The Cry of a Conqueror

Grace For The Journey

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17jan  Jesus came to this world to conquer Satan, sin, and death. And conquer He did, through His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
The Bible says in John 19:30, “When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

To the watching world, this was the last despairing cry from a defeated man, nailed like a common criminal to die a ghastly death on a wooden cross. But to the Father in heaven, this was the cry of a Conqueror who did what He came to do: debt paid, sin forgiven, crooked straightened. “It is finished!” is the fulfillment of the promise God made to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they sinned.  In Genesis 3:15, God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel. “

When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” He uttered the Greek word tetelestai, which literally means “Paid in full.” When someone in the first century finished paying off a debt they would utter the word, or write the word, tetelestai, meaning “The debt is paid in full; the obligation is fulfilled.” Jesus was making it clear that He had paid the penalty for our sins in full by His death on the cross. His was not a cry of relief, the final whimpering gasp of a criminal being crushed under the weight of the cross; it was the cry of a Conqueror!

We must keep in mind that Christ’s finished work was not limited to the price He paid by His death; it also included the price He paid in the life He lived. He lived a life of perfection, though He faced every imaginable obstacle, overcame every test – though He was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV).

At birth, King Herod tried to have Jesus killed. As an adult, He was falsely accused by the religious leaders who branded Him a false teacher. He was rejected by the people He came to save. He was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and abandoned by all His friends. He was spit upon, viciously flogged, had a crown of thorns jammed into His head, and he was nailed to a cross. He hung there in unimaginable agony, His cruelly lacerated back scraping against the harsh wood as He pushed against the spikes in His hands and feet to draw in each shuddering breath. The religious leaders mocked Him, the soldiers cast lots for His clothing, and even two thieves reviled Him as He hung there, no doubt shivering in blinding pain. And if that wasn’t enough, His Father in heaven would not even look upon His very own precious Son, as He who knew no sin became sin for us. And it was that – not the pain of the nails or the insults of men, all of which He bore in stoic silence – which prompted His desolate cry: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

But He was not defeated! To be sure, there was a great defeat suffered as Jesus hung on the cross . . . but it was not His defeat. It was Satan who was defeated, his plans forever frustrated, sin and death eternally vanquished for all those who will trust in Christ. On the cross, what looked like the defeat of Jesus and all that He stood for was actually His victory . . . and it was our victory too! His cry of victory is our cry of victory.

We now live under the banner of the finished work of Christ.
We cannot add to His work;
We cannot build upon it;
We cannot improve on it in any way.

When Jesus cried out in triumph, “It is finished,” He meant what he said!

Hallelujah!

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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A Compelling Cause

Grace For The Journey

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16jan  The apostle Paul provided Christians with a compelling cause that leads to living a life of both freedom and faithfulness to Jesus.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”

The compelling cause for the Christian is Christ’s love. It is the love of Christ that frees us from living a self-centered, self-absorbed, and self-focused life. The love of Christ empowers us to trade the love of self for the love of our Savior – the One who died for us, who was raised to life on the third day, and is now sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

Think about what the apostle Paul is really saying in this passage:

He is telling us that

when the love of Christ

rules our hearts,

it shapes our lives.

Paul was not compelled by the fear of bad consequences when he stepped out of line; he was not compelled by the hope of some reward when he was serving in the center of God’s will for his life. Rather, Paul was compelled to live the life God had called him to live because of the love of Christ – a love that died for Paul so that he might rise above the challenges of daily living.

So . . . what compels you to do what you do? Paul was compelled by the love of Christ in everything he did. Paul’s motivation was not the desire to avoid the pain of consequences or to gain a sweet reward; it was simply the love Christ poured out on him that kept him going moment by moment.

Paul kept both the cross and the empty tomb in view and was compelled daily to live for Someone bigger than himself . . . and His name is Jesus Christ!

Can the same be said about you?

