The Narrow Minded….

Matthew 7:13-14

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Tucked in the middle of Matthew 7 (the concluding lessons from The Sermon on the Mount) is this short discourse on the “two ways” wherein Jesus challenges us to consider our personal path and examine our steps. Jesus begins with a present imperative: “Enter through the narrow gate.”  The fact that the gate appears first and then a way implies that this is referring to one’s coming to know God in a personal way through Jesus’ teachings and then following where He leads. This verse implies that salvation is not an easy decision which fits in with the mainstream of culture, but a decisive change of life which issues in obedience to the principles of God. The fact that one way leads to destruction shows the ultimate outcome of those whose lives are lived independent of God.  Jesus is inviting the people to come to Him – to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through Him – in order to find true life … abundant life … eternal life.  You can see this metaphor with similar connotation used in the Gospel of John:

John 10:1-10 (NIV)

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep listen to His voice. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what He was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

So Jesus is the “small gate” that leads to a “narrow road” whose destination is “life”; as contrasted by a “wide gate” that leads to a “broad road” whose destination is “destruction”.  And the issue of great concern here is the number of people who travel down each path.  Many are those who remain in the deception of the world and its darkness; and few are those who embrace the light of the Gospel and follow Jesus and obeys His commands. There is something of grave importance for us to observe from this passage … and we need to examine the direction of our walk before God.  Have we truly entered the narrow road (lifestyle) that leads to life through Christ Jesus; or have we entered the superhighway of the world and the culture (lifestyle) as its speeds toward its own destruction?  Sometimes it is hard to distinguish professing Christians from those of the world; and I think this parable anticipates that phenomenon….

If you continue to read beyond Verses 13-14, you will find a series of “contrasts” related to “religious” people

1.         The two ways of approaching God (Matthew 7:13-14)

2.         The two types of religious leaders (Matthew 7:15-23)

3.         The two foundations of a religious life (Matthew 7:24-27)

The question is not so much which lifestyle or group of religious people Jesus referred to; rather, the focus is on how people respond to their understanding of God’s will. Some discard God and religion altogether.  Some use religion to gain immediate praise and rewards from other people … but in vain. (Cf. Isaiah. 29:13-15; Colossians 2:16-23). True disciples; however, order their lives in light of Jesus’ words about the present and coming Kingdom of God.  He knows the sincerity our hearts!  As Jesus said, the time is now when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth – for they are the kind of worshipers that the Father seeks. (Cf. John 4:23-24) Until you have Jesus, you do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. And without the Holy Spirit, you cannot worship the Father in the Spirit or in truth….  So the small gate and the narrow road are significant in our response to the lavish grace and mercy of God for our salvation. Jesus made it quite clear, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6)

This parable from Matthew 7:13-14 is paralleled in Luke 13:23-27, and I would like to contrast the two so you can see the intent of the message:

Luke 13:23-27 (NIV)

23 Someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

Note here the “many” who will try to enter and will not be able to do so – because “the owner of the house gets up and closes the door”.  Herein lies the pressing nature of the Great Commission … the evangelical mission to share the Gospel and to urge people to “enter” through the “narrow door” while there is still opportunity to do so.  It is appointed for people to die once, and after that to face judgment. (Cf. Hebrews 9:27) When the door is shut from a hardened or deceived heart, death, or the Second Coming of Christ, there does not appear to be any more opportunity to intentionally trust Jesus Christ for salvation.  Again, “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Jesus bids all people to enter through Him.  It may seem “narrow-minded” to have this view (as Christians are often accused), but Jesus declared He is the only way!  And as each day passes, the door inches a little more towards the frame and latch. Oh, I pray we will be about the Father’s business, inviting people through the door that leads to light and life – to an authentic encounter with our Lord and Savior. Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Saved From Condemnation

John 3:17

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Our verse today came as John 3:17 … but it is proceeded by the “universal” verse known so well and quoted so often – John 3:16. But verse John 3:18 following has an equally important message that should be placed in context; so I have decided to reprint the entire passage together for your reference.

John 3:16-19 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

Observe that God gave His Son to save us.  Our salvation is a gift! We cannot earn it.  As Paul expounded in Ephesians 2:8-9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not of works, so that no one can boast.  And “through faith” means that you believe in His Son – Jesus Christ.  Through placing your complete faith in Christ and His finished work, His sacrificial blood for atonement, and His resurrection from the dead, you are no longer condemned but have passed from death to life. (Cf. 1 John 3:14) Yet, notice how Verse 18 continues to admonish: “Whoever does NOT believe stands condemned already.”  Why? Because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son – Jesus.  In Verse 19, the Apostle John goes on to explain why people do not believe: “People love darkness instead of light.”  In essence, people love their sin more than they love God….

