Encouragement

A Place Where It’s Normal to Be a Christian

Posted on Sep 9, 2016 in Encouragement | 0 comments

Philly Christian Students is a place where it’s normal to be a Christian… …where it’s normal to love the Lord Jesus and to read the Bible. Every believer should have such a place; in fact, every believer NEEDS such a place. Here’s why. Two Ways of Living Many passages in the New Testament make it clear that believers in Christ Jesus should have a living that is distinct from that of unbelievers. The apostle Peter writes, “According to the Holy One who called you, you yourselves also be holy in all your manner of life” (1 Pet. 1:15). To be holy implies being set apart from everything to God. Being holy, or set apart, applies not only to our conduct outwardly but also to the inward source of our living—a living according to God’s holy nature. A few verses later, Peter mentions redemption, but not in the familiar way. When we as Christians hear the word redemption, we immediately think of Jesus dying for us as the Lamb of God to take away our sins (see John 1:29 or Ephesians 1:7). Of course, this is absolutely true and we praise God for this aspect of our redemption on a daily basis. But we may not realize that the New Testament applies the concept of redemption not only to the forgiveness of sins but also to our way of living. First Peter 1:18-19 says: “You were redeemed from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers…with precious blood, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot, the blood of Christ.” Instead of “vain manner of life,” some translations say, “useless way of life” or “empty lifestyle.” Peter doesn’t say here that we were redeemed from sin—he says that Jesus shed His precious blood to redeem us from our old living as unbelievers to a new way of living. The Challenge of College Life If you’re a Christian in college and you agree that your faith should be expressed in your living, you’re in for a challenge. You don’t need to spend a long time on campus to find out that universities foster an environment quite contrary to the Christian life. Actually, the apostle Peter addresses such environments later on in his epistle: “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (1 Pet. 4:3). In other words, we who have believed have lived as the unbelievers live for long enough. The unbelievers, Peter continues to say, look at Christians with incredulity: “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you” (v. 4). Please take note of three things in this verse: First, instead of “they are surprised,” many translations say, “they think it strange.” As you may well know, if you’re open about being a Christian on campus, you should be prepared to be viewed as if you’re a creature from another planet: “Why aren’t you coming with us? You’re going to miss all the fun.” “You’re wasting your time at that weekend retreat. You’re going to be behind in our classes.” “You believe all that stuff in the Bible? It’s just myths, old-fashioned rules, and bigotry.” Second, several translations refer to the “reckless, wild living” as a “flood of debauchery.” We shouldn’t think that we as believers can step into the flood and not be swept away. Third, even more than being thought strange, we may be verbally abused or slandered. Facing this, how much the believers need a refuge, a safe haven, a...

