This Week’s Sermon By Dennis Davidson; God’s Hidden Treasure

This Day's Thought

 

God‘s Hidden Treasure

By Dennis Davidson

Colossians 2:1-2:5

A British TREASURE HUNTER discovered a huge stash of Roman coins buried in a field in southwest England. Using a metal detector, Dave Crisp located a large pot holding 52,000 coins. These ancient silver and bronze coins dated from the third century AD weigh more than 350 pounds. They were valued at $5 million.

While Crisp’s treasure may cause us to dream about somehow finding similar riches, we as Christians should be on a different kind of treasure hunt. What we seek does not consist of silver and gold. Rather our quest is to gather the precious gems or wealth that comes from a full knowledge of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3).

The Bible is God’s Word to the world. It is God’s treasure chest. If we are to find God’s treasure we must find Jesus. The surest place to find Jesus is in the Bible. As we get to know Jesus we discover the hidden treasure of God. If we truly are to get to know Jesus we must be immersed in His Word, and be led His Spirit.

God’s truths must be sought earnestly with all the attention of someone seeking hidden treasure. The psalmist said, “I rejoice at Your Word as one who finds great treasure” (Ps. 119:162). Are you eager to discover the treasures of truth stored in God’s Word? Then lets start digging into the treasure chest of God’s eternal Word!

Our text contains a warning against the subtle mixing of Christian thought with the false philosophies of the world. Knowledge is not the answer to meaning in life. Jesus is. We do not think our way through to reality. We find truth and reality in Jesus Christ. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is foundational for the Christian life.
I. GOD’S MYSTERY, 1-2.
II. GOD’S TREASURE, 3.
III. GOD’S STABILIZING, 4-5.
We Christians are the channel through which the presence and power of the indwelling Christ flows into the life of others and into the world. This happens in two ways: through our prayers and our presence. Verse 1 elaborates the importance of intercessor prayer. “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face,”
The Greek word translated “conflict” or struggle in verse 1 is agôna, from which we get our word “agony”(struggling; 1:29; 4:12). It denotes strenuous activity, here indicating deep and earnest intercession. The spiritual powers that Paul wrestled to keep the work from defeat were real and resolved therefore he had to come against them with the power of prayer. He was strenuously exerting himself in prolonged, penetrating intercession and attentive receptive listening for God’s answer concerning what he should be praying.

Paul’s labor of love was not limited to those he personally knew; it extended to those who had not met him personally. He might be confined in a roman prison, but his love and prayers were not confide in a small, selfish, dark heart.
In verse 2 we have the stated purpose of Paul’s intercession. He agonize in prayer that the church would be knit together in their love for Jesus Christ and each other. “that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the riches that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,”
Though Paul could not be with them he could still minister to them by prayer and by the written word. He prays that the Colossians will be “encouraged,” that they will be “knit together in love,” that they will experience the “assurance of understanding.” Who needs our intercession to these ends?

Love is what united this congregation. It was what encouraged them to oppose those leading them astray. This unifying love for Christ gave them confidence and strength of conviction that yielded a fuller understanding of the truth. Do you realize that there is no full knowledge apart from commitment to Christ? Complete understanding results from complete yielding.

Understanding or insight (syneseôs) refers to applying biblical principles to everyday life. Only Christians can live a life based on true understanding because “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Cor. 2:14). Because “those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh” (Rom. 8:5), they are “darkened in their understanding” (Eph. 4:18).

When the believer begins to live in light of spiritual truth, it becomes truly understood and leads to assurance of his or her faith. Here the New Testament concludes that knowing the truth and acting on it leads to full assurance of understanding.

[People often express doubts about their salvation, even though they have been to church regularly. Their primary problem is not a lack of knowledge, but a failure to apply the truths they know. Truth that finds solid footing in a strong heart and works itself out to fellow believers in love results in deep conviction. That is the basis for assurance. [MacArthur, NT Com. Colossians. 90.]]

This rich understanding is Christ centered. For Christ, is the mystery of God, who reveals God to man (John 1:18; Heb. 1:2-3). Knowledge is not the answer to meaning in life. Jesus is. We do not think our way through to reality. We find truth and reality in Jesus Christ. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is foundational for the Christian life. And true insight into God’s ways enables believers to know (epignôsin) Christ fully.

The Bible say that we find our completeness in Christ. If you possess Him, then you are completed or fulfilled by being possessed by Him. Having Him, you have all you need. We are called upon to appropriate God’s fullness for ourselves by yielding ourselves to the indwelling Christ.
II. GOD’S TREASURE, 3.
The supreme reality of God is revealed in Jesus Christ in whom are all the treasures of existence both now and eternal. Verse 3 is the bottom line. “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
True treasure, eternal treasure, is found only in Christ. The word “treasure” is the Greek word “thesauros,” from which we get our word thesaurus which refers to a treasury of words. In the original the word referred to a treasure chest or storehouse where a great treasure was kept.

Spiritual truth is often hidden. The treasure of the kingdom is unrecognized, unknown, and walked over by millions of people. People can be standing close to it and not know it’s there. While those who follow Christ know how valuable a relationship with Him is, most of the world has no clue. The bulk of unbelievers are caught up in other pursuits, oblivious to the true treasure that could be theirs. If you’re serious about spiritual matters, you must be willing to go below the surface.

