sins, but he sends his Holy Spirit, God the Holy Spirit, into our hearts. And the Holy Spirit assures us that we are adopted. From within us, the Holy Spirit cries out “Abba! Father!” He assures us that God is our Father. We know God is our Father not only because God’s word tells us, but God the Holy Spirit assures us from within.
The word Abba is an Aramaic word that was a common term that young children would use to address their fathers. It signifies the close, intimate relationship of a father to his child, as well as the childlike trust that a young child puts in his “daddy.” (GotQuestions.org)
When God saves us he brings us into a close, intimate relationship of a father to his child.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4
Our heavenly Father CARES FOR US! He’s not far off, he’s not too busy running the universe, he is right here, full of care and compassion.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5.6-7
So we can cry out, “Abba! Father” and know he is right there. He is closer than the air we breathe. He has brought us into a close, intimate relationship with our Father.
We who believe in Jesus are redeemed, adopted and free!
We are no longer slaves of sin! We have a new identity in Christ. We may feel like we’re slaves, but we no longer slaves. We are children of God, joint-heirs with Christ, and truly free! We have reason to rejoice and give thanks every moment of every day!
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
I’m so staggeringly grateful for this verse. I’m so grateful God is our refuge and strength.
Because lately, life has felt a bit more unstable than normal.
Work has been slower than normal, causing me to doubt God’s provision.
I recently moved to a new state, and suddenly all the things that were familiar are no longer there.
I’m getting older, which means I wake up with random aches and pains in my body.
And these are just the smaller issues. Like everyone else, I have my fair share of bigger struggles as well that constantly weigh on my mind.
The simple truth is that I need a refuge, strength, and a very present help in trouble.
And the good news is that God is all of those things.
God Is Our Refuge And Strength
What does it mean that God is our refuge and strength?
A refuge is a strong fortress. A structure that protects you from enemies or a storm or some other evil force. A refuge is a place of shelter and rest from the circumstances swirling wildly outside.
A castle is a refuge. A fortress carved into solid rock is a refuge. High walls are a refuge.
The stronger the refuge, the more confidence you can have in it. A fortress carved into rock is so much stronger than a tent. A castle provides infinitely more protection than a simple lean-to.
And the glorious news is that God is our refuge.
The strongest being in the universe, the one with all power and might, the one who keeps the planets in orbit and names the stars, is our refuge.
When circumstances are out of our control, we can run to God and find refuge and rest in him. Because he is sovereign over all things, we can hide in him, knowing that every struggle and challenge we encounter is easy for him to handle.
In Psalm 56:3-4, David says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
How was it possible for David to not be afraid? How could he say that flesh (people) could do nothing to harm him? Because David knew that God is our refuge and strength. He knew that he could run to God, trust in God, hope in God, and utterly rely on God.
David knew that God ALWAYS comes through.
David knew that God was his refuge.
David also knew that God was his strength.
Not only do I need a refuge, I need strength from God. If I’m going to honor God in all circumstances, I need supernatural, overwhelming strength. I can’t do it on my own. I need God himself to supply me with divine strength to honor him, even when life is draining and hard.
If God was only my refuge, I would eventually run out of strength to keep fighting the good fight. I would quickly tire out and flag.
The good news is that God, the one who has ALL strength, is my strength. He supplies me with his divine power, and through that divine power, I can actually thrive during hard times.
Did you catch that?
Because God is our refuge and strength, we don’t merely survive trials and tribulations. We thrive and grow through them, becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.
This is such good news.
Because God is our strength, we can thrive during trials, not just survive. Click To Tweet
God is our refuge and strength. He is the one who keeps us and sustains us and lifts our heads and keeps us going.
But it gets even better than that.
A Very Present Help In Trouble
Not only is God our refuge in strength, but he is also our very present help in trouble.
I love the word “very”.
He isn’t just our present help in trouble. He is our VERY present help in trouble. It’s not like God is just hanging out on the periphery when we’re in trouble. No, God is as near to us as he can possibly be.
When we find ourselves facing trouble, God is on the scene. He is present to help us in every way we need it. He is giving us the grace and mercy that we need.
Therefore, we need not fear, even when the oceans roar and the mountains rock back and forth. When the storm slams into us, we need not be afraid and tremble. When our heads are spinning because of all that’s happening around us, we can completely and wholly put our trust in God, knowing that he will keep us safe.
God is our refuge and strength and our very present help in trouble.
We should never have such fellowship with Jesus as we do if we had not such troubles as we have. We cannot see the stars in the daytime, but they tell us that if we go down into a well we can. Sometimes God sinks wells of trouble and puts his servants into them, and then they see his starry promises.
There will be times when God puts us in “wells” of trouble. During those times of darkness, let us constantly look to God who is our refuge and strength. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace, God was there with them.
When we find ourselves deep in wells of trouble, God is there with us.
In recent years, I’ve often found myself asking the question, “What is God’s plan for me?”
See, up until five years ago, I thought I knew God’s plan for me. I was going to be a pastor for my entire life. I had the next 30 years lined up, or so I thought.
But then God led me into a sharp left turn. Suddenly, I was no longer a pastor (very long story). I didn’t know what I was going to do next week, let alone in thirty years. To say that my plans were radically altered is a colossal understatement.
Today I’m working as a freelance writer, helping businesses create marketing materials. I desire to go back into ministry, but I don’t know if God will lead me there. It’s a big question mark in my life.
And so I often find myself saying, “How did I get here?” How did I end up at my current destination, which is so far from where I thought I’d be?
Again, what is God’s plan for me?
Thankfully, Scripture is not silent on this issue. In fact, it speaks directly to my questions and struggles and fears. The Bible tells me exactly what God has in store for me.
No, there’s not some secret code that tells me where I’ll be next year. It’s much bigger and better than that.
If you find yourself in my shoes, let this encourage you.
God’s Plan For Me Is To Always Do Good To Me
First and foremost, I know that God’s plan for me is to ALWAYS, always, always do good to me.
Romans 8:28 puts it gloriously: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
God is my good, loving, kind, gracious Father. His very character is good and everything he does for me is good. Everything that happens to me, every trial and every blessing, every joy and every struggle is for my good and God’s glory.
Psalm 84:11 puts it this way: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Did you catch that? God doesn’t withhold ANY good thing from those who walk uprightly. Because I am in Christ, God will not withhold a single good thing from me. If something is good, he’ll give it to me. If it’s not good, then he’ll keep it from me.
This encourages me so much. God has not forgotten me. He is not neglecting me. He is not withholding blessings from me like some miserly Scrooge.
On the contrary, every day I experience new, fresh mercies and blessings from God.
Lamentations 3:22-23 puts it this way: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
God’s plan for me is to constantly, always, never stop doing good to me. His plan is to keep pouring blessings out on me every single day without ceasing. His plan is to lead me beside still waters and into green pastures.
