Outward Appearances…

1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Any of us can fall into this kind of behavior.  We are human.  We have natural biases that are filtered through our own life experience and upbringing.  We make assumptions.  Draw conclusions.  And yet, too often, we do so without full information or facts.  It happens to holy men of God like the Prophet Samuel.  It happens to each one of us….

Samuel had been charged by the Lord to begin the search for a replacement for King Saul.  God had rejected Saul because of his disobedience.  So God directed Samuel to the Bethlehem to anoint the new king.  We find the story here:

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NIV)

1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

As Samuel learned, we should hesitate to make decisions based on outward appearances … based on our own imperfect assessments or generalizations of people’s inner thoughts and beings.  And the lesson here is that God sees people and situations differently than we are able to see them sometimes.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. We would be wise to follow His methodology before we assess and judge and act on perhaps flawed determinations.  But even more, we would be wiser still if we waited upon the Lord in order to discern what He has determined and ordained. We can be too hasty in wanting to move and act on our own decisions when God is wanting us to slow down and wait for Him to provide clarity and wisdom according to His own counsel and purpose. The goal is to use wise judgment, and we need to seek the counsel of the Lord in order to do so….

So what is the application?  I hope each of us will check our hearts … our prejudices … our judgments of others based on their outward appearances.  For there is an inner person … an inner being … a soul that God created … that lies within that human body in front of you.  He or she is unique, valued, and loved by God whether we see it for ourselves or not. Just as we received the merciful love of God, so He wants all people to come to repentance and to a knowledge of the truth. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) The people we tend to judge and condemn based on appearances are the very people many of us were ourselves. Paul addressed this very issue:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)

 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 2:1-6 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 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.

Jesus warns us of hypocrisy! He asserted, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Cf. Matthew 23:27-28) We need to remember WHO made us clean … WHO sanctified us … WHO justified us with His own blood of atonement.  Jesus did not look on our outward appearance and reject us; rather, He loved us and gave Himself for us. He cleansed our inner hearts and healed our inmost beings! That is how God looks at people! That is how we are supposed to look at people! We need to look at them with hope … and offer the hope of salvation found in Jesus alone. So let us do all we can to look passed the appearances of people and see the inner brokenness that needs Jesus to heal them.  I think that is the lesson the Spirit wants to teach us today.  Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

My Refuge and My Shield

Psalm 119:114 (NIV)

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

So I may sound like a broken record, but it appears the Holy Spirit wants to continue to emphasize this truth with us; namely, that God is our refuge and our strength as He has declared in His Word to us!  Yes, we hope in His Word because that is how we KNOW through faith that He is with us … He surrounds us … He protects us!  Let’s just look at this section of Psalm 119 for the immediate context:

Psalm 119:113-120 (NIV)

ס Samekh

113 I hate double-minded people, but I love your law.
114 You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.
115 
Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!
116 Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.
117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees.
118 You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their delusions come to nothing.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross; therefore I love your statutes.
120 My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.

In a world where we feel surrounded by chaos and confusion and conflict and coercion and cancel there is a place of refuge and strength for believers. His name is Jesus! I did not say there is a place of hiding because we are not called to hide from the world; rather, we are to be His light in the world.  We are to be that city on a hill where it cannot be hidden. (Cf. Matthew 5:14-16) We need to remember the prayer of Jesus when He prayed for all believers:

John 17:13-21 (NIV)

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

Jesus wants us IN the world, but He prayed for God to protect us … to be our refuge from the evil one. So, we do not ignore what is happening in the world or stick our heads in the proverbial sand. Believers have been called … we are sent into the world to testify to the truth! That truth is God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world: “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. 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. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (Cf. John 3:16-19) Yes, we are to engage the world with the light of the Gospel … with truth of the Word. That is all we can do … even though we know that believers will be hated for it:

John 15:18-27 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (Cf. John 13:16) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (References to Psalms 35:19; 69:4) 26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father—He will testify about me27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