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

A Compelling Cause

Grace For The Journey

graceforthejourneythemefor2017

16jan  The apostle Paul provided Christians with a compelling cause that leads to living a life of both freedom and faithfulness to Jesus.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.”

The compelling cause for the Christian is Christ’s love. It is the love of Christ that frees us from living a self-centered, self-absorbed, and self-focused life. The love of Christ empowers us to trade the love of self for the love of our Savior – the One who died for us, who was raised to life on the third day, and is now sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

Think about what the apostle Paul is really saying in this passage:

He is telling us that

when the love of Christ

rules our hearts,

it shapes our lives.

Paul was not compelled by the fear of bad consequences when he stepped out of line; he was not compelled by the hope of some reward when he was serving in the center of God’s will for his life. Rather, Paul was compelled to live the life God had called him to live because of the love of Christ – a love that died for Paul so that he might rise above the challenges of daily living.

So . . . what compels you to do what you do? Paul was compelled by the love of Christ in everything he did. Paul’s motivation was not the desire to avoid the pain of consequences or to gain a sweet reward; it was simply the love Christ poured out on him that kept him going moment by moment.

Paul kept both the cross and the empty tomb in view and was compelled daily to live for Someone bigger than himself . . . and His name is Jesus Christ!

Can the same be said about you?

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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Running Ahead of the Almighty

Grace For The Journey

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13jan  When was the last time you found yourself getting ahead of the Almighty? It is one thing to walk with God along the path of life, but it is another thing altogether to run ahead of Him . . . which is the great tendency for many of us. Abram did that very thing when it came to waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise that Abram and his wife Sarai would be parents to a child of promise. You can read about it in Genesis, chapters 15-16.

Humanly speaking, Abram and Sarai could never have children; he was 100 and she was 90, both long past the biological age for producing children. But they forgot that with God ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE (Matthew 19:26). And when God makes a promise, HE KEEPS IT (1 Samuel 15:29)! God even confirmed His promise to them in Genesis 17:3-16 by changing their names to Abraham (“father of many”) and Sarah (“princess”).

Unfortunately, Abraham suffered from two conditions that affect all of us . . .

His perception of God

was as small as

his patience was short!

So . . . where in your life have these conditions afflicted you? Where has your perception of God been way too small? In your finances, your calling, your relationships, your physical health? And where has impatience marked your life? In your single walk with Christ, your desire to be a parent, your hope of a getting out of school and getting on with life, your career?

We serve a BIG God, who works all things together for our ultimate good in His way and in His timing (Romans 8:28). Impatience and a small view of God are harsh taskmasters, and the consequences of either often stay with us for the rest of our lives. We need to remember that God will fulfill every promise He has made, but it may not come to us when we expect it to and it may not look like what we were anticipating. But just as God confirmed His promise to Abraham, so He has confirmed His promises to all those who have placed their trust in Christ’s redeeming work: The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For all the promises of God in Him are yes, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.”

It’s important to note that Abraham believed God, even if he did a very foolish thing in running ahead of God. I love the way the Bible describes the faith of Abraham and exhorts us to live in a similar way:

“[Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’  The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:20-25)

We all do foolish things and can look back on a life littered with our impatience and a small view of God. But don’t let the past keep you a prisoner! Learn from the past and look to the future promises of God. He will accomplish every one of them, in His time and in His way. Remember, regardless of where this finds you today, waiting on God is the best work you can do.

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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A Gracious Response To Grace

Grace For The Journey

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12jan  Have you ever wondered what a gracious response to the grace that we have been given in the Gospel of Jesus Christ looks like?  To simply say obedience is to not say enough.  The Pharisees, you will remember, were obedient down to the tiniest detail, yet they reserved for themselves the wrath of God.  And yet, at the same time, we know the Bible commands our obedience.  Jesus said, “Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father” (John 14:21).  It is our obedience that demonstrates our love for Him.

So what is a gracious response to the grace of the Gospel?

It is obedience that flows out of a grateful heart.

