Trust God’s Design … Lean On God’s Power

Grace For the Journey

2018BlogTheme

20Jul  I read something interesting the other day.  In 1306, while Scotland was at war with England, Robert the Bruce became king of Scotland.  Legend says there was a time when Robert took refuge in a cave to hide from the armies of England, and while in the cave he saw a spider trying to attach its web to a ceiling beam.  Over and over, the spider tried and failed.  Eventually, however, the creature succeeded in its task.

After a number of battles, Robert the Bruce led his men in the Battle of Bannock-burn in 1314. It was there where Scotland won its independence.  This story of the spider is captured in the very familiar maxim . . . “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Christian believer, I want you to carefully consider this:

Your life is to be defined by

Getting up one more time

Than you have been knocked down.

Or, put another way

Trust In God’s Design

And

Lean On His Power!

It’s as simple as that!  To be sure, God has called you into His perfect plan for your life, but make no mistake, along the way – perhaps even today – you will get knocked down.  During the years I was playing sports, I heard this maxim over and over from the coaches: “falling isn’t failing unless you fail to get up!”

The Bible exhorts us in Proverbs 24:16, “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.”

So, regardless of the personal, professional, or relational difficulties you may be facing today – perhaps, like Robert the Bruce, you find yourself in a proverbial “cave” of conflict or confusion – remember the story of the spider.  God has called you to be a spider-saint. Never give up and never give in!

The Bible is chock-full of examples of those who did not succeed at first … or on the second attempt … or even the third time.  You do remember Peter denying his Lord in the courtyard, don’t you?  Yet, our Lord would not let him stay down.  God helped Peter back up and set him right back into kingdom work by causing Peter to take his focus off his failure and put it back where it belonged – on Jesus.

God says in Isaiah 41:13, “I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Look today to the only One who can bring you both the encouragement and the power you need, no matter what “cave” is currently enclosing you.  Remember . . .

“If at first … or second … or third … you don’t make it,

Look to God and He will help you up!”

God has given you everything you need to be a spider-saint,

So keep trusting in God’s design for you and His power in Christ!

In the end, you will be glad you did and God will get the glory.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 

When Never to Say “Never”

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

19Jul  When was the last time you felt like the apostle Peter and thought you knew better than the Lord in a particular area of life?  Have you ever given a refined rebuke or correction to the Almighty?

The Bible tells us in Matthew 16:22, “Then Peter took Him [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far from You, Lord: this shall not happen to You!’”

If you pause for a moment and think about your average day, you just might be surprised at how many times you say, “Never, Lord!”  And I think . . .

The area we all struggle the most is in the area of grace.

The words of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness,” often convict me of my pride and arrogance in thinking . . .

That I can find someone, or, something

Other than Jesus to meet my needs,

Lift my spirits, and heal and encourage my hurting heart.

  • We say “NEVER” to God’s grace when we look for our purpose in our profession.
  • We say “NEVER” to God’s grace when we look for our significance in our success.
  • We say “NEVER” to God’s grace when we look for our meaning in our ministry.
  • We say “NEVER” to God’s grace when we look for our approval in our accomplishments.

God’s grace is sufficient to . . .

Save us,

Guide us,

Govern us,

And

Grow us into the person God is calling us to be.

His power is made perfect in our weakness, and it is God’s perfect plan to work through imperfect and weak people, providing all the purpose, significance, meaning, and approval we could possibly hope for or even imagine.

Far too often we say, “Never, Lord!” when it comes to acknowledging that His grace is totally sufficient for our salvation.

  • To His mercy we want to add our merit.
  • To His grace we want to add our goodness and good works.
  • To His finished work we want to add our feeble works.

Our sinful, human nature simply will not receive

The completed work of our Savior on the cross;

We look for every imaginable way to supplement it.

Or, when we can receive the grace that is sufficient for our salvation we say, “Never, Lord!” to that same grace that sanctifies us as well.  Deep down we believe that the only way we will grow in our faith is by the spiritual sweat of our own brow.  We believe God will bless us when we do good and curse us when we do less than good.  We even go as far as to believe that God is angry with us and seeks to exact His pound of flesh when we step out of line and mess things up.