I want to help you to discover the treasure that you have in the Lord Jesus Christ. Many years ago, the SPANISH ARMADA was sailing off the coast of Florida. A hurricane struck, and those ships that were laden with millions of dollars in gold and silver ingots went to the bottom, in shallow water. People knew the treasure had been lost, but they didn’t know where the ships had gone down. One ship went down near Vero Beach, in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Many have been in that water there by the Sebastian Inlet. Many have been in that water, swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, spear fishing right around that area but didn’t come up with any millions. They didn’t come up with any silver or any gold. Many ships have been there in shallow water. Fisherman, doubtless, fished over that spot. They would hang a hook, perhaps, on a lump of gold, and curse their luck, because they had hung a hook down beneath the water on something they could not see.

Then one day, some explorers decided, “The ship must be here.” They went out, and they made the surveys; they tested, and they went under. And, there it was, in shallow water-so shallow that any of us who could swim normally could have gone to the bottom. They brought up millions of dollars. There it was, but they didn’t know it was there.

I believe that many of us are yet to discover the full treasure we have in Jesus Christ. Oh, dear friend, in Him-in Jesus Christ-“are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Think of that-all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And it’s all in Jesus. [Illustration by Adrian Rodgers]

For in Him are hidden (Col. 1:26) all the treasures of wisdom (sophia, 1:9) and knowledge. Knowledge is the apprehension of truth; wisdom is its application to life. Knowledge is the data of truth, whereas wisdom is the ability to apply what truth has been learned. Both are found in Christ (Rom. 11:33; 1 Cor. 12:8) [whose wisdom is foolishness to the world (1 Cor. 1:21-25), but who is the power of God by which a believer receives “righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30)].

Now, how can those treasures be yours? Neither knowledge or wisdom is not the answer to meaning in life. Jesus is. We do not think our way through to reality. We find truth and reality in Jesus Christ. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the foundation for the Christian life is where knowledge and wisdom begin.

All wisdom, all knowledge is in-not from-Jesus. Whoever desires wisdom to navigate life successfully must come to the realization that there is nothing more, nothing less, nothing else than Jesus. All treasures of wisdom are in Him.

[It is vitally important to understand Christ’s deity. No person can be a Christian at all without this true knowledge of Jesus Christ as the incarnate God. Yet so many Christians who affirm the deity of Christ live as if He were not the One in whom all spiritual sufficiency resides.

Jesus is the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He alone is sufficient. [Hidden is from apokruphos, from which we get our English word apocrypha. It was used by the false leaders to refer to the writings containing their secret knowledge. But] there is no hidden spiritual knowledge needed for salvation and sanctification outside of Christ. These treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ are hidden from all but maturing Christians.]

[Because Christ is sufficient, there is no need for the writings of any cult, philosophy, or psychology to supplement the Bible. He is the source of all true spiritual knowledge. That knowledge is also crucial to assurance because doubts about Christ’s sufficiency bring doubts about His ability to do what He promised.]
The story is told that one day WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST was looking through a book of famous artwork when a painting caught his eye. “I want this painting for my collection,” he said to his aides. But after making some inquiries, they reported that they were unable to locate the particular work.
“If you value your jobs,” Hearst said, “do whatever it takes to find that treasure, and secure it for me immediately.”

Three and a half months later, the aides returned to Hearst. “Did you find the treasure?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied. “After much searching and painstaking research, we found it.”
“Did you purchase it?” he asked.
“No.”
“Why not?” Hearst asked.
“Because we found it in your warehouse.”

If you have Christ you already have all the wisdom and knowledge you will ever need to live life successfully. For it’s all in Christ. When you got Him, you got it all. So stop searching the world for what you already have in Christ.
Most of the problems we face and about which we pray for other are related to a lack of understanding of Christ -what He did, what it means for us, and what is available to us through Him. Everything you need or should want are offered to us in Christ. They are in Christ, but they are hidden in Christ from the eyes of natural man. Do you see them? Or are they and their eternal worth hidden from you?

[The treasures of truth in God’s Word are best mined with the spade of meditation. If we read the Word of God hurriedly or carelessly, we will miss its deep insights.]
III. GOD’S STABILIZING, 4-5.
Verse 4 is a warning against the subtle mixing of Christian thought with the false philosophies of the world. “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.
Only this full knowledge and wisdom of Christ can keep a believer from being deceived by fine-sounding arguments [pithanologia, occurring only here in NT, is lit. “persuasive speech” that uses plausible but false arguments]. Truth and persuasion do not always correlate. Error can persuade, and truth can be uncompelling at times. It all depends on whether one has the full truth and a complete commitment to it. [Walvoord, John; Zuck, Roy; The Bible Knowledge Commentary.Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983, S. 676]

Why is this understanding so important? Because it is the only way to keep from being sucked into “enticing words,” cults, and other dead-end pursuits of pseudo-spirituality. That’s what was happening in Colosse. People were coming on the scene, saying, “What Paul is preaching is fine, but there’s much more.”

