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.

National Security and God – 2 Kings 6:13-23

When The Lord God Almighty Guards Your Country, No Harm Shall Befall It

13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.

20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.

21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”

22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

Formidable Foes

When faced with an army of your enemy, many would be intimidated.  The prophet Elisha’s servant certainly was when he woke up one morning and saw the entire city surrounded with chariots of the nation that had declared war on Israel.  He was intimidated to the point where he began to experience great fear.

Fear Factor

When we are faced with what appears to be overwhelming odds, we also have a tendency to experience fear ourselves.  The Bible tells us over three hundred and sixty-five times – enough for one every day of the year – that we should not fear.   We have been told by God that there is nothing to fear, for He is sovereign.  Yet our physical eyes may try to deceive us, and Satan, the enemy of our souls, would try to instill fear and panic within us.

When we experience fear, we begin to act irrationally.  We see imaged threats that aren’t even real.  And we conflate the importance of the threats that are right in front of us.  In this case, the servant of Elisha the prophet saw no way out, and only saw himself and his master as being able to stand against this massive gathering of enemy troops.

Concealed Charioteers

But God protects His people.  Most of God’s people do not have the ability to peer into the spiritual realm.  If they did, they would see just how protected they are from the enemy.  Elisha, the prophet of God, prayed to God that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see what he could see, and God honored that prayer and did so.  When He opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant, he saw the most amazing sight – the hills were filled with chariots of fire being pulled by horses.  Immediately, this calmed down his heart, because his faith had become sight.

Supernaturally Subdued

…These aren’t the droids you are looking for…Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi

In what would seem to the world to be a stunning turn of events, Elisha the prophet prays and asks God to strike the enemy blind.  The Sovereign Lord God Almighty immediately answers his prayers, and the enemy is struck blind.  Although this in and of itself is amazing, but what happens next is even more amazing.

Remember that the enemy arrived at night.  They were camped out around the city.  They could clearly see the city, and the road that they came in on – the sun was out.  Scripture says that it was early in the morning (this began around 6:00 AM, as the fourth watch of the night was from 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM).  They were now struck blind.  That certainly would have unnerved them.  But it was what happened next that was most amazing and interesting.  Elisha tells the men that they are on the wrong road, and this is the wrong city.  He would lead them to the man that they were looking for.  They didn’t bat an eye!  Scripture doesn’t record that they even told Elisha why they were there!  Elisha appears to just walk up to them and tell them they are in the wrong place, and he’ll lead them to man.

In Elisha’s defense, he didn’t lie.  Elisha wanted to reveal himself to them in Samaria, so they technically were in the wrong city.  And Elisha did lead them to the right man – himself!  And, being blind (a rather incapacitating handicap at this point), they blindly followed Elisha to Samaria (no pun intended).

Manifest Mercy

Arriving in Samaria, in the land of the king of Israel, Elisha the prophet of God prayed that God would open the eyes of the men that were blinded.  Now, the group of chariots that were arriving would have been both seen and heard from at a great distance from the city of Samaria.  The king of Israel would surely have placed watchmen in distant areas to warn of any pending invasion by the king of Aram, as they were at war.  When news of the prophet of God leading an army of the king’s enemies towards Samaria, the king of Israel would have surely called all men to arms, and had them line up around the army as it approached.

Upon seeing the vast army in front of him, the king of Israel asked the prophet of God for permission to destroy it.  Elisha forbade the king from doing so, pointing out that it was improper for the king to kill those whom he had captured in war.  Elisha instead commands the king to feed them and provide them with drinks.  The prophet of God showed the love of God towards his enemies, and the king did more than what was required.  A great feast was thrown by the king for the army, and then they were sent back to Aram.

Providential Protection

When the king of Aram had heard what had happened, he realized that the land of the king of Israel was sovereignly protected by The Lord God Almighty.  And when the Lord God Almighty guards your nations’ borders, no enemy that comes against us will be able to  have any success in overtaking the land.

