“Our Release Is Secured” (Colossians 1: 13 – 14, NEB) by Carley Evans

“[God] rescues us from the domain of darkness and brings us away into the kingdom of His dear Son, in whom our release is secured and our sins forgiven.”

Perhaps because I watched a movie — last night — based on a graphic novel in which the characters fight each other and evil people in a life-sized video game, I immediately think of THE DOMAIN OF DARKNESS as that final level in the game. At this last level the BEAST is battled; and I am defeated over and over and over again. Unlike a video game, here in reality the battle is truely the final war between good and evil, and the outcome is known — good wins!

Like the play in the video game, my weapons are not my own; they are provided to me as I proceed from one level to the next, going further in. At the end as I face the BEAST, all that matters is that “[God’s] dear Son” has secured my release and has forgiven my sins. The BEAST is defeated by the blood of Jesus Christ, and I stand there at the final level covered by it. The BEAST doesn’t see me; it sees the Lord. It turns away in defeat, for God has “brought [me] away into the kingdom.”

My final line in the game is: “Hallelujah!”

“Life Is Christ” (Philippians 1: 21, NEB) by Carley Evans

“For to me life is Christ, and death gain; but what if my living on in the body may serve some good purpose?” The purpose of which Paul speaks is to “stand by [us] all to help [us] forward and to add joy to [our] faith.” (Philippians 1: 25) Paul would rather die and be with Christ, which “is better by far.” (Philippians 1: 24)

Paul calls us to “look to each other’s interest and not merely to [our] own.” (Philippians 2: 4) It is in Paul’s best interest to exit life to be with Christ — for to Paul “death is gain.” Instead, he knows “there is greater need for [him] to stay on in the body.” (Philippians 1: 25) He puts our interests above his own. Paul says, “Let your bearing towards one another arise out of your life in Christ Jesus. For the divine nature is His from the first; yet He does not think to snatch equality with God, but makes Himself nothing, assuming the nature of a slave.” (Philippians 2: 5 – 8)

The author of Hebrews writes of men and women of faith who die “not yet in possession of the things promised.” Instead, they “see them far ahead and hail them, and confess themselves no more than strangers or passing travellers on earth. Those who use such language show plainly that they are looking for a country of their own. If their hearts are in the country they leave, they could find opportunity to return. Instead, we find them longing for a better country — I mean the heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11: 13 – 16) For them death is gain. For us, too, death is gain. But we remain in the body so as to serve one another, build up one another, love and care for one another.

“Divine Weakness” (2 Corinthians 10: 17 – 18, NEB) by Carley Evans

“Not the man who recommends himself, but the man whom the Lord recommends — he and he alone is to be accepted.” Therefore, “if a man must boast, let him boast in the Lord.” I write this because the Lord is the one who is always acceptable, who is always recommended. He and he alone is trustworthy at all times.

Paul says that “we should not dare to class ourselves or compare ourselves with any of those who put forward their own claims. What fools they are to measure themselves by themselves, to find in themselves their own standard of comparison.” (2 Corinthians 10: 12) Whereas, if we compare ourselves to Jesus, we know we fall short.

Paul says, “If boasting there must be, I will boast of the things that show up my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11: 30) And Jesus tells both Paul and us, “My grace is all you need; power comes to its full strength in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9) That Jesus has power may not be evident to some. “True, He died on the cross in weakness, but He lives by the power of God; and we who share His weakness shall by the power of God live with Him.” (2 Corinthians 13: 4) Remember that “divine folly is wiser than the wisdom of man, and divine weakness stronger than man’s strength.” (Romans 1: 25)

“Our Whole Nature Transformed” (2 Corinthians 7: 1, NEB) by Carley Evans

The Lord promises to be our Father, to live among us — we who become His sons and daughters. He promises to make us His temples, to “live and move about among [us].” He promises that He will “be [our] God, and [we] shall be His people.” (2 Corinthians 6: 16, 17)

 Because of these promises from God, Paul calls on us to “cleanse ourselves from all that can defile flesh or spirit, and in the fear of God complete our consecration.”