“No,” Paul says. “Be steadfast in your pursue of Christ. All of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.”

Karl Valletin of Munich, Germany, was a master among that rare group of PERFORMING ARTISTS we call clowns. The scene for which he is best remembered took place on a darkened stage illumined only by a solitary circle of light thrown by a street lamp. Valletin, with long-drawn face and deeply worried expression, walks around and around this circle of light, desperately looking for something. A policeman enters the scene and asks, “What have you lost?” “The key to my house,” replies the clown. The policeman then joins the search, but they find nothing. After a while the policeman inquires, “Are you sure that you lost it here?” “No,” says the clown, pointing to a dark corner of the stage, “over there.” “Then why on earth are you looking for it here?” asks the policeman. The reply, “There is no light over there.”

Valletin’s performance is a picture of the snare in which we become entangled. We go to whatever promise of light is available. Not unlike the Colossians, we respond to explanations that appeal to rational thought, to offers of insight that put us and our efforts in the center, to any philosophy that puts us at the center of the mystery. So Paul warned: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (v. 8).

Our present generation is inundated, especially through the persuasive medium of television, with offers to fill our emptiness-from toothpaste and deodorants to where we live and what cars to drive. All of this media manipulation is an expression of overarching philosophies that attempt to offer us meaning. One is hedonism-anything that feels good must be good, so “if it feels good do it.” It is seen in the self-realization philosophy which says that “I am number one,” and in the philosophy of materialism that reduces us to consumers and producers or what we are is what we acquire, and our worth is in our productivity. Then there is astrology, scientific determinism, situational ethics, multiculturalism, values education, moral relativism [voided moral boundaries], escapism, and it goes on and on.

There is no need to look beyond Christ. There is no purpose in pursuing other systems of thought. There is no eternal value in fine sounding arguments and the reasonings of man. There is no value in initiations, secret rites, and mysteries. In Christ is all God’s wisdom and knowledge.

In verse 5 Paul rejoices that the believers are standing firm in their faith in Christ. “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.”
Even though Paul was absent from the Colossians, he delighted in how orderly (1 Cor. 14:40) and how firm (steadfast, solid, stable) was their faith in Christ. Like a well disciplined band of soldiers they were growing strong and wise in their faith. They did so through an unshaken reliance on Christ.

Deception has always been part of MILITARY STRATEGY. The British put it to good use during World War II in North Africa against German forces led by General Erwin Rommel.

The Brits constructed pasteboard look-a-likes of tanks and airplanes to deceive the Germans. From the air this fake equipment looked real enough to fool reconnaissance personnel, and it could he easily moved.
Satan, whom Jesus referred to as “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 16:11), is a master deceiver. He was the driving force behind the false leaders who were trying to persuade the Colossians to accept deception as truth.
Followers of Christ today are in a similar battle. How do we defend ourselves against deceivers? Paul used military terms in his comments to the Colossians that can help us to know what to do. First, he commended them for their “good order” which refers to being battle-ready, disciplined soldiers. Second, he spoke of the “steadfastness” of their faith in Christ, which refers to as having a solid front. They had an unshaken commitment to their Lord and to advancing His kingdom.

Don’t be fooled by Satan’s lies. Know the truth of God’s Word, and be battle ready through a disciplined life and an unswerving commitment to Jesus Christ. God’s truth is the best protection against Satan’s lies.
[Ever try to lose weight or get in better shape? Dumb question. Most guys want a fitter physique. Many of us have even purchased some sort of workout equipment. Sales for the home fitness industry totaled $4.3 billion in 2008. But now most of those treadmills and weight machines gather dust.

While a majority of guys fail, some accomplish their goal of body transformation. Their not-so-secret tip for success: Get a workout partner-somebody committed to giving encouragement and getting stronger together.

The same principle works in building spiritual muscle. Many men want to become more Christlike. We join a church but slip into the service on Sunday morning and slip out when it’s over. We don’t connect and don’t experience significant life change. What we need is a spiritual workout partner. Even better might be a group of Christians with similar goals and interests. Paul writes in Colossians 2:2, “I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding.” Believers have always grown stronger in small groups. Small groups provide a place to firm up our faith where we can question, share struggles, build friendships, and help each other through life’s journey.]
CONCLUSION
In this section Paul contends that the mystery of life is in a person, not in philosophy. His argument is against all those who would “deceive you with persuasive words” (v. 4). The mystery of life is in the person of Jesus Christ. True treasure, eternal treasure, is found only in Christ.

The story is told that in the days of the ROMAN EMPIRE, a certain wealthy senator became estranged from his son. When he died unexpectedly, his will was opened. “Because my son does not appreciate what I’ve done, I leave all of my worldly possessions to my loyal slave, Marcellus,” the will read. “However, because I am a man of grace, I bequeath to my son one of my possessions of his choosing.”

“Sorry,” said the testator to the son. “You can only take one of your dad’s possessions. Which will it be?”
“I take Marcellus,” said the son.

Brilliant! That’s the idea. When you take Jesus Christ, you get all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. When you open your heart to Him, you find everything you need. It’s all in Him.

Why don’t you wise up today and take Jesus to be your only and all-sufficient Lord and Savior?

