God’s Favor – Isaiah 61:1-3

God Displays His Favor Upon His Son

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Faithfully Fulfilled

God has faithfully fulfilled many of His promises to us already in scripture.  Jesus Christ fulfilled the first part of this scripture.  He has indeed fulfilled it:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Jesus proclaimed that He was there to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, not to abolish them.  Jesus faithfully fulfilled all that was prophesied about Him, down to the minutest detail.  He perfectly fulfilled all scripture about Himself so that the Father could be glorified and so that God would not be mocked, for He is not a liar like men.

Bind the Brokenhearted

Jesus promises to bind the brokenhearted.  And oh, how many woes await us each day!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It is a good thing that Jesus has overcome the world!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

God restores what was broken and lost.  Even though there are consequences for our actions, God is able to restore and bring order and peace into chaos and unrest.

Proclaim Parole

God has freed the prisoners!  We were held in a prison of darkness, because we could not see the light.  Jesus is the light of the world.  Now that we have seen the light, we can join Him in displaying the light.  Lies and deceit keep us from seeing the truth.  Jesus IS the truth:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus doesn’t just model truth; He IS truth.  “The Truth” is a title, not just a reflection of reality.  Jesus is the only accurate model of unvarnished truth that we have.  God has been gracious to proclaim freedom from darkness by sending The Truth into the world.  Now that The Truth has come, we are without excuse.

Value and Vengeance

God has pronounced His favor upon us.  By sending His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for our sins as He was tortured and crucified, He has given us great mercy and grace – great favor.  He has done so much more than we can imagine!  We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing!  We are more than conquerors in Christ!  No weapon formed against us will prosper, and we will refute every tongue that accuses us, since this is our heritage and vindication from God!  Regardless of our circumstances, we have been greatly blessed!

But there is a flip-side to this.  For those who refuse to accept the Lord’s favor – His mercy and grace, there will be a terrible day of vengeance.  God, after doing everything that He could possibly do to win His image-bearers back over to Himself after His enemies try to drag them away, will eventually need to show the next portion of His character – JUSTICE.  God is a perfectly just God, and He will rule and reign in righteousness.  God cannot abide evil (rebellion against Himself), and He will, after exhausting every effort, bring forth the penalty for disobedience to a perfect and holy God – first, physical death, and finally, eternal separation from Him – complete spiritual death.

Comfort and Console

God greatly desires to comfort and console those who are grieving over their sin.  He will give us oil of joy instead of mourning and a crown of beauty instead of ashes (used by the culture at that time to show great anguish in grief, mourning, and sorrow).  God has provided us, though the sacrifice of the perfect lamb of God, the promised Holy Spirit as our down-deposit for our inheritance.  We have Him to console us, to comfort us, and to guide us.

Towering Trees

God sees us through the robes of righteousness of Christ that have been imputed to us (legally declared to be ours).  As such, He sees us as Oaks of Righteousness.  He sees the righteousness of Christ rather than our filthy rags.  Just like a bank account, we may not see the money, but it is there, registered in our name.  Given the vast wealth of righteousness that is afforded to us through Christ, should we not then incorporate more and more of it into how we live?  Should we not display this immeasurable (spiritual) wealth just as we show off our homes, cars, jewelry, and other items that we seem to hold dear and treasure?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I take the time to try to grasp just how truly rich I am in Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your generosity is beyond my comprehension.  You have given us uncountable wealth in Your Son, Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice for us.  Help me to better grasp just how far and wide Your love is for me.  Help me to internalize it, and to rejoice in it, as the cares of this world continually claw at me to drag me down to its depths.  Give me a right understanding of Your word, that I may embrace it more and more each day.  Help me to display to the world Your righteousness, for You have declared me to be an Oak of Righteousness.  Thank You for this and for all things, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes:

*The word used elsewhere in the scripture for the Gospel means “Good News”.

**During the year of Jubilee, the captives were set free, and land was supposed to be returned to its rightful owners.  Jesus may very well have been declaring that particular year a year Jubilee as God was freeing the captives.

Forgiving Others – Matthew 18:21-35

Forgive As You Have Been Forgiven

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

A Quantifying Question

Peter asks a question of Jesus, which he then answers.  But Jesus does something that Peter doesn’t expect – He gives him an answer that is far beyond the fathomable realm of belief.  The prophet Amos indicated that three times was the appropriate number of times to forgive before exacting justice.  Seven times would have been more than gracious.  Then Jesus comes out with what appears to be a ludicrous number – seventy seven times.  Some translations of the Bible put the number at seventy times seven.  It is not the number that should be focused upon – no one would be able to mentally remember how many times that would be.  The number was so exceedingly high as to indicate that we should continually forgive others.

A Perfect Parable

Jesus then introduces one of the most frightening of parables.  It has royal intrigue, forgiveness, hardness of heart, and a terrible outcome.  We should take and internalize it so that we can understand its implications and realize the perilous ground that we find ourselves standing on when, by hardness of heart, we refuse to forgive others of their offenses against us, no matter how insignificant, nor how great and devastating.

Insurmountable Indebtedness

The debt was astronomical – ten thousand bags of gold.  Just for a reference, let’s place a fictitious weight in each bag, then get a rough idea of how much money was at stake.  Let’s say that each bag of gold held twenty pounds of gold (for the sake of argument).  That would be 200,000 pounds of gold.  Each pound of gold would have twelve Troy ounces – 2,400,000 ounces of gold.  And at today’s prices, even if we were to low-ball – $1000 US per ounce – that would be 2.4 BILLION US dollars!

This would have been an unfathomable debt for the average person.  But if it seems like someone could actually pay that off, multiply it times one million, or a billion.  The idea is that there is an unfathomable debt to repay, and that no reasonable person could repay it.  We find ourselves in that very situation.  For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.  Each of us owes a blood-debt that we cannot pay.

Royal Relief

The man who owed this to the king begged for mercy.  And in a show of great compassion, the king forgave the man of his debt.  Imagine the relief that the man must have felt!  And imagine the pain it must have caused the king to lose that much.  But the king was gracious, and the man greatly profited from his compassion.

This is the same situation that we each find ourselves in.  The price of sin is the blood of a sinless person.  Because none of us are sinless, we cannot repay our debt.  But Jesus Christ died for our sins, and shed His sinless blood for us, so that we could pay our blood-debt to God, and be free.

A Hardened Heart

The forgiven man then went out and found a man who owed him just a little money.  Possibly not having any money after squandering the billions in gold, he began to try to get some money from people who owed him.  And when the man who owed him asked for mercy, the forgiven man wouldn’t forgive his debt.

When we refuse to forgive someone of their debt to us, we are like the forgiven man who won’t forgive a much smaller debt.  We should be grateful that God has forgiven us, and show that same forgiveness to others.  When we will not forgive another person’s debt to us, we are acting out of a hardened heart.  We forget what God has done for us, and desire justice where there should be mercy.

Forgiveness harms the forgiver three ways:

  • The original pain of the offense
  • The pain in forgiving the debt
  • The knowledge that there will be no justice for the debt

Yet, God did this for each and every person who would believe in Him.  And it is up to us to do the same.  Is the pain real?  Yes.  Does it hurt?  Most certainly.  Will the pain ever go away?  Some pain takes longer than others to heal.  Yet, we are still to do what is right.

Colossal Consequences

When the king heard about the hardness of the forgiven man’s heart, he turned the man over to the jailer to be tortured until he repaid his debt.  Since the debt was not payable, he would be tortured for a very long time indeed.  We are warned that unforgiveness is a great offense to God, and that He will deal with us in a similar manner if we don’t forgive others as we have been forgiven.