Let us never say “Never, Lord!” to the truths of the Gospel, because we simply cannot understand the greatness of our God.  May we say, “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!” to every Gospel truth and simply trust in His every Word.  May our Lord gently rebuke us, correct us, and exhort us until we rest in the reality of our completed redemption until that day we are received into glory.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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From Restless to Resting

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

10July  What has you restless lately?  Are you facing uncertainty at the office?  Are you dealing with difficulty in your marriage?  Are you struggling with your season of singleness?  Do you find too much month left at the end of the money?

If you stroll into a bookstore, you’ll find a plethora of books in a section labeled “Self-Help” – books that promise to give you the cure to what is ailing your restless heart.

But mark this for future reference –

The self-help field is no help at all!

That is why the blog today is a word of holy help from on high and contains a prescription for going from restless to resting.

The Bible says in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!”

The command to “be still” seems counter-intuitive in the world we live in today, doesn’t it?  It seems as though God did not know just how much would be going on in our lives when He gave us this divine imperative to simply “be still and know Him.”  But our God, who has infinite Wisdom knew everything about us and the lives we would be living . . . and He knew just how critical it would be for our restless hearts to rest in Him and be still if we are ever going to live the life we have been called to live.

In the words of St. Augustine, “God, you have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in You.”  Often we remember the first half of this Biblical instruction – “Be still” – but forget about the last half: “and know that I am God.”  The only answer to the vacuum in our restless hearts is in knowing God and growing in our personal relationship with Him.  Knowing the Father through the work of Christ on the cross and through the empty tomb, when as applied to our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the cure for every ailment that causes our restlessness.  As we both rest in and rehearse the Gospel truths in our hearts, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, the enlarging of our hearts, and the bending of our wills (Romans 12:1-2).

The Bible says in Psalm 16:11, “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.”

Think about looking at life through a camera lens.  The more you move around, the blurrier the picture.  We have all taken pictures like that and thought how nice the picture would have been if there was less movement.  That is why some of the best photography in the world is done with the camera mounted on a tripod so as to keep it still.  When we “are still” in God’s presence, our vision becomes clearer . . . which empowers us to keep moving in the direction God is calling us to go.

Our hearts were redeemed to beat for the things of God.  We are to be pursuing God, loving God, and serving God.  When God is at the center of our lives, we will know Him better and better with each passing day.  The command to “be still” will be part of our daily living.  And at this level of living, we will consistently move from restlessness to resting.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Should Churches Promote High Self-esteem?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

17JulConsider for a moment how popular it has become to promote a positive self-image, to affirm personal identity in self, and to encourage confidence in one’s own ability.  Better yet, consider how popular this has become specifically among believers.  Whether a mother seeking to raise her daughter’s self-image or a speaker striving to proclaim a message that makes people “feel better” about themselves . . .

Is it biblical to promote high self-esteem for those in the body of Christ?

This is a question I wrestled with quite often in my early years of the faith.  Why? Because uplifting and encouraging others toward a better self-image has always seemed to be such a noble task that should be championed by the church.  In fact, why would anyone get upset at people promoting high self-esteem among other Christians?  What’s wrong with wanting to make people feel good?  If someone has a low self-image, shouldn’t we as the church attempt to encourage him in his abilities?

These are all great questions.

However, this is not a matter of what sounds best.

Rather, we must consider whether promoting

High self-esteem lines up with Bible.

As believers living in an utterly depraved world, we will face a lifetime battle in answering life’s toughest questions by choosing one of the following:

  1. I will do this because it’s biblical.
  2. I will do this because “I’ve seen it work.”

As believers, we have the blessed assurance of knowing our faith is firmly grounded in the absolute truths of the God’s Word (Psalm 1:1-3).  In the God’s Word, we find life (Proverbs 4:4; John 10:10), hope (Titus 2:13), and ultimate fulfillment (Psalm 3:2-6) because we find Jesus saturated on each page.  Therefore, before we consider truth claims or practices based on results, we must run them through a filter and see whether they are truly biblical. Thus, if we are striving to be biblical, let us hold the phrase “high self-esteem” up to a biblical filter and answer an important question:

Is self-esteem a biblical concept?