God Will Never Stop Making Me Like Jesus Christ
In addition to never ceasing to do good to me, God’s plan for me is also to never stop making me like Jesus.
In Philippians 1:6, Paul says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
The ultimate purpose of my life is NOT to be in ministry or to achieve something for God. The ultimate purpose of my life is to glorify by God. God is achieving this ultimate purpose by consistently making me more and more like Jesus Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18, we read, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”
The more I behold the glory of the Lord through prayer and the Word of God, the more I am transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t happen immediately or in massive leaps. But make no mistake, progress is happening. I am being made more like Jesus, one degree at a time.
I may not know where I am headed right now, but I do know where I’m ultimately headed. When Christ returns, I will be finally and fully made like Jesus. I will no longer be able to sin. I’ll love the Lord God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Right now, I struggle with sin. I struggle to be like Jesus. But it won’t always be this way. A glorious day is coming when I will be the person I was born to be. When I will be like Jesus.
God’s plan for me hasn’t ground to a halt just because it’s different than I expected. The Lord is still at work in me, renewing me every day. As I pursue Jesus through every trial and blessing, I become more like him.
God’s Plan For Me Is Fruitfulness
Sometimes I can think that I’m not being fruitful because I’m not in ministry anymore. I can feel like I’m not doing much for the Lord because I’m not serving him vocationally.
But I know from Scripture that this isn’t true. God has promised that no matter what circumstances I find myself in, I will be spiritually fruitful. Not because of something special in me but because he himself will make me fruitful.
In John 15:5, we read, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
As I abide in Jesus through prayer and the Scriptures, I will produce fruit. I don’t know exactly what that fruit will look like, but I most certainly will be fruitful for God.
Why does this encourage me so much?
Because so often I look at my life and don’t feel like I’m bearing much fruit. I get easily discouraged, feeling like I’m a bit of a failure for God. But clearly, this isn’t true, no matter what I feel.
As it says in Philippians 2:12-13, “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.”
Yes, I’m called to work hard for the Lord. To strive to be holy as the Lord is holy. But ultimately, my hope is not in my ability to produce good fruit. My hope is in the Lord, who has promised to make me fruitful for him.
I have not stopped being fruitful simply because I’m no longer in ministry. God’s plan for me is to keep being fruitful no matter where I find myself.
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!” Psalm 84:11-12
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
Over and over in his Word, God tells us to trust him. What does it mean to trust the Lord? To trust the Lord means to believe his word, to have confidence in him, to have faith in his promises and to have a healthy fear of disobeying his word.
We trust people in this life all the time. When I get on a plane, I don’t knock on the cabin door of the pilot and ask him, “May I see your pilot’s license? Are you really qualified to fly this thing? Did you remember to fill it with fuel? Do you know where we are going?” No. I trust the airline. I trust that they have checked the plane for safety and filled it with gas. I trust that the pilots are qualified. And I don’t even know them. I just get on the plane and put my life in their hands.
When my doctor tells me, “Mark, I’m going to give you a prescription for such and such a medicine and I want you to take it every day,” I don’t say, “Are you sure that’s the right medicine for me? Are you sure that’s how much I should take every day?” No, I just trust him. I trust that he knows what he is doing and giving me.
Now obviously, people do make mistakes, and some people are not trustworthy. But my point is that most of us trust other people all the time without questioning. We believe their words. And many times, like when taking a plane, we trust them with our lives.
How much more should we trust the Lord, as he tells us to do again and again in his word.
Why should we trust the Lord?
First of all, because God never lies, forgets, or fails to do what he promises.
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23.19
“God is not man…” Men lie, men change their minds. Men make promises then forget to keep them or break them outright. God is holy. He has never and will never sin. God has infinite knowledge and wisdom. He can never forget anything. And in his infinite wisdom he always makes the perfect promises and has perfect plans. So he never needs to change his mind or his plans.
Men are unfaithful. God is always faithful to keep his word. If he has promised something he will do it. If he spoke it, he will fulfill it.
John Stott says:
“Faith is a reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of God.”
We trust God because he is trustworthy.
And when we do, we will be blessed. “Blessed is the one who trusts in you!” Psalm 84:12. When we believe God’s word, put our confidence in him, and obey his Word, he blesses us as promised. When we believe in Jesus Christ, and believe God’s word that Jesus is God who became a man, lived a sinless life of perfect obedience, then suffered and died on the cross to pay for our sins, then rose again, and trust him for our salvation, he forgives our sins, gives us eternal life, and God adopts us as his own children.
When we trust God’s commands and obey them, he provides for us, protects us, strengthens us, delivers us from evil.
When we don’t trust God’s word, we suffer consequences. Satan’s number one temptation is to lie to us that we will not believe, trust and obey God’s word. That’s what he did with Eve in the garden. He said essentially, “If you eat that forbidden fruit, you won’t die, like God said, but you will be like God!” Adam and Eve failed to trust God, disobeyed him, and of course the world has suffered the horrible consequences of their failure to trust God.
What do we need to trust God for? When do we need to trust him?
We need to trust God for EVERYTHING. We need to trust him to lead and guide us. We need to trust him to provide for us, to supply our every need. To protect us and deliver us from evil. We need to trust him to help us with our children – to save them, to provide for them and help them all their lives.
We need to trust God every single moment of every day. We need to trust him when we go through hard times and troubles. We need to trust him when we don’t know what to do next in our lives. We need to trust him when we can’t see a way out of situations. We need to trust him to help us in our marriages. We need to trust him when things feel out of our control.
Hey, everything is out of our control. We can’t control a single thing in our lives, as much as we try. But God is in control of all things. He is sovereign. He is infinitely wise. He is completely loving.
So how do we trust God?
First, we grow in our trust of God by taking in his Word.
By reading or listening to his word. If we don’t know God’s promises, how can we trust them? We grow in our trust of God by meditating on his word, by memorizing it. Every morning I try to spend about 10 minutes memorizing Scriptures. There are all kinds of ways to memorize God’s word – simply reading a passage over and over, or putting it to music.
Charles Spurgeon said:
“If you wish to know God, you must know his Word. If you wish to perceive His power, you must see how He works by his Word. If you wish to know His purpose before it comes to pass, you can only discover it by His Word.”
Second we trust God by obeying his Word, even when we can’t see how that makes sense.
For example God tells us to bless those who curse us and do good to those who abuse us. When we obey God’s word in these kinds of situations, he pours out blessings on us and will often change the situation.
We also trust God by praying.
By looking to him for our every need. By calling on him to help us, guide us, counsel us, give us wisdom. By asking him to provide for us. By asking him to give us joy. By asking him for grace to love and serve others.
We trust God by patiently waiting for him.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:13-14
What are the results of trusting God?