“For the gracious gifts of God and His calling are irrevocable. Just as formerly [we] were disobedient to God, but now receive mercy in the time of their disobedience, so now, when [we] receive mercy, they are proved disobedient, but only in order that they too may receive mercy. For in making all mankind prisoners to disobedience, God’s purpose is to show mercy to all mankind.” (Romans 11: 29 – 32)

Paul is telling us that all — both Jew and Gentile — are sinful, all alike are condemned and must be saved by God’s grace, by His lovingkindness and mercy.

“Therefore, my brothers,” writes Paul, “I implore you to by God’s mercy to offer your very selves to Him: a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for His acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart. Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern of this present world, but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed.” (Romans 12: 1 – 2)

“With His Blood” (Revelation 3: 18 – 20, NEB) by Carley Evans

“So I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, to make you truly rich, and white clothes to put on to hide the shame of your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so that you may see. All whom I love I reprove and discipline. Be on your mettle therefore and repent. Here I stand knocking at the door; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and sit down to supper with him and he with Me.”

Jesus does not knock only once; He stands knocking. He does not reprove and discipline us only once; He stands knocking. He comes in to sit with us, eat with us as we open our doors to Him. He provides us “white clothes to put on to hide the shame of [our] nakedness.” He puts “ointment on [our] eyes” so that we may see and recognize Truth and Falsity. He makes “[us] truly rich.”

With what do we purchase this wealth: His purity, His vision, His love — which includes His reproof and discipline? We purchase these true riches with His blood.

“Acquit One Another” (Romans 14: 8, NEB) by Carley Evans

Jesus dies and returns to life again; therefore, He becomes Lord of both the living and the dead. Therefore Paul asks: “You, sir, why do you pass judgment on your brother? And you, sir, why do you hold your brother in contempt? We shall all stand before God’s tribunal.” (Romans 14: 10)

Each of us — whether we live or whether we die — belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Each of us will have to answer for Himself.” (Romans 14: 12)

“Let us therefore cease judging one another.” (Romans 14: 13) Rather, writes Paul, let our conduct be guided by love. (Romans 14: 15) The apostle reminds us that “[we] may speak in tongues of men or of angels, but if [we] are without love, [we] are sounding gongs or clanging cymbals.” (1 Corinthians 13: 1) “If [we] have no love, [we] are nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13: 2)

Jesus says, “Pass no judgment, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; acquit, and you will be acquitted; give, and gifts will be given you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; for whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt to you in return.” (Luke 7: 37 – 38)

“God’s Handiwork” (Ephesians 2: 8 – 10, NEB) by Carley Evans

“For it is by grace you are saved, through trusting Him; it is not your own doing. It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to devote ourselves to the good deeds for which God has designed us.”

A pot is created by the potter for a certain purpose. On the wheel, the potter gives the clay the shape of the pot. The clay only submits to the hands of the creator. So it is with God’s children: we submit to God. We “devote ourselves to the good deeds for which God has designed us.”

And “we are God’s handiwork” just as pots are the handiwork of the potter. We have no right to complain to our Creator just as we have no right — or for that matter — reason to boast that somehow through works we save ourselves.

Paul is clear: we are saved by the gift of trust; for this is what faith is: trust. We trust Christ. We trust that He fulfills the Law, satisfies His Father’s wrath against sin, and loves us as friends. We are designed for specific “good deeds” by God Himself; and this, too, is not of our doing. To God belongs all the glory.

“Honour God With Your Bodies” (1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20, NEB) by Carley Evans

Do you not know that your body is a shrine of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is God’s gift to you? You do not belong to yourselves; you are bought at a price. Then honour God in your body.”