As we continue working out our life of obedience in light of Christ’s obedience, one thing is clear: the issue is never whether or not to obey.  We know the Bible has plenty to say about keeping God’s commands.  That’s indisputable.  But what motivates our obedience, what animates our obedience, and what prompts us to obey?  Is it fear or faith?  Is it guilt or gratitude?  A gracious response to God’s amazing grace is a desire to live a life of obedience – not because of what we hope to get (rewards), or what we hope to avoid (consequences), but because of what Jesus has already done on our behalf.

When the motivations of our heart are rooted in gratitude (not guilt) and faith (not fear), then we are gripped by the truth of the Gospel and the finished work of Jesus Christ.  And that is why we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day.  The Gospel first relates what Jesus has done and then paints the picture of how we are to respond to it.  What God in Christ has done for us always precedes what we in Christ are to do for God.

The Bible says in 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

The transforming truths of the Gospel lead us to a total transformation of all that we think, do, and say.  The Gospel frees us to be what we are (Christians) because of what has already been done both for and to us.  Because we are already saved, we want to do what is pleasing in the sight of the One who saved us.  To reverse this (doing in order to be saved or to find God’s favor) is to distort the Gospel and make it of no effect.  This is trying to live in our own strength, which inevitably leads to disappointment, discouragement, and ultimate defeat.

But this is not what God wants for you!  Because we are already His, we should act like we are already His.  Our obedience does not gain us additional affection, blessing, or love.  We already have all of it – all of His affection . . . all of His blessing . . . all of His love.  This kind of obedience is absolutely freeing.  We obey out of devotion, not duty.  The Gospel takes us from being slaves to being sons, sons who are to delight in pleasing the One who paid so great a price for so great a salvation.

In the end, we serve because we have been served, we forgive because we have been forgiven, and we love because we have been loved.  All that we do, we do because of what Jesus has already done for us.  This is a gracious response to grace.

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 Tears of Truth

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11jan  Do you know what the shortest verse in the Bible is?  If you said John 11:35, which says, “Jesus wept,” you would be right.  This verse is not only the shortest verse in the Bible; it is also the easiest to remember!  It is also a verse you and I should have firmly planted in our minds and hearts, because it holds out virtually limitless comfort to the Christian.

Imagine for a moment: the Son of God – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the creator and sustainer of all things – weeping!  The question we have to ask is, Why? Why was Jesus weeping?  John11 relates the story of the death of Lazarus, a man whom Jesus loved.  Lazarus’ sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill.  But Jesus came too late; Lazarus was dead and buried when He arrived.  And Jesus wept. All hope was lost!

Or was it? In just a few minutes Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Lazarus would soon be breathing again . . . walking again . . . talking again.  Jesus had known for days what He was about to do; He had purposely arrived after Lazarus had died in order to glorify His Father.

But He wept anyway!  Why?  Why would Jesus weep if He knew Lazarus would be alive again in mere moments?

The answer is that Jesus hated what sin and death had done to this world.

The great enemy of all mankind is death (1 Corinthians 15:26,55-57).  Some spend a lifetime trying to push this truth out of their minds.  Others delude themselves into thinking death is just an illusion. And some are held captive by their fear of death, right up until they breathe their last (Hebrews 2:15).

There is no one who has walked the face of this earth who hated death more than Jesus.  No one ever grieved over death more than our God.  No one ever felt death’s horrible implications more profoundly than our Lord.

Not only did Jesus taste the sting of death, He tasted separation from the heavenly Father.  Though they had been together for all eternity, while Jesus was hanging on the cross, taking our sins upon Himself, the Father could no longer look upon His precious Son.  Jesus hated death so much that He Himself became the death of death by suffering death Himself . . . death, the last enemy to be destroyed.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him.  Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

Jesus wept “tears of truth,” and we should weep too.  But we must always remember that a day is coming when there will be no more death (Revelation 21:4).Because of the resurrection of our Lord – which is the guarantee of our own resurrection – we can sing . . . We can shout! In our weeping we still know that death no longer has any hold on us for the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

How remarkable that Jesus wept tears of truth!  And consider the words said by the Jews who saw Him: “See how He loved [Lazarus]!” That’s how much He loves you too!