When we trust him, and pray in faith God answers our prayers. He answers them in his timing and in his way, but he will certainly answer. God is a rewarder of those who seek him. And when we trust him, sooner or later we will see his faithfulness and power.
We will have joy and peace.
Sometimes we have to fight to trust God for joy and peace. They don’t always come easy. But God will be with us and give us his deep joy and peace when we trust him. Just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, God will be with us even in the “furnaces” of our afflictions, and will keep and protect us.
God is glorified.
He is glorified when he displays his goodness and kindness and wisdom, love and power in our lives.
Have you ever wondered if God has plans for your life? If God is all-knowing, then he must know what the future holds. But does God have specific plans for your life? Or is it up to you to make your plans and then ask God to bless them?
God has great plans for each one of his children.
I am so glad to know this because I am not a good planner. And even if I were the best planner in the world, my thoughts and plans are nothing compared to God’s wonderful plans for me. In the days of Jeremiah, when Israel was in captivity in Babylon, he wrote to the first of the exiles who had been carried into captivity there. False prophets were urging them to rebel against their captors, but Jeremiah told them essentially to make themselves at home, to build houses, plant crops, get married, have children, and even seek the welfare of the city they’d been taken to, because they would be there for 70 years. But after 70 years, God would visit them and fulfill his promise to bring them back to their homeland. He says:
“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:10-11
When the captives looked at their situation, they probably felt hopeless. Here they were in a foreign land. Probably felt abandoned by God. False prophets were telling them to rebel against these pagan captors. But then Jeremiah sends them a letter. He tells them not to fret, not to try to escape, not to rebel against the Babylonians, but to settle in. WHY? BECAUSE HE HAD PLANS FOR THEM. And in the right time, after 70 years, GOD WOULD FULFILL HIS PLANS FOR THEM.
And because God had plans for them, they needed to TRUST GOD. They should live their lives there, and not be fearful, for God had plans. God even told them to seek the welfare of the city they had been carried to, to seek its welfare, and to pray for its welfare. God assured his people that he had plans for them. That assurance from God was intended to give them peace and help them trust the Lord to protect them, provide for them, and fulfill his plans for them.
We who have trusted Jesus are now God’s chosen people, like Israel was. And we are also exiles and foreigners living in a land that is not our home:
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.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:9-11
Like Israel, we too need to trust that God has plans for us.
We can apply God’s words to Israel to our own lives as well. First of all,
God has plans for EACH of his children.
I know the plans I have for YOU, declares the Lord. Plans for every single one of his children. He has plans for each one of us who believe in him. God has good plans for each one of YOU.
God has GOOD plans for us –
plans for welfare and not for evil
God tells us in Psalm 31:
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! PS 31.19
God has goodness, ABUNDANT GOODNESS, stored up for us. God has bags and bags of grace he is just waiting to pour out on us. And in the right time he will pour it out on us.
No one and nothing can thwart God’s plans to pour out his abundant goodness on us.
We make plans but sometimes they go haywire. Because we don’t know the future. We can’t control people. We might make plans to go somewhere then get a flat tire. We might make plans to visit a relative then we get sick. But no one and nothing can stop God’s plans.
Satan and all the demons in hell can’t thwart God’s plans. No human can thwart God’s plans. The Babylonians might have felt like they were in control of Israel, but even the mightiest nation on earth at the time would not be able to derail God’s plans for his people.
Nothing can stop God from fulfilling his plans for you. Not even your own failures.
God is in control of all things. He is in control of every molecule in the universe. When Satan wanted to afflict Job, he had to ask God for permission and God would say, “You can do this and this but you can’t do this.” Satan himself must obey God. He can’t go one thousandth of an inch further than God allows him.
We don’t have to know God’s plans for us – We just have to trust God.
When Israel was in Babylon, they didn’t need to know how God was going to work out his plans to bring them back to their homeland, they simply needed to trust God.
My son David and his wife made plans to take their daughter to Disney World. But they didn’t tell her. She was supposed to go on a field trip and they told her that she was going to have to miss the field trip because they were going somewhere else. Their daughter Harper cried and cried because she was going to miss the field trip. Then they told her they were taking her to Disney World. Then she started crying tears of joy and laughing and was so excited.
God’s ultimate plan for us: to make us like Christ.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 1 CO 15.49
We will be like Christ! We will be clothed in glory! We can’t imagine how incredible this is. CS Lewis said if we could see someone now in the glory they will have in heaven we’d be tempted to fall down and worship them.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
When someone joins the army, the army has plans for them. Plans to change them. Plans to make them strong. Plans to teach them how to use weapons. And they take them through boot camp and all kinds of training.
God takes us through all kinds of things to make us more and more like Christ. Sometimes those things seem hard, but remember that God is good and he has good plans for us. We can’t always see those plans in the moment, but we can know that his plans are good.
God has plans that we will know him and enjoy him forever. Plans to reward us and bless us.
God’s plans give us a future and a hope.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. JER 29.11
God told Israel to trust him when they were sojourners and exiles, because he had plans to bless them. He had plans for their welfare, their good. Plans to bless them. Plans to give them a future and a hope. When we believe in Jesus we have a FUTURE and we have A HOPE. If this life were all there was, we would have no hope. But we have so much to hope for!
We will be raised from the dead.
And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 1 Corinthians 6:14
We will have new spiritual bodies. Imperishable bodies. Bodies without sickness or pain.
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 CO 15:42-44
We will be like Christ and gaze upon his face.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2
We will be with Christ forever.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:17
When my mother got Alzheimer’s she would often say, “When I die, don’t cry. CELEBRATE! Because I will be with Jesus!”
Christ will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
Like Israel in Babylon, we are sojourners and exiles here in this world. But let us never forget, God has wonderful, unbelievable plans for us. Plans to pour out abundant goodness upon us. Plans to make transform us into the very likeness of Christ. Plans to clothe us in unbelievable glory. And nothing can stop him from fulfilling his amazing plans for us.
In Ephesians 5:18, Paul says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.“
This is a profound passage that raises a massively important question: What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?
I can think of few more important questions. After all, if we are filled with the Spirit it means that God himself, the Holy Spirit, dwells in us.
Ponder that reality with me for just a moment. God. Dwelling. In. Us.
It’s absolutely mind-boggling. The almighty God, the King of Kings, the One who holds the universe in his hand, dwelling within us.
But what exactly does this mean? How are we to understand this command to be filled with the Spirit?
Let’s look a little more at what scripture has to say.
Be Filled With The Spirit: A Present Reality
There are some Christians who teach that being filled with the Spirit is a second experience that happens after you’re born again. In other words, you’re born again but you don’t have the power of Holy Spirit.
In their opinion, being filled with the Spirit is something that happens after you’re born again.