We can look at this several ways.  We can look at this as an obligation, a direct command from God – forgive others, for I have forgiven you.  While certainly this is implied, it is difficult to do.  Another way to look at this is through the heart of compassion.  Do you realize just how much God has forgiven you?  Every mistake, every sin of commission and omission, every little and great thing we have done wrong, has been completely forgiven.  When we realize just how little a debt that others owe us in comparison to what we have been forgiven, we can place it in its rightful place and let it go.  Even terrible things like molestation, psychological and physical abuse, and other things that are so terrible that they can barely be spoken about, are minuscule in comparison to the debt that we have with just one single, little sin against God.  For when we break any part of the law, we have broken all of it.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When someone sins against me, am I quick to forgive them?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are gracious to me, and have forgiven my sin.  Help me, Father, to recognize just how much I have been forgiven.  Help me to have a heart of compassion and mercy to others, so that when they sin against me, I may forgive them.  Help me to embrace Your character, and to grow in grace and mercy as I put forth every effort to forgive.  And I pray, Father, that when someone does something that hurts me so bad that I don’t want to forgive them, that You would help me to put their sin in its proper place, and give me the strength, courage, and ability to lay their sin at the foot of the cross where it belongs.  And when the enemy of my soul, Satan and his minions, try to dredge up the memory of other people’s sin against me, I pray that You will give me the ability to remember that it at the foot of the cross, and to not be emotionally compromised by it.   And help me to remember that when the final trumpet is sounded, the enemy of my soul will be cast into the lake of fire, to be tormented forever, as justice is properly served.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Titus 2:11-12

Live A Godly Life By Saying No To Worldly Passions

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age

Grace of God

Salvation to all people has now been made available through the graciousness of The Lord God Almighty.  Grace is the mitigating factor in for the perfect justice of God.  He cannot look upon evil with approval.  Grace provides us with the opportunity, clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ, to come before Him in prayer for the forgiveness of sin.

Taken to the extreme, grace can be abused.  Paul warns us that we should not continue sinning so that grace can abound.  We are to accept grace as an intervening agent that is our source of salvation, and provides us with the opportunity to walk in holiness and uprightness before God.  If we rely entirely upon grace to see us through life, and live our lives the way that WE want, we are not submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit.  There are some key scriptures that bear repeating over and over.  One is the command of Jesus Christ, our Commander-in-Chief:  Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.  By relying completely on grace and ignoring the commands of the Holy Spirit of God, we place ourselves in a perilous situation where Christ may refuse to acknowledge us when He returns:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Decline Distractions

We are to be in training as soldiers of Christ, not involving ourselves in the affairs of civilians.  In this, we are to focus upon the desires of our Father in Heaven, and not the pursuit of worldly passions, which is ungodliness.  We are to rightly discern what is good and right, and what is wrong and evil.  This is a skill that every disciple should be training to do.  As we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, we can test God’s good, perfect, and pleasing will.

What is it that plagues you?  What trips you up, sucking you into its death spiral of doom, ruining your walk with God, and destroying your relationships and efforts at pursuing righteousness?  It is these things that we need to say “No” to so that we are able to say “Yes” to God, “Yes” to righteousness, and “Yes” to victory.  Without declining ungodliness and worldly passions, we are like a cup, being constantly filled with the world, with no space left to be filled with God.  Saying “No” empties us of the passions and pursuits that vie for our time, talent, and treasure in conflict with the known will of God through His word.

Get Godly

Live a life that is self-controlled, upright, and godly in this present age.  Each and every person alive on Earth, whether they choose to acknowledge it, is an image bearer of God.  Everyone, by their very existence, owe their very lives to God, for He has created us.  When we choose to live lives devoid of self-control, we deny what God has already declared is true – that we bear His image.

It is only by living upright, godly lives that we are able to properly bear the image of God.  We have been given the opportunity by God in a gracious act of love to be able to choose how we want to live our lives.  Plagued with a sin nature, and the constant goading and pressures of the world, the devil, and our own evil desires, we do not have the strength by ourselves to overcome this.  Always turn to God when you sin.  Allow His grace and mercy to overwhelm you, and take joy in Him who created You so that You will find the strength to continue when circumstances do their very best to destroy you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I find that living a godly life is a greater desire in my life than that of worldly pursuits?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You constantly pour out your grace and mercy upon me.  Help me in my weakness so that You will be my strength.  Help me to lean upon You for strength as my circumstances overwhelm me.  Give me a heart like David, that I might continually turn to You and desire Your holiness in my life, regardless of how bad I have messed up.  Help me to be humble before You, that You would lift my head up and restore me.  Grant me the desire and strength to live a holy life, far removed from the worldly passions and pursuits that bombard me with promises of fulfillment that only You can fulfill.  Shake me out of my complacency, and equip me to focus on the tasks at hand.  Remove the pull of desire that distracts me from You and fulfilling Your will in this life.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Joy of God – 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6

God Fills Us With Joy

4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

Children are Chosen

God has chosen His children.  He has predestined that all men should be drawn to His Son since Jesus was crucified.  The true children have heard, and will hear, the message of the Gospel with joy, and it will manifest itself with power through the Holy Spirit in the deep conviction that comes with the witness of the Holy Spirit about all things that are true. Truth is no longer an abstract concept relegated to relativism, but is now the embodiment of the Son of God who has declared:

“…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The Holy Spirit of God bears witness to the truth and power of the word of the Living God as the word penetrates into the hearts of all who listen.  God’s word will not go void;  everywhere it is heard, His word will have effect upon all who hear it.  The soil of our hearts is being plowed by the difficulties of life and the work of the Holy Spirit.  Even in the darkest of times, the Holy Spirit of God is able to soften the hardest of hearts in the emotional pain of suffering and loss.  God has said through His servant Paul that we are predestined to be His children.  We merely need to respond to the message.

Severe Suffering

We know that we are His children because we have responded to His word, and it has grown in us through the hardship of life.  Paul reiterates that when we become imitators of him, we are being imitators of the one who sent him.  Hardship and suffering produce perseverance,  which produces character, which then produces hope – a fully justified expectation of completion of what has been promised.

When we are tried through the crucible of suffering, our faith is tested, and it grows.  Those who do not have a deep faith in the solid rock of Christ will find that whatever they have placed their faith in will be eroded by the crashing waves of hardship and suffering, just as sand is swept away by the outgoing tide.  The sand erodes, and exposes the fragility of the foundation upon which the building was laid.  But upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ, no hardship or suffering can prevail.  For it is within Christ that we have our joy. and the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Justified Joy

The Holy Spirit testifies of the Son of God, and fills us with joy as we cling tightly to the author and perfecter of our faith.  And a peace that transcends understanding fills our heart.  We may not understand why, but we know that our joy is justified, well-placed, and authentic.  Nothing and no one can take that joy from us except that we take our eyes off of the one who beautiful gaze is the sole object of our affection:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace. – Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961)

It is in the light of His glory and grace that we find our peace and our joy.  In these desperate and wicked times, turn to the author and perfecter of your faith, and witness the joy and peace that transcends understanding as He fills your heart with Himself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing the joy of the Lord to fill me up during my duress?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, glory and power be to You who are exalted above all.  Praise be to You in all things, for You are all in all, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  Thank You for bringing me joy through Your Son, Jesus Christ, and the wonderful working of the Holy Spirit as I walk in Your ways.  Give me a heart of thanksgiving and joy as I contemplate the magnitude of all that You have wrought.  Tune my heart to Yours, and help me to endure the trials that are and that are to come.  Prepare me for the great and terrible day of the return of Your son.  Help my life to be a witness to the love, grace, and mercy that You extend to all people in the hopes of reconciling everyone to Yourself.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Grace of God – Isaiah 26:7-11

The Wicked Don’t Recognize The Grace Of God

7 The path of the righteous is level;
you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous
smooth.
8 Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws,
we wait for you;
your name and renown
are the desire of our hearts.
9 My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
the people of the world learn righteousness.
10 But when grace is shown to the wicked,
they do not learn righteousness;
even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil
and do not regard the majesty of the Lord.
11 Lord, your hand is lifted high,
but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people and be put to shame;
let the fire reserved for your enemies consume them.

Smooth Sailing

It is the Lord God Almighty that smooths the difficulties of life for the disciple.  God will make the path of the righteous straight, and set them on course because they have believed in Him and believe what He says.  God is sovereign, and He promises to take care of the righteous and their ways, and watch over them as they live their lives for Him.

