The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015



“Woman, behold your son! . . . Behold your mother!” – John 19:26 and 27


The Bible says that in the end times “many will run to and fro, and knowledge will increase” (Daniel 12:4). Humanity is experiencing advances and a proliferation of information in nearly every area of life. We “run to and fro” faster, further, and with greater ease than ever before. In the near future we won’t even have to drive our cars! They will be GPS controlled and all we’ll have to do is punch in our destination coordinates, sit back and wait to arrive. Human knowledge has enabled us to have more information at our finger tips than ever before. Computers that used to take up the space of a building are now small enough to wear as a wrist watch. Incredible! TVs that once only had 5 channels now have hundreds. The Internet connects us with the world. We can watch history happening all over the world in real present time. In some ways not even the sky is the limit of human advancement; or at least that’s how it feels or how many would have us to feel.


This advancement in knowledge has also entered the field of health. There are more diets and scientifically calculated food prescriptions to assure our health than ever before. Health issues are vast and varying. The world is addressing the problem of hunger. America is addressing the problem of obesity.  It seems there are more people running and biking and playing and exercising than ever before. And this is especially true for those who are getting older. The kids are locked up in their rooms putting on pounds as they play their incredibly infatuating computer games. The parents and those caught up in the craze to fit into the media’s computer generated perfect body types are out running after that perfect image of health.


It used to be in olden days that you’d eat a lot of steak and potatoes, lift a lot of weights, play a lot of sports and get stronger. You’d actually play outside as a kid. If you progressed up the athletic ladder of competition you might add vitamins, sports drinks and protein shakes to help out. But it was nothing like the scientifically proven exact calculations we see today. Today exercises are specific to the sports you play. No longer do athletes settle in to a routine of exercises and maybe work to only increase the weights lifted. Now there is cross-fit.


Cross-fit is a relatively new way of exercising that relies on the idea of muscle confusion. In other words rather than use the same exercises in perpetuity a wide assortment of various exercises are used to keep both the exerciser and their muscles interested. It’s proven to be an effective strategy to consistently build muscle. It also fits right into the mindset of the day which is diversity and openness to all things new.


Now, as I segue into my teaching I don’t mean to insinuate there is anything wrong with cross-fit training. Cross fit programs are an excellent means to work on our temporal bodies. In fact those seeking to please God should take better care of their bodies which God refers to as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20). I’m only using cross-fit here to grab your attention and point you to a different kind of cross-fitness that has eternal everlasting benefits.


“Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). There is a cross fitness that touches on the here and now but that goes further and transcends mere physical fitness. Cross fitness of your physical body does profit “a little.” But I want to talk to you about a cross fitness that will yield eternal benefits. I want to talk to you about the benefit of the cross of Christ to you, your relationships, family, and the life of those precious family members you already have and that you love so much.


Healthy relationships and families are formed at the foot of the cross of Christ. In John’s gospel we are given a wonderful insight into the creative power of the cross of Christ. Here it recounts:

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:25-27).  This is a beautiful and powerful picture of how families are formed at the foot of the cross.


It was in the shadow of the cross that John’s family and the family of Jesus in His mother were joined and formed. Jesus had four brothers and more sisters (Matthew 13:55-56) yet He chose to entrust His mother to the care of John the apostle. Jesus was more concerned about eternal relationships than temporal ones (Matthew 3:33-35; Luke 8:21; cf. also fulfilled prophecy of Psalm 69:8). When we come to the cross of Christ we are adopted into God’s family and are eternally united (Romans 8:14; 1 Peter 4:17). Are you a part of the family of God? Do you treat your fellow Christians as family?


In our day the family is more broken and fragmented than ever. The world is redefining family and they’re making a real mess of things. The world has left God’s scripture revealed definitions of marriage between one man and one woman in order to permit and even encourage that which God calls sinful. Marriage is not seen as a life commitment made by two people to each other in the presence of God consummated by intercourse. Marriage is seen as mere formality to affirm worship of the god of sex. Marriage isn’t seen as a life commitment, only a commitment as long as one feels committed to it.


Sex before marriage, what God calls the sin of fornication, is a regular practice, even among Christians! People “fall in love” and “fall out of love” with abandon. This leads to a proliferation of adultery – sex between the married with someone other than the one they married. The world is at a loss. They’ve tried open marriages; which is really no marriage at all. They try “living together.” The current trend is to try same-sex unions and there is a mighty push for the legalization of same-sex marriage. The moral gates are bulging and near breaking under the rising flood waters of polygamy, pedophilia, pederasty, the removal of age of consent and statutory rape laws, human-animal unions, transient marriage where transvestites can switch male/female roles on a whim, and anything else lost humanities’ “uncleanness. . . vile passions. . . debased mind” can come up with and promote (Romans 1:24-32).  The cross-less world needs some cross-fitness training.


