Author Archives: Gareth Volz

Grow • Devotion #3: Desire to Grow

I remember being a kid and wanting to grow up. I was never satisfied being the age I was. When I was four, my best friend at church was starting kindergarten, but I was not old enough. I wanted to go to school just like he did. When I was in elementary school, I could not wait to be in junior high. My school played a nasty trick on me; they decided when I was in sixth grade to change the grade structure of the school from K-6 to K-8. I was so bummed. Then when I was in eighth grade, they added ninth grade. It felt like a conspiracy. Finally, I got to high school and could not wait until I turned sixteen so I could drive. I never seemed to be satisfied with the age I was. I always wanted to grow and be more mature. I wanted to be like my father, uncles, and grandfather. 

Every Christian should have a desire to grow and be more mature in the Lord. The Christian who is growing in the Lord will become more and more like Jesus Christ. Just as physical growth begins at birth and is expected by our parents, so spiritual growth begins when we are born again in Jesus and is expected by God.

As we grow physically, we realize there are privileges and responsibilities that come with maturing. We get to drive, vote, go to college or trade school, work, and earn money. We also have to pay for housing, food, transportation (cars cost money), and things that are important to us. Physical growth requires exercise and practice, no matter what our interests (sports, music, and work skills).

In the same way, spiritual growth gives us privileges and responsibilities in the Lord. Hebrews 5:11-14 makes the analogy of spiritual growth to physical growth, saying we should not remain as a babe in Christ feeding on milk, which are the elementary doctrines of the faith, but growing in Christ and feeding on the solid food doctrines of the faith.

As we mature in Christ, we are given privileges and skills by God’s Spirit. We grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). We are able to discern good from evil (Hebrews 5:14). Yet, we must also desire to grow in Christ. We are told to add virtue to our faith, and knowledge to our virtue, and self-control to our knowledge, and steadfastness to our self-control, and godliness to our steadfastness, and brotherly affection to our godliness, and love to our brotherly affection. If these qualities are seen in our lives, then we are growing in the Lord, and God can use us to do His work (2 Peter 1:5-8).

One way we can measure our spiritual growth is to check and see if our lives show an increase in the fruit of the Spirit. We should be known for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). 

As we grow physically, we become stronger through exertion and resistance exercises. Likewise, spiritual growth is developed through hard times and life’s trials. James 1:2-4 tells us we should, “Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” 
Do not just attend a gathering once a week. Join a Growth Community and study God’s Word with fellow believers. There we can help and encourage one another in spiritual growth. Jesus knows our hearts, and He has promised to oversee our spiritual growth when we desire to become more like Him. Philippians 1:6 declares, And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Gather • Devotion #2: Why Christians Gather

Most Christians make it a regular practice to attend a worship service at least once a week. I remember growing up that my family was at church every time the doors opened. On Sunday morning, we attended Sunday School at 9:45 am, followed by the morning worship service at 11:00 am. Sunday evenings, there were youth gatherings at 5:45 pm, followed by the evening worship service at 7:00 pm. Tuesday was Boys Brigade at 7:00 pm. Wednesday was Prayer Meeting at 7:00 pm. Thursday was Choir practice at 7:00 pm. My parents always made sure that we attended any service we could. 

Many people go to church because it was the way their parents raised them. I am thankful for my parents and how they raised me, but that cannot be the only reason I go to church each week. Have you ever stopped to think about why you go to church each week? In addition to what their parents taught them, some people will say it is what God expects, citing Hebrews 10:25, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.” 

Christians gathering together is the right thing to do. However, I do not believe God wants us to do it just because it is the right thing to do. I believe God wants us to gather together for the right reasons. In Romans 10:1-3, Paul said that the Israelites were zealous toward God, but their zeal was not based on knowledge. They were trying to please God by completing a checklist on what they did for Him. The church at Laodicea did things for God, but Jesus described them as “lukewarm,” neither hot nor cold toward God. Because of their attitude, He wanted to spit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:15-16).

So then, what are the right reasons we gather together? First of all, we gather together because we love God, and He is worthy of our worship. As we come together to worship God, we should prepare our hearts to worship Him. Our focus should be on Him, and we should come with thankful hearts for His sacrifice on our behalf, His provision for our lives, His protection over our lives, and His constant presence in our lives.

We also come together to worship God so that we can edify one another. The word edification comes from the root word edifice, meaning building or structure. We come together to build up one another and to encourage one another in the faith. Paul told us in Ephesians 4:11-13, “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The idea is that when Christians gather together, we build each other up and encourage each other in the faith, we become more mature in the Lord, and the church body becomes a strong witness for the Lord.

Another reason we gather together is that Christ is there with us. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Think of that; Jesus is right there in our midst when we gather together to worship Him. When we sing, He is right there, listening to our songs of praise. When we read His Word, He is right there listening to us. When we pray, He looks at our hearts and hears our words. When we truly worship Him, He is right there with us.