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This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Being Transformed – Part 2

(Each Sunday, This Day’s Thought is blessed to share Eric Elder’s sermons from his wonderful ministry, “The Ranch“)
The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration
Being Transformed – Part 2

Lesson 27 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder

 

Last week we looked at three ways to renew your mind by taking control of the amount and types of media that you consume, from TV and movies to books, magazines, newspapers and blogs. This week, we’re going to look at three more ways to renew your mind and all three have to do with increasing how much you consume of something else in your life: God’s Word, the Bible.

For if I had to give you just one idea for how to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” that far surpasses any other, it would be this: to get as much of God’s Word into your mind as you can, as often as you can, and with as much understanding as you can.
When you do this, your mind will be renewed and your life will be transformed, just as the apostle Paul encouraged the Romans to do in his day when he said:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2a).
So today, I’d like to give you three ways to get more of God’s Word into your mind: 1) read God‘s Word, 2) memorize God’s Word, and 3) study God’s Word.

First, I want to encourage you to read God’s Word, and read it often.

Whether you read just one verse a day, one chapter a day, or ten chapters a day, if you keep filling your mind with God’s Word, you’ll find that your mind is renewed on a regular basis.
If you want to live the life that God wants you to live, then you’ll need more than just physical food to keep you going. As Jesus said:
“Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
God wants you to have spiritual food as much as physical food, and a steady diet of it. The good news is that if you’re on a diet of God’s Word, there’s no limit to how much you can eat! You can feast on God’s Word as much as you want, as often as you want! You can never have too much of God’s Word!
Yet some people are famished in their spiritual lives because it’s been so long since they’ve had any spiritual sustenance at all. Don’t let this happen to you! If you don’t have a copy of God’s Word in a language that’s easy for you to read and digest, then I’d encourage you to get one soon. There are also many websites that contain the entire Bible online for free. The website I use most often is called “The Bible Gateway,” which contains the entire Bible in over 100 versions and 50 languages.
I’d also encourage you to have a plan in mind for how you want to read the Bible, whether you start at the beginning and read the whole thing from cover to cover, or whether you pick a plan that includes selected readings from various books of the Bible. One website that has several plans for reading the Bible is called YouVersion. If you go to their home page, you’ll find a variety of reading plans to fit your interest. You can print them off and check them yourself, or have the system highlight a passage or send it to you by email each day.
I’ve done many plans over the years, both online and on paper, and I’ve liked each of them for different reasons. My first time through, I just read my Bible straight through in a year, reading 3-4 chapters a day, starting with Genesis and finishing with Revelation. At other times, I’ve alternated my readings between chapters in the Old and New Testaments, plus a reading from the Psalms or Proverbs every day. And at other times, I’ve taken my time and read as thoroughly as possible, taking three years to read through the entire thing.
Currently, I’m going through a plan that my daughter tried last year and loved which takes you through the entire Bible in 90 days, called a B90X. Since it takes a person reading an average speed about 90 hours to read through the entire Bible, this plans takes about an hour a day for 90 days. If you read half an hour a day, it’ll take about 6 months; 15 minutes a day, and it’ll take about a year. I’m actually doing this 90 day plan by listening to the Bible for an hour each day on on my phone, using an app from the YouVersion website. While I’m not able to get through a full hour every day, I’m hopeful that at least I’ll finish sometime this year if I just keep going!
But whatever way you do it, just be sure to do it. Read God’s Word over and over, and you’ll find yourself transforming as you do.
Second, I want to encourage you to memorize God’s Word. 
Don’t think that you can’t memorize it, because you can! Here’s a surprisingly easy way to memorize even whole chapters at a time. If you’ll read the same passage of the Bible out loud every day for thirty days, you’ll be surprised to find out that you’ve actually memorized it by the end of the month, if not before, without even trying to memorize it.
My wife has done this with our kids, for instance, reading Psalm 139 to them every day, sometimes once or twice or three times a day. Amazingly, the kids all knew the whole chapter word for word within just two weeks, and all they did was listen to it being read to them. And of course, my wife was able to pick it up at the same time, too.