And while I certainly respect those who believe this way, I also believe that they are incorrect in their interpretation.
Scripture never speaks of two types of Christians – those who have been filled with the Spirit and those who haven’t. Scripture doesn’t have a caste system, with those who have been filled with the Spirit at the top and those who haven’t at the bottom.
Rather, Scripture says that all who have believed in Christ have been filled with the Spirit.
This why Paul could say in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that we all are temples of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit dwelled in the temple in the Old Testament, so the Holy Spirit now fills us, making us temples to the living God. Paul doesn’t make any distinctions when he speaks about being a temple of the Holy Spirit. All Christians are temples.
In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
Did you catch that? It says that all who were baptized into the body of Christ were made to drink of one Spirit. When someone believes in Christ, they are joined to his body and are filled with the Spirit.
This isn’t a second experience that happens after you’re born again. Being filled with the Spirit happens the moment you truly believe in Christ for salvation.
This reality should deeply encourage us. If you are a believer in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit in you in all his fullness. You don’t need to seek out some sort of mystical experience to have the Holy Spirit. Rather, God lavishly pours out his Spirit to all who call on his name.
Right now, the Holy Spirit is giving you the power to overcome sin. The Holy Spirit is working in you to help you fight against sinful desires and temptations.
As it says in Galatians 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Right now, the Holy Spirit is interceding for you, asking the Father to give you all that you need to follow hard after him.
As Paul says in Romans 8:27, “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Isn’t this good news? Aren’t you glad that you are filled with the Spirit? Aren’t you grateful that, despite all your sins and weaknesses, the Holy Spirit dwells in you?
If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, you are filled with the Spirit, and that should give you great joy.
Be Filled With The Spirit: An Ongoing Need
What’s interesting as you read through the Bible is that it talks about being filled with the Spirit in both the past and present tense.
We were filled with the Spirit when we placed our trust in Christ.
But we also must continually be filled with the Spirit. Again, to quote Ephesians 5:18: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”
This command is in the present tense. In other words, even though we’ve already been filled with the Spirit, there is a sense in which me must also be continually refilled with the Spirit.
Now, to be clear, I don’t mean that somehow the Holy Spirit “empties” out of us. It’s not like the Spirit leaves us or deserts us. We’re not like leaky buckets that the Holy Spirit slowly drains out of. No, we’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit.
But there’s also a very real sense in which we need to be constantly experiencing renewal in the Holy Spirit.
We get a sense of this in Acts 4:31. The disciples had already been filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And yet it says that the disciples were once again filled with the Holy Spirit:
And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
…it is appropriate to understand filling with the Holy Spirit not as a one-time event but as en event that can occur over and over again in a Christian’s life. It may involve a momentary empowering for a specific ministry…but it also may refer to a long-term characteristic of a person’s life.
This is really important for us to get. It has massive implications for our lives.
It is the Holy Spirit who…
Empowers us to be holy
Enables us to fight sin
Convicts us of sin and righteousness
Strengthens us for the work of ministry
Gives us spiritual gifts to use in his service
Put simply, we desperately need the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we are going to live in a manner that pleases God, we need to be regularly filled with the Holy Spirit.
Are you starting to get the picture?
Even though we’ve been filled with the Spirit, we need to regularly and consistently be refreshed, renewed, and refilled with the Holy Spirit. If this doesn’t happen, we won’t be able to follow God effectively.
Asking For The Holy Spirit
All of this raises a hugely important question: how do we be filled with the Spirit on a regular basis?
Fortunately, it’s not particularly complicated.
If you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, you simply need to ask your good Father.
In Luke 11:13, Jesus put it this way: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
This is such good news. We don’t have to twist God’s arm in order to get him to fill us with the Spirit. We don’t need to perform any rituals or do any good works. We simply need to ask God to give us the Holy Spirit.
Because our Father is infinitely good and generous, he loves to give the Holy Spirit to his children. He loves to fill and refill those who ask him for the Spirit.
Do you want more of the Holy Spirit in your life? Don’t overthink it. Simply say, “Father, please fill me with your Holy Spirit today. Please give me all that I need to live a life that is pleasing and honoring to you.”
God delights to answer that prayer. If you ask him, he will fill you.
On the surface, it seems like one of the strangest verses in the Bible. In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Wait, what? I have been crucified with Christ? What in the world does that mean.
Jesus’ death took place thousands of years ago. I wasn’t physically there when it happened. Yes, he died for me. Yes, my sins are forgiven because of him.
But what does it mean that I have been crucified with Christ?
Let’s look a bit deeper at what the Bible has to say on this profound subject.
United To Christ, Crucified With Christ
In order to understand the staggering reality of being crucified with Christ, we need to first understand what it means that we are united to Christ.
Again and again through the New Testament, the Bible says that those who have trusted in Christ are spiritually, uniquely, organically joined to Christ.
We are so closely united to Jesus that when God looks at us, he sees Jesus and when he looks at Jesus he sees us.
In 1 Corinthians 6:17, Paul says, “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.“
In Romans 6:5, we read, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
This is an utterly life-changing truth. If we can grasp this, it can completely change the way we live.
We are united to Christ. Joined to him. Baptized into Christ. Of one spirit with him. His life flows into us, just like life flows from a vine to a branch.
In John 15:5, Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
We have been grafted into Jesus like a branch grafted into a vine. He is ours and we are his. Christ is in us and we are in Christ.
You could say that Christ is our representative, and everything he did was on our behalf.
In the same way, Christ represents those who place their faith in him. If we are united to Christ, then we are united to him in all that he has done for us. Christ represents those who come to be his so thoroughly that we are said to have been “crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20), “buried … with him” (Rom. 6:4), and “raised with Christ” (Col. 3:1). We are even “seated … with him in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6) now as we walk about with both feet on the ground.
Isn’t that beautiful? Christ represents us so thoroughly and so closely that it’s as if we did those things too. It’s as if we were crucified, buried, raised, and seated with Christ. Yes, it was Jesus who did these things, but because we are so closely joined to Jesus it’s as if we did them too.
If we’re going to understand what it means to be crucified to Christ, we must try to wrap our brains around the fact that we are really and truly joined to Jesus Christ.
The Life We Now Live
If we are going to understand the implications of what it means to be crucified with Christ, we also need to understand what happened when Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead.
In Romans 6:10, Paul says, “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”
When Jesus died, he died to the power of sin. Before he died, he could still be tempted to sin (though he was totally sinless). But when he died, sin lost all its power. Jesus could no longer be tempted to sin. He had died to sin and was alive to God.
Because we are united to Christ, we were also crucified with Christ. When we believed in Christ, God looked at us as if we too had died, were buried, and were raised to newness of life.