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 Invitation Is For Those Who Thirst!

Grace For The Journey

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10jan  How often we say, “I’m so thirsty!”  And yet do we really know thirst?  Do we know it like a person who is wandering in the desert without any water to drink or like the soldier on the battlefield?  There have been times when I have been incredibly thirsty, but it did not rise to the level of thirst Hagar and her son experienced in the wilderness of Beersheba (Genesis 21:14-19).

When was the last time you thought of thirst as a good thing?  Generally we think of thirst as the by-product of a difficult thing like a vigorous workout, a long day of labor, or a hot day at the beach.  But in God’s economy, thirst is one of God’s great gifts to His people.  You see, when God gives you a thirst, He is the One who delights to quench it.

The Bible says in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

In the Bible, the word “thirst” is packed with figurative meaning and a powerful means of communicating spiritual truth to those who have ears to hear.  In almost all languages the word thirst speaks of an insatiable craving and desire for an object to be satisfied and filled.  To be sure, there are many objects for which we thirst – not just for a cold drink.  We thirst for knowledge, power, wealth, and the applause of man, to name just a few.  Yet in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes it clear that the one thirst that we should have above all other thirsts is a thirst for righteousness.

To thirst for righteousness is to thirst for the things of God.  It is God who gives us a thirst for Him and He is the One who satisfies it.  God extends His invitation to those who are thirsty that we might come to the living waters and drink our full (Isaiah 55:1).  And the deeper we dive into the depths of the Gospel, the more we thirst for Jesus.

The Bible says in Psalm 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?”

So . . . what have you been panting for lately?  Frequently it seems like we pant for everything but God.  We pant for a raise at the office.  We pant for the latest advancement in technology.  We pant for the day we begin our summer vacation.  But do we pant for God?  Do we deeply desire to be in the presence of our God more than anything else?  When we thirst for anything other than God, we thirst for the wrong thing!  A. W. Tozer rightly observed:

In the midst of this great coldness toward God there are some, I rejoice to acknowledge, who will not be content with shallow logic.  They will admit the force of the argument, and then turn away with tears to hunt some lonely place and pray, “O God, show me thy glory.”  They want to taste, to touch with their hearts, to see with their inner eyes the wonder that is God.  I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God.  The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate.  The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire.  Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.  Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people.  He waits to be wanted.  Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long in vain.

The Bible says in John 7:37-38, “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Those who thirst are invited to come to Him.  Does this describe you today?  Is your thirst for Jesus and what matters most to Him?  Remember, the thirst He gives, He alone can quench.  Let me close with the words of Richard Blanchard in Fill My Cup, Lord.

Like the woman at the well I was seeking

For things that could not satisfy,

And then I heard my Savior speaking:

“Draw from My well that never shall run dry.”

Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up Lord,

Come and quench this thirsting of my soul,

Bread of heaven, feed me ‘til I want no more,

Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.

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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Motive For Moving Forward

Grace For The Journey

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9jan  God has given us another year of life, what will it look like when we get to the end of 2017? What will the landscape look like after we have walked through it?

To be sure, we can all relate to the phrase, “2 steps forward and 1 step back!” Life is a series of forward movements . . . and, at times, backward movements. The ultimate goal is to move forward farther and more frequently than we move backward! God has given us the sacred key that unlocks the forward movement door:

The Bible says in Romans 12:1-2, “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 – for this is your true and proper worship.  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.”

In this passage Paul gives us the only motive for consistently moving forward in the Christian life: THE GOSPEL!  Notice what Paul does not say. He does not say “in view of your trying harder” or “in view of your renewed resolve” or “in view of your consistent commitment.” Instead, Paul gives us the Gospel with these words: “In view of God’s mercy.”