The Prophet Ezekiel spoke some difficult words … under the Old Covenant … which we would be wise to contemplate:

Ezekiel 33:12 (NIV)

“Therefore, son of man, say to your people, ‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.’

However, in the New Testament, you will find a more expansive theology shared by the Apostle Peter to consider:

2 Peter 1:3-11 (NIV)

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them (these qualities in increasing measure) is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things (additions to faith), you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There are several key themes we can find in this apostolic instruction from Peter. First of all, everything we need to live a godly life comes from His divine power – namely the Holy Spirit.  Second, the glory and goodness of Christ avails us of His very great and precious promises (i.e. wisdom, knowledge, gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc.) which allow us to participate (take part in) the divine nature.  As such, knowledge of His Word and gifts of His Spirit, equip us to mature in our faith – to bear the fruit of the Spirit in and through our lives. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) So Peter encourages us to move forward in maturity of faith in order to confirm the calling and election of God upon our lives!  Maturity through a growing faith will keep us from stumbling; and it promises great reward in the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ….

Paul reminds those who believe of this same truth: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) But there is more in the following verses to put this into context and congruence with what Peter articulated in his epistle. I have reprinted it below for you:

Romans 8:1-11 (NIV)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh (our sinful nature), God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives lifebecause of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you.

It is clear that to believe in Jesus Christ goes beyond just a mental assent as to His Deity.  We are called to “participate in the divine nature” which God equips us to do through His divine power … the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  Paul asserted if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Him.  As the Apostle John wrote: “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13) A life IN Jesus Christ is a Spirit-filled life.  There can be no other possible conclusion.  And a Spirit-filled life will produce the fruit in the life of a believer “in increasing measure” so that he/she will be effective and productive in His Kingdom. The Apostles are quite consistent with what Jesus Himself taught:  “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (Cf. John 3:5-6)

So the good news is that fallen, sinful man does not have to remain condemned to separation from our Holy Father … the God of all Creation.  God sent His one and only Son to save us … to reconcile us and restore us to Himself … as He determined and ordained before the foundation of the world.  All a person needs to do believe in Jesus Christ and begin to follow Him into the discipleship of a Spirit-filled life of Kingdom service.  His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.  He invites us participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires, and to walk in the Light of His glory and goodness….

I pray each of us with grow in knowledge and go on to maturity in the Spirit … to confirm our calling and election … to live lives worthy of the Lord Jesus … to please Him in every way … bearing fruit in every good work … growing in the knowledge of God…and strengthened with all power according to His glorious might. (Cf. Colossians 1:9-11) I ask that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which God has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people,and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength God exerted when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms…. (Cf. Ephesians 1:17-20) Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

No Condemnation – Now!

Romans 8:1-2

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

This has always been a verse of comfort to me.  To realize the impact of the promise of forgiveness and reconciliation we have in Christ Jesus is just incredible!  There is, therefore, now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1 NKJV)  I hope that truth will sink in for everyone.  The Apostle John affirmed:

John 3:16-19 (NKJV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

The essential message is that Christ Jesus saved us from the certain condemnation of sin when we placed our complete faith in Him and His finished work on the cross to atone for our sin and redeem us from the penalty of sin … that is … eternal separation from God and spiritual death.  Condemnation does not happen because we have sinned.  Condemnation of sin continues because a person has not believed in Jesus Christ for their salvation from sin.  John even goes on to say that condemnation is the outcome of a hardened heart that desires the darkness of evil rather than the light of righteousness.  We were condemned already … the death sentence of sin … until Jesus redeemed us from the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors. (Cf. 1 Peter 1:18) The Apostle Paul explains this issue in further detail for us:

Romans 5:17-19 (NIV)

17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Look at what that Scripture states.  ONE sin resulted in condemnation!  ONE sin required the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the cross.  Oh I pray none of us will ever take ONE sin in our lives for granted.  It cost the very life of Jesus Christ to redeem you and I from just ONE sin.  THAT is how God in His holiness views the offense of just ONE sin in our lives! So we need to stop overlooking, rationalizing, and dismissing the thoughtless irreverence of the slightest sin we commit.  Sin is that serious in separating us from God, and it requires the most extreme expression of atonement … an atonement none of us is capable to perform or offer for ourselves.  But the good news for us is that there is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!  Though all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, God has demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Cf. Romans 3:23; Romans 5:8) This is the glorious news of grace that we should be sharing with those who have not yet come to a knowledge of the truth.  And, to me, this gives us all the more reason to rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances: for this is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) as we studied earlier this week….