Self-esteem has been defined as “the subjective self-measure of an individual’s worth and value.”  According to psychology, when every humanistic need is met, people can reach their “ultimate fulfillment.”  This fulfillment is called “self-actualization.”  Therefore, a self-actualized individual is one who has fulfilled all humanistic needs – one of those being high self-esteem – in order to reach a point of self-fulfillment.  Psychology teaches that promoting high self-esteem equates to showing people that ultimate satisfaction can be attained through self.

At its very core, this is not a biblical concept, but a psychological construct.

Why does this concept pose a problem for believers?

Put another way, if God’s Word is superior to all learning, understanding and being trained in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), then does the Bible advocate psychology’s theory of promoting “high self-esteem” to reach “self-fulfillment?”  Let me use a personal example that may relate to many of you reading this article.

Look back on your life and recall the day our Lord saved you from your sins.  I may not remember the exact day or time the Lord saved me, but I will never forget what happened that day.  I was sitting in church during a revival meeting listening to a sermon when I became aware of my sinful life.  Granted, at the time, I was only 7 years old, but the impact of God’s Word resonated so deep that it pierced my stone-cold heart.  God’s Word showed me that I was a sinner (Romans 3:23), that I was completely helpless to meet God’s righteous standard in my current state (Romans 5:6), that my thinking was contrary to what God wanted ( Romans 8:7), and that I could not please God in my natural condition (Romans 8:8).  As the evangelist preaching the Word of God the Holy Spirit drove home my sinfulness and that without a miraculous change (2 Corinthians 5:17) from God’s own choosing (John 6:44), my life was destined for death (Romans 3:23) and judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:8).  The Word of God clearly depicted me as an individual always in this state of sinfulness, dependence, fragility, and brokenness.

One thing is certain: once I understood this, I did not feel very good about myself and what I accomplished in life.  In fact, none of the people I know who fully grasp their depravity and wretchedness regard these truths as a boost to their self-esteem. That is because our confidence, hope, and fulfillment are not found in what I can discover deep within myself.  In fact, even if there were a way to bring the deepest depths of my heart to light, I would only be deceived by the wickedness that comes from within (Jeremiah 17:9).

Therefore, that which I choose to esteem

Should not be myself; rather,

I should exalt the God who is able to save!

The promotion of the self-esteem concept was originally designed to fit into the paradigm created by psychologists in their finite understanding of man’s true needs apart from Scripture.  How do I know this was separate from Scripture?  Because everything psychology suggests for man’s ultimate need is completely contrary to God’s Word.

Choosing to esteem self is the exact opposite

Of what Scripture teaches

Regarding the believer’s progress.

In Romans 3:10-18, the apostle Paul presents a compelling image of the depravity of mankind.  In these verses, we see the downward trajectory of man as sin takes us further from God toward an empty, bottomless nothing, only to be reversed by the actions of God, who, by His grace, sent His Son as a propitiation for all mankind (verses 21-26).  God is further glorified when man takes on a posture of decreasing self (John 3:30).

The ultimate goal of seeking to promote high self-esteem

Is to teach man to depend on man,

Whereas the ultimate goal of Christianity

Is to show man that, apart from God, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

Therefore, let the our message always posture our hearts toward Christ, in whom we find our only hope and ultimate fulfillment.

But, you might say, “Wait a minute… Does this mean it’s unbiblical to promote confidence within our children, friends, family, etc?  How is it unbiblical to uplift their spirits by encouraging them?

To properly answer these questions, we must be on the same page when it comes to defining the word “confidence.”  According to the Bible, we are to “put no confidence in the flesh,” but only “glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:3).  It is true that we, as believers, are called to pursue mutual uplifting (Romans 14:19), encouraging one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and stirring our brothers and sisters toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).  However, in these biblical actions, notice the direction in which we are ultimately pointing people . . .