Our old self, the self that was enslaved to sin, died when we believed in Christ. This is why Paul says in Romans 6:6-7, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
What a glorious passage! Our old self was crucified with Christ, which means that we are no longer slaves to sin. We no longer have to obey the sinful passions and desires that once drove us. We no longer are followers of Satan, giving into the sinful desires that course through us.
We have been crucified with Christ AND we have also been raised with Christ. We have new, resurrection life flowing through us. We literally have a new identity in Christ, and that identity changes everything.
Our new identity in Christ should dramatically influence the way that we live. We no longer have to give in to sin. Because we have been crucified with Christ, sin doesn’t have any enslaving power over us. We can put sin to death. We can say, “No,” to sinful passions and pleasures.
Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…”
We have experienced the regenerating, saving, life-giving grace of God. This grace has joined us to Jesus Christ, and his life really is our life.
Reflect on this staggering reality for just a moment. Do you know that you have the risen Christ in you, and his life is your life? You have died and risen with Christ, and because of this, you have also died to the power of sin.
Again, to quote Rankin Wilbourne:
Paul is saying union with Christ not only gives you a new identity; it gives you a new mindset, a new grid through which to filter everything that happens to you. For it’s not so much what happens to you that defines you, as how you interpret what happens to you.
When we’re tempted to sin, we need to interpret things through our new identity in Christ. Sin is no longer the controlling factor in our lives.
Because we have been crucified with Christ, we’re dead to sin. We now have the power to turn away from temptation. We really can put sin to death.
This why Paul says in Romans 6:22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”
Crucified With Christ: A Prayer
Father, thank you that I am crucified with Christ. Thank you that I am dead to sin and alive to God. Thank you for the new life that I have in Jesus. Thank you that I have a new identity – an identity of freedom and joy and life.
Because I have been crucified with Christ, help me now live as one who is dead to sin and alive to God. Help me put to death every sin that clings so tightly. Help me lay aside the weights that slow me down. Help me be holy as you are holy.
Thank you that sin is no longer my master. Jesus, you are the vine and I am a branch. I want to abide in you every single day. Let me be constantly aware of the new life that I have in you. Help me to live as one who has been crucified, buried, and is now raised with Christ.
I ask these things, confident that you are on my side and are at work in me, helping me to work out my salvation with fear and trembling. In Jesus name, Amen.
I can imagine the shock on the disciple’s faces when Jesus said to them, “Take up your cross.”
I imagine the confusion they felt. The utter bewilderment.
The cross was an instrument of torture. The means of execution for the worst criminals. A humiliating, excruciating, utterly degrading way to die.
Nails driven through the wrists and feet. Slowly suffocating to death. A brutally painful, torturous death.
Why in the world would Jesus tell his disciples to take up their cross? What could he possibly mean by such a brutal analogy?
It would be like someone saying, “Take up your electric chair and follow me.” It shocks the senses…and yet doesn’t quite make sense, at least on the surface.
So what exactly did Jesus mean when he said, “Take up your cross,”?
Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me
In order to understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Take up your cross,” we need to understand the broader context in which he was speaking.
Jesus had just told his disciples that he was going to die on the cross. This was a shocking statement to the disciples.
They were convinced that, as the Messiah, Jesus was going to vanquish his enemies and establish his kingdom. He was the Son of David, and as such, they firmly believed that he was going to drive out all evil and build an earthly kingdom greater than any ever known.
This was their hope.
The thought of him dying the death of a common criminal was absolutely HORRIFYING to them.
Surely, the Messiah could not die. And especially not on a cross. After all, a person who died on a cross was cursed by God.
Galatians 3:13 makes this abundantly clear when it says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”.”
If Jesus died on a cross, it would mean that he, the Messiah, God’s beloved son, was indeed cursed by God.
With this in mind, how could Jesus possibly say to his disciples, “Take up your cross,”?
Life Through Death
What the disciples failed to understand is that when Jesus said, “Take up your cross,” he was telling them how the kingdom of God works.
In God’s kingdom, life comes through death.
Jesus, going against the opinion of everyone around him, willingly died upon the cross. He intentionally went to the cross. It was no accidental tragedy. Jesus willingly embraced the cross.
Because he knew that through the cross, he would bring life to millions upon millions who would believe in him. He knew that his death would bring salvation to a great throng of people. He knew that life came through death.
Jesus also knew that exaltation lay behind the cross. He knew that he would receive honor and glory and blessing after his death and resurrection.
As it says in Hebrews 12:2, “…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.”
Jesus understood the profound reality that his death would lead ultimately to his great joy, both for him and for all those he would redeem through his sacred blood. He also knew that his humiliation would result in his exaltation. He eagerly anticipated the day when he would be exalted to the right hand of the throne of God.
The kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world. We experience the joyful life of the kingdom of God NOT by fighting and scraping our way to the top of pile.
Rather, we follow the example of Jesus and take up our cross. And when we take up our cross, we find true, lasting, good, wonderful life.
This is why Jesus says in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
If we lose our life for the sake of Jesus, we will actually FIND our life. In the kingdom of God, things are upside down. You lose your life by trying to save it and you find your life when you lose it.
But what exactly does it mean to, “Take up your cross?”
Take Up Your Cross and Die To Yourself
To take up your cross means to die to yourself. To die to your personal preferences and desires and to submit every part of your life to the rule and reign of Jesus.
It means to die to anything that is sinful, wicked, or opposed to the kingdom of God. To “crucify” the sinful desires that are the opposite of the kingdom of God.
This is why Paul says in Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
Notice that Paul uses the language of the cross. He says that we are to, “Put to death,” anything that is earthly in us. Just like Jesus was put to death on the cross, so we are to take up our crosses and put to death the sinful, earthly things in us.
So, for example, let’s say that you find yourself tempted to be angry at someone. In that moment, you have two options. You can give in to the anger and explode, unleashing your words like a cannon.
Or you can take up your cross and die to your sinful desires, just as Jesus did.
Or let’s say that you’re tempted to worry about the future. When you feel that way, you can either try to figure out everything yourself, mapping out every detail of what possibly might happen. Or, you can put worry to death and choose instead to trust God with all your heart.
Are you starting to get the picture?
To take up your cross means to embrace the path of Jesus. To say to the Lord, “Not my will, but your will be done.” To lay aside every sinful thought, impulse, and desire and to follow Jesus with all your heart.
Hebrews 12:1 puts it this way, “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…”
John Piper, speaking of the difference between our new identity in Christ and our old identity as followers of the world, says this:
But the new, denying self says to the old world-loving self, “You are not in charge any longer. I love Jesus more than human approval, honor, comfort, and life. So, I am ready to endure opposition, shame, suffering, and death. There is more gain in following Jesus, even with suffering, than there is in walking away from him, even with ten thousand earthly benefits.” That’s the way the new self talks.