When I think about the person I was before Christ Jesus rescued me … I can proclaim with overwhelming thanksgiving:  Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you have set me free from the law of sin and death.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, that I am no longer condemned through unbelief.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, that your light has come into the world that we might no longer remain in darkness!  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for taking my condemnation upon yourself! I am forever indebted.  I am forever grateful.  Because of your mercy, I am forever redeemed!  Hallelujah!  Thank you, Lord Jesus!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Gentle Answer

Colossians 4:5-6

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

I think this passage is familiar to most of us … and its message is one of humility in our attitude and conduct.  Too often, I have seen Christians view themselves or project themselves to others as “superior” because they have come to a knowledge of the truth and believe that Jesus is the Son of God … sent to be our Savior, to redeem us, and to reconcile us to God the Father.  Sometimes they allow themselves to become filled with pride over their salvation … forgetting they did nothing to earn or deserve the unmerited kindness and mercy shown by God.  Salvation, at its core, is the most humbling experience a human being can undergo because we are utterly dependent on what God has done for us and there is nothing that we can add to it….  Salvation does not make us superior; rather, it makes us indebted to the One who gave us freedom from the penalty and power of sin.

That said … when we encounter other people, and especially those who are non-believers, Paul instructs us to be wise in how we act and speak toward them.  We are to approach others with the same attitude and grace as Christ Jesus:

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Why is this important?  Why does Paul instruct us to be careful in how we approach seekers and non-believers?  Because we ourselves received Jesus Christ through faith … and this was not of our ourselves … it was the gift of God. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8).  It was the kindness of God that led us to repentance in the first place. (Cf. Romans 2:4) So we are to be kind to one another … compassionate … forgiving … just as in Christ Jesus God forgave us. (Cf. Ephesians 4:32) As Paul related to Timothy, the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, and not resentful. (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:24) So let our conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how to answer everyone.  This will equip us to make the most of every opportunity we are given to lead others to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Spirit-Filled Grace

2 Timothy 1:9 (NIV)

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time …

In his appeal and instruction to Timothy in this letter, Paul affords some great theological concepts for us to ponder. Let’s look at our verse in a wider context:

2 Timothy 1:6-14 (NIV)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Paul speaks about the Holy Spirit a few times in this passage.  In Verse 6, Paul tells Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God….”  The implication is that Timothy has some degree of influence over the Holy Spirit within him.  Here Paul is basically telling Timothy to “get fired up for God.” Why?  Well in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul is giving instructions to believers and admonishes them: “Do not quench the Spirit.” When you quench a fire, you are stopping its source of fuel or air.  You are attempting to extinguish it.  With the use of this metaphor, Paul indicates that we (believers) can “inhibit” the power and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  There appears to be an exertion of the human will that can counteract the will of the Spirit to give us power, love, and self-disciple as Verse 7 mentions.  To me, the application is that if we are timid … if we are ashamed of the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ … if we are unwilling to suffer for His sake … it is not because of His unwillingness to empower us. Verse 8 tells us that God gives us the “power to suffer for the Gospel”.  So if we are timid, it is our own unwillingness to “unleash” the Holy Spirit to drive our spirits and guide our souls.  So Paul tell us – fan into flame the gift of God who indwells us and do not quench Him!

Part of the suffering we will encounter as believers appears to be related to living a holy life!  That’s right!  We will suffer from being good and doing good for others…. But that is the reason we were saved by the grace of God.  We have been called to holiness … and that is the hardest thing for a human to do.  In fact, we cannot do it apart from the power of God through His Spirit within us.  As Jesus asserted, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Cf. Luke 18:27) And this power sometimes comes to us in the form of grace … a grace that was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.  And we know that His grace is sufficient because His power is made perfect (complete) in weakness. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9) So we just need to realize that suffering goes with the experience of being human … but as a believer there is great reward for going through it … eternal life!  All the more reason to fan into flame the gift of God!

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. This is pretty straightforward advice. The theological intellect that Paul had to share was incredible.  I think that is why God called him to be a herald and an apostle and a teacher; and we would do well to heed his instruction and guidance in matters of faith – wouldn’t you agree? Paul tells Timothy to “guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”  So what is Paul talking about here?  Well, I believe the concept here is the “depositing” of the Holy Spirit within us.  Let’s look to some other Scriptures to captures this point:

2 Corinthians 1:21-23 (NIV)

21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,22 set His seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 5:4-5 (NIV)

For while we are in this earthly body, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly body, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the One who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Ephesians 1:13-15 (NIV)

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.