Delightful Desires

When a person believes God, the path of righteousness becomes a joy to them.  Previously, righteousness would stand in the way of wicked, blocking them from their heart’s desires.  Now, righteousness becomes the very desires of their hearts.  They cannot help but desire to walk in righteousness before God.  He Himself places this desire in our hearts, and we now, with the stink and stain of sin removed, can fully embrace and recognize the beauty of righteousness.

We desire it so much that our souls long for it.  After walking with God for a little while, we seek righteousness out as though it was water and we are thirsty in the desert.  Only righteousness, and the presence of our Lord, can quench our immense thirst.

Wickedness Wastes

The wicked, however, even when presented with the grace of Almighty God, still do not realize its value.  They do not learn righteousness from it, because they are still blinded by their sin.  Even when the wicked are placed in a community of the righteous, they continue to do what they do, rather than learn the ways of righteousness.

There are people who believe that if you place people who have ethics and morals that are corrupt in amongst people who have good moral fiber and a strong work ethic, that somehow the ethics, morals, and desire to participate in jobs that benefit themselves and society will rub off on them and spur them on to greatness.  But the exact opposite almost always happens.  The people who are transplanted instead begin the corruption of the community, and the community suffers rather than the individual being rehabilitated by contact and proximity to exemplary behavior.

The only way that it will work is if there is a desire by the transplanted people to embrace the ideals and culture of where they are moved.  Otherwise, no change is possible.  That is the result of our human condition.  We are not able to escape it apart from the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  It is only then, being freed from the bondage of sin by the blood of Jesus, that we are able to obey God and love Him.

Pending Peril

Not only are they unable to see and seek righteousness, the wicked do not even see the hand of God raised above them, ready to invoke and inflict judgment upon them.  They are unaware of the signs because they cannot see them.  Sin so fully blinds us that we walk around in a stupor, doing what we know is wrong, yet unaware that consequences are soon to follow.

One of the effective strategies for luring criminals into traps by police is to send them letters indicating that they have won something.  Greed is so powerful in their lives, that they willingly show up at the phony storefront to claim their prize, only to find that their prize is a trip to prison.  Greed blinded them to their need for obscurity and overwhelmed them with a false sense of security, masking the true nature of their circumstances.

Consumed through Conflagration

And when people absolutely refuse to accept the truth, God send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.  He helps them to harden their hearts, for they refuse to listen to the One calling to them and trying to plow the soil of their hearts for the planting of seeds.  Hearts hardened by life will reject the seeds of grace and mercy, and will eventually provide the very opportunity to receive the wrath of God rather than the grace of God.  And once we die, it is too late.  So if you hear the voice of the Lord calling you to repentance, heed it now while He may be found.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I in a position where my heart can hear what God desires to tell me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have poured and continue to pour out your grace and mercy upon me each and every day.  Your mercies renew every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness.  Help me to guard my heart against the difficulties of life so that I will not become embittered by my circumstances.  Help my heart to soften, that I may be in a better position to hear what You have to say.  Father, I pray that the hearts of the unbelievers would be softened as well, so that they might hear and be able to embrace Your love, grace, and mercy.  Help them, Lord God, for as Your word says, they will be consumed by your wrath if they do not repent.  This I ask in the precious name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Christian Households and God – Colossians 3:18-21

The Family Is Attacked By The Enemy Because It Displays The Order And Submission Of The Trinity

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Orchestrated Order

There is order in the family just as there is order in the Trinity.  The order shows that the participants are co-equal but with different roles.  In this case, the order is that the husband has a role of authority over the wife and children.  The wife has the role of authority of advisor to the husband and authority over the children.  The children have the role of learning the roles of authority of the wives and husband.  The husband’s role is not one of tyrannical dictator, but rather the orchestrater of the plans and purpose of the family unit towards success in all things they set out to accomplish under the watchful and guiding efforts of the Spirit of God.

The key – the glue that holds this all together – is mutual submission.  Without submission, the family as a God-appointed organization will fall apart and fail.  The good news is that the Bible shows us how there is perfect submission in the Trinity of God, and to watch Jesus Christ’s example of this to learn the skills of submission and obedience to ensure the survival of the Family.

Wisdom for Wives

Paul starts out his instructions for Christian households with the hardest yet simplest command first – that wives submit to their husbands.  The enemy hates the concept of submission.  This can be seen in the first chapters of the first book of the Bible – Genesis – when the serpent plants seeds of doubt as to the character and nature of God in the ears of Eve, telling her that God is withholding something precious and valuable from her – the ability to be like God.  And the curse of sin reflects this, since women now desire the role of their husbands in family and life – to be in charge over everything.  And while it is certain that there are women who are more than capable of wielding authority (take the God-appointed judge of Israel Deborah for example…), the role assigned to women is as man’s helper.

The desire to serve self over others is key to sin.  When we desire to serve ourselves at the expense of others, we reject the love that God desires each of us to understand and obey:

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘”

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

God is love.  He desires that each of us display his love – agape love – towards others and Himself.  God has wired women to be able to display this type of love to others.  It was only fitting then that the enemy would try to corrupt what God instituted in the beginning.  Satan, hating God, unable to touch God, did the only thing he could – he tried to get women to stop loving, and in this particular case, convince Eve to stop submitting to God and her husband.  By eating the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve chose self-glory and abandoned her God-given role as the beacon of love and submission that she was intended to be.

Jesus Christ, as part of His mission on Earth, was to set straight our understanding of the Father by displaying Him (His character) to the world.  And Jesus did so through submitting to the Holy Spirit of God and the Father.  He did this to show us that this was how it was to be in the beginning.  It is only through submitting to the assigned and ordained roles that God places each of us in that we properly reflect His order and completion.

When women submit to their husbands through the execution of their innate ability to display unconditional, volitional, and sacrificial love towards their husbands in a respectful, submissive manner, they radiate the message that God intended and bring Him greater glory, restoring that which is lost to selfishness through the three primary influences:

  1. The Flesh
  2. The World
  3. The Devil

and the three primary attack vectors:

  1. The Lust of the Eyes
  2. The Lust of the Flesh
  3. The Pride of Life

Help for Husbands

Paul goes on to give husbands the key through which they are able to enable their wives to reach their full potential in Christ – to love them.

This is a simple concept that is not innate within men.  Men are wired for respect, not love.  Ask men whether they would rather be respected yet hated, or loved and disrespected, and most men would choose the former over the latter.  God recognizes this, and gives husbands the key to their wives’ hearts – they must love (agape) them as Christ loves the church, laying down his life for hers.

When husbands love their wives, they are putting their wives’ best interests over their own.  They are looking to ensure that their wives are taken care of first, and that their needs are fully met.  When husbands love their wives in this manner, it is easy for their wives to submit to their husbands and respect them – the wives are being placed above the husbands in all things except for his duty to God.  What wife can complain that her doting, loving husband who seeks the best for her when he is acting in this manner?  Is this a cause to hate, despise, ridicule, nag, and otherwise disparage and disrespect him?  May it never be so!

Coaching for Children

God gives children a simple directive (the verb hupakouete is an imperative command) – obey your parents in everything.  This is a training that will yield a great harvest of righteousness in the lives of children.  Obedience to their parents sets a pattern that will translate to obedience to God.  Additionally, obedience teaches submission.

When children allow themselves to be taught through obedience and submission, they are more likely and able to transition these skills into their adult lives.  And as mentioned above, submission is the key to the hearts of both men and women.  Obedience is the hallmark of love towards God.  In all of this, these two skills prepare you to live life to its fullest.

When children refuse to be trained by submission and obedience, we see the fall its ignoble display.  Seeking to grasp the forbidden fruit, it is not until long after the taste of the fruit leaves the mouth that the consequences of those decisions begin to haunt the one hungry for self-fulfillment.   But thanks be to God in Jesus Christ, for His blood atones for all our sins, and gives us the second chance no one deserves.