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A Proclamation of Peace

Posted on Apr 1, 2016 in Encouragement | 1 comment

The whole world aches for peace. War is rampant on the earth, and where there is no war, societies are filled with civil and political strife. Yet the believers in Christ may echo the Lord’s own proclamation of peace to a world in conflict—a peace that anyone can experience, a peace that can descend upon any situation, a peace that is beyond human understanding. This peace does not come from victory in war; it does not come from new legislation or judicial action; and it will not arise from demonstrations, protests, or from the ascendancy of any political ideology. This peace is Christ Himself. The Scripture “For He Himself [Christ] is our peace, who has made us both [the Jews and the Gentiles] one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” (Ephesians 2:14-17) The Division In Old Testament times, God’s chosen people, the Jews, lived separately from all other races (which they referred to as Gentiles). This separation was effected by “the law of commandments expressed in ordinances,” that is, the Jewish ceremonial law. The separation created by the law was so strong that a Gentile might express surprise at being spoken to by a Jew (John 4:9) or, as Peter phrased it in Acts 10:28, “You understand that it is unlawful for a man who is a Jew to join himself to or come near one of another race.” This was the case, but Peter continues—“…yet God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” The Solution At the dawn of the New Testament age, through the shedding of the blood of Jesus on the cross, the wall—the separation between Jews and Gentiles—came down; Jesus abolished the separating ordinances on the cross. Now, He Himself is our peace, and as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor. 3:17) the Lord has come to all mankind to proclaim this peace! The Proclamation Translating more literally, one version of Ephesians 2:17 says, “And coming, He announced peace as the gospel to you who were far off [the Gentiles] and peace to those who were near [the Jews].” May all the believers realize and treasure the fact that we have what the world seeks—Christ proclaimed peace as the gospel! The New Man Ephesians 2:15 tells us that Christ created “one new man,” joining together the Jew and the Gentiles. In Colossians 3:10-11, the apostle Paul expands our understanding of this new man. In the new man, that is, in Christ, “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11). What is implied here is more than just oneness in Christ—what is implied is that the separating ordinances abolished by Christ on the cross include the myriad differences that divide people from one another: things like race [“Greek and Jew”], religion [“circumcised and uncircumcised”], culture [“barbarian, Scythian”], and social status [“slave, free”]. Jesus Christ has abolished all the differences! The Arbitrator When the believers allow the peace of Christ to rule—to arbitrate, preside, or referee—in their hearts (Col. 3:15), they are kept in sweet oneness with one another. No earthly accord can compare to this peace. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together...

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In First Place

Posted on Jan 25, 2016 in Encouragement | 0 comments

At the beginning of a new year, many people reevaluate their priorities, recalibrate their goals, and make resolutions for self-improvement. Setting priorities means deciding what comes first, and we naturally make this determination according to what is most important to us. Suppose it’s Sunday morning and you’re debating whether to show up at church. There’s a football game to watch in the afternoon, or maybe there’s dinner with friends in the evening. But there’s also a paper due on Monday and you need to reserve some time to work on it. What do you do? Many times in our experience, “first” doesn’t mean that Sunday morning services, morning quiet time with the Lord, and Bible studies are scheduled before anything else and are untouchable. Rather, “first” often means that our time for the Lord is the first thing we carve out of our schedule to make room for our studies, work, social life, sleep, time at the gym…and so on. The Bible makes some striking statements about our priorities as believers—about what comes first for a Christian—and it’s worthwhile to take some time early in the new year to prayerfully consider them. God wants Jesus Christ to have the first place in everything. Christ is “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15); that is, He is supreme among all God’s creatures. Christ is also “the firstborn from the dead” (1:18); that is, He is first in resurrection, the first among God’s new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Why? “That in everything He might be preeminent” (Col. 1:18). Another translation says, “That in everything He might have the supremacy”, and yet another says, “That He might have the first place in all things.” This point applies not only to believers—it applies to everything and everyone. Christ is preeminent now; eventually, He will be acknowledged as preeminent by all men (Phil. 2:9-11). One of the titles of Jesus Christ in the New Testament is “the First and the Last.” If this isn’t a clear indication of what place Jesus Christ should have in our lives, then nothing is: the Word of God calls Him “the First.” In Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (The title “the First and the Last” is also used in Revelation 1:17 and 2:8.) If a plumber says his services are “from A to Z,” it doesn’t mean that he does “A” and “Z”—it means that he takes care of “A,” “Z,” and everything in between. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet; omega is the last. Christ desires to be, quite literally, everything to us! Jesus said that we should “seek first the kingdom of God.” Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). In context, “these things” are food and clothing—necessities of the human life. The Lord acknowledges our necessities as legitimate concerns, but makes it clear what should come first. In this age and economy it is nearly a necessity to seek a college degree. But what is our heart set on? We should love the Lord with “the first love.” In Revelation chapter 2, the Lord had one thing against the church in Ephesus: “You have left your first love” (v. 4). Many translations of this verse say something like, “…the love which you had at first.” This is not incorrect, but it does limit the meaning to first in time. The more literal translations say, “the first love.” In Luke 15:22, the...