Notice how Paul uses this concept to explain the function of the Holy Spirit in our salvation – to be a deposit (like a down payment) on a promise or covenant to be kept in the future.  A deposit is similar to a pledge or an oath to do something further, but you want to go ahead and “seal the deal” now.  You put a deposit on a house because you intend to purchase and you want the seller to know you are serious about your commitment to follow through on the deal.  Well, in this context, God has given us His Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.  It’s an awesome analogy that Paul uses here to help us understand what God is doing.  When you come to faith in Jesus Christ, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  He is sent to indwell you … put in your heart … as a guarantee of what is to come … eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  That is what you and I have been called to embrace and believe with our entire being! So why would we ever want to quench the Spirit of God who was given to us for life here and now … especially since we know that suffering will be part of what we must endure?

Well, I hope that I have stirred your thoughts on this subject.  I know Paul has challenged my thinking through this letter; and I pray that I will not quench the Holy Spirit in my life at all … nor grieve Him through willful conduct in conflict with the call of holiness.  (Cf. Isaiah 63:9-11; Ephesians 4:29-31For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. Amen!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Evening!

Verse of the Day – 02/18/19

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So our Verse of the Day continues in Romans 8.  I had included this passage in the commentary yesterday to share Paul’s personal conviction regarding his keen awareness and understanding of the love of God expressed to us in Christ Jesus!  Paul swells with emotion as he contemplates what possibilities might exist that could remove the love of God for His creation.  Paul concludes: “There is nothing!”  There is nothing with the power to dissolve or diminish the love of God for us. There is nothing you or I can do or not do that will change or annul the love of God for us. He is not subjected to our mortal ideas, thoughts, or personal wills.  His love is eternally existent!

Let’s consider these thoughts for a moment.  The Bible is filled with physical metaphors to help us comprehend spiritual realities.  For example, Jesus is called the Word who was with God in the beginning. (Cf. John 1:1-3) Jesus is called the Lamb of God. (Cf. John 1:29; 1:36) He was the unblemished, spotless lamb God provided for Himself to be the final, ultimate sacrifice for the sin of all humans.  Yet, we read this Lamb (Jesus) who removed the sins of the world was slain before the foundation of the world!  The names of all believers were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the earth was created. (Cf. Revelation 5:12; 13:8) So if God loved us (and He did) before you and I were ever born … and died to impute His holiness and righteousness upon us (and He did) because we were condemned and without hope because of our sinful nature … then we need to join Paul and ask: “What can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?”  Will our sin now separate us from His love?  Was it not for your sin and mine that Jesus died in order to make atonement for us? (Cf. Romans 5:8) That is the love of God in action!  That is the salvation of God in truth!  You and I cannot save ourselves.  It was HIS LOVE that saved us.  O, now I have to go back to Ephesians 2!

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NKJV)

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

My conviction is that ALL of this was done on our behalf by God … all this was done for us because of His great love with which He loved us … even before we were born into this world … and before we were born-again of the Spirit.  So if we had no opportunity or ability to cause God to love us, what would make us think that we can separate ourselves from His love at all?  His love IS!  To me, the more pressing question we should ask is, “Why would anyone reject this great love of God?” It seems God permits human beings to have the capacity (free will) to reject the love of God.  We find evidence of this rejection throughout the Old and New Testaments.  For example, Israel forsook the love of God by “turning to other gods and worshipping them; rejecting God and breaking His covenant .” (Cf. Deuteronomy 31:20) God did not cease to love Israel or separate Himself from them. They refused His love for them! They broke His covenant of love with them. They rejected His call to repentance in order to obtain mercy.  And we still find this state of the human heart in our time … people still in darkness who dismiss the Word of God … whose hearts are hardened and ungrateful for what God Himself has done for them.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:9) Yes, God is faithful to keep His covenant of love with those who love Him.  It is our response to the love of God that establishes this bond.  Paul is correct that nothing can separate us from the love God has poured out upon His creation. It is immutable! It is everlasting! It is unfailing! And it is always available! But for purposes known only to God, He permits us to reject Him and His love.  He allows us to separate our hearts from Him … not the other way around.  And this brings me back to what the Apostle John wrote:

John 3:16-20 (NKJV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 

God has given us His love!  And this love is in His Son, Christ Jesus! Through Jesus … in Jesus … is the love of God the Father both revealed and manifested! We cannot be separated from it, but we can reject it.  It is evident we have the free will to not believe the testimony of God regarding His Son. We can refuse to believe in Him and we can live our lives with total disregard for the love God has bestowed on us through Jesus.  And I wonder even now … how could I have ever done so?  How could I have been so reckless … so arrogant … so ungrateful in my own heart before I came to saving faith in Jesus? Even now … I can scarcely fathom why God would have been so merciful to me.  Why would He enter His covenant of love with me? Why would He redeem a wretched sinner like me?  The only answer is: LOVE! And who among us can truly understand this kind of love? So can anything separate me from the love of God?  Anything?  Absolutely not!  The sacrificial blood of Christ Jesus covers me for all eternity!