Failings of Fathers

There is a final warning to fathers concerning their children.  In the pursuit of training up a child in the way they should go, Father are to be very careful that their desire for respect is kept in balance with the needs of the children to grow and learn.  Fathers don’t have the innate ability to gauge when they are being too strict.  In their minds, obedience should be complete and immediate – a show of respect.  But just as anyone learning a new skill will tell you, it takes time and practice get good at it.

And while fathers need to be on their guard so that they don’t exasperate their children in their attempts to guide and teach them, they should also be wary of the manipulative sinful nature of all children to appear outwardly compliant while inwardly harboring hate, bitterness, and dissent.  Relationship is the key to influencing your children.  A child is more likely to respond to a parent that has a solid relationship with them than one who thinks their father either doesn’t care about them or won’t make time for them.

There is a story about a man and his son that goes something like this: a man and his son went fishing for a day.  They cast their bait out on hooks, but the fish just weren’t biting.  They finally went home, and each wrote in their diaries.  The man wrote,”We didn’t catch a thing all day.  The day was a complete waste of time.”  The son wrote, “I spent an entire day with my dad.  It was the best day of my life!”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we submitting to each other in our families the same way that Christ submitted to the Father and the Holy Spirit?

A short prayer of presentation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown us Yourself through the life of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Grant me the ability to submit to You completely and without reservation, that I may serve You in the manner that You desire and be obedient to Your every command.  Help me to accept the role that You have assigned to me in my family.  Give me the strength, wisdom, and words so that I can fulfill Your will as You greatly desire.  Help me to overcome my innate, sinful tendencies that I may embrace Your goodness, compassion, mercy, and grace, and help my family to succeed so that it will be a beacon on a hill to all who see.  May others praise You because of the example of my family.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Temptation of Christ – Hebrews 4:14-16

Then Jesus Was Led By The Spirit Into The Wilderness To Be Tempted By The Devil.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Firm Foundation

We have a wonderful faith, for our faith is in the One who spoke everything into existence, and who allowed Himself to be hung from a cross for our sins.  Jesus, the perfect, sinless lamb of God, was sacrificed for our sins, and is our great High Priest of the order of Melchizedek.  Unable to be our high priest through the lineage of Levi (and therefore Aaron), Jesus traces his ancestry from both mother and step-father to David of the line of Judah, where He claims the title “Lion of Judah“.  By Levitical law, Jesus could not have been our high priest by law – He didn’t qualify.  Instead, He became our high priest through an oath by God, becoming our eternal high priest, without beginning or end, just as Melchizedek, who was a type and shadow of Christ.

We know that Jesus suffered for us, and bore our sins on the cross.  But He did more than that.  He was tried and tested just as we are.  For although God cannot be tempted, because God is perfect, Jesus put on flesh to become like one of us, and therefore, He could be tempted (for although there is no sin in Him, He had a physical body that would be subject to the pain, suffering, and trials that we endure)…

Truly Tempted

What was the first thing that God did after Jesus began His earthly ministry (through the dedication of baptism)?  He was sent out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted/tested.  Before any of us enters ministry, we too must be tried and tested to prepare us for what is ahead.  This is a pattern seen throughout the Bible:

  • Joseph, son of Jacob, was tried and tested for 17 years in the affliction of slavery and incarceration for crimes he did not commit
  • Moses was tried and tested for 40 years in the time-honored profession of animal husbandry – shepherding – before God would use him to rescue His people from Pharaoh
  • David, another shepherd, having poured oil over his head by Samuel to be declared the next king of Israel, suffered as an outcast from his homeland and hunted down by the elite special forces of his day for more many years because of the jealousy of Saul

In the same way, Jesus was tried and tested in the same way that we are:

Jesus also was tested in the Garden of Gethsemane where He sweat blood when His physical body was reacting to what He knew was coming – the cross.  Three times Jesus asked God to remove the cup He was about to drink, and three times He submitted to the perfect will of God.  No one can say that Jesus doesn’t understand the difficulties we face.  He put on flesh, and suffered as we have suffered.

Granted Grace

And in that, Jesus was perfectly suited to be our high priest, for the high priest had to be able to have compassion on the ones that He would offering sacrifices.  Without compassion, there cannot be grace.  And Jesus, being God, has both compassion and grace as well as firsthand knowledge of what it is like to walk the Earth with flesh.

Morning Mercy

The Bible says that God’s mercies renew every morning.  And that is good news for us, for we are constantly in need of God’s mercy.  Jesus is able to sympathize with us for He has shared in our pain and suffering, and knows what it is like to live through our trials.  Many have claimed that God, being perfect and spirit, cannot possibly fathom what we go through every day.  God had foreseen that, and provided Jesus an Earthly body, in part, to ensure that we can make no such claim.

As we ponder our difficulties, and struggle in our trials, let us remember that Jesus, our perfect and eternal high priest, suffered as we have, and is able to sit at the right hand of God, praying for us in our afflictions, for mercy and grace.  For He and He alone is perfectly able to understand our travails and come alongside us in our difficulties, having been there Himself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I remembering that Jesus suffered as I have when I am going through trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are perfect in every way, and have provided the perfect sacrifice for my sins in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  He became flesh as one of us, perfectly able to sympathize with me as I suffer through the trials of this life.  Help me, Father, to remember that Jesus can indeed know what it is like to suffer in these bodies.  Help me to take courage and strength, knowing that He is at Your right hand, praying for each of us.  Help me to remember that neither Jesus nor You have ever lost anyone that was Yours.  Give me strength and comfort as I go throughout this day for the darkness of these times are threatening to overwhelm me.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Compassion of God – 2 Chronicles 30:6-9

The Lord Is A Compassionate God

6 At the king’s command, couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the king and from his officials, which read:

“People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your parents and your fellow Israelites, who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their ancestors, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. 8 Do not be stiff-necked, as your ancestors were; submit to the Lord. Come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the Lord your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9 If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”

Reciprocating Return

Hezekiah pleaded for the Israelites to return to God.  He urged them to do this so that God would return to them as well.  The people had become stiff-necked, refusing to do what the Lord God Almighty had commanded them to do – to yield themselves to Him.  They had refused to repent, and continued in their sin, and God allowed their enemies to overcome them and remove them from the land that God had given to them.  Even in disciplining them, God anxiously awaited their return to Him, so that He could return to them.

Terror to Traitors

When they had refused to repent of their unfaithfulness, God made them an object of horror to all who seen them.  Through their continued unfaithfulness, they were acting in a way that men would call treason.  They no longer held God to be of the highest regard, and began to follow someone or something else.  Treason in many countries is punishable by immediate public execution.  The fact that God does not immediately do so shows His unfailing love and compassion towards us.

Submit in the Sanctuary

Hezekiah implored the people to submit to Almighty God, and to come to His holy sanctuary.  The sanctuary was the place where God dwelt.  We have the great benefit of being the sanctuary of God, our very bodies being the naos, the holy of holies, with the embodiment of God within us – the Holy Spirit has already taken residence.  Today, disciples cannot avoid God, for He is with us even when we may not want Him to be.  Because of this great honor, we should constantly remember His presence and power, His glory and honor, and submit in holy reverence to Him always.

Service avoids Soreness

Hezekiah goes on to say that we should serve the Lord so that His anger would be turned away.  We have been created to serve God.  We seem to flip things around, and desire that God serve us.  When we pray and ask God for help, but don’t bother to make ourselves available to serve God, is that not what we are doing?  God promises to give us strength and resources to do whatever He calls us to do.  And while it may not seem pleasant at the time (see Jonah), it is what God requires, and brings Him great glory.

God has planned before the foundation of the world the deeds that He wishes to accomplish through us.  We can submit in service to Him, and be part of His plan, or we can selfishly do what we want to do.  It is the terrible two-edged nature of free will.  But God believes that the rewards outweigh the risks, and knowing we would fail, provided His Son to die for our sins to get us back on track in our relationship with Him.  Or, do we tell our best friend, who just asked us to help Him, that He can go pound salt?

Compassion by Captors

When we return to the Lord, He returns and restores us.  He makes our enemies be at peace with us, and causes our captors to show us compassion.  Throughout the Bible, those who were captured and enslaved were shown mercy and compassion by their captors when they submitted themselves to God.