Cross-fitness begins at creation. It’s quite a confusing time we live in. People don’t know who they are. People are rejecting who God has created them to be. People are rebelling against the Creator. It is sad and pitiable to see lost humanity groping so futilely for identity and meaning. The serpentine enemy is having a field day with those flailing away in their own strength. People are in the dark. Satan rules the darkness. He rules with deception and confusion and he is inflicting a great deal of pain. This does not remove the sinner’s culpability. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:20-21).


God is our Creator. He is there if we care to seek Him. Every human being is created with an inherent sense of their need to know their Creator. God has put an eternal crave in the heart of every person. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God created humanity simply but profoundly male and female (Genesis 1 and 2). It is the male and female that beautifully fit together physically, mentally and spiritually in the Lord. God’s design for fulfillment, abundant life, and happiness is through a man/ woman, male/female marriage union where the “man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).  


Cross-fitness helps us deal with the problem of sin. The sin of our first parents threw a monkey wrench into the relational mechanism on all levels. The consequence of sin is the introduction of pain in child birth and competition between men and women (Genesis 3:16). People will be preoccupied with industry that is now laden with sweaty labor (Genesis 3:17-19). And more pertinently in these prophetic last days we see humanities distancing from God evidenced in relational and even gender identity confusion. Groping in the darkness people look in the mirror and can’t even see who they are. God’s blessing of human intellect is used to separate from Him. The result is a proliferation of Frankensteinian alterations of gender. The real problem is in the human heart. You can’t fix a heart attack with a change in clothes or a change in genitalia.  People without God don’t know who they are and seeking solutions in science only complicates the problem.


Cross-fitness helps us deal with sin produced confusion over who we are. “But I’m a man in a woman’s body!” “But I’m a woman in a man’s body!” “But sometimes I feel like a man and sometimes I feel like a woman!” “I believe in God and He made me this way!” What about same-sex attractions and gender identity issues?  There are a vast assortment of temptations to pursue alternatives to God’s will and way that humanity experiences. Gender confusion and same-sex attractions are only a part of those temptations. Sin has thrown humanity off kilter. Along with the God-given inherent sense of a need to know God, because of our first parents’ sin, we have a sinful nature that bucks like a bronco against what our God-given conscience  calls us to do and be.


Our sinful nature causes us to covet and pursue after material things as well as lust after sinful relational alternatives to God’s created order. Satan and our sinful nature team up to draw us away from God and His word. This leads for example to temptations to steal instead of work, to lie instead of tell the truth, to lust instead of truly love, and to question who the Creator has birthed us to be. These temptations are real and they are powerful. They can make life miserable and steer us into many a dead end in life.


There are “passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). If there wasn’t any “pleasure” in sin the temptation to sin would have no allure or power. Same-sex and other sinful sexual attractions are real and persistent; sometimes relentless. Such deep rooted sinful issues often take a lot of time and effort to overcome. Such life issues can present quite a battle and titanic life struggle. But so do other forms of life dominating issues like overcoming addictions of various kinds. There is always hope for victory with the Lord. He has a cross-fit plan that is perfect for your every need.


Same-sex and other sexually tempting attractions are often rooted deeply in the psyche and life story of those who battle them. The solution is not to embrace such temptations. That is the way of the world. The world is at a loss to deal with such problems so they simply incorporate them into their system. But no amount of worldly proclamation that something is right can change what God declares is wrong. In His word God states: “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15). He says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). God made us and knows what is best for us. He doesn’t prohibit sin just because He is Sovereign and can and wants to dominate us. No, God prohibits things that are detrimental to those He loves. He lays out before every person the way of life and death and then says, “Choose life!” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Choosing life is the desired goal of cross fitness.


“Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). Sin has consequences. Sin puts us at odds with God (Ephesians 2:1-3). Sin works death in the sinner (Romans 6:23). “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). Rather than embrace as acceptable that which God calls sinful we need to take hope in God and trust His wisdom and word. This is our choice. What will you choose? Your decision will lead to either destruction or fruitfulness (cf. Galatians 6:7-9).


God has not given us parameters to restrict us as much as He has lovingly sought to protect us from the sinful things that will destroy us. God is the supreme Father. He is the first and ultimate, the Supreme Sovereign Almighty Holy Loving Father and He loves all of us (John 3:16). And because of His love He has made a way for prodigal sinful confused humanity to return home (Luke 15:11ff.).


The cross-fit solution promise. What’s the solution? God offers us a promise. He says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). You are not the only one with same-sex or sexual temptations or any temptation for that matter. You are not the only one who has messed up a relationship or relationships. Your temptations are common to others and God is aware of them. He promises to be faithful to not allow you to be tempted beyond your capacity to resist. With the temptations He promises to provide you a way to escape and bear them. God will give you tools to succeed. He will give you weapons to help you fight victoriously. He will stand by you and strengthen you in the struggle. God will not allow you to be crushed. God promises to bring you through. He is reaching down and offering you a helping hand. Will you take hold of it? Will you let Him train you? Will you enter into and follow His cross fit plan?


