Monday, August 27, 2012

Make Up Your Mind

Spirit & Truth # 287
“Make Up Your Mind”
By Greg Smith

            During political seasons, people draw lines and choose sides even more than they do during the rest of the year.  Friends choose sides against one another.  Water cooler politics reveal which co-workers are on your team and which are not.  It seems there’s no room for middle ground.  Each party believes that they are right, and the other is wrong.  Truly it is difficult to have it both ways.

            The same is true in the struggle between flesh and spirit.  The flesh wants those things that are harmful to the spirit, and your spirit wants to bring your fleshly desires under submission.  In Romans 8:5-7 (NIV), the apostle Paul writes, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.”  So, just as a voter must make up her mind in a political debate, so the believer must make up his mind in the spiritual debate that rages within the human heart.  Which will you serve—the flesh, or the spirit?

            No doubt, most Christians would say that the spirit’s will should overcome the flesh’s demands.  The problem is that the power of the flesh seems so strong.  But believers are not helpless before the flesh’s insistencies.  Verse 11 (NIV) says, “…If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” 

         If someone’s heart stops, they can be revived by the electric shock of a defibrillator.  But machines like this can only revive a person who has died within the past few minutes.  Imagine the power it must have taken to raise Jesus from the dead, after He had been in the grave for three days!  The Bible says that the same kind of power that raised Jesus from the dead—that sent the stone exploding from the tomb entrance like a bullet from a gun—that dynamic energy of God that still radiated off the resurrected Jesus—that power now dwells in you.  The powerful Holy Spirit gives you strength to enable your spirit to win its battle against the flesh.

            So, verses 1 and 2 declare in notes of celebration: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”  When you find you can’t be good by relying on your own strength—rejoice!  You’ve just learned the lesson that Jesus has been trying to teach you all along.  But rely on His power for forgiveness and for righteousness, and you will walk free of condemnation, and free of the demands of the flesh.  This is Jesus’ promise that gives life and peace.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Outbreak!" - My Article in the Southside Messenger

Spirit & Truth # 285
By Greg Smith

            In the 1995 movie Outbreak, a 100%-fatal virus sweeps through the Motaba River Valley in Zaire, threatening the entire country’s population.  The government’s solution—firebomb the valley, killing everything and everyone infected.  Years later, a monkey is transported to the United States, carrying the same deadly virus.  The question is whether a team of scientists can stop the outbreak’s spread before it goes nationwide.  It’s an intriguing fiction, though since the movie first broke out in 1995 there has been even more talk of pandemics and germ warfare.  No matter the fiction of this film, it is certain that there really is a 100%-fatal disease that has infected us all—sin.  

            Romans 5:12 (NIV) says, “…Sin entered the world through one man, [Adam] and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”  While denominations debate the meaning of the term original sin, it is certain at least that we inherited from our forbears the tendency toward sin, and as soon as we are capable of making moral or immoral decisions, we choose to violate God’s command.  The New England Primer of 1690 put it this way:  “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”

            As surely as a deadly virus will kill, sin threatened to destroy all of humanity, but in a real-life, white-knuckle thriller of epic proportions, “…at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6,8 NIV).”  Scientists can invent an inoculation for a deadly outbreak, but patients have to take the vaccine in order to be saved from the plague.  In the same way, Jesus offers His eternal life freely to all, but you have to receive His gift for yourself.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).”  That gift comes, not by injection, but by receiving Jesus’ forgiveness and making Him Lord of your life.

            You may have been to church many times before, and heard the message of salvation before, but never received Jesus’ gift for yourself.  If you’d like to receive His inoculation and be rescued from the plague of sin, then I invite you to take the first step by praying this prayer:

            Dear Lord Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God, and that you died on the cross to save me.  You took my death upon Yourself and gave me Your eternal life.  I receive this gift of grace, and ask You to come into my life.  Thank You for forgiving my sins and providing me an eternal home in Heaven..  Guide me in all that I do, so I can grow in my relationship with You and walk in Your goodness the rest of my life.  Amen.

            If you prayed that prayer, then I suggest you begin your new life by reading your Bible and praying daily.  Find a good church where you can learn and grow.  Be baptized as a testimony of your faith, and tell others about the gift of life Jesus has given you.  And one more thing—I’d love to hear from you.  Drop me an email and tell me about the decision you’ve made for the Lord.  Now, I pray that your joy and excitement will go viral—and that Christ’s life will spread from you to your friends as you tell them your good news!