So we need to know the Word of God. We need to know the Truth. And we do know – if we believe Jesus is the Christ, receive His sacrificial atonement for our sin, and become a new creation in Him. And through the Advocate who comes to indwell us, we receive wisdom and discernment. The Apostle John has elaborated on this for us:

1 John 4:1-6 (NIV)

1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from Godbut every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the worldThey are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Do you see it?  Every spirit (that would be referencing a human spirit) that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.  This means that a person has received the Spirit of God through placing their faith in Jesus Christ. Then John goes on to refer to believers as “children who are from God.” Again, the emphasis is on having the Spirit of God within us because he affirms “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  Yes, the Spirit of Truth is greater … He is more powerful than the spirit of falsehood. Why? “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (Cf. 1 John 5:4) It is through faith in Christ we have overcome darkness and deception. Indeed, the Spirit of Truth has set us free! But the god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4)

So believers should forever praise God for His mercy … for His gift of grace that removed the veil from before our eyes that we might see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  It is only by His grace that our eyes were opened and we were enabled to come to faith in the blood atonement He provided through Jesus. By His grace we are forgiven.  By His grace we are accepted. By His grace we are received into eternal life …  ONLY because of Jesus and no other reason. “ 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.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) If this does not humble us as believers, I’m not sure what will. I am reminded what Peter asserted in 1 Peter 4:17-18, “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the Gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Cf. Proverbs 11:31) Indeed, how can we ever doubt the compassionate love God has demonstrated? His love is our refuge!  His love is our strength!  His love is our everlasting hope! His love is revealed through His Word! 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.” (Cf. John 1:14)

Lord Jesus, you are our refuge and strength because You have given us your Spirit … the Spirit of Truth … to indwell us and fill us with Your abiding presence and love.  Only in You is the wisdom and knowledge of God made known. Only in You is the great love of the Father fully expressed and experienced in our hearts. You are the true light that gives light to everyone. Oh, that the light you have given to us might be received in every heart. Oh, that every soul would come to your life …  the light of all mankind. (Cf. John 1:4) For You are the Living Word in which we hope and find shelter. You are the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through you. (Cf. John 14:6) And so I pray that we, your children, would be your image in this world just as you are the image of the Father. You have sent us into the world just as the Father sent You into the world. And so, I pray that through our lives and testimonies that your kindness will lead more people to repentance. I pray that your great love, which is rich in mercy, will bring life to those who are dead in transgressions. Oh, that your grace, Lord Jesus, would abound as your people proclaim the light and hope, the joy and peace, the truth and love of the Gospel … so that no one would perish but come to a knowledge of the truth and receive eternal life in you.  This is my prayer, Lord, and I ask in Your Great Name.  Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Wise Son

Proverbs 23:24 (NIV)

The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.

Several of you had responded to my email that I sent on Saturday … sending prayers and well wishes about the spiritual battle(s) that I have been facing.  First of all, I send my heartfelt gratitude to those who have been praying and interceding … regardless of whether you let me know. I am blessed to be surrounded with your love and concern.  So I wanted to let you know one of the battles that I have been fighting in the Spirit … and to share the praise report that I alluded to in my email.  The victory of prayer and spiritual warfare that I received from the Lord is found in our Verse of the Day….

“The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.”

You see, I received news late Friday night that my son, Eric, and his wife, Shelby, had a life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ!  Yes, both have been born-again of the Spirit of God – and their names are now written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  Yes, Hallelujah! Yes, Amen!  Yes, I give thanks to God that He removed the veil of darkness from their eyes that they might see the Light of God in Jesus Christ!  They are no longer of this world or live in the wisdom of this world.  These Scriptures come to mind:

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (NIV)

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Cf. Isaiah 29:14) 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (NIV)

1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of GodFor what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” (Cf. Genesis 1:3) made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 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. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Cf. Luke 15:10) So, like the father of the Prodigal Son (Cf. Luke 15:11-32), I invite you to rejoice with me … “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So we are celebrating and grateful to God!  And I encourage every one who is praying for their prodigal … for their children who have wandered from the faith … to persevere in prayer before the Father.  For those the spiritual battle is intense … the battle belongs to Lord! Ask for the “veil” to be removed from their eyes … that they too might become wise and see the light of God in Christ Jesus.  Yes, continue to watch and pray!  And I pray that I will be celebrating your victories with you soon…. 