You might also want to try writing out a verse or two on a small card and carrying it with you wherever you go. Then you can pull out the card whenever you’re waiting in line, or taking a walk, or riding in a bus or train or car, reading it over and over until you’ve gotten it stored away in your mind. You’ll be amazed at how God can speak to you through through one or two verses even while you’re memorizing it, and how it will come back to your mind at a later time, when you particularly need it. Some people try to memorize the chapter and verse numbers along with the passages so they can easily find them later on, while other people just focus on the words themselves. Either way, the important thing is to “hide God’s Word in your heart,” as the Bible says:
“I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
If you’d like a list of some great verses to memorize, I’ve posted a list on my website called “The Top 100 Verses in the Bible.” This is a list that you can read, print out, or write on note cards for yourself. It’s free, and you can get it by just clicking the link: Top 100 Verses
So my second recommendation is to memorize the Bible, so you can recall it to mind whenever it’s needed.
Third, I want to encourage you to study God’s Word. 
While you can get so much from reading the Bible just as it’s written, you can get even more out of it when you study it in-depth, whether on your own or in along with others.
Even some of the people mentioned in the Bible have found it useful to have others help explain to them what it means. When a man from Ethiopia was reading the book of Isaiah, Philip saw him and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man from Ethiopia replied:
“How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:31).
So Philip stopped and explained the passage to the man. The man was so moved by what he learned, that he put his faith in Christ on the spot, and asked Philip to baptize him in some water nearby.
There’s a reason we have pastors and teachers, authors and speakers. They’ve often spent a fair amount of time studying the Bible themselves, plumbing it’s depths and testing it out in the face of the reality of life. By learning from their wisdom, you’ll be able to see some of the precious jewels that they’ve already discovered, and you’ll be better able to apply them to your life as well. Or, as Isaac Newton famously said:
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
When you take the time to learn from those who have gone before you, you can stand “on the shoulders of giants” too, seeing what they’ve seen and then going further yourself. I’d also recommend not just reading what others have said about the Bible, but talking to others, too. As God said to the Israelites when He gave them His commands:
“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8).
There’s so much to learn from others that I hope you’ll make use of the wealth of knowledge that is contained within the books and people around you. Spend some time at your local Christian bookstore, if you have one nearby, or browse for books that might be of interest on websites like http://www.christianbook.com. I’ve also written several devotional books to encourage people to read their Bibles, some of which include study questions at the end of each chapter that you can use for personal reflection or small group discussion, like the questions I’ve included at end of this message today.

If you’d like any of my books, you can get them anytime from InspiringBooks.com, or I’d be glad to send you a copy of one of my books directly for a donation of any size to our ministry. Just use the links at the end of this message to pick out one you’d like.

I believe that the Bible is so important to life that I’ve never written a single devotional without basing it on at least one, or usually several, passages of scripture from the Bible. I know that the most important things I could ever tell you are already contained in the words of the Bible. The rest of what I have to say simply highlights or underscores what I’ve already discovered in God’s Word.
In conclusion, I want to encourage you to read God’s Word, memorize God’s Word, and study God’s Word. 
When you do this, you’ll find that it’s the best possible way to renew your mind, to transform your life, and to discover God’s will for your life. As the Apostle Paul said:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for giving us Your Word, and for those who have preserved it and translated it and helped us to understand it throughout the generations. Help us to read Your Word on a regular basis, to hide it in our heart when we can, and to study it alone and with others so we can learn as much as is humanly possible. Lord, help us to renew our minds and transform our lives as we do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. As I mentioned above, I’d be glad to send you one of my devotional books to help you study the Bible on your own or with a small group. While you can order them anytime from http://www.inspiringbooks.com, I’d be glad to send you one directly for a donation of any size to our ministry. Just click the link below and you’ll be able to make a donation and pick a copy of any of my books as our way of saying thanks. Your gifts really do help us as we reach out to others all over the world, and we’re glad to send you a gift in return! Thanks so much!
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Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 12:1-2. What are some ways that reading the Bible has helped you to renew your mind? And in what ways has renewing your mind helped in transforming your life?
2. Have you ever read the entire Bible from cover to cover? If so, how has that helped you in your life? If not, in what ways do you think it might help you? Are there any goals you have in mind for reading God’s Word this year?
3. What advantage do you think there might be to memorizing verses or passages from the Bible, compared to just reading it? Would you like to try to memorizing some more passages of Scripture again this year? Remember, here’s a link to the Top 100 verses in the Bible if you’d like some ideas of where to start: Top 100 Verses
4. What value have you gotten from reading other books about the Bible? What value have you gotten from talking to others about the Bible? Are there any steps you’d like to take this year towards studying God’s Word more in depth, whether on your own or with others?

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This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch: Correcting Misperceptions

Correcting Misperceptions

Lesson 25 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
The Ranch

The way we perceive things isn’t always the way they are.  Yet those misperceptions can persist for years, causing us to miss the truth of what God might be trying to say to us.  But God has a way of bringing the truth into our lives, if we’re open to it, in a way that can renew our minds and change our perspective on everything.

 

I had an email from a woman who wondered if Jesus could possibly love her–not because of something she had done, but because of who she was:  a Jew.  She had always been told that Jesus doesn’t love Jews.  Yet after reading some of the stories on my website, she was confronted with a new truth.  Was is possible that Jesus might love a Jew?

 

I don’t want to betray her confidence, but I would like to share a portion of her heartfelt letter with you because I feel that her words express something that we all wonder about at times:  whether God really loves us or not, too.  Here’s part of what she said in her letter.  How would you answer her?

 

I was sent your site by accident, and have been reading the stories.  The more I read the more questions I have.  I’ve never seen Jesus portrayed as this site does.  I should tell you that I’m Jewish and I believe in the one true G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

 

I’ve read some the stories on your site and have to wonder how they could be true, but I can’t stop reading them either, something just feels right about them.  My heritage has ingrained in me that Jesus isn’t for my people.  I can’t explain why, but I find some of the stories making me cry and I’m not one that cries easily.  It doesn’t make sense.  I don’t even know why I’m writing.  I’m just really confused.  How can this G-d of yours, be the G-d I’ve grown up with?  Would Jesus love someone who hasn’t been faithfully reading the Torah for a long time? 