Monday, August 13, 2012

"The Bridge" - My Article in the Southside Messenger

Spirit & Truth # 284
“The Bridge”
By Greg Smith

            Once, there was a man who lived in a jungle village.  Nearby was a river so wide that no one could see across, and that none of his tribe had ever crossed.  Then one day on the riverbank the villager noticed something shining in the sunlight.  It had two leather straps, and between the straps a flat, round, shiny object with two hands that pointed to markings along the edges of the circle. 
            He took the odd thing to the other men in his tribe, and together they discussed its origins.  The old men told him that there were ancient legends of another tribe that lived across the river.  That tribe made many strange and marvelous things that they didn’t have on this side of the river.  But, the elders told him, the river was too wide to cross.  This object he had found must have gotten across by accident somehow, and it was best forgotten.
            The man did not sleep that night, but lay awake, thinking of a way to cross the river.  He couldn’t canoe across, because he knew he might lose sight of the shore and get lost.  He couldn’t travel upstream and ford the river at a narrow point, because the village elders said he could travel for weeks, and the river would never get any narrower.  So the man fell asleep trying to solve his problem.  Then, in a dream, he saw a long bridge stretching all the way across the river. 
            Before the sun rose, the man got up and began assembling materials for his bridge.  Full of confidence, he began to build.  Tirelessly he worked, and day after day the people mocked his attempt.  The bridge grew so long that eventually he could no longer see the banks of the river near his home.  Then one day, his wife walked out on the bridge to bring him his food, and he was gone!  She returned to the village weeping, because she assumed her husband had fallen into the river and drowned. 
            Days passed, and the villagers gave up all hope of seeing their friend again.  Then one morning the man’s daughters looked and saw their daddy returning to them.  He was walking back to the village upon the bridge, accompanied by a crowd of strange looking people in foreign dress, bearing wonderful gifts for the villagers.  “Daddy!  Daddy!” they cried as they ran to him.  “Tell us where you’ve been!”
            The father gathered his girls up in his arms and kissed them.  “I’d come to the end of my bridge,” he told them.  “And my materials were all gone.  But just when I was about to give up, they saw me with their spy-glasses, and sent a boat out to meet me.  Now, they have completed the bridge, and we all have come to you.  The wealth of the other side now can be ours, for the two have become one!”
            2 Corinthians 5:19 (NIV) says, “…God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”  This means that we who were once far away are now brought near by the blood of Christ.  You can’t build a bridge to God—you’ll reach the end of your materials every time you try.  But God reaches out to you, taking your hand and drawing you near.  Only Jesus, the Master Carpenter, can complete the bridge that brings reconciliation.  Only Jesus can bring you peace.  I hope you’ll take His hand today.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Trinity of Love--God the Holy Spirit

Spirit & Truth
“The Trinity of Love - God the Holy Spirit”
By Rev. Greg Smith
Approx. 560 words
© 2012

Recently I read about Gordon Brownville's Symbols of the Holy Spirit, which tells about

“the great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first to discover the magnetic meridian of the North Pole and to discover the South Pole. On one of his trips, Amundsen took a homing pigeon with him. When he had finally reached the top of the world, he opened the bird's cage and set it free. Imagine the delight of Amundsen's wife, back in Norway, when she looked up from the doorway of her home and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above. No doubt she exclaimed, "He's alive! My husband is still alive!"

So it was when Jesus ascended. He was gone, but the disciples clung to his promise to send them the Holy Spirit. What joy, then, when the dovelike Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. The disciples had with them the continual reminder that Jesus was alive and victorious at the right of the Father. This continues to be the Spirit's message.”#

Jesus knew He would soon be taken from His disciples, and He wanted to reassure them that they would not be left alone.  In John 16:17 (The Message), Jesus says, “If I don't leave, the Friend won't come. But if I go, I'll send him to you.”  This word “Friend” is found in other translations as “Counselor,” “Helper,” and “Advocate.”  The Greek word, Parakletos, means someone who comes alongside of you, and can make a good call for you because He knows you so well.  This is the Holy Spirit who lives in every believer--your Friend who helps at all times.

    Jesus says in verses 13-14 (MSG), “But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won't draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen and, indeed, out of all that I have done and said. He will honor me; he will take from me and deliver it to you.”  The Spirit’s job is not to glorify Himself, or to be glorified by worshippers.  The Spirit’s job is point to Jesus, like a spotlight that doesn’t want to be seen but wants to illuminate something else.  Churches and ministries that exalt the Holy Spirit above the other persons of the Godhead need to reevaluate their priorities, because the Spirit is shy--pointing to Jesus rather than pointing to Himself.

    Some other works of the Spirit are: revealing God’s will (2 Peter 1:21); indwelling the believer (1 Corinthians 3:17; Romans 8:8-9); transforming the believer (2 Corinthians 3:18); producing spiritual fruit within the Christian (Ephesians 5:22-24); granting spiritual gifts to believers for the upbuilding of the church (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12); and sending Christians on mission for Jesus (Acts 1:8).  

    Is your faith life dry and lifeless?  You need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Do you have a difficult time understanding your Bible?  You need the Holy Spirit to illuminate your heart.  Do you lack energy for your daily Christian walk?  Let the Holy Spirit give you His power.  John 6:36 and 2 Corinthians 3:6 both say that “The Spirit gives life.”  I invite you to walk in His life today.