Category Archives: Bible Study

Top 10 List: Favorite Verses

Back when I pastored the Fellowship of Christ in Hammond, IN, there was a running joke about my favorite verses.  Almost weekly, I would mention a verse of Scripture and make the claim that it was my favorite verse, or one of my favorite verses.  So I figured enough is enough; it’s time to list my top 10 favorite verses* (and why).

10. 2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

This was my favorite verse as a child.  I discovered it sometime around the age of 11 or 12.  It gripped me because of its blatant claim.  There was no ambiguity or equivocation.  It was a simple statement of fact.  Because I am in Christ, I am not the person I was.  Who I was, is gone.  I am new.  I may do old things at times–things of which I am, or may be, ashamed–but that is not me.  I’m made new.

9. Philippians 1:6 – 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.

This just follows up with the previous verse quite nicely, doesn’t it?  I am not who I should be, or who I will be (but I am not who I was).  I’m on a journey, and the destination is set.  I know where I’m going, and I know what kind of person I will be when I get there.  Until I arrive, I know that God is growing me (even when I am not aware how He is doing it).  When I arrive, I will be the man I’ve always hoped to be.

8. Colossians 2:13-15 – And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

I know, this is three verses, but it is one thought.  I–who rebelled against God–was dead to God.  My sins separated me from Him (death is separation from something; physical death is separation of body and soul, spiritual death is separation of person from God).  Yet though I was dead, God resurrected me with Jesus.  In so doing, all my sins were forgiven.  Everything that separated me from God was forgiven.  The ledger book with all my debts was erased.  In its place was “paid in full” (John 19:30).  By Jesus’ resurrection, all the demons and devils of hell (rulers and authorities) were defeated.  Thus, I have nothing with which I need to worry.  Christ’s victory is my victory (1 Cor 15:57).  Which leads to the next two verses.

7. 1 Corinthians 15:57 – But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

While, this verse is eschatological (dealing with Christ’s return), the hope is for now.  Because Christ had victory over the grave, we shall have victory at His coming.  Sin will not be victorious over me (v. 56), but I will be victorious over it, but only because of Jesus’ victory is also my victory.

6. John 19:30 – When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

The atonement for sin had been paid.  It is finished.  Those words would be marked at the end of a ledger of debt once it was paid.  Imagine writing the last check (or having the last direct withdrawal) for your mortgage.  What an exciting day!  It is finished!  No more house payment.  It’s yours!!  So it is with Christ’s death.  For all who believe (trust) in Christ’s payment, the final payment was made.  There is no more payment for sin.  The record of debt with all its obligations (legal demands of do this and do that, say this and say that, don’t do/say this or that) is cancelled.  Jesus paid it all.

5. Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

No condemnation.  It has been said that Romans 8 begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation.  And that is so true.  Because the record of debt was paid by Christ in full, I cannot and will not be condemned by God.  What news could be better than that!?

4. Philippians 2:12-13 – Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

This ranks high, because it simply goes to show that while I cannot earn my salvation, I still am called to work it out.  God has granted me salvation.  He has declared me not guilty by condemning His Son who paid my debt.  That’s what we call justification (a declaration of not guilty).  But there is also what we call sanctification (or as I like to say: saint-ification).  This is what Paul is referring to in these verses.  It is the process of becoming more and more holy (more and more saintly).  God is at work in us to will and work for his good pleasure.  So we are to take what God is doing in us and work it out.  I picture it like toothpaste that is inside the tube.  When you go to brush your teeth, you squeeze the toothpaste out and onto your toothbrush.  At the end of the tube, if you’re like me, you go back to the bottom of the tube and squeeze hard, and maybe even start folding up the tube to get every microgram of toothpaste out of the tube.  God is at work in you, putting holiness into the heart, but we must work so that it come out in our actions.

3. Hebrews 2:18 – For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

This verse is similar to its popular cousin: Hebrews 4:15, but I like this one even more.  Christ suffered when tempted.  He knew what it was like to say no to the body and have his body punish Him for saying no.  I think of the addict who has a hard time saying no because it means suffering beyond belief to them.  To those who do not understand they offer little help or sympathy, but to the one who has been there and done that, they are there to help.  Jesus has suffered by saying no to temptation.  He knows what it is like, and he does not abandon, but rather, He helps.

2. 1 Peter 5:8 – Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Not the most exciting of verses.  A little terrifying actually.  However, I loved this verse as a kid.  Between this one and 2 Corinthians 5:17, I was excited to see what Jesus was up to.  Jesus was working on me, and the devil was after me.  I actually wrote a recent blog about this verse a little while ago, so I won’t go into great detail, but suffice it to say that this reminds us that we must be on the look out.  Satan is always waiting for our guards to be down so he can make his attack.  We must be ever-vigilant.