 

I’m sorry, I know this doesn’t make any sense, and I’ve always been told that Jesus doesn’t love Jews.  But after reading some of the stories I just don’t know what to believe.  Is it possible he might love a Jew?

 

How would you answer a letter like that?  Could you find enough evidence in the Bible to show that Jesus really did love this woman?  And even if you could, how could you convey it to her in a way that she would believe it?

 

As for me, I shared with her that I could understand why she might wonder if Jesus loved the Jews.  But the truth is that Jesus was a Jew.  His own twelve disciples were Jewish.  And the whole New Testament-which talks about Jesus-was written by Jews.

Jesus Himself never left the land of Israel to go to any other nation, except for a brief time as a child when His parents took Him to Egypt to avoid being killed by King Herod.

 

Does Jesus love the Jews?  Absolutely!  But sometimes it’s hard to see the truth through all of the misperceptions that we’ve been taught or believed for so many years.

 

The Apostle Paul faced similar misperceptions among the people that he ministered to as well.  Some of them believed that God had finally given up on the Jews, because Paul and others were now taking the gospel to the Gentiles.

 

But nothing could have been further from the truth.  In Romans 11, Paul said:

 

“I ask then: Did God reject His people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah-how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace” (Romans 11:1-5).

 

God’s heart still beat with love for the Jews, and the Apostle Paul was one of many of them.  Paul  himself regularly preached and ministered in the Jewish synagogues first whenever he arrived at a new town, just as Jesus did (see Matthew 4:26, 9:35, 12:9, 13:54, Acts 14:1, 17:2, 18:4, 18:19, 19:8).

 

But Paul, like Jesus, faced a fair amount of opposition in the synagogues, and when they were thrown out of them, they took their message just as zealously to the Gentiles in those areas.  After several years of this, it seems that some of the Gentiles began to think of themselves more highly than the Jews around them.  But Paul gave them this warning:

 

“I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

 

“If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.’ Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either” (Romans 11:13-21).

 

Paul wisely warns the Romans not to be arrogant about God’s love for them, but to remember that they were grafted into the root because of their faith, and to stand firm in that faith to the end.

 

We all have misperceptions at times.  Whether we’re Jewish and questioning God’s love for us, or whether we’re Gentiles and becoming arrogant about His love for us.  In either case, God wants to bring His truth into our lives and clear up any misperceptions we might have.  He wants us to know that He loves us deeply, and to respond to that love in faith.

 

I was talking recently to a father and his college-age son who felt a barrier had grown up between them.  The father seemed to feel the son wasn’t interested in a relationship with him because of some of the things that had passed between them, and the son felt that his father was no longer interested in a relationship with him because of the distance that he felt.

 

During our talk, the father said that not a day went by when he didn’t think about his son, and the son said that he wished he could find ways to spend more meaningful time with his father.  Yet these thoughts had gone unspoken for so long that both of them felt the other no longer loved or cared about the other.  It was only when the Holy Spirit brought out these deep truths through their conversation that they realized that they both eagerly wanted their relationship to be restored, but didn’t know how to express it.  Tears flowed as they prayed together, having come face to face with the truth.  I pray they’re on a new path in their relationship with one another.

 

I also pray for the Jewish woman who wrote to me, that God would continue to speak His truth into her life, and help her to respond to that truth in faith.  I know He can do it, for He has done it for me and for many, many other people throughout history.  I believe He can do it for you, too.

 

At the end of Romans, chapter 11, Paul breaks out into one of the most beautiful doxologies in the Bible-an eruption of praise to God:

 

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! 

   How unsearchable His judgments,  
   and His paths beyond tracing out!  
‘Who has known the mind of the Lord?  
   Or who has been His counselor?’ 
‘Who has ever given to God,  
   that God should repay Him?’ 
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  
   To Him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).

 

 

If you need some of God’s deep wisdom and knowledge in your life this week, I’d encourage you to call out to Him and ask Him to reveal more of His truth to you.  Ask Him to correct any misperceptions you may have about Him, or about your relationships with those around you.  Ask Him to guide you and direct you and point you in the direction He wants you to go, trusting that He will always lead you along a path that is absolutely the best for you.

 

Then, when He reveals His wisdom to you, I pray you’ll respond to it in faith, taking the steps that He wants you to take.  When you do, I hope you’ll find yourself like Paul, erupting in praise and saying:

 

“Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  … To Him be the glory forever!  Amen.”

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Father, thank You for reminding us that we don’t always have the fullness of Your truth, but that if we come to You, You can pour it out on us in abundance.  Lord, reveal Your truth to us this week so we can clear up any misperceptions we have about You and about those around us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

P.S.  I’ve begun a new prayer team for our ministry in recent weeks, and would love for you to join it if you’d like to pray for us on a regular basis.  While it may seem self-serving to ask others to pray for us, it’s actually just the opposite!  By having you pray for us, we’ll be able to reach out farther and do more than ever before!  We all benefit when we pray for each other.  If you’d like to be on our prayer team and receive an update of our prayers and praises every month or so, just send me a note at eric@theranch.org.  Thanks so much!