The Gospel gives full testimony to God’s mercy, and God’s mercy is the key to moving forward throughout this year and every year. You see, while we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10), God in Christ bought us with His precious blood on the cross. Because of the cross-work of Christ, we have been liberated from the death grip of sin and slavery to Satan (Romans 6:6-7). And if all that was not enough, God sent the Holy Spirit to live inside of us to guide us, govern us, and grow us into the image of Jesus Christ!

It is “in view of God’s mercy,” not in view of our merit, that we are motivated to keep moving forward, no matter how many times we step backward. Keeping before our eyes of faith all that God has done for us is the key to getting up again and going after the prize again and again and again.

The Gospel’s stunning demonstration of God’s mercy is the motivation for never giving up and never giving in. The more we think on God’s mercy – we who deserved only His wrath and judgment have received His grace, mercy, and forgiveness – the more we will be motivated to keep moving in the direction He is calling us to go.

Nothing will motivate the Christian more than keeping the reality of the Cross in view: God refused to withhold His precious Son; He gave Him up for us!

The Bible says in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”

Is there anything God will withhold from you this year that you need to live the life He is calling you to live? Absolutely not!  In view of God’s mercy, the Cross is proof that God has given us – and will continue giving us – all things. What greater motive could there be for forward movement?

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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Identity Theft

Grace For The Journey

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7jan  Identity theft is a crime in which a criminal obtains key pieces of someone else’s personal information, such as Social Security or driver’s license numbers, in order to pose as that person.  The information can be used to obtain credit, merchandise, and services, all using the victims’ name. The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.  Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for housing, education, or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. Many victims of Identity theft tell stories of how their lives were turned completely upside-down and how long it took to get right-side up again.

I am writing about another kind of identity theft in today’s blog, and the consequences are far greater than lost job opportunities or denied loans. Genesis 1:27 reveals that we are made in the image of God.  Therefore, we are not only to love and worship Him, we are to find our identity in Him.  Our whole existence is to be rooted in our relationship to him.  Acts 17:28 says, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”

This verse tells us where we are to find our identity: IN HIM!  The problem of Identity theft shows up when we seek to find our identity in anything other than God.  St. Augustine made it clear that this would never work with his unforgettable statement: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”  Any identity not rooted in God leads to living a life of unimaginable insecurity and instability.  It often leads to a variety of forms of serious and debilitating addictions.  Think about the following scenarios and see if any of them resonate with you.

  • If you are looking for your identity in your parenting and your children struggle . . . your identity is threatened.
  • If you are looking for your identity in your profession and you are laid off . . . your identity is threatened.
  • If you are looking for your identity in a dating relationship and you break up . . . your identity is threatened.
  • If you are looking for your identity in the applause of man and the applause dies out . .    . your identity is threatened.
  • If you are looking for your identity in your physical appearance and you get old . . . your identity is threatened.

Our need for an identity is woven into the fabric of our lives.  God made us to find our identity in Him and in Him alone.  If we attempt to build our identity on something other than God, we will eventually “deify” whatever that is and make it into our god.  We will worship it.  We will praise it.  We will sacrifice for it.  We become enslaved to it.  In the end, seeking an identity in anything other than God is seeking to build our identity on shifting sand rather than solid rock . . . and we all remember what happened to the house that was built on shifting sand: it fell with a great crash!

Adam and Eve sought to build their identity on something other than God, and sent all of creation into a death spiral.  In so doing, they denied their own humanity, a humanity that was to be realized through their intimate and personal relationship with the One who had created them.  Theologian Thomas Oden puts it this way:

“Suppose my god is sex, or my physical health, or the Democratic Party.  If I experience any of these under genuine threat, then I feel myself shaken to the depths.  Guilt becomes neurotically intensified to the degree that I have idolized finite values.  Bitterness becomes neurotically intensified when someone or something stands between me and something that is my ultimate value.”