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On Prayer

Posted on Dec 7, 2015 in Encouragement | 1 comment

In times of extreme distress, many people—even those who might not ordinarily do so—turn to God in prayer. On December 2nd, as a young couple opened fire on an office Christmas party in San Bernardino, killing 14 and wounding many others, several people trapped in the building texted loved ones with a request: “Pray for us.” And “outside the building,” one report said, “evacuated workers bowed their heads and held hands. They prayed.” It is normal for Christians to pray at such times. On the day of the San Bernardino attack, many people said, tweeted, or wrote that their “thoughts and prayers” were with those affected—voicing their support for them. Others, however, publicly expressed contempt for Christians who prayed for the victims, their families, and their coworkers. One publication stated that prayer is “an ineffective strategy” and even said that prayer is “useless.” A prominent newspaper ran the headline “God Isn’t Fixing This.” An avowed atheist simply said, “Stop praying.” As believers, our connection in Christ is outside the realm of politics; the political context of what is mentioned above is therefore irrelevant. What is relevant is the matter of prayer. Believers should take their cues regarding prayer from the Word of God, not from the trends of our society. With this in mind, consider the following points: 1. Don’t respond to the mocking of God, Christians, and prayer with anger. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” In Luke 6:28, He said, “Bless those who curse you; pray for those who revile you.” May those who showed themselves so strongly against prayer be found by and restored to our loving Savior (Luke 15:4-5; Rom. 10:20). 2. We should pray everywhere and all the time. We should pray everywhere: The apostle Paul says, “I desire therefore that men pray in every place, without wrath and reasoning” (1 Tim. 2:8). We should pray all the time: The Lord said in Luke 18:1 that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul says that we should “unceasingly pray.” 3. We should pray regardless of our situation. The apostle James says, “Does anyone among you suffer evil? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13). Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope; endure in tribulation; persevere in prayer.” According to Philippians 4:6-7, our anxieties—the things that stress us out—can be replaced by the peace of God through our “prayer and petition with thanksgiving.” 4. The Lord hears the believers’ prayer; our prayer is effective. Peter says, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears incline to their petition” (1 Pet. 3:12). James writes in his epistle that “the petition of a righteous man avails much in its working” (5:16). 5. Our prayer can and does minister to others’ needs. Writing while imprisoned in Rome, the apostle Paul was confident that his situation would turn out to salvation through the Philippian believers’ petition and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:19). In other words, the prayer of the church in Philippi was supporting him in his affliction. Paul writes to the Corinthian believers: “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 1:11). 6. We should pray for everyone, but especially for those in high positions. In 1 Timothy 2, Paul says, “I exhort…that petitions, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men; on behalf of kings and...