 

Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 11:1-32.  In verses 13 and 14, what does Paul say is one of the benefits he hopes will result from his ministry to the Gentiles?
2. What would you say to someone who’s Jewish who wonders if Jesus might possibly love them?
3. In verses 17-21, what reason does Paul give for why some branches were broken off, and why others were grafted in?
4. What misperceptions might you have, whether about God’s love for you or about your relationships with others, that God might want to correct?  Call out to Him this week and ask Him to reveal His truth to you.

 

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind,please visit:
The Romans Study

 

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This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Knowing That In ALL Things God Works For Your Good

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.”)


The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration


Knowing That In ALL Things God Works For Your Good

Lesson 19 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
www.theranch.org

I want to encourage you today that God is working for your good in ALL situations that you’re facing, if you love Him and are called according to His purpose.  He really is FOR you, and even in those things that seem hardest, you can trust that He can work even in those things for your good.

I’ve been reading the book Pollyanna this week to my kids.  The book was written back in 1913 about an eleven year old girl whose contagious optimism transformed an entire town.  If you’ve ever heard someone described as a “pollyanna,” it’s a term that came from this book. 

But as I read the book this week again, I realized that for all her optimism, Pollyanna was in no way a naive little girl who was ignorant about the real pain that people face in life.  Her profound optimism wasn’t the result of ignorance, it was the way she was able to keep sane and healthy in spite of severe losses she faced.  Born on the mission field, Pollyanna lost her mother when she was young, and lost her father when she was eleven.  She was sent to live with her severely stern and strict aunt on the East Coast, where she often had to fight back tears at the unfair treatment she received.  

Yet with all the bad that was thrown at her, Pollyanna chose to train her mind to try to see the good in life, believing that there was always something she could be glad about.  It was something she learned from her father when she was on the mission field.  He called it the “glad game.” 

In talking about the game to a woman named Nancy, Pollyanna said:

“We began it when some crutches came in a missionary barrel.  You see, I’d wanted a doll.  But when the barrel came the lady wrote that no dolls came in, just the little crutches.  So she sent ’em along.  The game was to find something about everything to be glad about, no matter what.  We began right then—on the crutches.”

Nancy said, “I can’t see anythin’ to be glad about–gettin’ a pair of crutches when you wanted a doll.”

“There is— there is,” Pollyanna crowed.  “I couldn’t see it either at first.  Father had to tell it to me.  You just be glad because you don’t—need—’em!  You see, it’s easy when you know how!  Only sometimes it’s almost too hard, like when your father goes to Heaven” (from Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter).

Rather than being naive about life, it was Pollyanna’s disappointments in life that helped her to see things in a whole new light.  She went on playing the “glad game” in her new town, helping the people see that no matter what they faced in life, there was always something to be glad about.  Without giving away too much of the story, Pollyanna even found a way to be thankful when she had to use crutches by the end of the book.

In a similar way, the Apostle Paul is known for saying some of the most optimistic things in his letters in the New Testament.  For instance, in his letter to the Philippians he wrote:  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!”  

Some people might think, “Sure, that’s easy for Paul to say, as he was one of the most highly educated and influential people in the early church.”  But the truth is, Paul saw more suffering in his lifetime than most of us would ever see in ten or twelve lifetimes, if we were able to live that many.  Paul wrote:

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 23b-30).

Yet in spite of all this, Paul was still able to encourage people to “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.”  In his letter to the Romans, Paul explained why we can rejoice always.  He wrote:

“And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, emphasis added).

I have quoted this verse more often—to myself and to others—than perhaps any other verse in the Bible.  It’s a statement that I’ve tested for myself and found to be true over and over again.  It’s not just a “pollyanna” way of looking at the world.  It’s a truth that God has given us to hold onto tightly, knowing that no matter how things look in the situations that we’re facing, we can trust Him to work in those situations for our good, if we’re willing to trust them to Him.

But like Pollyanna in the book, there are times when finding the good in a situation seems like a daunting task.  But rather than running away from such tasks, Pollyanna relished them.  At one point, a sick and bedridden woman challenged Pollyanna to find something in her situation that she could be glad about.  Pollyanna sprang to her feet and clapped her hands.  She said:

“Oh goody, that’ll be a hard one—won’t it?  I’ve got to go, now, but I’ll think and think all the way home.  Goodbye, I’ve had a lovely time!”  

And Pollyanna did think and think, coming up with several ideas, one of which was to encourage the woman to be glad she had her hands and arms.  That simple statement made the woman wonder why she didn’t do something with her hands and arms, so she began to knit little things for fairs and hospitals.  She became so glad to think she could do something with them.

I think people sometimes view me as being a little too “pollyanna-ish,” too, when I tell them to trust God completely in every situation that He can work it for our good.  But I’ve found that sometimes when I tell people stories of God’s faithfulness to me in my life, they often don’t realize, or take seriously when I tell them, how desperate the situations I’ve prayed through have truly been.  They only hear the outcome of the stories, knowing that somehow God turned even awful situations into something good.

I think that’s the way we sometimes read the stories in the Bible, too.  Since we already know how they end, we can sometimes gloss over how dramatic the turnarounds really were.  