Even if we seek our identity in what is considered to be “good things” (family, service to God, etc.), as soon as they become ultimate things they become bad things.  No matter how “good” something might be, if it takes the place of God, it is what someone has called a “God-substitute,” and in the end it will inevitably return void.  Only when we find and fix our identity in the Almighty are we able to withstand the winds of change in our lives.  Regardless of what is happening around us, we can look to the One who never changes, never leaves, and never forsakes us.

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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FORGET NOT! Part 3

Grace For The Journey

graceforthejourneythemefor2017

5jan  Today is our third and final installment of reflecting on some of the benefits God has so graciously bestowed on us throughout 2016. Once again, we’ll be looking at David’s magnificent Psalm 103:1-5:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities and heals all your diseases;  Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

We’ve looked at the benefits of forgiveness and healing in the two previous blog. Today let’s rejoice in the truth that . . .

He Redeems Your Life from the Pit

Redemption

David declares that Jehovah “redeems [our] life from destruction” (verse 4a). The term “destruction” is likely a reference to death. Perhaps David had been at the very brink of death’s door and the Lord had delivered him. Certainly there were numerous episodes of that nature in his history. In the light of New Testament revelation, the phrase has a much greater application for us.

The verb “redeems” is related to the Hebrew noun goel, which literally means “a kinsman with the right to buy back.” That concept would be fulfilled ultimately in Christ, our “kinsman” (cf. John 1:14; Hebrews 2:11ff), who paid the price of redemption by the shedding of His blood (Luke 1:68; Ephesians 1:7). There are two senses in which we, as children of God, partake of the benefit of redemption.

First, we are redeemed from the guilt of our transgressions. As noted above, this Jesus accomplished as the perfect sacrifice for sin. As the lamb (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7) that was without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:18-19); Christ, by his death, satisfied the justice of God (Isaiah 53:11; Romans 3:24-26); thus becoming an efficacious Redeemer (see Job 19:25). We enter into this blessing, of course, when we submit to the terms of the sacred plan of pardon (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27, etc.).

But there is another way in which we shall be redeemed. In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul affirmed that “we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). This, of course, is an allusion to the resurrection of the human body, in an immortal form, at the time of Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff).

It is significant that Christianity stands aloof from the philosophies of paganism that so disdained the human form that they contemplated the bliss of eternity only in terms of a spirit. Such ideas occasionally infiltrated the early church (see 1 Corinhtians 15:12), as it has the modern church. (The dogma of “realized eschatology” denies the future resurrection of the body.) It is a thrilling concept to note that the redeemed body of the post-resurrection experience will be one “fashioned anew;” indeed, it will “conform” to the body of Jesus’ glorified state by the exercise of the Savior’s awesome power (Philippians 3:20-21).

Crowned

The benefits thus described are like a glorious “crown.”  The term becomes a metaphor for the qualities of God’s nature (e.g., His “lovingkindness”) and the extension of that benevolence to sinful man by His “tender mercies,” a term which hints of the destitute nature of one needing pity.

The kindly mercy of our Maker has been revealed in a host of ways.

  1. Jehovah’s kindness has been manifested in the wonders revealed to us in the amazing architecture of the created universe (Psalm19:1ff; Romans 1:20).
  2. The Lord has evidenced his merciful kindness in the providential activities he has exerted among us (Acts 17:25).
  3. God has manifested his kindness in the sending of a Savior (Titus 3:4ff).

The eventual crowning of God will find fulfillment in the glories of that realm He has prepared for the obedient (John 14:1ff). In that day, there will be bestowed the “crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8), the “crown of life” (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10), and the “crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). This will be the ultimate expression of the kindness and compassion of the Lord God. The Christian should be diligent to retain this expectation, for it is possible to lose the hope of one’s crown (Revelation 3:11).

Does not this promise make you feel like a king? (cf. Revelation 3:21).