We are told that the Just shall Live by Faith.  We should do exactly that, and God will see us through all of the terrible difficulties He has allowed in our lives.  This is how we can be at peace with others.  When a people submit themselves to God, He is faithful.

Compassionate Creator

God takes compassion upon us when we return to Him.  It is part of His nature, a character feature that He cannot change or hide.  God will ALWAYS show compassion on those who humble themselves before Him, submit to Him, obey His commands, and show compassion to others.  God will not turn His face from those who do these things.  No matter what the devil tells you, God’s character is immutable – it will never change.  Heed the word of the Living God, and return in repentance to Him who loves You with an everlasting love.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I show compassion to others in the same way that God shows me compassion?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, blessed be Your name, for You are a compassionate and merciful God.  You seek and save the lost, and when I stray, You come after me to restore me to the flock.  Forgive me for my many sins.  Help me to overcome that which so easily trips me up.  Give me strength, guidance, and desire to follow You in every way.  Help me to show others the same compassion that You show to me each and every day.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Mercy of God – James 2:12-13

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Precedent of Privilege

The law that gives freedom is mercy.  Mercy overrides judgment, and provides the vehicle through which God can have compassion on us.  God’s holiness demands that we be punished, but God’s mercy is the velvet glove over the proverbial iron hand.  God’s word says that His mercies renew every morning.  God can have compassion on us through His mercy.

Conviction without Clemency

Because mercy is a character trait of God, we are expected to display it as His image-bearers.  James tells us that when we are without mercy, we will be shown God’s judgment without the tempering action of His mercy.  That should be very sobering to us.  No matter what anyone does to us or to our loved ones – physical, emotional, financial, sexual, or any other kind of assault, the act of sinning is far more egregious to God than what was done to us by men.  We must keep in mind that God displays His character to us as we experience His character through the way we live our lives.  When we show mercy to others, God gives us a better appreciation for and understanding of His merciful nature.

Grander Grace

Isn’t it wonderful that mercy triumphs over judgment?  Without mercy, the first time anyone sinned they would be immediately thrown into Hell.  The human race would have ended before it had begun, with Adam’s immediate incarceration in the lake of fire (Eve was just deceived – Adam was the one who sinned).  We greatly desire justice, but should also desire mercy for others.  We cry out to God to show us mercy.  Why should we not extend the same courtesy to others that we ourselves desire from God?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Is my first inclination to desire mercy or judgment for those who have wronged me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I am grateful that You have shown me mercy in the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins through His death and resurrection.  Help me to have the same attitude towards mercy that You have, that I might show mercy to others when they have wronged me.  I recognize that mercy does not excuse their behavior, but provided a loving outreach to them so that they can have a change of heart about what they are doing.  I recognize the pain that I will have since justice has not been fully meted out, but I greatly desire to better understand Your merciful nature as I do my best to live out Your character in my daily life.  Strengthen me in this, for my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Grace of God – John 1:14-18

God Is Full Of Grace

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Glorious Grace

Since before time began, God was the embodiment of grace.  Before any matter ever existed, grace had always been and was perfected invested in the Lord God Almighty.  Knowing all that would ever transpire, it took God grace to bring it into existence, knowing the pain and hardship that would follow.  God’s grace, as a key part of His perfect and defining character, would be fully on display with the fall of humanity into sin, and the subsequent restoration of man through the life, death, and resurrection of none less than the Son of the Living God.

Angels seek to look into these things, for they have not been the recipient of God’s grace.  As the recipients of such a magnificent and glorious aspect of the character of God, we too should look into His grace throughout time since God sacrificed an animal for the sin of Adam, and gave a final sacrifice for sin through Jesus Christ.

First and Foremost

As an archetype, Jesus was and will always be the first and foremost in everything, for He was the one who, through His voice, brought all of creation into existence.  John the Baptist recognized this, and declared Jesus (his cousin) to be before him, even though John the Baptist was born first into a physical body ,and preached repentance and holiness in preparation for the grace that was to become ours through the perfect and final sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was not the first person to be awakened from his sleep in death (for more information, read up on the lives and deeds Elijah and Elisha in 1 & 2 Kings), but was the first to be transformed through His resurrection into His post-resurrection, perfected human form.  Christ was perfect and sinless, and therefore deserves to be the first in all.  He has rightly received the title King of Kings and Lord of Lords, for He and He alone did all that the Father desired of Him without ever sinning once.

Grace is Greater

Moses was entrusted with the Law of God, and through him came the other rules through which man may live in relationship with each other and with God.  The law is not grace, but rather a perfect litmus test to show us that everyone who was born as the seed of Adam is in need of God’s grace.  The law merely points out our need – grace fulfills the need.  And it is through the perfect grace of God that we are saved, and not by our own hands, that no one may boast.

Grace is like Bernoulli’s principle and the Law of God like gravity.  Gravity is a power force, but Bernoulli’s principle provides a stronger force to overcome it.  Grace overcomes the law, and as such is much more powerful.  As we set our eyes upon the the beauty of the One who is the embodiment of grace, we should remember that grace triumphs over the law as it is more powerful.

Radical Relationship

John briefly mentions in this passage the relationship between the Son and the Father, indicating that it Jesus is in the closest relationship with the Father.  It is through this amazing relationship that the sacrifice of Jesus that we are able to reap the benefit of God’s grace.  Even now, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, interceding in prayer for us.  And the glory and the power of grace is being poured out from Heaven upon all who are the recipients of the imputed righteousness of Christ through the incredible relationship that exists between the Father and the Son.

This relationship is so powerful, that we are given the right to become God’s children through adoption.  God is not our foster parent; He is our adoptive Father, fully embracing us as His very own children, to participate in His glory and grace and riches.  For God owns all that He has created, and seeks to share His wealth with His children as an inheritance that is unequaled.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I growing in my relationship with others as in the same way that God seeks to deepen my relationship with Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have prepared everything in advance, and know all things before they happen.  You have foreseen my failures, and still love me and seek after me.  I thank You for your patience, kindness, mercy and grace.  Strengthen me when I fall, and help me to get back up immediately so that I can continue on this arduous journey of life that becomes more difficult with every passing second.  The time of the coming of Your Son approaches rapidly, and I seek to be prepared so that when He arrives, You will find Your house in order, and all that You have requested of me will have been accomplished.  Forgive me for my sins, and grant me Your mercy and grace, of which I need more of every moment that I grow in You, for as You reveal Yourself to me, I realize more and more just how far I am from the embodiment of holiness that is Your perfect character.  This I ask in Jesus’ Holy and Precious Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Grace of God – 1 Peter 1:13-16

Set Your Hope On The Grace Of God

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Grace of God

Most of the established denominational churches that profess to follow Christ stress the grace and mercy of God.  We are in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace, for without it, we would be subject to His judgement.  God goes to great lengths to remind us that it is only by His mercy and grace that we are permitted to be alive, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Grace is very important to remember and dwell upon, for in our time of need (which is every second of every day), we need to rely upon God’s character – both mercy and grace – to carry us throughout the day.  It is comforting to know that God is so generous with us because the other aspect of His nature – holiness – should give us great pause in how we view His grace and mercy.

The modern church often times stresses the grace and mercy of God as a way of living without the proper balance of the other portion of His character – holiness.  And while we are aware that God is holy, when we solely rely upon His grace and mercy without considering His holiness and righteousness, we do both God and ourselves a disservice.

We are told to fear God (reverentially and humbly view Him through the lens of love since He is, by definition, the embodiment of holiness).  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  It is foolishness to embrace God’s grace and mercy without embracing God’s holiness as well.

Eschew Evil

In order to embrace God’s holiness, we must first recognize that holiness is the abject hatred, scorn, and revulsion of evil.  It is only through despising evil that we can remove ourselves from its very strong call even after being freed from its bondage.  As beings with a predisposition towards sin, we are naturally attracted to and can easily embrace that which offends Almighty God.  It is only after understanding God’s viewpoint of sin that we are able to align ourselves and identify with God’s position on it.

