Saved By Grace…

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Our Verse of the Day has probably been memorized and quoted by all of us. It affords a succinct theology of the mechanism through which salvation is accomplished. Salvation is received by faith in Jesus Christ. It is not achieved by good works a person might do … so that no person can ever boast that he or she earned salvation through their own merits. Therefore, salvation is a sovereign act of grace … it is a gift! There is no debt that you or I owe God because it was paid in full by our Lord Jesus on the cross! Indeed, God is lavishly gracious!

Look again at what King David wrote: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Cf. Psalm 103:8-10) And we have read what Paul asserted: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) And John concluded: “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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (Cf. 1 John 4:9-11) To me, these verses afford the best illustrations of what is meant by the gifts of mercy and grace!

In His mercy, God withholds the condemnation that humans deserve for their transgressions of His Law, rebellion, and sin. In His grace, God grants us the forgiveness (atonement) and salvation we do not deserve. God’s holiness requires the righteous judgment of all sin … yet His lavish love desires mercy and this is why He sent His Son. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him (Jesus) shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 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.” (Cf. John 3:16-18)

This good news of salvation through Christ Jesus alone has been affirmed by all of the Apostles! So, I hope you will meditate further on these verses … and let the grace of God become more real to your heart and life.  It truly is the greatest gift; and the story of His grace can be traced from the beginning of time. When the transgression (disobedience) of Adam and Eve became exposed, God covered them. (Cf. Genesis 3:21) When the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time, He regretted that He had made human beings on the earth, and His heart was deeply troubled. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Cf. Genesis 6:5-8)

Exodus 34:5-9 (NKJV)

Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with Moses there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, maintaining mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us. Even though we are a stiff-necked people, forgive our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.”

Yes, we can readily see the grace of God at work through the passage of time. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And 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. Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 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.” (Cf. John 1:1, 14, 16-18)

And so, Paul deeply understood the mission to proclaim the grace of God in Christ Jesus with boldness and authority! His inspired thoughts on grace can be found at Romans 3:21-26, and I urge you to take some time to review his discourse there. In his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul opened with incredible passion about the grace of God:

Ephesians 1:3-8 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, God predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us….

To the Colossians Paul wrote: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the Gospelthat has come to you. In the same way, the Gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. (Colossians 1:3-6)

Indeed, throughout the inspired writings of Paul, we see this pattern of teaching that equates the message of the Gospel with the grace of God. Jesus IS the embodiment and fullness of His grace! I just cannot see any other conclusion – which is why faith in Jesus is requisite to receive the most precious gift of His grace … eternal life.“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” (Cf. Titus 2:11-14)

Yes, grace leads us to holiness! So, it is my prayer that you and I will remember to abide in the grace that has been given to us in Christ Jesus. “For God 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, 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.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:9-10)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Proclaiming Jesus!

Colossians 1:28 (NIV)

He is the One we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

As I think about the work of evangelism … our Kingdom assignments to share the Good News … to make disciples of all nations … to baptize believers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit … and to teach believers to obey everything that Jesus taught and commanded; let us make sure that our message is focused and clear. In our Verse of the Day, Paul is adamant that JESUS is the One we proclaim!  So, let’s look at the context and see the basis on which Jesus should be the only One we proclaim:

Colossians 1:15-29 (NIV)

15 The Son (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him (Jesus) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the Body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus), 20 and through Him (Jesus) to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His (Jesus) blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds as reflected in your evil behavior. 22 But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the Gospel. This is the Gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. 24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His Body, which is the Church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the Word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the One we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end, I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Think about what Paul is saying regarding the Gospel message – that we are to “strenuously contend” to share the message about Jesus! HE is the ONE we proclaim! And in the larger passage, we see there is a lot about Jesus for us to proclaim! Indeed, what is most important to share with others is what the Word of God says about Him … not necessarily our own personal theologies. The focus is not to be on you or me; rather, the focus is to be on Him. It is WHO HE IS that has transformed you and I into believers … and that is who we have become.  Sharing the stories of our born-again experiences … our salvation … will place the emphasis on the One who saved us!

Being a believer is why you and I labor for the Gospel and serve in the Kingdom of God. Like Paul, our transformation from living in darkness to abiding in the glorious light of the Gospel is what drives us to proclaim Jesus. And Paul laid out a compelling argument to encourage us to share the Gospel:

Romans 10:9-15; 17 (NIV)

 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” (Citing Isaiah 28:1612 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Citing Joel 2:3214 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Citing Isaiah 52:717 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Faith comes from hearing … hearing the Word of God … renewing our minds to the truth about Jesus Christ and no longer being conformed to this world. (Cf. Romans 12:2) Jesus has called His followers (believers) out of the world; and He enjoins us to share His life changing, life giving teaching with others. If “hearing” is the operative word for coming to faith, then our “speaking” is imperative!  So, I pray we will be about the Father’s business as His ambassadors! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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!