Hebrews 9:11-15 (NIV)

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus having obtained eternal redemption13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctifies them so that they are outwardly clean; 14 how much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts (useless rituals) that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

In light of this good news … what are the implications for us?  Here are some things that come to mind:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

1 John 3:4-10 (NIV)

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

You see, the love of God has called us to transformed lives … transformed by the same power that raised Jesus to life again!  We are to abide in Him and He in us: 

1 John 3:23-24 (NKJV)

23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. 24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

1 John 4:12-14 (NKJV)

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

With these things in mind, I believe the theological corroboration of Romans 5:8 can be better understood and appreciated now:

Romans 5:1-11 (ESV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and let us rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation!

I just feel led to pray:

Father God, how incredible it is to know your love is inseparable … immutable … and everlasting in Christ Jesus!  How can we show our gratitude for your mercies?  How can we live lives worthy of what you have done for us?  I pray each one of us, in view of your mercy, will offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to you Father as our true and spiritual worship.  I pray each of us will not be conformed to the deception of this fallen world, but will be transformed in our minds through your living Word.  Lord God, I pray that everyone, everywhere will come to know your great love so that Christ will dwell in our hearts through faith … so we might have the power and ability to comprehend how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – and to know this love that surpasses knowledge so that we might be filled with the measure of all the fullness of God. O Lord, remind us again and again that your love never fails … that you will keep us in perfect peace whose minds are steadfast because we trust in you alone. Let our gratitude for your life and love in us be shown through our love of one another.  Let us be ambassadors of reconciliation to those who do not know your great love.  And let us seek holiness in our lives … that we might see you and have confidence when we stand before you when you return!  Grant us all these things, Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/17/19

Romans 8:35,37

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

When I first read this Verse of the Day, I just had to smile….  This is one of my “go-to” passages when I need affirmation … when I need to be reminded that the love of God in Christ Jesus is unconditional and everlasting.  In fact, to me, all of Romans Chapter 8 is uplifting.  It is here that I am told there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  It is here that God affirms His Son met the righteous requirement of law for me and sent His Holy Spirit to live in me.  It is here that I come to understand how a life lived in the Spirit sets me free from the bondage of sin and unites me to God … and confirms to me that I am His child.  It is here that I find trust in the hand of God over my life … that He works all things for my good because I love Him and have been called according to His purpose.  Yes, it is here that God affirms that He is for me … that He loves me with an inseparable, unfailing love because He gave me to His Son….  I’m overwhelmed!

In Verse 35, Paul asks “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  Well, another question might be, “Who joined us … who united us to His love?”  We have to understand that our relationship with God through His Son is totally 100% HIS work.  He is the initiator!  God loved us first! This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (Cf. 1 John 4:10) His love was not a response to our goodness or righteousness.  His love was not merited or earned by any of us.  We were dead in our trespasses and sins! But God made us alive in Christ! He resurrected us in Christ! (Cf. Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 2:13-14) Why?  Because God, in Christ, was reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses against them. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19) So if God has the will and power to join us to Himself; then the answer to the question of who can separate us from Him is ‘No one!”.  No one can separate us from His love!

Paul then moves on to the question: “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”  In other words, we as Christians will have problems in this world.  But these troubles, trials, sufferings, nor afflictions of evil cannot separate us from God.  It is not possible.  Jesus affirms that promise:

John 10:27-30 (NKJV)

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand30 I and My Father are one.”

So what is the implication of these assertions communicated to us through Paul?  Well, let’s read the conclusion Paul brings to us:

Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Is this not the greatest news you could hear today?  God commends His love to us … He demonstrates His love in this:

Romans 5:6-8 (NKJV)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I pray you will never question the love that God has for you.  His love is not dependent upon your performance. It is not given based upon your perfection. His love is given because of your imperfection!  God simply wants you and me to come to Him through the way He has prepared for us to come to Him: Christ Jesus His Son!  And NOTHING can ever separate you from His love! Amen!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!