There is a way to turn from darkness to light, from Satan to God, to be forgiven sin and find rest for your soul. There is truth to cut through the fog of falsehoods. There is a way to journey through the jumble of this world. There is life in exchange for the death of sin. The solution is found in Jesus Christ and in particular at the foot of the cross of Christ (e.g. John 14:6; Acts 26:18). The apostle Paul said, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The cross of Christ is the heart of a powerful gospel that is able to deliver us from the power of sin (Romans 1:16). So powerful is the cross of Christ that Paul made it his central focus. “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). The cross is an instrument of demarcation between us and the world. The cross is God’s line in the sand. The cross is our protection. The cross is what God puts between us and the world when we trust in Jesus as Savior. The cross is impregnable. The cross is the greatest most powerful weapon against the temptations we face.


The cross-fit way of faith in Jesus. How can we experience the deliverance of the cross of Christ? By faith in Christ we receive forgiveness for our sinfulness. By faith we accept that Jesus on the cross paid all that was necessary to fulfill God’s just requirements to atone for sin. And by faith we receive His righteousness put to our account (2 Corinthians 5:21; cf. also Romans 5). By faith we identify with Jesus. By faith we cast the “old man” of sin behind us and put on the “new man” of Christ-likeness (e.g. Ephesians 4:17-24). By faith we live by leaning on Jesus trusting in Him to help and hold us and love us. By faith we hear and echo Paul’s inspired proclamation, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus and His cross is the solution to our temptations, sins and confusion.


The cross-fit  reconciliation. It is at the foot of the cross that families are reconciled to God and each other. Biological family members can find reconciliation and forgiveness at the cross and be reunited. But there is an even deeper more permanent family that is formed at the cross. Think of a family where a husband loves his wife like Jesus loves His bride the church. Think of a wife who lovingly sacrifices and submits to her husband. Think of Dads and Moms who love their children with Christlike love. Think of children growing in and being discipled in the love of Jesus. Oh what a family that can be! (cf. Ephesians 5 and 6). Have you brought your family; your spouse; your children; your parents to the foot of the cross?


The cross-fit family. When we are born again through faith in Christ we receive the regenerating indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; Titus 3:4-7). And wonderfully the Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of adoption; (Romans 8:15). That means that every person regenerated by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is adopted into God’s family. We become “sons of God” or ladies, you become daughters of God (Romans 8:14). And we are able to call on God as our Father. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba [i.e. “Daddy”] Father” (Romans 8:15).


How do we know we are a part of God’s family? “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). What are the benefits and blessings of being a part of God’s family? We have a blessed inheritance. “And if children, then heirs – heirs of God and join heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). And though as a member of God’s family we may be persecuted we will suffer “with Him.” If we suffer with Him we will “also be glorified together” in the presence of God (Romans 8:17b). That should put everything in perspective. As Paul was inspired to write, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Adoption into the family of God puts all things in proper perspective. Such a family goes beyond this world into eternity.


The priority of cross-fit families. Jesus gave priority to eternal family members. When told His mother and siblings were outside waiting for Him Jesus seized the opportunity to teach the priority of God’s adoptive family. He said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers? And He stretched out His hand toward his disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48-50). Jesus didn’t say this to disrespect His mother and siblings. And we shouldn’t disrespect our biological family members either. But there is a transcendent connection with those who along with us are a part of God’s eternal family. That is the truth. That is the reality.


Biological family relationships are important but they are temporary. Being adopted into God’s family is eternal. We have eternal relationships with those in our adopted church family. The best of both worlds is to have a biological family that also belongs to God’s adoptive eternal family. There is an eternal spiritual connection between those who belong to God’s family. Sometimes that creates animosity or jealousy with those who are only biologically our family. They don’t understand the eternal connection. Therefore we should offer them the gospel of Christ in the grace of God and pray for their adoption into God’s family too.  


Sometimes we don’t appreciate the eternal nature of our fellow members in God’s adopted family. Sometimes we don’t appreciate our eternal family members or love them or treat them as though we were going to spend eternity with them. That’s where cross fitness comes in. Cross fitness ushers us into God’s family and once we are in it, cross fitness helps us to get in shape together for eternity. The family that works out together with God will stay together with God. Jesus said His disciples and it’s reasonable to add, those in His eternal family, would be known by His Christ-like love they show for one another (John 13:34-35). Are you loving your family in Christ? It’s time to get our love in shape.


Do you see a need to become cross-fit? I hope I haven’t pushed this cross-fit imagery too far for you. It’s Jesus and His cross and how it can transform you’re every area of life that counts. If you’re confused about who you are God’s cross-fit plan can bring you clarity and liberty from the tentacles of sin. If you’re in an unhealthy relationship or your family is out of shape God is calling you to cross-fitness in His Son Jesus Christ. There is a solution to your despair and frustration, your breakups and broken-downs. The Lord wants to lift you up and help you to get things right and healthy. He will help you in whatever condition you’re in. He only waits for you to take that first step of faith. Then He’ll train you as His precious child.

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