In each instance mentioned above,

We are pursuing these godly acts

In order to point believers back

Toward the greatest fulfillment,

Which can only be found in Christ.

It is not unbiblical to encourage and instill confidence within a fellow believer that will stir his affections toward Christ.  It is contrary to Scripture when we turn those affections to our own abilities.  Confidence and encouragement should always be found through the weakness of self, which points us to our hope of being eternally satisfied in Jesus Christ alone.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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What Rules Your Heart…Shapes Your Life!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

The Bible tells us that the human heart is the “control-center” of life: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

In other words . . .

What rules your heart shapes your life!

What is ruling your heart and shaping your life these days?

For some, stifling emotions – such as doubt, fear, or anxiety – have taken hold of your hearts and are shaping your lives.  For others, vain pursuits – such as power, prestige, or prosperity – have taken hold of your hearts and are shaping your lives.  Still others find that the applause of man or the affection of another have taken hold of your hearts and ultimately are shaping your lives.

The possibilities are as limitless as the depths

Of our sinful, self-absorbed, and self-centered hearts.

But this is not what God wants for you!  In Colossians 3:15, the Bible gives us the key to penetrating a sinful heart that is ruled by anything other than Jesus: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”

This peace finds its power in one overwhelming Gospel truth:

This peace is His peace!

The peace of Jesus is not found in silver and gold . . . not in power and prestige . . . nor in honor and high society.  When Jesus walked this earth on His way to Calvary, His estate was one of abject humiliation, for He had no earthly estate to give to His disciples.  He frankly admitted, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).

It was the peace of Christ that overcame the temptations of the devil, the betrayal of Judas, the desertion of His disciples, the false accusations of the religious leaders, the denials of Peter, and the taunting of the crowds as He hung on the cross.

This is the peace that we have been given through faith in the Prince of Peace.

You see . . .

The peace that is to rule our hearts and ultimately shape our lives

Will never be found in the stuff of life.

It will only be found in our Savior.

The Bible warns us in Matthew 6:19,21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

It is only the peace of Christ that is unaffected by the circumstances of life.

  • Storms cannot disrupt it.
  • Trials will not disturb it.
  • Challenges do not dislocate it.

This is the peace that passes all human understanding, and it will guard your heart (Philippians 4:7).  Our natural, sinful nature would rather try to find our peace in something tangible.  But our new nature is empowered by the same peace that governed, guarded, and guided the Prince of Peace.  And this is the peace that is to rule our hearts and shape our lives.

This peace empowers us to care about more than the cares and concerns of our own lives.  This peace allows us to lay our lives down and lift others up.  This peace frees us to come out of hiding – to emerge from behind every flimsy fig leaf, knowing that God has accepted us in His beloved Son.

A heart that is ruled by the peace of Christ is shaped like the cross:

Loving God (vertical) and reaching out in love to others (horizontal).

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Master’s Magic Mirror

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Jul  John Bunyan’s children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress describes a “magic mirror” that shows the reflection of the one looking at it on one side, with all the blemishes, and on the other side is a picture of the crucified Christ. The imagery reminds us that when we look in the mirror we see ourselves for who we currently are, but when God looks in the same mirror He sees us as the likeness of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.  The Bible tells us this in James 1:21-25.

To be sure, God knows and sees our every misstep and mistake . . . our shortcomings and sin.  But before the foundation of the world He chose to see us as already perfected in Christ.  He sees us as what we will one day be: perfectly conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus.

The Bible says in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

All Christians are currently living in the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of our salvation.  In the eyes of God, we are “already” perfected and conformed to the likeness of Jesus; but you and I know by way of daily experience we are “not yet” perfect.  In fact, we are quite a long way from perfection!

Knowing that God chooses to see you as He sees His beloved Son is the key to finding the proper motive and motivation for pursuing a life of obedience and holiness.