Without a profound revelation of how much God abhors evil, we won’t be able to view it in the same way that God does.  And God understands that since we are predisposed towards sin, He offers us grace and mercy.  It is only through His grace and mercy that we can be forgiven such great offense towards God.  Until we are broken by our sin, we will eagerly embrace grace and mercy without the singular revulsion toward that which God so deeply despises.

Wholly Holy

As image-bearers of God, we have a sacred obligation to do that which we were created to do: to display the glory and holiness of God.  As recipients of grace and mercy, we are given the tools to do this.  Christ has broken the very strong hold that sin exerts in the lives of those who accept the free gift of God through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  In receiving this wonderful gift, we are not to abuse God’s grace and mercy:

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Living life completely dependent upon God’s grace and mercy without taking into account our own actions is to abuse God’s leniency.  As we submit our lives to the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus Christ did, we will find that we more greatly desire the holiness of God and obedience to His word as we seek to distance ourselves from that which offends God.  It is through the discipline of submission and obedience that we participate in the character of God, as Jesus modeled for us when He walked the Earth two thousand years ago.  As disciples of Christ, it behooves us to carefully consider our every action, word, and thought, that we would better emulate the character of the One that created us in order to reflect His love – the balance between grace, mercy, and holiness.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking the holiness of God to the same extent that I see His grace and mercy?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for all that You have done to free me from the bondage of sin.  Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that I may live.  Thank You for Your grace and mercy when I fail to be who You created me to be.  Help me to submit myself to You so that I can live in the manner in which You have chosen for me to live before the foundation of the world.  Guard me and guide me in all my ways.  May I live solely to please You as I seek to walk with Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to be the disciple that You so very much want me to be.  Help me always to remember that You are holy, and to not abuse Your grace and mercy.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Justice of God – Jonah 3:6-10

Justice Must Be Tempered With Compassion

6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.
7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Doctrinal Dilemma

Many people have said the following:

“I can’t believe in a God who would send people to hell.”

What many people fail to realize is that God doesn’t sent them to hell; they send themselves to hell.  God does not arbitrarily point His finger and say, “OK, I’m going to send him and her and her and him to hell.”  Rather, God says the following:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

It would appear that God desires everyone to be saved from their Adam-inherited sinful, rebellious nature.  God is patient and seeks people for a long time.  We are told that should we hear His call, we should respond while He is near.  God has made Himself known to us, so that no one is without an excuse:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

So it would appear that:

  • God is compassionate
  • God is a just judge

This brings up an interesting dilemma:  How can a perfect God, who is full of mercy and grace, be a God full of perfect justice as well?

Beautiful Balance

We often impose our own moral values on situations, rather than look at them through the lens of God’s perspective.  Love cannot be merciful, graceful, and compassionate without being just:

  • Compassion without justice is anarchy
    • Without application of punishment for wrongdoing, we are effectively endorsing the person’s wrongdoing, and enabling them to repeatedly inflict harm upon others.
    • Without punishment, there is no recourse for the protection of law-abiding people from the wickedness of the evil people who disregard the law
  • Justice without compassion is emotionally void and cruel
    • There are appropriate penalties for wrongdoing based on the severity of the wrongdoing.  Actions have consequences.  We wouldn’t take a person’s life for a misdemeanor.  Nor should we give a slap on the wrist to someone who purposefully extinguishes the lives of others.
    • In each case, the severity of the transgression should be met with appropriate consequences.

Let’s define our words so that we understand what we are talking about:

  • Justice is the situation where the penalty for breaking the law has an appropriate disciplinary action based on the severity and type of crime committed.
  • Mercy is not getting what you justly deserve
  • Grace is getting a favor or blessing that was not earned (not based on merit)
  • Compassion is a deep sympathy or sorrow for someone who is in pain or suffering, with a strong desire to alleviate the pain and/or suffering
  • Holiness is the act of being set apart from ANY wrongdoing and set apart to complete and total righteousness (the inability to do anything wrong, and do everything right).   With the absence of wrongdoing, holiness is considered PERFECTION.

In order for Justice to be perfect, it must be tempered with compassion, mercy, and grace.  Otherwise, we have the knee-jerk reaction of the emotionless dictator who yells, “Off with his head!” to even the most trivial perceived rebellion.

Perfect Position

Since God is holy (and thus perfect), any rebellion of any nature must be punished appropriately.  The level of the rebellion must be met with the correct level of punishment.  God is infinitely holy and perfect, so any rebellion, no matter how small, needs to be dealt with justly.  The only just way to deal with rebellion, when perfection is the standard, is to remove the person from the population (through incarceration) so that they won’t harm anyone else.  Every country in the world has laws to protect its people from the evil of others.

So, why should we hold God to a lower standard?  People want God to just accept them as they are (which He does) and to not expect them to change.  This is the equivalent of a murdering cannibal going before a judge and saying, “You are an intolerant, racist bigot.  Just because I kill and eat people, you would deny me my freedom to be with other people?  How dare you!  I shouldn’t have to change to conform to your perverted sense of reality, judge!  My view of life is the correct one!  You must conform to my views!  You have no right to ‘judge’ me!  I demand that you immediately drop all charges, and I will be suing you for wrongful arrest and harassment!  You will see me in court!”

(Hopefully) No one would ever agree with that position.  Yet, when we say, “I can’t believe that God would judge me because I (fill in the blank), are we not doing the same exact thing?  Are we not saying that our morality and ethics are of a higher, more pure, more righteous, and more perfect nature than that of God?

God, recognizing that we have a sinful nature, has shown us compassion in His infinite wisdom.  He gave us an opportunity to be reformed and rejoined back to Him in relationship from isolation by sin.  God sent His One and Only Son, who never sinned, to die upon the cross to be a perfect substitutionary sacrifice for us. In this, he has shown:

  • Compassion – God wants to alleviate our pain and suffering by giving us the opportunity to repent
  • Mercy – When we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we are no longer going to get the punishment that we rightly deserve
  • Grace – God didn’t have to provide a way – He is perfectly justified in sending the whole lot of humans to permanent incarceration within His holding cell – the Lake of Fire.  Instead, He gave us unmerited favor through the sinless shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, as an atonement (payment for wrongdoing) for our sinful rebellion against Him.

God has shown that He, and only He, has the perfect balance between Justice and Compassion.

Jesus paid our fine.  But who would consider a person “rehabilitated” if they refused to acknowledge that their actions were wrong by willfully continuing to do the same things over and over again without any regret or attempt to rectify the behavior? God loves us just as we are, but He loves us too much to allow us to stay where we are.

With reprieve comes the implicit understanding that the actions that led to the crime would not continue.  God calls this process sanctification.  We are being transformed from desiring evil and acting upon those desires into desiring righteousness and acting upon these new desires.  Even people who aren’t able to control themselves (the mentally ill) are placed away from the ability to do harm when they are unable to change.

Positional Preference

Our perception of God’s justice is marred by our sinful nature.  It is only when we see Him through the lens of Truth and Perfection that we can better understand and begin to grasp the wisdom, balance, and perfection that He displays when He operates in our lives.  We can no sooner fault God for injustice as we can exonerate ourselves from law by merely saying we don’t agree with the law.

While the laws of men may be (and often are) flawed, the laws of God are perfect.  They will withstand any criticism with one exception: those who are unable to critically think, and instead think with their emotions as it best serves them and their own desires – always at the price of others.  It is the self-serving that so piously and loudly denounce ethics and morality as unjust, antiquated, mean-spirited, racist, uncaring, and intolerant.  And the last is true:  Morality is intolerant of immorality (and, therefore, evil).  That is exactly why we have laws…

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we of the mindset that our morality is superior to that of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You that You are holy and just.  Help me to see past my own faults to gaze at Your glorious face, and see how far short of Your glory I fall.  Help me to remember that You and You alone are able to see without impaired judgement, as You and You alone are holy.  Help me to shed any and all attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs that do not conform to Your holy revelation of truth in Your Word.  Guide me in all that I think, say and do, that I would see everything through Your perfect eyes and perspective.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Wolves Among The Sheep – Jude 3-4

Beware Of Those Who Are Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Foundational Faith

As God’s people, we should rejoice and hold sacred the charge that has been given to us – the message of salvation from sin and reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ our Savior.  We are told to contend for the faith, and also to have an answer for anyone who would ask why we believe what we believe.