1. 2 Corinthians 5:21 – For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus became my sin.  He didn’t just bear my sin; He became my sin.  Thus when Jesus died, my sin died with Him.  So if my sin is dead, then there cannot be any condemnation because there is nothing to condemn.  Why did he do it?  So that I would become the righteousness of God in Him.  The word “might” there throws a lot of people off.  It seems to lean towards an uncertainty: maybe, maybe not.  That’s not what it means.  It means that what was once impossible is now possible.  There is not an ounce of uncertainty in this statement.  God declared us (believers in Christ) righteous (not guilty) at the death of Christ (thus, the death of our sin), and those who believe in Him become God’s righteousness.  So He became our sin, and we become His righteousness.  How could God condemn His own righteousness?  He can’t and He won’t.  (Just remember, we are becoming holier and holier; this final act of becoming God’s righteousness is just that: final.  We will not be fully righteous until Christ returns – Philippians 1:6.)

So that’s it.  Would you agree with me?  Disagree?  What are your top 10 (or top 5; or top 1)?  I’d love to read your comments.

*All verses are from ESV translation published by Crossway Books.

You Need Your Local Church, and Here’s Why

Do you ever watch the nature channel?  Me neither.  But you probably know a little about lions.  Lions are typically nocturnal hunters.  They go around looking for prey around the twilight hours, from dusk till dawn.  Stealthily they seek their prey, ever so quiet, waiting until the gazelle or antelope or whatever they’re having for dinner is least expecting them.  Often they look for the weakest of the pack/herd, perhaps one that is injured, younger, or sick.  Without warning, that lion (or lions) attack, separating the animal from the pack/herd.  Before the poor animal knows it, he’s dinner.

Peter wrote, “Be sober–minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV).  He was not writing this letter to an individual, but to multiple churches–local churches with multiple people within.  When he stated that the devil is looking for someone to devour, he was not being hypothetical, he was being specific.  This was warning to the church, not simply individuals, to be on the lookout for Satan. “He is prowling around like a lion,” Peter was writing.  “He’s staying hidden.  He’s stealthy.  He’s just waiting to pounce on someone in your congregation.”

As Christians, God has put us together with a group of people.  A flock, a herd, a pack.  On our own, we are dead-meat.  We might as well be out there in the middle of a field just waiting to be attacked.  We might as well just call out, “Here kitty, kitty.  Come get me.”

Most Christians know that isn’t the way to live.  We know that we’re supposed to be part of the pack.  Some of us get jaded and leave the pack.  Some of us are jaded, but begrudgingly stick with it.  Yet, even knowing what we are supposed to do, we often are not “part of the pack.”  We’re present; we’re accounted for, but we aren’t actually there.  We’re doing our own thing.  We’re minding our own business. We’re not looking out for others, and others are not looking out for us.  In fact, we aren’t even looking out for ourselves!  It’s no wonder so many have been pounced on by that roaring lion–the old devil.

Look what Peter wrote though: “Resist him, firm in your faith,” (1 Peter 5:9a, ESV). He is writing that to every person in the church.  Going back to English class, you may remember the idea of the understood you, except this one is the understood plural you.  (You all) resist him, firm in y’alls faith.”  We come together to resist Satan.  If the devil can, he’ll separate us from each other.  He will get the weak one alone and destroy him/her.  As a church, we are not to scatter, but gather.  We come together to protect the weak.  In fact, Paul wrote just that.  “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all,” (1 Thess. 5:14, ESV).  We don’t run away when the devil strikes.  We are not to abandon our fellow Christian.  We are to rally around them (and they are to allow us to do so).  One believer by himself/herself is no match for a lion, but a pack that comes together, can resist, and beat back the deadly foe.

“Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world,” (1 Peter 5:9, ESV).  Even as local assemblies we can take heart that local bodies of believers all over this planet are dealing and fighting with the same issues with which our congregations–our packs–are dealing.

If you are not in a local church, you need to be in one.  They are your lifeline.  They are your protection.  They are your fighters.  We stand firm together.  Grant it, church’s have gotten away from this idea of relying on each other, trusting each other, allowing each other to help in our fights, but it ought not be so.  As Gandhi would say if he were a Christian (and alive), “Be the change you want to see in the church.”  Start to watch out for the hurting, the weak, the doubting, the fainthearted.  Lift them up in prayer.  Pray with them.  Call them.  Check in on them.  Disciple them.  Help them fight when the lion pounces.