We would be well-advised by this historical record to seek the providential protection of the Lord God Almighty rather than trying to protect the land in our own strength with only our own intelligence, plans, weapons, and strategies:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the Lord.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I am in trouble, where do I turn first?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, You have said that You would never leave me nor forsake me.  Give me comfort in that promise when my enemies surround me and threaten me with death and torture.  Give me strength that day to know what to say, and to speak boldly about You in the day of threat.  Grant me peace in my spirit, and help me to remember the protection that You provide.  For all that is required to wipe out an entire city is just one angel given authority to do so.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

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?

Announcing the Announcer – Luke 1:76-80

John The Baptist Would Prepare The Way For The Messiah

76 “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Proclaiming the Prophet

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, had been struck mute when he was confronted by the angel Gabriel concerning the birth of his son.  After proclaiming his son’s name by writing it on a tablet, the condition was removed, and Zechariah began to prophesy concerning his son.  The first words from his mouth were praise and glory to God followed by the announcement that his son, John the Baptist,  would be a prophet.  He then spoke of a few characteristics concerning John.

Prepare a Path

John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the Lord.  John fulfilled this prophesy by proclaiming that the people needed to be baptized for their sins:

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene- 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.'”

John came out of the wilderness when the Spirit of God came to him.  He baptized by water all who desired to be prepared for the coming messiah.

Speak of Salvation

John spoke of salvation to the people, not only baptizing them for their sin in preparation for the messiah, but telling them that they needed to change by being obedient to the word of God:

7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

In each case, John the Baptist called people to stop living for themselves, and begin to love their neighbor as themselves.  He encouraged them to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  Merely going through an act was not going to do them any good.  They were to have a change of heart, and live their lives in such a way that they showed the change.  Salvation came to those whose hearts were changed by the word of God so that they would believe God.

Burn Brightly

The people wandered in their hearts if John the Baptist was the messiah. He pointed people to the messiah and responded:

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

John the Baptist faithfully pointed people to the messiah, and consistently told them that he was not the one they were looking for.  And when he saw his messiah come to be baptized by him, he faithfully announced Him to the crowds:

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

John the Baptist faithfully did everything that was required of him, and fulfilled the prophecy of his father in accordance with the will and word of God.  In every way, John had grown stronger in spirit in preparation for his coming assignment to prepare the way for the Lord.  John was faithful in all that he did.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I fulfilling the purposes that God has prepared for me to do for him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me the way to salvation.  Give me the strength and desire to bear fruit in accordance with my profession of faith in the completed work and shed blood of my Savior.  Help me to honor and glorify Your name with the works that You have prepared for me to do since before the foundation of the universe.  Strengthen me this day that I might be steadfast in shining for You as a light on a hill.  Prepare the soil of the hearts of all that Your word would take root and bear much fruit, for I know that time grows short and the return of Your son in imminent.  Help me to be aware of this always as I go about my day, and be in tune with Your spirit, yielding my spirit to You as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing in Your sight.  This I ask and pray 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?

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 Love of God – Luke 6:32-36

God Is Love

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Love the Lost

Jesus has set the standard for love.  When we were still sinners, He allowed Himself to be impaled upon the cross for our sins.  It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus on the cross – it was His love for us.  Nothing and no one could have kept Jesus on the cross if He didn’t want to be there.  He told us in His word that he could have called upon twelve legions of angels to come to His aid if need be.

The love of God is a recurring theme throughout all of scripture.  The Israelites have repeatedly ignored the laws that God has given them in His covenant to them, yet God has promised to redeem them.  Though they suffered much, God still protects them today from their enemies.  In the due course of time, and to the glory and praise of God, He has brought them together and gave them back their country after millennia of being dispersed.

God loved Adam when he sinned, and sacrificed an animal for his sins as well as to give him and Eve covering for their bodies.  God gave us the perfect covering for our sins in the blood of Jesus Christ, which acts as a robe of righteousness and washes away our sins.  God it the one who continually provides for us, even and especially when we act wickedly towards Him.  God seeks out the lost not because they came to Him first, but because He loves them.

God gives us His resources to use, knowing that at some time, we may abuse them, or use them in a way that does not honor Him.  God is gracious in this time and time again, generation after generation.  God’s continuous act of giving all of us access to His sunshine and rain shows that God loves all of us.

