Your Blessings in Abraham: Spirit, Promise and Power (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 312

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29, NKJV).

Yesterday we saw that the giving of the Holy Spirit was the Father’s chief promise to Abraham and his descendants. Our aim today is to conclude what we started by answering the following question: Why was it necessary that God pour His Spirit on the children of Abraham? Let’s find out, starting with today’s opening Bible passage.

Note carefully what is happening in the passage. What we have is a conditional statement with a basic logical structure. The passage contains one premise and two conclusions which flow from the premise. If the condition is met, then the two conclusions will automatically execute. The condition is this: “If you are Christ’s” (i.e. if you belong to Christ). If this condition is true in your life (that you are Christ’s), then the following are necessarily true about you: “you are Abraham’s seed [descendant] and you are heir “according to the promise.” The implication is, if you are not Christ’s, then you are not Abraham’s seed. And if you are not Abraham’s seed, then you have no claim (as heir) to the blessings promised to Abraham. At this point the question we must ask is:  How does the Holy Spirit fit into all of this? Thankfully, the Bible has the answer, and it comes from the pen of the same Paul who wrote Galatians.

In Romans 8:9, Paul wrote, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” This latter part of Paul’s statement completes what he said in Galatians 3:29. Earlier, we saw that to qualify to be Abraham’s seed, one must be Christ’s. Now Paul adds another condition. He says, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ [the Holy Spirit], he is not His.” In other words, that you have the Holy Spirit is the unmistakable sign that you belong to Christ. Put another way, if you have the Holy Spirit, then you are a Christian. Conversely, if do not have the Holy Spirit, then you are not a Christian. Knowing this about the Holy Spirit, let us ‘reconstruct’ what Paul said in Galatians 3:29. It will look like this:

If you have the Spirit of Christ, then you are Christ’s; and if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” This is the complete picture of how we become children of Abraham and heirs of divine blessings. It all has to do with receiving the Holy Spirit. To qualify as heirs of God or joint-heirs with Christ, it is necessary that we possess the same Spirit they both possess: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit binds us to the Father and enables us to become His children. Therefore, the “Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs . . .” (Romans 8:16-17). If someone puts his spirit in you, you and that person have become one (John 17:21; 1 Corinthians 6:17). And when you become one, then you share things in common.

God promised to share divine blessings with Abraham and his seed. But for this to be fulfilled, He had to share His Spirit with us. A common Spirit is what leads to a common inheritance. This is why Paul talks about the “fellowship [communion] of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:13). It is the Holy Spirit who initiates and sustains our fellowship with the Father and the Son. And our fellowship with them (made possible by the Holy Spirit in us) is the legal basis for our inheritance. Fellowship guarantees access. Therefore, no Holy Spirit means no fellowship. And no fellowship means no inheritance. If God had not given the Holy Spirit, His promises to Abraham (and his seed) would have been void. Now we understand why Jesus went great lengths to prepare His disciples to receive the Spirit.

Let us sum up:

To be a child of Abraham means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not some interesting add-on to our Christian life. He is the Christian life, for the Christian life is essentially a life in the Spirit. Outside the Spirit, there is no Christianity. If you have the Spirit, then you have the promise. If you have the promise, then you have the power.

May the Lord enable you to cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that you can enjoy the full range of your blessings in Abraham. Amen.

For further studyRomans 8:1-17 and Ephesians 1:11-23

Being Church, Jesus’ Way

Daily Devotional|Day 272

“Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him’” (Acts 10:34-35, NKJV).

You will not blame Peter for hesitating to go to the house of Cornelius. He was being faithful to Jewish custom. After some convincing by the Holy Spirit, however, Peter succumbed: “You know how unlawful for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Peter was a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But he didn’t fully grasp Jesus’ vision of the Church, i.e. that Gentiles too would be part of the Church. Eventually, Peter learned. And he had the humility to admit it.

Peter’s prejudice could have gotten in the way of the Gospel if he had not changed. It was prejudice against people of other nationalities. In today’s Bible passage, Peter finally realizes that God shows no partiality. He realizes that for God, whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted. This is the basis of acceptance. Your nationality (or ethnicity) doesn’t get you in or out of God’s Kingdom.

From the outset, the Lord made it clear how He wants His Church to look like. Jesus’ Church is characterized by the fact that, by His blood, He has redeemed us out of “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). We are stronger and healthier when we look at people through the lens of Jesus’ blood, and not through the lens of nationality and ethnicity.

Unfortunately, in our modern churches we seem to be erecting the very barriers Jesus paid a heavy price to tear down. It is understandable (in fact, necessary) to offer nationality/ethnicity based services to help those who otherwise would have a hard time functioning in the Church. These exceptional situations aside, in many places we are forming churches based primarily on nationality/ethnicity: church for Ghanaians, church for Koreans, church for Hispanics, church for Nigerians.