For instance, when Moses and the Israelites were up against the Red Sea, with no where to turn and the chariots from Egypt pressing in, all of a sudden, God opened up the Red Sea so they could pass through on dry ground.  It was a near-death experience for them all, yet God delivered them through it.  But since it only takes a few paragraphs to read through the whole story, we don’t always get the sense of impending doom that the people must have felt.  I imagine Moses went through some serious questions for God about how God could possibly work this one out for good.  Yet God told Moses to stand firm, and he would indeed see God’s deliverance…and he did (see Exodus, chapter 14).

Or when Daniel spent the night in the lion’s den and came out alive the next day.  People may just think that Daniel found a safe place to hide or that the lion’s just weren’t that hungry.  But if you read the story closely, you’ll see that as soon as Daniel was lifted out of the lion’s den, those who had falsely accused Daniel were thrown into the den themselves, and the text says:  “before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.”  I imagine Daniel had some serious questions for God about how God could possibly work this one out for good.  Yet Daniel was extracted without even a wound on him (see Daniel, chapter 6).

When we hear stories of God’s faithfulness to others, we tend to minimize the adversity they faced, and maximize God’s faithfulness in bringing them through it.  Yet when we experience our own life-dramas, we tend to maximize the adversity we’re facing, and minimize the possibility of God’s ability of bringing us through it.

Today, I want to stir up your faith.  I want to help you see the truth that God is working for your good, if you love Him and are called according to His purpose.  I want to encourage you to keep putting your faith in Christ.  Regarding the situations you’re facing in life today, ask yourself:

“What good might God be doing through this?  What good might come out of what I’m going through right now?  What might God be doing that I can hang onto in faith, and hope for, and pray towards?  What good might God be doing on my behalf right now?”

God wants to turn your thinking around today.  He wants you to see that He really can—and does—work all things for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.

This isn’t just a “glad game” from a children’s story.  This is a truth from God, recorded in His Word, in order to help you see your life the way He sees it, full of hope and promise and significance.

God loves you and really will work for your good in ALL things, if you love Him and have been called according to His purpose.

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for showing us that there are different ways to look at the things we’re going through in life.  Help us to look at the things we’re facing and see them as You see them.  Help us to look for and to see the good that You’re working in those situations so that we can face them with courage and faith.  Help us to overcome our weakness so that we can keep putting our trust in You for everything in lives.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

InspiringBooks.comP.S.  I’ve had several people ask me this week about ordering some of my books and CD’s as gifts for the holidays.   As I’ve been sending them out to people, I thought I’d mention it to you, too, as they do make great gifts… not just because I helped create each of them, but because they inspire people in their faith in Christ.  If you’d like to take a look at each of the books and CD’s I’ve helped to create over the years, just visit the link below:
http://www.inspiringbooks.com

Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 8:28.  Having read some about Paul’s life, how might the trials Paul faced in life helped him to come to the point of believing that God really could work for his good in ALL things?
2.  If faith is like a muscle that gets stronger and stronger the more we use it, what kinds of things might God put someone through to help them grow as strong in their faith as possible?
3.  What good might God be doing in the situations you’re facing in life right now?
4.  Like Pollyanna, what can you find to be glad about in those situations?

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
The Romans Study

To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:
The Ranch Giftshop

To make a donation of to The Ranch and get a gift as our way of saying thanks, please visit:
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Covenants And Promises

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:10
The New International Version

The other day I spoke of the covenant that God made with Israel, the Jewish people, the 12 tribes, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This morning, the above verse from Isaiah 54 was on my Today’s Thought e-mail.  I immediately felt that God was affirming what I stated.

We Christians believe that you must receive Jesus as the Messiah to receive salvation.  The Jews don’t accept Him as such.  Therein lies a dilemma.  How do we reconcile the two things, God’s Old Testament covenant and the New Testament (Christian) requirement?  I was talking to my mother about this very thing last night.  She had to agree with me because, if God were to break His covenant of old, how could we believe in any covenant that followed?

We tend to look at everything in human terms since, naturally, that’s all we know.  We cannot and will never know the mind of God until we meet Him face to face.  The Bible states “His ways are not our ways…” therefore, I will not show disdain toward Judaism or the Jewish people ever.

Human beings make and break promises every day.  It’s shameful of us and I’m just as guilty of having done it (more so in the past) as anyone else.  Please don’t think that I have a “holier than thou” attitude about this.  I am just stating my own thoughts and observations for your consideration.

I know that the Christian Old Testament is not the same as the Jewish Tanakh.  It is a Christian version of it.  I did not live in the time before Christ or during His ministry.  I didn’t learn the Jewish faith in grade school.  I went to Catholic school all 12 years and graduated there.  I recently learned, again, that the Catholics have their own version of the Bible.  With all of the different denominations there are within the Christian faith, I wonder just how different each one’s Bible is.  I guess we all must decide as individuals what we will believe as the truth and try our best to follow it.  Human beings are not perfect, I know that I’m far from it, but we can at least attempt to live together in this world by the one concept that I think is in every version, both Christian and Jewish, and that is loving compassion for one another.  Just a thought…

Always remember that Jesus died for us because He loves us!

Humbly yours,
Teresa Marie