We have been provided much from God.  When we use our resources to just help one another, and don’t help the wicked and evil among us, we are not properly bearing the image of God.  It seems counter-intuitive to help the wicked, for we know that they greatly want us to fail.  They will use every means at their disposal to destroy our character through (false) accusations, take what isn’t theirs, and attempt to force us to do their bidding through governmental force when we no longer respond to accusations of hatred and bigotry.  They deny God (as we once did), and do the same things to Him (as they think they can).  Yet God still seeks them (and us) out.

We need to remember that God is calling all to repentance.  We need to reach out to our enemies to try to reconcile with them, within the limits of the laws of God.  God seeks to destroy His enemies by making them His friends.  And should they refuse His initial attempts, He shows them even more mercy.  But even God has limits.  And anyone who refuses to respond to the love of God will receive His judgment and punishment.

Magnificently Merciful

God is full of mercy and grace.  His mercies renew every morning.  God has compassion upon us because He loves us.  Jesus knows how difficult it can be walking with flesh on.  God has been so merciful, that He has tolerated the systematic slaughter of more than fifty million babies alone in the United States of America to the god of abortion.  Anyone of lesser character would be so angry that they might utterly destroy such a callous, unfeeling, murderous, ungrateful, and rebellious people.  Yet God continues to show all of us mercy.  We need to remember His mercy when our enemies need our help.  God also promises a great reward for this.  And while He doesn’t elaborate, I believe that the great reward is the ability to experience His character, and draw closer to Him.  For when we experience His character and draw close, we become more like Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I loving my enemies with compassion, mercy, and assistance?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us mercy, compassion, and love each and every day.  Help me, Father, to experience Your character in a more personal way every day.  Show me how to love my enemies.  Help me to see them the way that You see them, and to react in a way that correctly displays Your character to all that watch.  Show them Your love through my love, compassion, and mercy.  Grant them peace and prosperity.  Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.  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?

Wisdom of God – James 3:17

Show Your Wisdom Through The Way You Live Your Life

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Pointed Progression

Paul takes care to show that each of these is part of a progression.  They happen in order for a reason – they are the building blocks of love.  If at any point we are stuck in a relationship, we should see where we are on this scale to determine if there is something that we are not doing correctly.  Of course, there are going to be times when the other person or nation will not respond to love.  Even so, we should assure ourselves that we are doing what is right in the eyes of God.

Perfectly Pure

God is holy, and His motives are always pure in nature, as well as other-focused.  Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, we need to carefully consider our true, deep, inner motives to determine if we are doing what we are doing for the right reasons.  Once we establish that we are properly motivated, we can then gauge how we are interacting with our neighbors and our enemies in order to determine if we intentionally or unintentionally causing friction.

Because the ways of God are foolishness to those who reject God, this dichotomy will naturally cause friction, tension, and sometimes even breaks in our relationships with others, including those who are/were closest to us.  That is why Jesus said:

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Passionately Peaceful

Peace – it is heavenly!  We say that, but do we really think about it?  Peace allows us to build and strengthen our relationships with one another.  We need the blood of Christ to provide us peace with God.  It is only through peace that we can really flourish in the endeavors that we set our minds and hands to.

And when we are not at peace, tensions rise between people and between nations.  People are then unable to completely devote themselves to what they are doing, as they need to keep one hand on the job, and one on their weapon.  And then it is only through the grace of God that we are able to get anything accomplished.

Carefully Considerate

Once we have established that our motives are correct and that we are seeking peace with others, we can then take the time to consider the needs, wants, desires, and motivations of others.  We can then be considerate towards them.  In showing consideration towards others, it will draw us into tighter relationship.

When driving, do you appreciate it when other drivers show consideration towards you when they are faced with the option of not doing so?  Has anyone recently provided you the opportunity to merge into traffic when they didn’t need to?  Have they held a door for you when your hands were full of packages or children?  Consideration towards others is the extension of the olive branch of peace towards others.