Even within the same church, you could have sub-divisions: African service, Hispanic service, Japanese service, etc. Again, it is perfectly understandable to offer assistance of this kind where people have no other way of functioning in the Church. But in some cases, nationality/ethnicity based ways of being church is the norm. In these instances, we have chosen convenience over the sacrifice of the Cross. Love is a sacrifice; so is being Church.

Peter had to sacrifice a lot to accept Cornelius, enter his house, dine with them and lodge with them. It must have been new for Cornelius too. But under the influence of the Holy Spirit, they both overcame the barriers of ethnicity. Jesus could have created one church for Jews, one for Samaritans, and another for Gentiles. But He didn’t. It is a shame that today nationality/ethnicity has become prominent in how we express ourselves as churches.

When our understanding of Church is flawed, it only shows that our understanding of Jesus is equally flawed. Jesus is not asking us to pretend that we are not African, Asian, Hispanic, or White. What He wants is that our nationality/ethnicity does not become the lens through which we express ourselves as God’s people.

If we have ears, let us hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Amen.

For further study: Ephesians 2:11-22

When Separation Is Necessary and Wise

Daily Devotional: Day 135

“So Abram [Abraham] said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left’” (Genesis 13:8-9, NKJV).

Abram had spent some time in Egypt. After his sojourn, he returned with his family to Bethel. By this time, Abram was very rich in silver, gold and livestock. Lot, Abram’s nephew, also had great possessions. As time went by, the land could not support both Abram and Lot. Inevitably, tension arose between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen. Our Scripture reading today tells us about Abram’s response to the crisis.

Dwelling together with your brethren (family, relatives, etc.) may be the ideal thing to do. Sometimes, however, for the sake of unity and peace, it is better to separate physically from people you love. Physical separation does not always mean disunity. In other words, unity is more than physical co-presence. You can stay united in many ways without necessarily dwelling together. This is important, because dwelling together in harmony requires special skill set and virtue which include patience, wisdom, foresight, and ability to communicate well.

Abram’s response was the response of a godly and peace-loving man. He called for separation not because he was angry or mad, but because he loved Lot so much that he didn’t want to lose him over issues of land use. He had the foresight to realize that the longer he and Lot dwelt together, it was only a matter of time before the incipient crisis developed into a full-blown family feud. He made the right call by not waiting for the crisis to get out of hand. If dwelling together with people means constant strife, argument, tension and quarrel, perhaps it is time for you to part ways – to preserve what is left of the relationship.

 At times separation is necessary and wise. I call it “holy separation.” Separation, especially separation from people you love, can be painful; but separation may be the only thing that will save a relationship from complete disintegration. Don’t stay in a toxic or potentially toxic relationship praying that things will get better when God is showing you clear warning signs that things will get worse. There is a time to pray, and there is a time for decisive action. Don’t confuse the two. When you see the signs, act promptly, before it’s too late and someone gets hurt.

May the Father’s blessing be upon you today. And, may He grant you wisdom to make the right decisions, at the right time, in the right manner. Amen.

For further meditation: Psalm 133

Jesus’ Gospel of Division

Daily Devotional: Day 71

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household’” (Matthew 10:34-36, NKJV).

Contrary to popular opinion, the Gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t (or shouldn’t) always lead to unity and peace. In fact, as Jesus tells us today, he didn’t come to bring peace on earth.  That’s startling, coming from One who is the Prince of Peace. This doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t care about the world. We know, of course, that Jesus died to save the world, because he cares about the world and wants everyone to be saved. The point he is making in today’s reading is that his message – the Gospel – can be divisive. That’s true.

Jesus doesn’t give us a sugar-coated, politically correct Gospel intended to make everyone feel good. Yes, sometimes, his message is soothing; but other times, it can be downright offensive. Let’s keep in mind certain fundamental principles: (a) truth doesn’t always bring about unity; truth can cause division. Additionally, (b) truth doesn’t always lead to peace; truth can lead to conflict. Herein lies the crux of Jesus’ message to us today. Not all unity is from God; and not all “peace” is from him, either, because there’s such a thing as false unity or false peace. 

Jesus wants to dispel any false expectations people have about the nature and consequences of his Gospel. He says, metaphorically, of course, that he brought a “sword” to the earth. This means his message divides and splits the same way a sword can divide and split things. Recall that after his birth, the baby Jesus was presented in the temple in Jerusalem to perform for him the necessary rites prescribed by the law (See Exodus 13:2, 11-15). At the temple, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2: 21-35). Jesus’ message caused some in Israel to stumble; at the same time, it caused others to rise, depending on how each person received the message.

There’s a lesson here for us who have been entrusted with sharing the Gospel of Christ. Jesus isn’t asking us to seek unity or peace at all cost. Our primary mission is to proclaim the unadulterated truths of God taught in the Bible. If our proclamation of the truth leads to unity, to God be the glory. If, however, the proclamation of the truth results in division and conflict, we shouldn’t worry. We’ve done our duty; we should let Jesus worry about the rest. 

Prayer:

Dear Father, thank you for revealing the Gospel to us. Give the Body of Christ wisdom and boldness to proclaim your truth. And bless us with unity that is based on truth. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: John 6:41-69