Wow! When we gather together in true worship, Jesus is right there in our midst. That should cause us to make sure our heart attitude is right when we gather together to worship, and that our focus is on Jesus, and Him alone. We might be able to fool people, but not God. He wants us to worship Him in truth.

We need to make sure that when we gather together each week that we have one focus – Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen (Romans 11:36)!

Lesson Seven • Devotion #2: Jesus God’s Light

In 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, Paul follows up his defense of the ministry God had given him with a presentation of his credentials to be an apostle. As transformed Corinthian believers, he explains that ministry is not easy. In verse 1 (NKJV), he states that he and his ministry partners “have received mercy, we do not lose heart.” Paul did not shrink away from the constant attacks Satan brought against his ministry for God. He did not lose heart, because the task of sharing the new covenant in Christ was too important.

In verse 2, Paul says that they “have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways, and they refused to practice cunning and tamper with the Word of God.” Paul had been accused of being a hypocrite, and he was saying that when he put his faith in Christ, he repented of such sins and turned away from them, devoting his life to the pursuit of godliness. 

Paul then said that the Gospel he preached was given to him by the Lord, and he had not tampered with it or twisted it to profit from it, as his accusers charged. In verse 3, he says that if some do not understand his message (if our Gospel is veiled), it is because they refuse to hear and consider it (it is veiled from those who are perishing). He could only give out the message of salvation. He could not force people to accept it. Those with hardened hearts will not listen to or receive the truth of God.

We need to realize that Satan is alive and active in this world. In 1 Peter 5:8, it says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” There is a small church I pass each Sunday on the way to the River. The sign in front of the church a few months ago read, “Pray without ceasing, because the devil preys without ceasing.” When we seek to minister and share God’s Word, we need to bathe it in prayer because Satan will use anything and everything he can to try and prevent people from hearing God’s truth and responding to it.

This was the battle Paul fought in the power of the Holy Spirit. He did not give up because the truth of God’s grace was too important. Whether he saw results or not, he faithfully shared God’s Word. He left the result up to God’s Holy Spirit.

We need to follow Paul’s example of faithfully sharing what God has given us. We should do so in a humble manner, always pointing to Christ, and never giving up. When we do, we will surely see the results as Paul did. God will give those who are open to His Word the light of knowledge to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

Paul was simply a messenger sent from God, who trusted in God’s Spirit to do the work in the hearts of those to whom he ministered. That is our task. We need to do it faithfully without losing heart. To God, be the glory. 

Lesson Six • Devotion #3: Paul’s Credential

Paul’s credential is the transformed Christians at Corinth.

The vision of our church is to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to gather together to praise and worship Him, and to grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Have you ever felt God calling you to be a part of His ministry? God has gifted each of us uniquely with spiritual gifts so that He can use us to reach people with the Gospel, facilitate our gatherings and worship, and grow and help others to grow in the Lord.

When we answer the call of God to be used by Him, God will work through us to draw others to Himself; and through worship and Bible studies, equip others to reach out to the lost. When God is working in and through us, His Holy Spirit will do a great work in the lives of those to whom we are ministering. Yet, it always seems that when God is doing a great work through His people, Satan begins to attack that work and the workers in various ways in order to keep people from coming to the Lord and growing in His Word.

That is the situation we find in 2 Corinthians chapter 3. Paul, and those ministering with him, are accused by false teachers of not having the proper credentials to be an apostle. Paul responds by saying he was appointed an apostle by God and that the Christians in Corinth who had come to know Christ through Paul’s ministry, and whose lives were transformed by the Holy Spirit, were his credentials, “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men” (2 Corinthians 3:2 NKJV). The results of one’s ministry prove whether he is God’s teacher or not. 

The false teachers were insisting that God wanted the people to focus on the old covenant, but Paul responded that the Corinthian Christians were his credential written not in ink on tablets of stone, but rather by God’s Spirit on tablets of their hearts. His defense is that he was not sufficient in himself, but the Holy Spirit made him sufficient for ministry – and the transformed lives of the Corinthian Christians were the proof (verses 4-6).

Paul then goes on to show how the new covenant of grace through Jesus Christ is more glorious than the old covenant of the Law. God gave His people the Law through Moses on Mt. Sinai, and when Moses came down from the mountain, his face radiated with the glory of God. However, Paul points out that the old covenant was a ministry of death. It pointed out God’s perfect standard, but no human could keep it. Since man could not keep the law, it sentenced man to death.

Paul goes on to show the church at Corinth in verses 7-11, that if glory was associated with the old covenant of death, how much more glorious the new covenant of grace through Jesus Christ is because it brings the promise of eternal life. 

In verses 12-16, Paul explains that Moses wore a veil over his face because God’s glory would blind the people and because this radiated glory and the old covenant would pass away. Those who followed the false teachers and clung to the old covenant of the law would not be able to see the truth and glory of the new covenant of grace that Jesus brought. However, when one turns to the Lord and embraces the new covenant of grace, the veil is lifted from their eyes and their heart, and they can see the greater glory of Christ.