Let Us Take Up Our Cross Daily For The Joy Set Before Us
To take up your cross is not a one-time thing. It’s not something that you do once at the beginning of the Christian life and then never do again. Rather, it’s a daily requirement for the Christian.
Every day, we encounter fresh temptations to love the ways of the world instead of the ways of Jesus. Every day we are tempted to give in to sin rather than to live as those who are following Jesus. And so every day we must take up our cross and put our fleshly desires to death.
There’s one thing that’s crucial to remember as we seek to obey the command to, “Take up your cross.” Ultimately, we seek to take up our cross because it will bring us great joy. When we lose our life by taking up our cross, we ultimately gain true life in Jesus.
As John Piper said, Jesus is better than 10,000 earthly delights. We take up our cross because we know that’s the path to true joy.
So let us embrace the way of the cross, knowing that joy awaits us as we pursue Jesus.
There are many stories about people searching for hidden treasures. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson has been made into movies again and again. How many variations have there been of Aladdin? Often in these stories, the characters come into a room filled with mountains of gold coins and jewels and statues and treasure boxes. And their jaws drop open. Like this scene in National Treasure:
National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) Finding the treasure | Cibola - YouTube
Usually in these movies people risk their lives and go through all kinds of danger to find treasure, like Indiana Jones in this scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark:
Raiders of the Lost Ark - Golden Idol and Boulder Scene - YouTube
What if I told you that somewhere in a park near your town there is a cave filled with gold coins and diamonds and precious jewels and gold statues, and if you find it you can keep everything in it? Do you think you would look for it?
There probably is no treasure buried in a park near you, but there is a REAL TREASURE we can all find. And it is filled with riches which we can’t possibly imagine.
First of all, God himself is our treasure. He fills us with every kind of joy and blessing. If we know Jesus Christ we are the richest people on the face of the earth.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;ou hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. Psalm 16.5-6
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup…the Lord is my beautiful inheritance – this means the Lord is my treasure. The Lord is the most important and wonderful and valuable thing in my life! Paul said:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:8
Christ was Paul’s treasure. He said he gave up everything else in this life to have Jesus. God is our treasure. If we have all the riches on earth, but do not know the Lord, we have nothing.
But God also gives us another treasure: and that treasure is his WORD.
GOD’S WORD IS A TREASURE
I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil. Psalm 119.162
Great spoil is another way of saying “treasure” – I rejoice at your word like one who finds a great treasure.
In the way of your testimonies (God’s word) I delight as much as in all riches. Psalm 119.14
David says “In the way of your testimonies – your word – I delight as much as if I had ALL RICHES – all the riches in the world.
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. Psalm 119.72
If I said to David, “Hey David, which is better, God’s word, or thousands and thousands of gold and silver pieces?” He would say, “Are you kidding, God’s word is better than a whole cave of gold and silver.” If David were alive today and someone said to him, “David, I will give you 50 billion dollars if you will never read the Bible again” you know what he would say? “Get out of here. You can’t even put a price on God’s word. It’s more valuable than all the riches in the world. It gives me more joy and happiness and wisdom than all the riches in the world could ever give.”
Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold. Psalm 119.127
God’s word is a treasure. It is filled with all kinds of riches and delights. And each and every one of us can open this treasure and dig in to it. And this treasure will bring joy to our lives.
Before Jesus saved me I didn’t know this. I would have thought of the Bible like, maybe a storybook. Oh it’s this book of all these old stories, like about Noah and the ark and the story about Israel marching around the city of Jericho and blowing trumpets and the walls falling down. And yeah, the story of Jesus. But I wouldn’t have thought about it like it is a treasure.
Or I might have thought of the Bible like an instruction manual. A book of detailed instructions about how we are supposed to live. I hate instruction manuals. They always seem to be really complicated and hard to understand. Take part A and connect it to part C and then take the tiny little screw (part E-16) and insert it into the opening and then twist counter clockwise.
I wouldn’t want to look at instruction manuals every day. But God’s word isn’t an indecipherable instruction manual. Yes does have clear instructions and commands, but God gives us those so that we can know him and experience great joy and peace and have the best life we can have.
HOW IS GOD’S WORD A TREASURE?
GOD’S WORD IS A TREASURE BECAUSE GOD HIMSELF SPEAKS TO US THROUGH HIS WORD
The Bible isn’t just a book about God. It is God talking to us. God himself, the creator of the universe, talking to us. It is God saying, “I love you. Here is what I did for you to save you. Here is how you can know me and enjoy me and please me.”
In this treasure, God tells us what he is like – Holy, loving, good, merciful, kind. We can look at the universe and tell some things about God. He is powerful – to create all the stars, etc. He is creative – cicadas – 17 yrs in the ground…He must be vast in some way since the universe is so vast.
But there are so many things we can’t know just by looking at the creation. Is God good? Is God loving? Does God even care about us? Does God love me? I mean, the universe is so big, and we are just a speck of dust? Less than a speck of dust. Does God really care about what is going on here? Does God really care about me? How do I know?
We couldn’t know these things just by our own thoughts. BUT GOD TELLS US WHO HE IS AND WHAT HE IS LIKE IN HIS WORD.
GOD’S WORD IS A TREASURE BECAUSE GOD’S WORD TELLS US HOW TO BE SAVED AND HAVE ETERNAL LIFE
No other book in the world tells us God’s good news about all he did for us to save us and what we need to do to have our sins forgiven and go to heaven. Yes there are all kinds of other religious books and philosophies. But God’s word is the only one that tells us God’s way of receiving the salvation he purchased for us. Most religions are works based. Live a good life and you will go to heaven.
No one could possibly fathom the good news of God’s word – that Jesus, God the Son, became a human being, lived a sinless life of perfect obedience to his Father, then took our sins upon himself on the cross, bore the wrath that we deserved and paid for our sins, then rose physically from the dead, and ascended into heaven. And when we turn to Jesus and believe in him and call upon him to be our Lord, God forgives our sins, and counts Jesus’ life of obedience to us as if we had lived it and gives us salvation and eternal life as a free gift.
No other religion has such a treasury of good news!
GOD’S WORD IS A TREASURE BECAUSE GOD TELLS US HOW TO PLEASE HIM
In his Word God reveals to us how to have joy and peace, how to know and enjoy God now
God’s ways are not the world’s ways. Apart from God’s word we could never know:
How to be truly great
How to fight the lies of the enemy
How we can be thankful in every situation
How to have true and lasting joy
How to have hope
How to overcome our sins
How to understand sin and temptation
How to love and forgive and bless those who sin against us
How to know God’s will for our lives
How to endure to the end
HOW DO WE OPEN THIS TREASURE? HOW DO WE ENJOY IT?