While there are some that will indignantly scoff at a considerate gesture as though they somehow rightly deserved it, most people’s hearts will soften when it is offered in good faith.  Some may even thank you.  Considering the state of the world today, depending on what era the person grew up, they may also be grateful, or surprised that consideration is being shown today.  Be a light in the world…

Singularly Submitted

Jesus said,

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

We need to be submitted to God in order fully embrace wisdom.  Paul had this to say about submission to one another and to the Holy Spirit:

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

It is through submission to others that we are able to wisely interact with them.  As we become more wise, we will become more submitted.  And as we become more submitted, we will become greater:

26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—

Moved to Mercy

It is only after we get to this point that mercy, as a life-style, makes sense.  The first inclinations of our heart is to seek justice, and for many, vengeance.  But God is merciful, and vengeance is His and His alone.  Mercy is much easier to give when you have received it yourself.  Remember the mercy that God has shown you, and replicate success.  To truly gain wisdom, and flourish in relationship, it is necessary to show mercy to others.  Mercy is often the tool that God uses to break the hearts of others.  Is that not what we want to occur?  That the hearts of others would be broken towards sin, and that they would reconcile through the shed blood of Jesus Christ?  In this, it truly is good to be the enabler!

Wonderful Works

Now that we have paved the way, we are ready to bear fruit through our works.  Our attitudes towards God and others is correct; we are properly submitted to God and others; we are now showing the fruit of the Spirit.  Since we are submitted to God, He can do all that He desires to accomplish through us.  As tools in the process, rather than the taking the role of the craftsman, the fruit will be pure and good, untainted by our hands.  These are the works that will endure throughout eternity, as they were accomplished by God through us and not our own desires, which bear the taint of our sinful nature.

Inconspicuously Impartial

Since God is not a respecter of persons, we should not be either.  This is a further refinement of character and the wisdom of God, which IS His character!  When we experience the character of God, we become more like Him, and fulfill what He purposed in us to be – His image-bearers.  There is one last thing to consider – are we being truly sincere in what we are doing?

Solely Sincere

Most people recognize when you are sincere in your dealing with them.  And most people desire – secretly or openly – that other people be sincere with them.  This breaks down the barriers that are put up when we appear to be acting in a self-serving manner.  Sincerity is respected by people.  God shows us the greatest of respect in that in everything He is completely sincere.  As God’s image bearers, this should affect our interactions with others and with God.  Reciprocity of sincerity is expected.  When we don’t act in sincerity, our witness is tarnished, and our relationship with God is harmed.  When we rely upon God and His goodness and sovereignty, we are able to be sincere in all that we do, say, and think towards others and towards God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I becoming wise as I participate in God’s character as His image-bearer?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have revealed Yourself to us both through Your Word and Your Son.  Teach me the ways of wisdom so that You will be honored and glorified by my thoughts, actions, and speech.  Help me to revere You more each and every day, and show me Your wisdom through Your word.  Help me to realize the value of wisdom, and to see its value as I participate in Your character.  And may You be glorified as I bear Your image properly.  Keep me from harm, and strengthen me as I persevere through trials and tribulations.  Please prepare me so that I will be the spotless bride, ready for the bridegroom at the appointed time.  And Father, I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ would come, and come soon!  Amen.

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

Obedience to God – Micah 6:6-8

Do What Is Required Of You

6 With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Sacrifices Scorned

A rhetorical question is asked by the prophet Micah.  What sacrifice is acceptable to God?  What can be offered for the sin of the soul?  The sacrificial system was set up in Levitical Law to show that there was a price that needed to be paid for sin.  The price was originally the life-blood of a creature – it’s very life was demanded.  These sacrifices pointed to the final, substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus’ perfect blood.

But God’s people had become prosperous, and the impact of the sacrifices were lost on the people.  After all, if you sinned, all you needed to do was to offer your sacrifice, and everything was OK.  The breaking of one’s heart over sinning against God had been dulled.  Even in the Christian churches today, we lean heavily upon the grace and mercy of God.  The impact of sinning against a Holy God doesn’t seem to grasp us as it once did when we were first saved from our sins.  It is only as we recognize the Holiness of God, and His view of sin, that we again realize the impact that sin has in our lives.

Micah even puts forth as a type of sacrifice something that was loathsome to God – the sacrifice of the firstborn.  This was a type of sacrifice that was required by false gods.  This was egregious to God, and should have startled those who heard and read these words.  But the Israelites had often worshiped both God and false gods.  We must always remember that God has required a specific sacrifice from us – Obedience.