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Just The Right Time

Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

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.

This passage from Romans 5 is still as powerful today as it was when the Apostle Paul penned it for the Church.  Verse 8 is quite profound, and it gives us a clear understanding of the depth of God’s love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us … the ungodly … those without hope of salvation! Indeed, Jesus was crucified because we are all sinners! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)

Psalm 14:2-3; Psalm 53:2-3; Romans 3:11-12

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside. They have together become corrupt; there is none who does good … No, not one.

God saw our condition … our state of darkness … our need for salvation! But we are assured: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Cf. John 3:16) “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:9-10) And as Paul concluded: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Cf. Romans 8:38-39)

God has manifested, demonstrated, and confirmed His love for us!  The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us! (Cf. Romans 5:5) How could anyone ever doubt the love of God? The love of God provided His own Passover Lamb as a sin offering for us! You can readily see this presented and prophetically revealed in Genesis 22 which tells the story of when God tested Abraham with the sin offering (sacrifice) of Isaac (his first-born and only son of Sarah) on Mount Moriah. The narrative reveals the intense faith Abraham had in God … a faith demonstrated by a sincere love and trust in God such that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son in obedience to the command he had received:

Genesis 22:6-13 (NIV)

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram (behind him) caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

But unlike Isaac, who was bound by his father and then placed on the altar for sacrifice, Jesus was willing to die.  Indeed, it was for this purpose that He was sent by His Father. And Jesus was not bound and then placed on the cross of sacrifice; He was nailed to it after He had been violently abused, brutalized, and humiliated.  And here is the explanation that Jesus gave before the betrayal and trial and execution ever occurred:

John 10:14-18 (NIV)

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

A thought just came to mind.  There is a song by a band named Foreigner entitled: I Want to Know What Love Is. The chorus goes: “I want to know what love is, I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me.” If a person made this his/her prayer to God, I believe God would respond: “I have shown you what love is.  You can know what love is.  You can feel what love is.  I have demonstrated my passionate, everlasting love to you and for you.  I have made known my love for you. His name is Jesus!”  The Apostle Paul prayed that believers would know this love:

Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He (God) may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Yes, we can know the depth of His love … even though it surpasses our comprehension….  The Apostle John affirms this same knowledge:

1 John 4:10-16 (NIV)

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. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

Indeed, “God has delivered us from the power (dominion) of darkness and transferred (brought) us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love,  in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He (Jesus, the Son) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Cf. Colossians 1:13-15) And this is the reason for the cross. Jesus is the revelation of the heart of God: of rescue … of redemption … of resurrection … of reconciliation. God sent His Son to accomplish ALL of these things because He loves us! Yes, the cross of Christ was ordained! It was commanded by the Father.  It was His will. The Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world. (Cf. Revelation 13:8) And what does He require?  A Response. Repentance. Reformation.  He says to us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) And, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when He is revealed. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. Instead, just as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct;for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:13-16)

We remember the cross because it is an eternal symbol of God’s love for His creation.  We remember the cross because it is where Jesus was sent by the Father to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins … even the sins of the whole world. (Cf. 1 John 2:2) We remember the cross because there is, therefore, now no condemnation for our sins. (Cf. Romans 8:1) But I pray we are reminded: “Jesus Himself bore our sins in HIS Body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:24) As Paul asked: “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Cf. Romans 6:2) And Paul exhorted: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Cf. Colossians 3:2-4)

I truly want us to remember the purpose of the cross … the crucifixion … that God would send His Son to die for us. I believe the purpose is evoke a response; and I think Paul articulates the response that God desires from each of us quite well:

Romans 6:1-14 (NRSV)

1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sinFor whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 The death He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

So, I will close with this passage:

Luke 9:23-24 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Saved For Sanctification