While we see our own sin daily,

Our God chooses to see only His Son in us.

This Gospel truth also frees us from trying to work our way into God’s favor.

We already have all of God’s favor.

We cannot earn any more of it, regardless of what we do.

We are totally loved and completely forgiven in Jesus.

When God thundered from heaven His pleasure in His Beloved Son (Matthew 3:17), He was saying the same thing about us, because He sees His blood bought children clothed only in the righteousness of Jesus.

With that understood, it is important to distinguish

Between getting God’s favor

and

Experiencing God’s favor.

Although we cannot make God love us any more or cause Him to love us any less, we do diminish our experience of God’s love when we break fellowship with Him.  When we turn away from God in our sin, we also turn away from our communion with God.  He does not turn away from us, but we, when we seek to satisfy our sinful desires, turn away from Him and experience less than God’s best for our lives.

When God feels far away we can be certain of one thing:

We moved, not God!

What should shine brightly before our eyes of faith is the biblical truth that, if we have accepted Jesus’ salvation purchased on the cross and through the empty tomb, our Heavenly Father chooses to see the image of Christ in us – not our sin – when He looks upon us.

That is the truth that should set us free to be all that God is calling us to be.

The human heart knows no more powerful motive to keep marching forward through life than to know that God sees us and loves us as He sees and loves His Beloved Son.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Holiness, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

12Jul  Tuesday, Wednesday, and today we have looked at Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-22 and discovered the sobering truth that Christ did not die to make us happy; He died to make us His, and in making us His He is making us holy.  We’ve also contrasted the perfect holiness of God with the perfectly hideous sinfulness of man.  Today we’ll conclude by discussing God’s call for us to pursue holiness.

You may recall that after Jesus stated unequivocally to the rich young ruler that only God is good, the young man insisted that he was good too!  After listening to the Author of Life recount the teachings of the Law of God, the young man arrogantly replied, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”  He might as well have said, “I am as good as God because I have kept the law perfectly!”  Elevating himself to the level of God, he had violated the very first commandment: “You shall have no other God before me.”  The rich young ruler was his own god, the ruler of his own tiny kingdom of one. Truly, the sinful heart of man knows no boundaries!

Man’s utter sinfulness is one of the clear teachings of the Bible.

Below are just three passages that teach this truth:

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”   Genesis 6:5

The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”  Psalm 14:2-3

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  Jeremiah 17:9

We are sinners both by nature and by habit.  We engage in unholy habits without a second thought.  We shade the truth; we pad our expense accounts; we withhold a little bit in rendering unto Caesar.  We turn wants into needs and live lives marked by materialism.

We make happiness, not holiness, our greatest goal in life.

But God has a different goal!

We have been called by God to live lives of holiness.  The Bible says in Leviticus 11:45, “’Be holy,’ the Lord says, ‘because I am holy.’”  Holiness is not an option for the Christian.  The Bible instructs believers in Romans 6:12, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”  Inasmuch as all of the Christian life is a matter of grace, we have the responsibility to pursue holiness.  Do you recall this exhortation from Hebrews 12:1-3?

“Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and lust us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

Wow!  The simple truth is . . . If that doesn’t motivate you to purse holiness nothing will!  To be sure, on this side of heaven we will never arrive at sinless perfection.  Yet, this is to be our goal.  To live a life of obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ is to be our top priority.  Only to the extent that this is our earnest, unwavering desire will we make consistent progress in our pursuit of holiness.

If your goal is happiness you will miss holiness.

If your goal is holiness you will get happiness of the deepest kind thrown in.

This is what  the Gospel is all about.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Holiness, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

11JUL  We’re in the midst of a three-part blog series based on Mark 10:17-22, the account of the rich young ruler.  Yesterday we were confronted by the sobering truth that Christ did not die to make us happy; He died to make us His, and in making us His He is making us holy.

