Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tested and Approved in Christ

In the closing chapter of Romans, Paul takes time to greet many individuals. Just names to us, but individuals Paul carried on his heart.

In the first part of verse 10, Paul states, “Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ.” This is the only time Apelles in mentioned in Scripture, and Paul describes him as “tested and approved in Christ.” This is a high complement, something I desire for myself and all Christians.

I teach Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus at my Christian school, and at the end of the year my students take a thorough and challenging Calculus exam. It takes them over three hours to complete the exam, which assesses their knowledge of all areas of Calculus I. When my students get their scores, they are declared tested and approved to get college credit for Calculus I or tested and not approved for credit. They endure a test and a judgment is made about their individual qualifications.

With Apelles, we are not told anything about his test, but we are clearly told by the Apostle Paul that Apelles was approved in Christ. He may have been faithfully laboring in the Roman church, enduring persecution, caring for the sick and needy, or preaching the gospel. Whatever he was doing, he proved to be a devoted follower of Christ.

Have you been tested and approved in Christ? When you go through a particularly challenging week, like final exam week at school, you are being tested. Did you rely upon God for help and endurance during the time? Did you pray to him seeking to lean on his wisdom and strength instead of your own? Did you prove to be a faithful steward of your time and gifts? Did you see how God used this time to refine you, to make you more complete? Are you a stronger Christian as a result?

The tests we face can be small or large, but they do reveal the state of our hearts. If they reveal impatience, anger, jealousy, or laziness in our hearts we have work to do. If they reveal a heart that patiently endures, trusts in God, and understands our limitations, we have much to rejoice in.

Remember, we don’t earn our salvation by what we do or how we respond to trials. Salvation is by faith alone; once saved, always saved. But we are all at different places in our walks with God and our growing as a Christian. Tests, trials, and challenging situations reveal where we are at and can identify sins we need to repent of and practices we need to grow in.

Let’s strive to be like Apelles, who was “tested and approved in Christ.”

Friday, June 02, 2006

Sin or God?

Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Total opposites – death and life, bad and good, destruction and blessing. This verse makes is clear that the choice to pursue sin or pursue God has two completely different outcomes.

The wages of sin are damnation. When we live in a way that gives attention and effort to the desires of our hearts, we store up for ourselves the wrath of our holy God. Although this is natural for us, we are accountable for every sin we commit. We deserve death and separation from God for just one of our many sins.

“But” is a glorious word in the Bible. In this passage it contrasts death and life – the sinful life and the life lived by faith in Christ.

But God gave us an incredible gift in Jesus Christ our Savior. He provided a way out of our sins and a solution to the problem within each or our hearts. He sent his only Son to live a sinless life, to die on the cross, to bear the full wrath of God for our sins, and to rise from the dead. Through faith in Christ we are credited with his righteousness and can approach our holy God. Ultimately, our relationship with the Lord is restored, and we can anticipate eternity with him in heaven.

Thank you Lord for providing a way out of our natural sinful state, which leads us all to death. Thank you for sending your Son to die for us. Thank you for the glorious gift you provide to us if we believe in you. Help us to rejoice in our salvation and long for heaven – eternity with you.