And while we don’t have the full picture, we should still learn and grow in our faith through the doctrines that have been laid out for us in Scripture.  Just as a soldier without a gun will be caught off-guard when faced by their opponent in war, so are Christians who don’t pick up their Bible, read it, learn it, and live it.

The sad part about the introduction to this short letter by Jude is that the invasion by the enemy into the people of Christ had begun just a few short years after Jesus was among them.  Although the apostles and the primitive church started in near spiritual purity, opportunity was seen by those whose father is the devil, and they promoted (and even to this day promote) themselves as beacons of light.  Paul had praised the Bereans for their trust-but-verify attitude, and they checked EVERYTHING that Paul said against scripture to see if it was true.  Regardless of who we listen to, we should do the same.  The enemy is planting tares in with the wheat.

Troublesome Tares

Tares are a plant that, when first sprouting, appear identical to wheat in appearance.  It is only after they begin to mature that the difference is noticeable.  Tares in the Church have an interesting appearance.  Although they look right at first, there are subtle differences.  When the church service is over, and during the week, their actions and words in public do not seem to match up with their profession of faith.  Great caution should be taken as they are evaluated, because the babes in Christ will act the same way as they are throwing off their grave-clothes.

But tares are different.  When confronted, they will say things like: “I’m just a babe in Christ” (even though they have been “walking with God” for more than a few years); “Don’t judge me – you aren’t the Holy Spirit”; “I’m working on that” (when they have been working on it for 20+ years, and there is no indication that they are even trying to address the particular issue).

Tares will also become proud, especially if they have successfully conned the sheep of God into believing that they are one of them and believe that the sheep can trust them.  Watch for such things as belligerence and turning on the people who approach them with a proper Biblical viewpoint.  “Attack your attackers” is a common way tares shut down people who come too close to unveiling them.  By turning the attention to the other person (and almost always in public, even if they were confronted in private), they try to place peer pressure on the one who confronted them.  But the person who confronts must be strong, even if the person is powerful enough and influential enough to have the person who confronted them removed the them from any office they hold in the church, or are asked to leave the church.

Penetrating Perversion

The tares desire to change the views of the sheep to their way of thinking and away from Biblical ways of thinking.  In just one specific example, within the Protestant churches there is a movement to allow the attitude of sexually desiring people of the same chromosomal pairings to be accepted not only as normal in the church, but also to promote them into leadership positions.  They have successfully moved the sheep away from the Word of God, even though there are multiple scriptures that refute this position:

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.  26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

When the people of God agree that the current cultural position on any subject is more relevant than God’s position, they have strayed from the faith, and should be brought back with the Word of the Living God.  If they refuse (see Matthew 18:15-20), then no longer treat them as fellow brothers or sisters in Christ until they have repented.

Doctrinal Destruction

In doing these things, they say that God is love and grace.  Since all of our sins are moved as far as the East is from the West, they promote that God surely understands our circumstances and will surely give us grace as we engage in sin.  We just need to work on other areas of life first, and if we don’t get to that one before we die, we’ll be just fine.

We will be judged by what we know, and what we did with what we know.  We can either choose to accept that all scripture is God breathed, or not.  When we love our sin more than our Savior, we are in big trouble.  When our spiritual leaders say it’s OK to sin, and that God will forgive us because grace abounds, people flock to the message because they no longer have to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus.  This is a great abuse of grace.   People begin to lose their sense of the Holiness of God when they choose to openly sin, refuse to be obedient, and rely on the grace of God.  God views that as insolence.  And human parents tolerate that about as well as God does.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we carefully vetting what we hear from everyone to ensure that it is scripturally sound?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of mercy and grace. Your mercies renew every morning.  Father, please help me to be obedient to what I have been shown by You in scripture, and grant me mercy and grace when I fail.  Father, show me any areas where I am falling short, and help me to have the strength to overcome them.  Give me a sense of urgency in addressing sin in my life, regardless of the outcome, for I know that You are sovereign, and that I can trust You in all things.  Help me to have proper discernment when others tell me what You have shown them, so that I will not be misled into bondage or sin.  Guard my heart against the unrighteousness of the wolves in sheep’s clothing that the enemy has planted as tares among the wheat.  Protect me from them that I may honor and glorify Your name.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Worshiping God – Psalm 51:17

Worship God in Truth and in Spirit

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

Spiritually Spent

The attitude of our heart is very important in Worship.  Worship is not only about praise, but also about humility in brokenness.  When we go to worship God, we need to do so in truth and in spirit.  Worship originates from our desire to commune with God on His terms.  David shows us that we should come to God with a spirit of contrition when approaching Him after we have sinned.

When our hearts are not right, our worship isn’t right either.  Even when we overcome great odds, and we are at a spiritual peak, we need to be careful that we approach God with humility and reverence.  But David was in a spiritually dark place.  He had molested Bathsheba; he tried to get Uriah, her husband, to have relations with her, so that her pregnancy with David’s son would be covered up; and when Godly Uriah did not follow David’s instructions, David had him murdered at the hands of his enemy.  Yet David was a man after God’s own heart.  He always came back to God.

Hygienic Hands

In Psalm 24, David notes that clean hands are required to come before God.  His hands were covered in the blood of murder and molestation.  David realized that he wouldn’t be able to worship God correctly until he had been cleansed of his unrighteousness.  In our modern society, grace appears to be emphasized over holiness, rather than in balance with it.  Perhaps if more time was spent policing our behavior than leaning on God’s grace when we mess up, we might have a better handle on the holiness of God.  And while God is merciful and graceful, we are told that we shouldn’t sin to bring more grace to bear upon us.

Healthy Heart

David also noted that we need a pure heart.  When we humble our hearts toward God, He will lift us up.  He will restore the joy of our salvation.  He will tenderly bring us back into right relationship with Himself.  And He will draw close to us.  It is then that we can properly worship God in Truth and in Spirit.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  When I come before the Lord to worship, am I coming with clean hands and a pure and humble heart?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, forgive me of my sins.  It is in brokenness of spirit that I come before You.  You are Holy, Holy, Holy, and cannot stand sin and unrighteousness.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.  Renew a steadfast spirit within me, that I will shun evil and love Your commands.  Help me to overcome my sin nature that I may greatly desire righteousness and truth.  I fail all the time, Lord God, but You are faithful to forgive and seek to restore me.  Help me to be more mindful of my actions, thoughts, and speech, that I would live in the positional righteousness that You have provided for me.  Show me my sin, for it blinds me to it.  Help me to overcome it, for I am more than a conqueror in Christ.  This I ask in the precious name and blood of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Fear of God – Deuteronomy 10:12-13

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge

12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Fear Factor

We have all heard the expression, “That’ll put the fear of God into him!”  But what exactly is the Biblical meaning of “the fear of God”?

  • Is is an aversion of a “proverbial old, angry, bearded, white-robed man in the sky with his finger expectantly hovering above a smite button, waiting for the least opportunity to press it”?
  • Is it an anticipatory dread of the eternal forthcoming sentence as punishment for sins?
  • Or is it something else?

The Case of Character

In order to answer that question, we must first look at the character of God the Father:

  • Jonah, angry that He was sent to preach repentance to the Ninevites, had this to say about God:
  • He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

  • In Lamentations 3:22-23, it is very likely that the prophet Jeremiah wrote the following:
  • 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
        his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness

  • John the Apostle wrote the following:
  • Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

It is clear, just from the three accounts above, that God is not waiting in heaven with His finger over the smite button just waiting for us to make a mistake – that is the devil’s lie, looking for any reason to try to deceive us and bring condemnation upon us.  And while there is a coming judgement where all whose names are not found in the Book of Life will judged and sent to the lake of fire, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  The Apostle John also says there is no fear in love.  So this “fear” must be something else.