In verse 17 (NKJV), Paul says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Those who accept the new covenant of grace through faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross and in the resurrection have a liberated boldness in our relationship with God. Christ did not nullify the old covenant but fulfilled it so that we can boldly approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:16). When we do this, verse 18 tells us that we are being transformed into the image of our Lord by His Spirit.

The new covenant is so much more glorious than the old covenant, and when we embrace this truth, God will use us to reach others for Him, be in our midst when we gather to worship and glorify Him and help us to grow in the likeness of His glorious Son.

I Am: The Bread of Life • Devotion #2: Manna and the Son of Man

In John 6:35, Jesus makes the first of His seven “I Am” statements, saying, “I Am the Bread of Life.” Earlier in the chapter (verses 1-15), we read that Jesus was being followed by a large crowd because of the miracles He was performing in healing the sick. Seeing the crowd coming, and with Passover approaching, Jesus asked His disciple Philip where they could buy bread to feed the crowd. Verse 6 says that He asked this to test Philip because Jesus already knew what He was going to do. We need to remember God always has a plan for every situation, and His plan is always perfect. 

Philip told Jesus there was no way they could afford to feed so many people. Another disciple, Andrew, sarcastically said there was a boy in the crowd who had five barley loaves and two fishes, but what would that do? 

Jesus told His disciples to have the crowd sit down. Then He took the five loaves and two fishes, gave thanks for them, and began to distribute them to those who were seated. When the people had eaten as much as they could, Jesus told His disciples to gather up the leftover fragments so nothing would be wasted. The leftovers filled up twelve baskets, and thus we see the miracle of Jesus feeding 5,000 men with the five loaves and two fishes. This shows us we should never underestimate the power of God and His ability to meet our needs.

The crowd realized that Jesus was the promised Messiah and wanted to take Him by force and make Him their king. Since this was not according to God’s timing or plan, Jesus withdrew to the mountain by Himself to spend time with His Father. Meanwhile, the disciples got in a boat and began to sail across the sea to Capernaum. They ran into a rough wind and saw Jesus coming to them walking on the water. The disciples were glad to have Him join them in the boat and immediately they were at the shore (verses 16-21).

That is the background leading up to Jesus declaring, “I Am the Bread of Life.” The crowd followed to Capernaum seeking Jesus. Jesus told them that He knew why they were following Him because He had fed them with five loaves and two fishes, and they were filled. Jesus began to teach them to work for the eternal things of God, not for the food which perishes. The crowd asked what they needed to do to be doing the work of God. Jesus responded that the work of God was to believe in Him whom God had sent, meaning Himself. 

The crowd asked Jesus for a sign, saying that the proof Moses had been sent from God as he gave their fathers manna from Heaven in the wilderness. Jesus pointed out that it was God who gave the manna, not Moses, and God was now giving them the true bread from Heaven which gives life to the world. Excitedly the crowd said,“Sir, give us this bread always.” That is when Jesus said, “I Am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35).

The manna from Heaven is an Old Testament picture of Jesus as the Bread of Life:

  1. The manna was small (Exodus 16:14); Jesus came as a small baby.
  2. The manna was round (Exodus 16:14) – a symbol of eternity; Jesus is the eternal Son of God.
  3. That manna was white (Exodus 16:31) – a symbol of purity; Jesus lived a sinless life on Earth and is the holy Son of God.
  4. The manna satisfied the people for 40 years in the wilderness; Jesus satisfies for all eternity.
  5. When the people saw the manna in the morning, they saw the glory of the Lord (Exodus 16:7); Jesus said, “When you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). We see the glory of the Lord that resurrection morning when Jesus left the tomb alive.

The manna is an Old Testament picture of how Jesus came to Earth:

  1. The manna came down from Heaven (Exodus 16:4); so also did Jesus.
  2. The manna came at night (Exodus 16:12); Jesus was born at night.
  3. The manna came down in the wilderness (Exodus 16:14); Jesus came to a world that was a wilderness of sin.
  4. The manna came to a rebellious people (Exodus 16:1-3); so also did Jesus.

The manna is an Old Testament picture of what we must do with Jesus:

  1. The people’s physical hunger could only be satisfied by the manna; spiritual hunger can only be satisfied by Jesus.
  2. The people had to stoop down to pick up the manna; we must humble ourselves and come to Jesus.
  3. The people had to take the manna for themselves and eat it; Jesus must be received inwardly.
  4. The manna had to be taken early in the day; we must accept Christ now.
  5. The people had to continue to feed on the manna each day for physical health; we need to feed on the Word of God (Jesus) to grow spiritually.

Isaiah 55:2 tells us “to eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” There is nothing that tastes better or is richer than “The Bread of Life,” Jesus Christ.

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