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. Jeremiah 15.16
First, it says, Your words were found, and I ate them
Your words were found – the Bible is God’s word. The very words of the Creator of the universe. The Bible isn’t man’s words, it is “YOUR WORDS.” So that is where we want to start the Bible is “YOUR WORDS” the Bible is the very words of God. There is no other book ever written that is the very word of God. That is the starting place: to believe the Bible is the very words of God.
Some people don’t believe the Bible is God’s words – they think it’s just stories or men’s ideas. But the Bible is God’s word – YOUR WORDS were found.
When I was a young Christian, someone said, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”
Your words were found
WERE FOUND – LIKE A TREASURE.
Before Jesus saved me I heard someone say, Get a Bible, and start by reading it a few minutes every day. Start with one of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And just read it every day for a few minutes. Read it and do what it says and it will change your life. So I bought a paperback bible and started to read it every morning for a few minutes – I FOUND God’s word. I DISCOVERED IT! I didn’t know it before. I didn’t have it. Now I had a treasure.
WE NEED TO TAKE GOD’S WORD IN:
Your words were found, AND I ATE THEM
God could sit us down at a table and spread out a feast of incredible food in front of us. But it wouldn’t do us any good if we didn’t eat it. If we didn’t take it in. We need to take God’s word into us. Your words were found and I ate them. God describes his word like food. He describes us taking it in like EATING IT.
When we eat food, we TAKE IT IN. WE CHEW IT. We often savor it. We say “MMMMM! Oh this is so good!” Sometimes we experience new flavors we never tasted before. Sometimes we have to chew on food longer. Sometimes we have to develop a taste for certain foods.
That’s like God’s word. Sometimes it’s easy for us to understand – we like the “taste” of it right away. It’s easy to chew. Maybe like scrambled eggs or mashed potatoes. Sometimes we have to chew it longer – like steak.
GOD’S WORD WILL BECOME A JOY TO US
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words BECAME to me a joy and the delight of my heart,
Sometimes God’s word is immediately a joy and delight to us. Like:
Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:26
Sometimes it takes time. We need to trust God’s word. God will prove it to us eventually
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
In due season we will reap! Over the years, God’s word has changed my life! God’s word has brought BLESSING into my life. When I was a young Christian, I heard someone teach that we should try to spend some time in God’s word on a regular basis. They suggested that the first thing to do every day was to take about 10 or 15 minutes to read God’s word. So I started trying to do that. When I first got up, I’d get some coffee to help me wake up, then I’d spend a few minutes in God’s word. And God has helped me do that for years. I don’t always do it every day – but I try to do it most days. Now some people are just too sleepy in the morning to read God’s word. For some people they do better if they read God’s word later in the day. But the main thing is, if you can start a HABIT of spending a little time in God’s word regularly and then trying to OBEY God’s word – God will change your life!
Job said he treasured God’s word more than his daily food:
I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. Job 23.12
Let me encourage you in this: God’s word is a TREASURE! Try to open it up and take it in on a regular basis. Try to find a time that works for you every day, or at least most days. Start small. Just read it for 5 or 10 minutes. It would be better to read the Bible for 5 minutes every day than to read it for 1 hour once a month. Just a little bit at a time, and ask the Lord to speak to you and help you love his word.
Jesus, thank you that you are our treasure and you have given us the treasure of your word. Help us to love your word and to love you.
Imagine you are hiking on a road – it is straight ahead and fenced in on each side.You don’t have any decisions to make. You’re fenced in on both sides.
But imagine you are hiking and you come to a fork in the road. Now you have to make a decision. Which way should you go? If you know where you are going, then you don’t have to worry about making the wrong decision. You just pick the right way.
Now imagine you were on this road and came to a fork in the road, and you weren’t sure which way to go.
You look over to the left and you see the sun shining, and birds singing, etc. But when you look to the right you see dark clouds swirling, and you see the tip of a tornado starting to come out of the clouds.
Which one would you take?
That is actually a picture of our lives. Throughout our lives we will face many decisions. Which way should I go?
And we have two voices that talk to us. The voice of God, or the voice of Satan.
God speaks to us through his Word and Satan speaks to us through the world and sometimes our own thoughts.
God says through his Word, “Believe this and do this and I will bless you incredibly.” Satan says through the world – through TV shows, through unbelievers, through songs on the radio: “No! Believe THIS. Do THIS, and you will be happy. Do this and you will have fun. Do this and people will like you.”
And the big question in our lives is who are we going to listen to?
And who are we going to believe? How are we going to walk? Will we walk by faith, trusting God’s word? Or will we trust in our own thoughts? Will we walk by faith in God’s promises or faith in Satan’s promises?
Paul told the Corinthians that he “walked by faith.”
…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)
Paul said he walked by faith not sight. He meant that he kept his spiritual eyes not on “the things that are seen” but on “the things that are unseen.” Spiritual realities. Spiritual truths.
So How Do We Walk By Faith?
How do we live this life keeping our eyes on spiritual realities? Keeping our eyes on God?
If we regularly take in God’s word, and meditate on it we will be blessed. But if we regularly take in the words of Satan and believe his lies, and obey them, we will suffer terrible consequences. God wants to bless you. God wants the best for you. Jesus wants you to know him and know his love and his joy.
Psalm 1 gives us a picture of what it means to walk by faith:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. Psalm 1:1-6
The Voice Of Satan
Satan is not going to appear to us wearing red tights and carrying a pitchfork. Sometimes in cartoons, we see a character trying to make a decision – on one shoulder we see a tiny character like an angel with a halo telling the character the right thing to do.
On his other shoulder we see the same character dressed like the devil, with horns and a pitchfork, like Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove:
Emperor's New Groove (1/8) Best Movie Quote - Kronk's Shoulder Angel and Devil (2000) - YouTube
We do have two voices that speak to us: God and Satan. But they don’t sit on our shoulders and speak to us through cartoon characters.
God speaks to us through his Word, through the Holy Spirit who reminds us of God’s word, and through our brothers and sisters who remind us of God’s word. Satan speaks to us through our own thoughts at times, but he also speaks to us through people:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, stands in the way of sinners, sits in the seat of scoffers;
See what it says here?
Blessed is the manwho WALKS NOT in THE COUNSEL OF THE WICKED,
When someone gives you “counsel” they tell you what you should do. They say, “Hey let me tell you what is going to make you happy.” The world is always giving us counsel. It says, “Hey look at this immoral site on your computer. You’ll really like it.” “Hey, go ahead and flirt with that co-worker. No one will know.”
Before Jesus saved me, I was in my teens and I was in a rock band. And this friend I was in a band with said, “Hey, you want to smoke some of this with me?” and he showed me a marijuana cigarette. “It’s really fun man. You’re gonna love it man. It is hilarious.” I said, “I don’t think so. I mean, it’s really not good for you.” But he kept talking to me: “It’s not going to hurt you. It’s really fun.” And eventually I gave in, which led to me using a lot of drugs.