Reverence Revealed

There is a big difference between abject fear (terror – Greek phobon – we get our word “phobia” from it) and reverential fear.  Abject fear is an emotional response to a life-threatenting or pain-anticipatory situation.  However, when referring to “the fear of the Lord”, it is a different type of emotional response.  The “fear of the Lord” is a reverential trust and understanding that not only is God a Just Judge and will punish all evil, for He is Holy; but God is also Love, full of compassion, mercy and grace for those He created.  It is this synergy of both aspects of God’s character that permit us to see that He is not some towering ogre waiting to destroy us but rather a loving Father who righteously disciplines us so that we will not have to face His punishment (the white throne seat of judgement).  The love component of His character allows us to reverentially fear Him in love, where there is no emotional phobon of punishment.

The Qualifying Question

So let’s ask the question:  Are we motivated by God’s love to reverentially trust God, or are we motivated by the perceived threat of punishment for doing evil?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You reveal Your love to us through your mercy and compassion in that You sent Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins.  Remove any fear in my heart, Lord God, of punishment, and help me to reverentially trust You in Your steadfast love, mercy and grace.  Strengthen me when I am weak.  Guard my heart against all unrighteousness, and help me to come to You as a child in wonder and awe.  Forgive me of my sins, and give me clean hands and a pure heart, that I may worship you in exceeding joy.  Help me to recognize the warped viewpoint of the world, the flesh, and the devil, that I would not be deceived.  Blessed be Your name in all the universe!  May all creation rejoice in Your character!  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Loving God – Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Trinitarian is not Polytheistic

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Only One

God greatly desires to reveal Himself to us through the scriptures.  In this passage, God reveals that He is One God, not three Gods, or three separate beings, but three separate persons who together are one God.  Matt Slick, President and founder of CARM.org, explains this very well on his website.

Longs to Love

God is perfect, and has no needs.  But since God has made us in His image, we can see certain traits and desires of God within us.  And one of the traits that He exhibits is that God is love.  He lavishes His love upon us in many ways:

He also shows His love through His people Israel.  How many times does He send them into foreign lands to chastise them and them bring them back to Himself?

Longs for Love

God also wants us to love Him.  He so greatly desired this that He allowed His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to save us from our sins.  Yes, this is so important that we need to constantly remind ourselves of His level of dedication to everyone that He creates.  And He desires that we love Him – not for being a gift-giver, but rather for who HE is.  He greatly desires that we be in communion with Him in His perfect love.

Absolute Abandon

So great is God’s desire for us to love Him as He loves us (as an expression of being made in His image), that we are to love Him with:

  • ALL of our heart – the inner person: the mind and the will (our thoughts and convictions, which should direct everything we think, say, and do)
  • ALL of our soul – the greatest desire of our being (our emotions and desires)[Please Note: This can also be translated life, or spirit]
  • ALL of our strength – To the extent that we exert ourselves in action (our deeds)

God longs to reveal Himself to us, and does so by helping us to experience Himself though His character.  God doesn’t do things the way that we do them.  He carefully plans everything perfectly, and follows through with His plans to bring them to fruition – in perfect harmony with His desires and will.

The Trinitarian Trait

Because God is One, we love just one God, not three Gods, or three beings; but three persons who are One God – unified in will, purpose, and love.

The Qualifying Question

So let’s ask the question:  Are we loving God with all of our heart, soul, and strength?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, thank You for your unfailing love, mercy, compassion, and grace that You pour out upon us every day.  You reveal Yourself through Your creation, Your word, and Your work in our lives.  Help me this day, Lord God, to love You with complete abandon.  May my heart so greatly desire You that all other passions are mere whispers in comparison.  Help me to better grasp Your love so that regardless of my circumstances, it would be settled in my heart.  Watch over me as evil increases, that my love would not grow cold.  Strengthen me this day for the works that You have planned for me before the universe was created, and reveal them to me as I yield myself to You.  This I ask and pray in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Saved by God – Joel 2:32

And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance,
    as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
    whom the Lord calls.

For those who have questions:

What is being saved?

Being saved is a spiritual state where God has legally declared you righteous because of your acceptance of the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross as payment for your sins, as the final and only payment acceptable to God, and you have chosen to repent of those sins.  For it is by faith and faith alone, that we declare with our mouths that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead for our sins.  Because of this, God restores to us a spirit of life, for we are spiritually dead because of our sin nature.

What about works?

James says that faith without works is dead.  So what place does works have in our walk with God?  Works are the outpouring of our lives in gratitude for what God has done and is doing inside of us.  It is a visible manifestation of the change of heart we have towards God and sin.  Works do not make us any more acceptable to God than we already are – for it is Jesus’ righteousness that makes us acceptable.   God has prepared works in advance from before the foundation of the world for us to do in order to glorify His name, not to earn our way into Heaven.

Who can be saved? 

ANYONE who calls upon the name of the Lord.  And His name is The Lord Jesus Christ.  For all who would come to the Father must go through the Son.  Jesus said that if He was lifted up, He would draw ALL men to Him.  The Greek word translated “all” means exactly that – “ALL.”  Just because you are drawn doesn’t mean you have arrived.  If you are drawn to go to the Superbowl, but instead go bowling, it doesn’t matter how much you wanted to go; YOU WEREN’T THERE.  God says that He does not want anyone to perish.  But the wages of sin is death, so respond if you feel God tugging at your heart today.  For God so loved the world, He sent His one and only Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

What does it cost to be saved?

EVERYTHING!  It is like a drug addict on the verge of overdose coming to a methadone clinic.  They want to be healed.  But the only way to do so is to GIVE UP THEIR WAY OF LIFE FOR A NEW ONE.  If the drug user gets clean but refuses to stay clean, what good was it to them?  God cleanses us of our unrighteousness, and give us the righteousness of Christ.  We can then, with the power and help of the Holy Spirit (think AA with a multi-billionaire as your sponsor) you are able to live a life free from being enslaved to sin.  Sin is a drug – once it gets its claws into you, it is very hard to break free of its grasp.  And what you thought you could control, now controls YOU.  But God is merciful and full of grace, and is faithful and just to forgive us when we sin if we repent.

The good news is, just like the drug addict, when you come to God, He gets rid of your addiction, and then gives you His wealth and strength to crawl out of the hole you dug for yourself.  God says He owns all the gold and all the silver.  And He is more than able to give you what you need, for He created everything, and can create some more if He wants.  Not only that, He gives you Himself.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence in you to empower you, encourage you, direct you, and keep you clean and sober from sin. But because the world is like Bourbon Street, with bars lining both sides, it is hard to not walk in and have a drink.  When we do, the Holy Spirit becomes our advocate, and urges us to get sober, and gives us the strength to do so – no matter how embarrased we feel for falling off the wagon.  And as God helps us to grow in strength, it gets easier to say no to sin.  Whatever you feed inside you will grow.  Make sure you don’t intentially feed the monster by sinning…

When you come to God in intial repentance, you are basically saying that you are morally bankrupt.  God then fills your account with Christ’s righteousness until it is astronomically large (for you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing).  Who cares if you come to the table with 23 cents in your pocket?  God owns all the banks!  What’s 23 cents compared to immeasurable riches?  Change is never easy, is it?

How do I become saved?

Click here for more information.

Am I saved? 

Have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead as payment for your sin by faith and faith alone?  Then you are saved!  Read the Bible.  Pray to God.  Beg God to help you to live righteously for Him and to get rid of all the things in your life that are displeasing to Him.  God is faithful and will joyfully answer those kind of prayers!  Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.  Having put on the helmet of salvation, (experentially) know that you are saved!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us in Your word how good You are.  For You are a just God, and must punish sin; yet being filled with mercy and grace, have given us a way to be reconciled to You.  Father, forgive me for my sins.  I deserve to go to Hell, but you have given me a way to be with You instead.  Help me to live this life in obedience to You.  Carry me when I cannot walk.  Strengthen me for the battles ahead.  Provide all that I need physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, that I may be equipped to do Your will.  Guide me in the way I should go.  This I ask in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.