Big And Strong

Ezekiel 31:3
“Indeed Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon, with fine branches that shaded the forest, and of high stature; and its top was among the thick boughs.”

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At the time of Ezekiel’s writing, Egypt was one of the most powerful nations in the world. So great was their strength, many nations allied themselves with Egypt, in an attempt to withstand Babylonian occupation. Many in Judah still believed they could defeat Babylon, if they had the help of the Egyptians. Ezekiel wrote to warn Egypt of the danger they faced. This warning is one that every Christian ought to take to heart.

It illustrates the exhortation of Paul, who wrote,

1 Corinthians 10:12 “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

In order to warn Egypt, Ezekiel takes us back in time to remind us of the once powerful Assyrian empire, which had been defeated and destroyed. He compares Assyria to a massive tree of the forest that provided lodging for the birds of the air and shade for the beasts of the forest. This tree was greater than any other tree in the garden of God; it was the desire of all the rest. Ezekiel explains, the secret to the strength of this tree, was an underground water source that provided what was necessary for its growth. Sadly, as the chapter unfolds, the tree weakens, falls, and becomes as much a picture of failure, as it had ever been of success. Ezekiel tells that the cause of the fall was lifting up it’s heart in pride; perhaps failing to understand the hidden source of its strength.

This should serve as a vivid reminder to every Christian, of both the secret to growth and the cause of collapse. Jesus compared us to branches. When connected to the vine, we will have a source of strength resulting in a thriving Christian life, full of fruit. He also warned of the danger of being cut off from the vine. This would result in losing the ability to bear fruit, taking the effectiveness out of our life, and hamper our witness for Christ. Just as Assyria was filled with pride and no longer saw their need for the hidden source of strength, it is common for the Christian to forget that daily time with Christ, His Word, and the fellowship of His body, is what really fuels our growth. When we neglect time with the Lord, we are cutting ourselves off from the very source of strength and growth.

Sadly, Egypt and Judah alike, failed to take to heart the warning, and found themselves defeated. Nations that once shone brightly upon the landscape, became a shell of what they  were. Let’s not be among the casualties. Take time to invest daily in your walk with Christ, abide in the vine, and bear the fruit of godly living.

Pastor Jim

 

Taking A Stand 

Galatians 5:1
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”

There is an interesting progression of commands found in Galatians 5. We are exhorted to stand, run and walk. Each of these terms, reveals something important about how to follow Jesus.

Sin is like a shackle that holds us in bondage. When we receive Christ, those chains are broken and we are set free; sin no longer has dominion over us. However, it is possible to let sin back into our lives, and we become enslaved to it once again. In order to ensure our freedom from sin, Paul exhorts us to “stand fast.” This term is used to speak of not being easily moved. It is a term that would describe an offensive lineman in football. He knows that at the snap of the ball, there will be a full-fledged attack on the quarterback. The realization of what is coming causes him to prepare to stand. In the same way, as Christians, we must realize we are under attack.  The attack is an attempt to get us bound in the sins from which we were set free, when we came to Christ. Your freedom in Christ is way too valuable for you to be toying around with sin.

Galatians 5:7 “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

Notice the word “ran” is in the past tense. Simply put, these Christians were at one time “charging forward” in their relationship with Christ; but that time is over. Something happened that caused them to stop running. Perhaps they slowed down to a walk, a stroll, or even stopped moving forward altogether. Paul exhorts them to examine their walk with the Lord to see what happened. What person or event has led you to stop running toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus? That is a very important exhortation and one we must take seriously. How would you describe your current relationship with the Lord? Are you running, walking, standing still or falling backwards? If you are not running, take inventory and figure out what is holding you back. For some, it is the addition of things to your life that act like an anchor, keeping you from moving ahead. For others, it is the lack of church attendance, Bible reading, and Christian service, that keep you from moving ahead.

Galatians 5:16 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

Finally, Paul exhorts us to walk in the Spirit. This is the secret to both standing and running. Walking in the Spirit is a bi-product of determining we want to live lives pleasing to God, and is accomplished by abiding in Jesus. When we will sit before the Word of God, and let it write on the tablet of our hearts, we will know what things are pleasing to the Lord, and what things are not. It is when we lay out our lives before the Lord, we will be strengthened to withstand the temptations of the flesh and be able to move forward in our walk with Christ.

Take time, now, to evaluate your life. Are you running forward, or being held back by some sin? Then take time to lay your life open before the Lord and ask Him to fill you with His Spirit, that you might live well pleasing to Him today.

Pastor Jim