Paul wishes persons to control themselves and remain unmarried; but he recognizes that self-control is difficult and that it is “better [to] be married than burn with vain desire.” (1 Corinthians 7: 9)

Some say sex outside a committed relationship is fornication; others say any sex outside marriage is fornication. Jesus says that if a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart, this is fornication; i.e. adultery. Since Jesus always speaks the truth, fornication is rampant — for men and women certainly look at one another in lust.

Paul contrasts a man’s payment to own a harlot for a night with Christ’s payment to own us for eternity. What a contrast! A fleeting moment of pleasure contrasted with Christ’s agonizing shedding of blood so that His Father might call us His own, and give us His Holy Spirit. A man links himself to a harlot; Jesus links Himself to us through His own sacrifice. Since we belong to Christ, we are called to “shun fornication. Every other sin that a man can commit is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6: 18 – 19)

Jesus calls us to purity; and this must start in our minds. Peter calls us to “be mentally stripped for action, perfectly self-controlled.” Peter writes, “Do not let your characters be shaped any longer by the desires you cherished in your days of ignorance. The One who calls you is holy; like Him, be holy in all your behaviour, because Scripture says, ‘You shall be holy, for I Am holy.’ ” (1 Peter 1: 13, 14 – 1

“Have You Ever?” (Luke 12: 6 – 7, NEB) by Carley Evans

“Have no fear; you are worth more than any number of sparrows.”

We live in such fear and anxiety, worry and paranoia. Any minute, some dread disease is to befall us; any minute, a spouse is to betray us; any minute, a child is to die untimely; any minute, a fire is to consume our home. The horrors of life are all around us; and we live in fear of them.

But, these are common to us all. Not one of us escapes them. Some people may appear to be better off than others; but it is a trick of perspective and not reality.

Yet, Jesus says we are known fully; even the hairs on our heads are counted. We are worth more than grass, more than flowers, more than sparrows, more than the money in our pockets. That God cares for us is what we sometimes doubt. We look at the terrible events in our lives or — for an ultimate look at suffering — in the life of Job, and we wonder what sort of God is this. He is a mystery.

He loves us with a mighty love, a love we cannot fathom.

God asks, “In all your life have you ever called up the dawn or shown the morning its place? Have you taught it to grasp the fringes of the earth and shake the Dog-star from its place; to bring up the horizon in relief as clay under a seal, until all things stand out like the folds of a cloak, when the light of the Dog-star is dimmed and the stars of the Navigator’s Line go out one by one? Have you descended to the springs of the sea or walked in the unfathomable deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you?” (Job 38: 13 – 16)

And we can only answer, “No.”

Jesus says, “Think of the lilies: they neither spin nor weave; yet, I tell you, even Solomon in all his splendour was not attired like one of these. But if that is how God clothes the grass, which is growing in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown on the stove, how much more will He clothe you!” (Luke 12: 27 – 28)

“Have no fear, little flock; for Your Father has chosen to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12: 32)

“Victory In Humiliation” (Psalm 149: 4, NEB) by Carley Evans

“[God] crowns His humble folk with victory.”

Not often do we think that the humble folk in the world are the ones who have the victory in life. Usually, we look to those who have wealth, intelligence, power, influence to see victory.

Jesus’ victory comes in His humiliation. As He dies on the cross, He wins. He overcomes the world in that last moment of His human life, gaining the victory for us.

“Christ buys us freedom from the curse of the law by becoming for our sake an accursed thing; for Scripture says, ‘A curse is on everyone who is hanged on a gibbet.’ And the purpose of it all is that the blessing of Abraham should in Jesus Christ be extended to the Gentiles, so that we may receive the promised Spirit through Him.” (Galatians 3: 13 – 14)

Jesus’ willingness to be an accursed thing shows He is the ultimate humble person. Because of His humility God raises Him up to be “the effulgence of God’s splendor and the stamp of God’s very being.” (Hebrews 1: 2)

Jesus is crowned with victory. “He takes His seat at the right hand of Majesty on high, raised as far above the angels, as the title He has inherited is superior to theirs.” (Hebrews 1: 4)