2 Peter 3:3 (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.

Our verse today continues to focus on the issue salvation for sanctification. I think we should add Verses 4-8 to it so that we would have a broader context for our study.  We have been looking at the gift of salvation … and the plan God ordained to save us from the darkness of this world before the Creation was spoken into existence.  It is fascinating to ponder the foreknowledge of God and His will as manifested through His love.  Like the Apostle John, the Apostle Peter, also an eyewitness of the majesty of Jesus Christ, came to understand that faith in Him gives us the right to become children of God.  Yes, all who receive Him into their hearts … who believe in His name … He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (Cf. John 1:12-13) And so as children of God, we will grow in our faith to bear His image because our salvation was provided for this purpose … to be set apart … to be sanctified … to be holy just as He is holy. (Cf. 1 Peter 1:15)

When we are born-again of the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ, His Spirit comes to indwell us.  The outcome of this event is what Peter spoke about in this passage.  Peter declared, “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!  His divine power was given to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  As Paul corroborated, “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….” (2 Timothy 1:9)And Paul, in his Letter to Titus observed, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

Through these (His own glory and goodness), God has given us His very great and precious promises (salvation and eternal life), so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

I hope this is making sense.  God ordained our salvation because of His own glory and goodness.  It was His mercy and love that brought grace to existence.  And, again, it is clear that God desires us to “participate in His divine nature”.  This is our calling to holiness!  This is our empowerment to become holy in all that we do!  As Paul exhorted:

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the lusts of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 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. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

And so Peter goes on to explain that there is an ultimate purpose for faith to be formed in us.  The initial purpose of faith is to bring us the light of the Gospel and to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.  “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Cf. John 1:4) Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Cf. John 8:12) And we can infer that in the beginning,  God ordained for light to be separated from darkness. (Cf. Genesis 1:4) So it follows that our salvation through Jesus Christ was accomplished in order to separate us from the Kingdom of Darkness in this world and to transfer us into the Kingdom of Light.  As Paul concluded, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves.” (Colossians 1:13) This is consistent with what John declared, “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

I want us to look at the passage below wherein Paul stands before King Agrippa and shares what the Lord Jesus said to him during their encounter on the road to Damascus:

Acts 26:12-19 (NIV)

12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 

Wow! God desires for His people to be turned from darkness to light … from the power of Satan to God.  His purpose is to sanctify us through the salvation received in faith!  His purpose is to separate us unto Himself!  This is what it means to be “sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ”.   And this is what Peter is driving at in his epistle.  There is process of sanctification  for us to enter after we have come to faith in Jesus Christ!  I invite you to look at this process as we continue with our verse:

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 is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Is this not the process of sanctification laid out for us?  Add to your faith goodness … knowledge … self-discipline … perseverance … godliness … mutual affection … love!  Yes, the light of Jesus should be moving you and I along in the pursuit of love itself … the giving and sharing of the same love which God demonstrated to us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) Through the process of sanctification we are conformed to the same depth of love we received in Christ Jesus. “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son….” (Cf. Romans 8:29a)  Again, I hope this is making sense….

If people think that reciting the “sinner’s prayer” in repentance, and confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior is all that God has called you to do, I challenge them to look at these Scriptures again. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified!” (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3) Our sanctification IS the objective! Indeed, no one can become set apart for God without first receiving the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit! “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) But it is clear that we must ADD to our faith in order to fully love as we have been loved….

I will close with a couple of Scriptures for us to meditate on.  I believe these passages are a call to the Prodigal … to the wayward and unfaithful among us.   Take some time and allow God to speak to your heart and mine about the perseverance of faith … required to complete the process of sanctification we must all undergo under the hand of God.  Oh, He is testing us!  He is refining us.  God wants us to see the value of faith … for it is of greater value than pure gold.  (Cf. 1 Peter 1:7)  So let us move on in sanctification to accomplish the holiness God desires for us to be like Him.  For without holiness, no one will see the Lord. (Cf. Hebrews 12:14) Amen.

Hebrews 10:32-39 (NIV)

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” (Cf. Isaiah 26:20; Habakkuk 2:3) 38 And, “But the righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” (Cf. Habakkuk 2:4) 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

2 John 4-9 (NIV)

It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love. I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

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!