Today we will look deeper into the Biblical teaching on the holiness of God.  Our Scripture passage is: “And as [Jesus] was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’  And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’  And he said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’  And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

The Bible records that the young man “ran up and knelt” before Jesus.  These actions represent honor, hunger, and hope – even before he asked his question.  Jesus responded to the young man’s acknowledgement of “Good Teacher” with the first and most important truth about God: ONLY GOD IS GOOD!

There are no “good guys” in the story of mankind.

There is a chasm of infinite proportions between

His perfection and our performance that we simply cannot cross.

We are in desperate need of rescue from the thrice holy God!

Here are two passages of Scripture that give us great insight into just how holy our God is.  The first is Isaiah’s account of his call to prophetic ministry:

“And the foundations of the thresholds shook as the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:4-5.)

Isaiah was granted a vision of the court of heaven and was instantly overwhelmed with the holiness of God.  Isaiah realized that God is holy and he, Isaiah, was not!  In that moment of stark clarity, Isaiah pronounced an oracle of “woe,” or doom, upon himself. His despairing cry, “I am undone” carries the appropriate force in English as the word in the original Hebrew, which means, literally, that Isaiah was coming apart at the seams.

Here is a second biblical account describing an occasion when one of God’s people recognized the difference between holy God and sinful man: “And when [Jesus] had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’  And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.  They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’” (Luke 5:4-8.)

The disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing.  Jesus instructs them to let down the nets for a catch.  Exhausted from toiling all night, Peter reluctantly lets down the nets.  Immediately, every fish for miles around swims into the nets, and the stunned disciples frantically call for help from their partners in the other boat!  Instead of leaping and dancing for joy at this miraculous windfall (to be quickly followed by a serious discussion with Jesus about a full partnership in the family fishing business), Peter fell down before the Son of God and confessed his utter unworthiness to stand in the presence of a holy God.

Standing in the presences of pure holiness, Isaiah and Peter both realized that their sin was “sinful beyond measure” (Romans 7:13).  The impact on their lives was immediate and immense.

This is the foundational understanding that we, too,

Must have if we are to pursue holiness and grow in grace.

Our call to pursue holiness is based on the simple fact that God is holy.  The more we think and learn about the perfect holiness of God, the more we will hate the sin.  John Piper sums it up in a powerful way, “I know no other way to triumph over sin long term than to find a distaste for it because of deeper understanding of, and a superior satisfaction with God.”

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Holiness, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

10Jul Americans celebrated Independence Day last Wednesday, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776.  People all over our great nation gathered for a variety of activities, including parades, barbecues, and fireworks.  For the next three days I want us to look at Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-22 and discover the sobering truth about life, liberty, and happiness from a biblical perspective.

One of the inherent and unalienable rights set forth in the Declaration of Independence is the pursuit of happiness.  As good and as pleasing to the ears as this phrase may be, let me say that if all we pursue is our own happiness – a fulfilling marriage, well-educated children, a successful career, etc. – then, “we shrink the size of our life down to the size of our life!”   Someone has said, “This is living for something other than God.”

I trust you noticed the slight change in the title of this blog

From the well-known statement from the Declaration of Independence.

For the Christian, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of holiness”

Should be our desire as we live in the land of the free.

The world would have us believe that the greatest goal in life is personal happiness.

But Jesus did not die to make us happy,

He died to make us His;

And in making us His, He is making us holy;

And it is only by growing in holiness that we will be truly happy.

The Bible says in Psalm 119:1-3 proclaimed, “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!  Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in His ways!”  In Matthew 5:6, Jesus makes it clear that happiness is rooted in, and a result of, the pursuit of holiness, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

Holiness is one of those already and not yet aspects of the Kingdom of God.  We are already holy.  The grace of God, through faith in Christ, has set us apart for His purposes and granted us positional holiness (justification).  Through accepting what Jesus did on the cross and through the empty tomb, God sees us clothed in the righteousness of Christ, just as if we had never sinned.  However, we are not yet perfectly holy in our daily lives – far from it!  So, the same grace that has given us positional holiness also provides for our progressive holiness (sanctification).

The grace that saved us is the grace that is sanctifying us, day by day.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:13, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure”

And yet . . .