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Take Time to Give Thanks

Posted on Nov 26, 2015 in Encouragement | 0 comments

As Thanksgiving approaches, where are your thoughts? We may be focused on many different things—food, family, football, Friday deals—but what about our Father? As a society, we take the 4th Thursday in November off but seem to forget the cause; as Christians, we ought to lead the way in giving thanks to God! On November 1st, mysteriously, overnight, the distinctive oranges, yellows, and browns of the “fall” candy on the shelves of the local supermarket have been replaced with the telltale reds and greens, silver, and gold that signal the start of the Christmas shopping season. Santa and his elves, reindeer, sleighs, and snowmen are piping through the store’s sound system even though we’re still in short sleeves and the trees have yet to drop their leaves. Didn’t we skip something? Perhaps it’s understandable—after all, there’s no money to be made from marketing contentment, from being satisfied with what we already have. But the Bible tells believers—actually, commands us—“Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thes. 5:18). The world is trending in a certain direction—the apostle Paul, itemizing the characteristics of men in the last days of this age, includes “ungrateful” in the list (2 Tim. 3:2). As Christians, we are exhorted to stand against this trend: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). We don’t have to conform to the pattern of our thankless, griping, dissatisfied modern society. We can receive the biblical injunction to give thanks regardless of our situations. Perhaps our circumstances aren’t ideal, but with a little thought, a little strength of will, we can find something to be grateful for. *Watchman Nee writes: “You may be sick, but you are still alive. You may be poor, but you are not destitute. You may have coarse clothing, but you still have something to put on. Your house may be small, but you still have a place to lay your head. You should learn to seek for opportunities to thank God.” This Thanksgiving, you don’t have to seek for the opportunity—it’s here. Take it! Secular studies have linked gratefulness to a plethora of benefits—lower stress levels, better sleep, better mental and physical health, and even improved immune function. As believers, we shouldn’t need the help of modern science to discover what the Bible told us centuries ago: When we give our cares—accompanied by our thanks—to God in prayer, we are delivered from anxiety. Then the peace of God, which is beyond man’s understanding, stands guard over our hearts and thoughts (Phil. 4:6-7). What a blessing! *(The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, v. 18, p. 261. Watchman Nee spent the last twenty years of his life imprisoned for his faith in communist China. In a letter written about a month before he died, he wrote, “I maintain my joy, so please do not worry.” This indicates that he practiced what he preached, rejoicing in the Lord despite his situation (Phil. 4:4). He did not have the freedom to mention the Lord in his letters. On the day he died, he left a note with the following testimony: “Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in...

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Five More Reasons to Read the Bible

Posted on Oct 16, 2015 in Encouragement | 0 comments

God is inexhaustibly rich, and His word is an expression of who He is. That’s why, although we posted Five Reasons to Read the Bible earlier this semester, we’re continuing here with five more reasons to read the Bible. 6. For enlivening: Sometimes we may feel full of spiritual life and have no problem loving and seeking the Lord. Other times we find ourselves in spiritual doldrums, adrift and struggling to go on. When we’re in such down situations, we can turn to God’s word for a breath of spiritual life. Psalm 119:50 says, “This is my comfort in my affliction, / That Your word has revived me and given me life.” Second Corinthians 3:6 tells us that there are two ways in which we can take God’s word: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” We can come to the Bible as a book of precepts—rules and regulations—or we can approach it with an attitude of seeking after God. When we do the latter, we are enlivened: the Spirit gives life! 7. For washing: If you’re a believer, then you should know that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7). But Ephesians 5:26 speaks of an additional washing, telling us that Christ is preparing the church as His bride by “cleansing her by the washing of the water in the word.” As we read the Bible, the water of life in the word works within us to cleanse away every defect in our fallen, natural life and transform us to Christ’s glorious image (see v. 27). 8. To discern spirit from soul: We have decisions to make all the time in our daily life, both big and small, and as Christians we have a sincere desire to follow Christ and do what He wants us to do. We may have the habit of bringing our decisions to the Lord in prayer—that’s excellent. But sometimes, even after praying, we’re still not clear whether we’re inclined a certain way out of self-interest or because that’s the direction the Lord is leading us. The word of God can help! Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” 9. For equipping: It’s normal after receiving the Lord to have a desire to serve Him. Just as a tradesman wouldn’t head off to work without being properly equipped with the skills and tools of his trade, we shouldn’t think that we can serve God without knowing His word. God’s word prepares and equips us. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (Actually, there are five reasons to read the Bible in these two verses…but maybe that’s a different blog post.) 10. For constitution: When we believe in the Lord Jesus, He comes into our spirit and regenerates it (gives it new birth) immediately (1 Pet. 1:3). And, at the Lord’s return, our body will be transfigured in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor. 15:52). But in between these two events, the Lord works within us day by day (2 Cor. 4:16), little by little (Deut. 7:22), to transform us by His life (2 Cor. 3:18). As we contact the Lord through prayer and through His word day by day, we accumulate experiences of Christ, and these become our new makeup,...

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