I AM REDEEMED

1 Peter 1:18-19

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

We have been redeemed! But not with physical, perishable things of monetary value such as silver or gold.  No. Peter proclaims, our redemption from a sinful nature (the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors) was purchased with something of far greater value … the highest possible value … the imperishable life of God! In Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, God shed His own blood as the “purchase” price required for the payment of our sin debt.  That such an extreme price was necessary to redeem us indicates just how fatal sin of any form or magnitude should be view and understood. The only price acceptable (propitiation) was for God Himself to die on our behalf!  What greater price could there ever be? That is how God views sin….  That is how we should view sin….  As Paul explained:  

Romans 7:5-14 (NKJV)

For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

Perhaps Paul drew his inspiration and understanding in this regard from the Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 50:1-3 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away. When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to deliver you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the heavens with darkness and make sackcloth its covering.”

We were sold under sin!  And through the commandments of God, we have discovered the exceedingly sinful nature of our beings.  Iniquity has been found in each one of us. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) And it is clear that God determined the price of redemption … the price to reclaim us from the death of sin … was exceedingly beyond the capacity of any human to afford.  It cost Jesus His life to pay the required price.  Yes, sin is that costly!  Jeff Bezos is worth over $100 Billion and that would represent the most microscopic Nano-fraction of what had to be paid.  Jesus asked: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26) We simply cannot underestimate or dismiss the fatal cost of sin over our lives.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Not only do we need to realize the infinite cost of our redemption … purchased by the Son of God … we need to understand that is was the mercy and grace of the Father that afforded this salvation to us.  This is the epitome of kindness displayed by a Holy God toward His unholy creatures.  Father 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 Jesus. And His incomprehensible kindness toward us is intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) This is the heart of the Gospel! “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He died to redeem us from the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors.  And through His resurrection, we are raised together with Him into new lives! As Paul affirmed in Colossians 1:13-14, “For He has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Ephesians 2:1-9 (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. 

Redemption … Salvation … Eternal Life.  These are gifts from God our Father.  We have received them through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ … who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:4-5) May we never take His great love or grace for granted … and may we always strive for holiness in our lives as an act of worship for the redemption we have received.  As Paul admonished: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Cf. Romans 12:1)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Rock of Ages – Stumbling Stone

Acts 4:10-12

then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Our Verse of the Day captures a portion of Acts 4; however, I think it best to go ahead and include a little more of the context so that you get a better sense of the declaration that Peter made to the people.  I encourage you to read the entire chapter today, though.  It’s good stuff!

Acts 4:5-12 (NIV)

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ SEE NOTE  12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

NOTE: Here, the Apostle Peter (filled with the Holy Spirit) is boldly quoting Old Testament Scriptures which the Jewish rulers and elders would have been familiar.  We can find the references to this spiritual metaphor in Psalm 118:22-23 and Isaiah 28:16. And it is prophesied in Zechariah 10:4 that the “cornerstone” would be a descendant of Judah.  Even Jesus quoted this passage; and this is recorded in the three Synoptic Gospels at Matthew 21:42-43; Mark 12:10-11; and Luke 20:16-18.  And Peter later quotes and discusses in his first epistle as shared below:

1 Peter 2:4-10 (NIV)

As you come to Him (Jesus), the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion,  a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” (Cf. Isaiah 28:16) Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (Cf. Psalm 118:22) and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” (Cf. Isaiah 8:14) They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The theological significance of Psalm 118:22-23 and what Peter is sharing cannot be underestimated.  References to God as a “Rock” or a “Stone” abound in the Old Testament.  The metaphor speaks to the power of God; His steadfastness; His unchangeable character; the secure, unmovable nature of His love; a place of spiritual refuge; and His salvation.  This metaphor is first used of God in Genesis 49:24 as Jacob blesses Joseph before his death. Moses uses this imagery of God in Deuteronomy 32:4 affirming,God is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” This theological construct is developed further in the remainder of Chapter 32, and I advise you to read it beyond the excerpt I share below. 1 Samuel 2:2 states: “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 2 Samuel 22 captures a Song of Praise written by King David that begins, “The Lord is my Rock, my fortress, and my Deliverer; my God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge….”  And many of the Psalms make similar references to the Lord as “my Rock” and is it paired with the Lord my Savior or Redeemer.