Satisfaction

Finally, David declares that Jehovah “satisfies your mouth with good things” (verse 5a). This clause is difficult because of the possible meanings associated with the word “mouth.”  The Hebrew word portrays the mouth as an instrument to help us live – food and water go through the mouth.  The word literally signifies a sense of “length of years” or “beyond the prime of life.”.  The Hebrew Targum interpreted the expression to mean “the days of old age” (Kirkpatrick, p. 601). If the prevailing view – that length or maturity of age – is correct, then the sense of the first portion of 5a would be this: “Even in your advanced age, you will be satisfied, because of the good things with which God supplies you.”

The second portion of verse 5 appears to lend support to this concept. It speaks of one’s “youth” being renewed, like the eagle. The eagle is a bird that enjoys an unusually vigorous longevity. On average, this large bird lives from twenty or thirty to fifty years. G. S. Cansdale, in his authoritative work, All The Animals of the Bible Lands (p. 143), cites a case of a captive eagle in Vienna that lived to the age of 104. The meaning of the phrase thus may be: “Your disposition will be that of a youth, indeed, you will continue to soar as the majestic eagle.”

If, then, we combine these thoughts, the passage may be suggesting this idea: Those who walk with the Lord, and who are recipients of His gracious benefits, even though they advance in years, will nonetheless, possess a spirit of delightful vigor, savoring their lives, and praising God for His beneficence. The thought may be somewhat analogous to Paul’s declaration in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man in being renewed day by day.”

The psalmist’s sentiment would encourage us not to be “grumpy old men and women” as we ease beyond our prime, even though this time of life is fraught with difficulties. Rather, with great joy, we ought to realize that “the best is yet to be.”

There is a chasm – a universe wide – between David’s radiant disposition, and that commonly evinced by the world’s skepticism. One could hardly find a better example of the dismal outlook regarding old age than that expressed in Matthew Arnold’s (1822-88) dreary poem, “Growing Old.”  In this writing, Arnold, a bitter critic of the Bible, speaks of losing “the glory of the form” and “the lustre of the eye.” He describs the decay of stamina and strength. He speaks of stiff joints and frayed nerves. He laments the “hot prison” of agedness, with its month-after-month of “weary pain.” He groaned that he was but a “phantom” of his former self — just a “hollow ghost.”

In his commentary on the Psalms, John Phillips reminds us of the strange and sad case of Howard Hughes. At the time of his death, Hughes was worth two and one-half billion dollars. Yet he lived as “a recluse in a Las Vegas hotel. He was wholly unkept, with matted, shaggy hair and long, claw-like nails.”   At his death he weighed but ninety pounds (see: Exploring the Psalms, Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1988, p. 126). Two words described him: “Most miserable.” What a vivid contrast to the exalted and thrilling view of age expressed by the venerable king of Israel.

What rich truths lie buried in Psalms 103:1-5! Surely the balance of the song would warrant an equally keen interest. Why not give it some consideration?

If you’ve been a Christian for several years, I’m sure you will recall many “pits” of painful providence from which God has redeemed you throughout the years. But the most important pit of all is the pit of death and destruction, which looms before all of us due to our sin nature.

The Bible says in Luke 24:1-6, “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!’”

Christianity rises or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. If He did not rise from the grave, then our faith is foolish and false and provides no eternal value to our lives. The apostle Paul acknowledged quite candidly, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17). But if Jesus did rise from the grave – which He did do and appeared to hundreds of people – then our faith is firm. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof positive of His victory over sin and death . . . and it guarantees the same thing for the Christian believer. God redeems your life from the pit of death and hell when, by grace through faith, you place your trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

What a powerful reminder from the psalmist to “forget not” all that God has done for us in the past! He forgives all our sin, heals all our diseases, and redeems our lives from the pit.

It’s important to remember that one of the reasons David reminded us to “forget not all His benefits” is because we do forget them. We get so caught up in the details, demands, and stress of daily living that we may forget all the good our God has done on our behalf.

So as you advance into 2017 with plans, hopes, and dreams for your future, forget not all that God has done for you, because what He has done in the past He will continue doing in the present . . . and all the way into your Promised Land.

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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