Royal Requirements

Micah now points out the sacrifice of obedience:

  • To Act Justly
    • When we act justly, we are not taking advantage of our neighbors, but rather we are doing all things with them in mind.
    • Justice is one of the recurring themes in the Bible.  The people of God seem to lack the ability to give justice to those who need it most.  We have been warned by God to mete out justice, or the One who is Just will judge us.
  • To Love Mercy
    • The first inclination of human nature is to retaliate when we are wronged.  But God’s mercies renew every morning.  We need to adopt the character of God as we grow in our faith.  Mercy is a Godly characteristic that integrates with justice.  It is the tempering force that encourages peace and tranquility in relationship between two people.  It is the olive branch that helps to mend relationships and encourages friendship.  To withhold mercy is to promote the eventual severing of the relationship.  This does not mean that we should enable wicked people by excusing their behavior; we are to show mercy to help them see the goodness of God.
    • Even within marriage, God allowed divorce only in certain circumstances, and only because of the hardness of human hearts.
  • To Walk Humbly with your God
    • God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.  When we are humbled before God, He is able to shape us, guide us, and use us for His purposes.  Humbleness is a Godly characteristic that is antithetical to western culture, which now promotes self over all.  Western culture promotes pride in advertising, music, literature, art, and just about every facet of the human experience.  Humble people are looked upon as doormats by others who seek to elevate themselves at the expense of those who will not (or cannot) do the same.
    • Only in humility are we able to be in right relationship with not only God but with man as well.

Each of these points towards relationship with God – Justice, Mercy, and Humbleness.  If we seek to draw close to God, we should embrace these and put them into practice.  Since Christ is our final and complete sacrifice for sin, we have nothing else to present to God for our sin, for nothing else is needed.  Let us embrace these Godly characteristics as we draw close to the One who sacrificed His one and only Son to reconcile us to Him.  It is only proper that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, as our spiritual act of worship.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I broken by my sin, or do I take the blood of Christ for granted?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the sacrifice of Your one and only Son on the cross for my sins.  Thank You for Your mercy and grace.  Help me to see my sin in the same way that You see it.  Help me, Father, to be broken when I sin, that the hardness of heart that comes with sin would not infect me.  Help me to love justice, mercy, and walk humbly before You.  May Your character be found in me as I am on display for the world to see.  Strengthen me as I walk with You today.  Help me to draw close to You through Your word and Your spirit.  Guide me in all that I do.  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?

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?

Knowledge of God – Philippians 1:9-11

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Paul wrote several times indicating that he desired that we would have greater knowledge of God.  But the knowledge that Paul desired for us was experiential, not just insight.  We experience God when we walk in the same footsteps as Him.  And as we do, God reveals his very nature and character to us:

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. – Matthew 5:7

It is the experiential understanding of God that Paul desires of us.  When we get head knowledge, we can become puffed up, and pride can enter into our lives.  When we live what we know, we become humbled as we realize just how far short of the glory of God we truly are.  Humility is the key to understanding:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. – James 4:10

It is when we experience God’s character ourselves that we begin to change drastically.  We are better able to walk in His ways as we practice living His character.  When we merely come to an intellectual ascent to God’s word, we may agree in principal but not in practical application with what we have learned.  It is only through the practical application of knowledge that true progress in any field of endeavor is made.

A person can study tennis for years by watching matches, reading books, news articles, and listening to radio shows on the subject.  However, after years of study, without practically applying what has been learned, for most people, they would be unable to return a volley from a seasoned tennis player.  What a tragedy it is to see people comb through the scriptures but never to experience God’s character!  The Jews did the same thing.  They searched the scripture seeking eternal life.  The law only points us to the fact that we cannot keep the law, and therefore we seek salvation from God Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ.

So, let’s ask a question:  How has God revealed Himself to you as you have personally experienced His character?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are wonderful and beautiful to behold.  You reveal Yourself to us through Your word, and experientially as we walk in Your character.  Reveal Yourself to me today in a greater and deeper way as I walk in Your footsteps.  Show Yourself to me, Lord God, for I greatly desire to see You, and be in Your presence.  Give me such hunger for You that my soul would pant for you like a thirsty deer for water.  And like David, I can say with gladness that a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  Strengthen me this day as I strive to experientially know You better.  Help me to walk in Your ways, and to have better heart-knowledge of Your Word as You reveal Yourself to me.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, 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.