So I believe it is safe to say that when Jesus quoted Psalm 118; the Jewish rulers and leaders understood its theological implications. (Cf. Luke 20:19) Likewise, when Peter quoted the same Scripture to the Jewish rulers and leaders, the focus was on their “rejection” of the Stone or Rock … their crucifixion of the Messiah … Jesus the Son of God. As the Apostle John wrote: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” (Cf. John 1:10-11) Yet, rebellion against the revealed will of God is nothing new for man in general … or Israel in particular.  And what is amazing is how much indifference we find in people – even ourselves – after we have experienced first-hand the supernatural power of God in our lives.  You will find the same historical “hardness of heart” recorded centuries before in Deuteronomy 32:

Deuteronomy 32:15-20 (NIV)

They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior. 16 They made Him jealous with their foreign gods and angered Him with their detestable idols. 17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God— gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear. 18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 The Lord saw this and rejected them because He was angered by His sons and daughters. 20 “I will hide my face from them,” He said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful.

Surely the Pharisees knew the references … and the application should be a forewarning to us!  As Peter declared: “Jesus IS ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  What is Peter saying here? When you reject the Rock, you reject God! The Jews and unbelievers today have not only rejected the “Living Stone”, the “Rock of Salvation”, and the “Rock of Refuge” … they have refused to accept that Jesus is the “chief cornerstone”!  Everything is built upon Him! There can be no other plausible conclusion.  When Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter professed, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And how did Jesus respond? 

Matthew 16:13-18 (NIV)

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, (the Greek word for Peter means rock) and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

You see, “rock” represents something solid … something you can depend on to not fall or fail when weight or pressure is exerted upon it.  In this context it represents a trustworthy, pillar of truth upon which to build our lives.  Christ Jesus has been building His Church on this foundation of all Truth: He is the Messiah – the Son of the Living God!  He is the cornerstone on which the rest of the building … His Body – the Church is set … square and plumb … true and level.  Jesus is the head of the Church, His Body, of which He is the Savior. (Cf. Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:19) So we need to understand this is the ultimate question every human ever born or to ever be born MUST answer regarding Jesus.  Jesus testified, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) So now, each of us has to answer Jesus when He asks us: “Who do YOU say I am?”  And the answer people give determines if Father God embraces them as His own … or if God hides His face from them as unfaithful children.  And it is this question to which we have been called to urge everyone to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior.  For Jesus IS the stone that causes people to stumble and fall if they do not obey the message and come to Him to receive salvation and eternal life….

Father God, I pray even now, that each of us would let this bold sermon from Peter penetrate our hearts and minds.  Convict our hearts, Father God, and any who are not fully persuaded that You are the Rock … the chief cornerstone … the foundation of ALL light and truth! Bring us into submission and the obedience of faith – for you have appointed Jesus as the head over every power and authority in heaven and on earth.  Keep us within you … and abide in us … that we might be faithful children to declare your praises because you have called us out of darkness into the wonderful light of your Son.  Thank you, Father God, for your everlasting mercies … and may the mercies of your love and salvation be the rock upon which we continue to build our lives! May we always be living stones … laid upon the sure foundation of your Son.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 3:11) Amen.

Well, I think that I will stop here….  I feel a bit carried away at the moment because I believe so strongly that we need to hear and share this message!  Jesus is the stone the builders rejected … but to those who believe – who have come to faith in His Name … Jesus is the only name under heaven by which we must be saved!  No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.  We need to reach out to those who “stumble and fall” through unbelief in the message.  Remember, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17) This is the rock-solid truth upon which the Kingdom of God has been forged! Jesus IS the Messiah – the Son of the Living God!  Upon this rock the Church – a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession – is built and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it!

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!

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!