The counsel of the wicked started in the garden of Eden when Satan said, “Has God really said?“
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17
God said this to Adam before God made Eve. So Adam would have shared God’s command with Eve. Later…
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1
Satan is already twisting God’s word. “Did God really say that? That you can’t eat from ANY TREE in the garden?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. Genesis 3:2-4
Satan calls God a liar: “You will not surely die.” Satan is trying to get Eve to doubt God’s word. And he will try to do that to you and me. “Hey, nothing is going to happen to you if you do this…Look, thousands of other people are doing this and nothing is happening to them. In fact they are really happy…Satan goes on in his lies to Eve:
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5
Satan will try to get us to doubt God’s character. He tells Eve, “God knows that when you eat you will be like God.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6
See what Eve did? She listened to the counsel of the wicked. And then she walked in it. Instead of fleeing temptation, she looked at the fruit. And she doubted God’s word.
GOD WANTS TO BLESS US! And he says the way to be blessed is to NOT walk in the counsel of the wicked…
Blessed is the mano walks not in the counsel of the wicked,nor stands in the way of sinners, sits in the seat of scoffers;
Note the PROGRESSION: First we listen to the “counsel of the wicked” and we start to walk that way. We start to do what they say. Then we begin to “stand in the way of sinners.” We’re more into sin. Then after a while we wind up “sitting in the seat of scoffers.” To scoff means to scorn something, to mock it, to deride it…”oh yeah right, the Bible is God’s word.” But God wants to bless us. So he gives us 3 steps to blessing:
3 STEPS TO BLESSING (HOW TO WALK BY FAITH): DELIGHT, MEDITATE, OBEY
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2
STEP 1 TO WALK BY FAITH: DELIGHT
To delight in something means we take pleasure in it. We do it because we believe it will bring us joy. Usually the things that are really delightful to us take a little time. They may not seem delightful at first.
Like when I first started playing guitar. It was hard. My fingers didn’t want to go where they needed to go. It was slow. I had to move one finger at a time. It was not “delightful.” But I really believed that if I kept at it, eventually I’d get good at it and enjoy it. Look what Jeremiah the prophet said:
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. Jeremiah 15:16
Your words were found, and I ate them…Jeremiah took God’s word in. He ate them. He started chewing on them. And then something happened: your words BECAME to me a joy and the delight of my heart,
It didn’t happen right away. Jeremiah took God’s words in and eventually God’s words BECAME A JOY AND THE DELIGHT OF HIS HEART
THIS HAPPENED TO ME WITH GOD’S WORD
Before Jesus saved me, someone told me get a bible and start to read it for a few minutes every day. Start with Matthew, Mark, Luke or John – one of the gospels. Just read it and do what it says to do. And it will change your life. So I did. I bought a paperback Bible and started to read it for a few minutes every day. It wasn’t easy at first. I didn’t understand everything at first. Some things even seemed really hard, like turning away from some sins I was doing. Some of God’s commands seemed hard, like forgiving people who sinned against me. But the more I did it, over time God’s word “became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”
God’s word has changed my life! It has brought me more joy than anything else in the world.
If I had to be on a desert island and could only have one thing, I would choose the Bible. Like we talked about this morning. God’s word has become the greatest treasure in my life next to God himself. If you said you would give me $50 billion if I would never read God’s word again, I’d say, “Forget it. Keep your 50 billion. God’s word is infinitely more valuable.”
Ok, back to Psalm 1. We are blessed when we DON’T walk in the counsel of the wicked, and we are blessed when we DO this: when we meditate on God’s word.
STEP 2 TO WALK BY FAITH: MEDITATE ON GOD’S WORD
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2
What does it mean to meditate on God’s word? It means to think about it. To chew on it. To ponder how it applies to your life.
“Drive past a cattle farm any time, and you’re likely to see cows doing one of three things. They will either be eating, sleeping, or chewing. A lot of the time they look like they are chewing a giant wad of gum, for all hours of the day, even when they are nowhere near food!” — My Fearless Kitchen
Cows chew their food, swallow it, it goes down into their stomach, bacteria acts on the food, then the food comes back up into their mouths, they chew on it more, swallow it, their stomach acts on it more, and they keep repeating the process over and over. When it comes back up, it’s kind of like a big wad of gum. That’s called the cud. When they chew it over and over again, they get the most nutrients out of it.
cow chewing the cud 01 -- superb close up - YouTube
When we meditate on God’s word, we don’t just read it once and then we’re done. We read it. We think about it. We apply it to our lives. We might say, “How do I need to do this?” We try our best to obey it.
STEP 3 TO WALK BY FAITH: OBEY
We MEDITATE on God’s word in order to OBEY God’s word. When we delight in God’s word and meditate on God’s word, then we should begin to obey God’s word. Remember how the Psalm started:
Blessed is the manwho walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
We are blessed when we WALK in the counsel of God’s word. We meditate on God’s word in order to walk in it, or obey it. And God promises that when we meditate on God’s word and obey it he will BLESS us.
THE BLESSINGS THAT COME FROM WALKING BY FAITH:WE ARE LIKE A PLANTED TREE
He is like a tree planted…Psalm1:3
To be planted means to be solid. Unshakable. We will withstand the storms of life. We can resist temptation. We will not be quickly shaken. When the storms come we won’t doubt God. We won’t think he has abandoned us.
WE ARE LIKE A TREE PLANTED BY STREAMS OF WATER
He is like a tree planted by streams of water Psalm 1:3
Streams of water represent spiritual life. Christ is our life. He will regularly refresh us. Every day he will give us new hope, new joy. We may go to bed exhausted but when we wake up Jesus will give us faith to keep going. This doesn’t mean we will experience continual joy and never be down. But it means that Jesus will continually give us spiritual life.
WE WILL BEAR FRUIT
that yields its fruit in its season Psalm 1:3
As we meditate upon and obey God’s word, the Holy Spirit will produce eternal fruit in us. We may not bear fruit immediately, but we will bear fruit in time. I once painted signs for a nursery and the signs for many of the fruit trees said: “Bears fruit in 2-3 years.” As we meditate upon and obey God’s word he makes us like himself.
WE WON’T WITHER
and its leaf does not wither. Psalm 1:3
Life is hard at times. We go through periods of scorching heat. Every believer will go through trials and tribulations. But if we have regularly taken in God’s word, we will persevere and endure.
WE WILL PROSPER
In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:3
As we walk by faith, trusting God’s word, we will prosper spiritually. We may not be rich in this world, but we will be rich in Christ.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11.1
Walk by faith. Believe God’s word and obey it. Do not listen to the counsel of the wicked. Don’t listen to Satan’s lies. Delight in God’s word. Meditate on it. Do it. And you will bear fruit for Jesus, and persevere to the end.