This gracious gift of God is not something we sit passively back and receive;

We are commanded to pursue holiness!

Jesus instructed His disciples to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33); Paul urged all who are mature in their faith to “Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14-15).  If we are to make progress in these areas, we must develop a heart like David’s, who prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

So how are you doing in your own pursuit of holiness?  Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed?  Is it as much of a struggle for you as it is for me?

Even a cursory glance at our lives reveals our rank hypocrisy.

  • We profess more than we put into practice.
  • We may not be committing scandalous sins, but how quickly we point to the speck in our brother’s eye while all the while neglecting the plank in our own eye!
  • We are impatient, insensitive, and insincere.
  • We are selfish and self-absorbed.
  • We love God and our neighbor . . . as long as we believe it will lead to blessings.
  • We are more concerned about “doing our own thing” than about pleasing our Lord and King!

The Bible plainly states that even the good things we do are no more than “filthy rags” in the eyes of a perfect, holy, and righteous Lord (Isaiah 64:6).

And yet . . .

For every messed up and messy child of God like you and me,

That same Bible provides an astonishing message of hope!

Because of Christ’s atoning death on our behalf, God chooses to see the image of Christ in us, rather than the absence of Christ-likeness in our lives.  The Bible says in Psalms 103:11-12, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:11-12). That truth provides our motivation to keep getting up every time we stumble and fall down.  The God-breathed Scripture assures us, “For the righteous falls seven times and rises again,”  (Proverbs 24:16).

All those who are united to Christ

Can live a life pleasing to God

Because of His grace – not our goodness;

Because of His mercy – not our merit.

So, how are you doing in your pursuit of “holiness?”  Are you settling for just pursuing happiness?  It is only as we pursue Him and His holiness that we will be truly happy.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Who’s The Boss?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9Jul  For the believer, the answer to the question of the title of today’s blog is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet, every moment of every day countless other “bosses” try to gain . . .

The attention of our minds,

The affection of our hearts,

And

The application of our wills.

Our minds, our hearts, and our wills will be ruled by something; there is no disputing that fact.  The question before us is: “Who – or what – will rule?”

  • For some, their work is their boss. They live for career advancement and climbing the proverbial ladder of success.
  • For others, achieving financial security is their boss. They live for building “bigger barns” and storing as much as they possibly can.
  • For some, their boss is their painful past. They simply cannot get past the past; instead of learning from it, they live in it.
  • Still others are ruled by a fantasized future. They live in a world of “waiting for their ship to come in,” always looking for the big score rather than daily progress.

I could go on, but you get the point.  When anything other than Jesus is our boss, we shrink the borders of our lives down to painfully narrow borders of survival and self-protection.  And this is no place for a believer to be living!

When Jesus is our boss,

We live for something greater than the life we are living.

When Jesus is our boss,

We live a life that truly matters, a life filled with significance, meaning, and purpose.

There are no mundane moments when we are living for the Master.  Small things become big things.  Unimportant things become important things.  Common things become uncommon things.  The Creator constructed us to live at this level of living that is greater than our level of living.

Because the One we serve is larger than life,

We are to be living for something larger than life!

You’ll remember that back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve

Were not created to live a life of self-indulgence, self-satisfaction, and self-rule.

They were commissioned by God to live a life of transcendence,

Above and beyond themselves, and they were given the ability

To do what nothing else in creation was equipped and empowered to do.

That is what the Bible tells us in Genesis 1:26-28, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”

God was their boss and the life they were living truly mattered.

They were to have dominion over all things. They were to be fruitful and multiply. They were to be the stewards of God’s creation and slaves to nothing.

But when they replaced God on the throne of their lives

And made themselves the boss,

They denied their own humanity

And disconnected themselves from the only One

Who could meet them in their place of deepest need.

So . . . who is the boss in your life today?  What have you been living for lately?  Remember . . .

When God is the boss our lives,

We are being shaped

– Not by the creation –

But by the One who created us: our Creator God.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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