Walking In The Paths Of Providence

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

17jan“Providence” was a term that was frequently used by America’s Founders, such as the unforgettable expression of their “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence” in America’s Declaration of Independence.  Providence is rightly defined as “the foreseeing, benevolent care and wise guidance of Almighty God in the lives of His creatures.”

The Bible says in Psalm 25:4-6, “Show me Your ways, Lord, teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.  Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.”

David’s psalm (and, indeed, all of Scripture) reveals

That this life is a journey without a destination . . .

Until we get to the other side of the grave.

We are pilgrims passing through this world,

Not settlers in it.

Regardless of where our path leads,

When it is a path of Providence it will always end

In the glory of God and our good.

David deeply wanted to walk the paths of Providence, and in Psalm 25 he was crying out to God to teach him the right path to take . . . and this path will always lead in the opposite direction of the way the world is encouraging us to go.

David had no interest in looking

To the imagination of man as his guiding light.

He sought the revelation of God

(“Guide me in Your truth”)

Because he knew that God will

Always lead us in the right direction.

Let me be clear: the path of Providence may very well not be free of all obstacles, difficulties, and challenges.  Often just the opposite is true!  But . . .

When God is guiding us in His truth

And teaching us along the way,

We can be assured that

We will reach the other side better

Than we were before we got there.

God never promised us painless paths of providence; what He did promise was to get us safely to our destination.  Knowing that truth, we are strengthened and comforted to press on, regardless of the cost or circumstance.

The key for successful Christian living

Is to hold tight to the same hope David had.

He was not hoping for an easy,

Painless path of Providence

To travel through this life.

His hope was in God,

Morning, noon, and night.

Someone might well ask, “Was David’s hope always in God?”  I believe the answer is “Yes.”  In his flesh, David stumbled badly on more than one occasion; he turned away from his holy hope and trusted in things other than God.  Yet every time David did so, God would guide David back onto His path of truth and wisdom.  Deep down, David’s hope was always in God.

We see this even in one of the most awful events recorded in sacred Scripture; David committed adultery and then did murder to cover it up.  Yet, the Lord’s great mercy and love still reached out and met David in his place of deepest need.  To be sure, there would be great consequences for David’s sin, and it took a visit from the prophet Nathan to make that clear to the broken king.  But through it all, God grew David up to become a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22).  He continued to set David’s feet upon the paths of Providence all the way into glory.

So . . . what paths of Providence have you been walking lately?

Is God leading you . . .

Or . . .

Are you trying to lead God?

The answer to these questions will make all the difference in how your life works out.

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 Bible – Full Of Facts Or Fables?

Grace For The Journey

 

2018BlogTheme16jan  One of the most common objections I hear from skeptics regarding the truth claims of Christianity is, “The stories in the Bible are no different from Aesop’s Fables.”  The skeptic insists that the stories in the Bible developed over time, based on myths which were passed along orally over the years until the New Testament was completed.  They believe the stories of Jesus and His miraculous healings’ simply evolved over time into what we read today.

How would you respond to a claim like that? As usual, the Bible is not silent on this subject.  The Bible says in 2 Peter 1:16, “We did not follow cleverly devised fables when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”

Even secular skeptical historians acknowledge that the Christian church began the year Jesus was crucified (AD 30) in Jerusalem, because the apostles (who were eyewitnesses) were preaching both the crucifixion and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This message did not develop over time.

This was not a “legend” that grew

And became more fantastic

As the years marched by.

Peter states that he and the other apostles saw both the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. These were not fables that the apostles were repeating; they were recording factual accounts of actual events that occurred right in front of their own eyes.

Here is how John explained it: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ” 1 John 1:1, 3.

One of the most compelling proofs of the truth of the New Testament

Is the fact that all of the disciples refused

To change their stories about the risen Savior.

Their unwavering witness caused them to endure great persecution and suffering.  While historians debate how many of the original apostles were executed for their faith, we can be certain that Peter, Paul, and James, the brother of Jesus, died as martyrs.  Church tradition tells us that of the 11 original apostles (Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, is not counted among that group), all but John died for their faith.  If these men knew that what they were preaching and teaching was a fabrication or a lie, would not at least some of them recanted their “story” in order to save their own skin?  Yet not one of them did.  Not one.

Perhaps you are familiar with the Prison Fellowship ministry and its wonderful “Angel Tree” outreach to the children of incarcerated prisoners.  What you may not be aware of is that Charles (“Chuck”) Colson, Prison Fellowship’s founder, came to faith in Christ at age 42.  Prior to his conversion, Chuck was known as President Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man,” who once famously boasted that he would “run over my own grandmother” to help the president.  Colson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice as part of the infamous Watergate scandal and served 7 months in federal prison.  It was during this time that Chuck Colson placed his trust in Jesus Christ.  The old Colson died; he was Born Again (the title of his most famous book).  Chuck Colson spoke of how the Resurrection profoundly affected his thinking:
   “I know the Resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me.  How?  Because     

       twelve men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed

       that truth for 40 years, never once denying it.  Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned

       and put in prison.  They would not have endured that if it weren’t true.  Watergate

       embroiled twelve of the most powerful men in the world – and they couldn’t keep a

       lie for three weeks.  You’re telling me twelve apostles could keep a lie for 40 years?

       Absolutely impossible.”

Christianity is not a myth, legend, or fable.

It is a fact as certain as any fact in history!

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 Giant Slays King David

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

15janThe Bible says in Proverbs 6:10-11, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.”

The title of my blog today may strike you as odd?  Whether we grew up in a Christian home or not, just about everyone remembers the story as being just the opposite: David slays the giant!  The shepherd boy David was the anointed of God, chosen to be the next king of Israel.  Along the way, David stepped up for his nation and accepted the challenge from the giant Goliath.  Armed with only a sling, five smooth stones, and unwavering faith in his God, David slew the giant.

But there is another giant in David’s story.  The Bible tells us in 2 Samuel 11:1-4, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army . . . But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.”

Up until this time in David’s life, he had known only victory.  Why?

Because David was more

Focused on God

Than he was on himself.

David was living according to God’s will for his life rather than for his own will.

But now something was different . . . very different.

David was more concerned with satisfying

His desires than living out his devotion to God.

Many Christians see the giant that now confronted David as Lust, and that is certainly true.  But there was another giant that challenged David long before his lustful look at Bathsheba.

You see, springtime in the Near East was the best time to engage in a military campaign.  The winter rains would have subsided and the fall harvest had not yet arrived.  So when we read that David sent Joab and the entire Israelite army out “in the spring, at the time when kings go off to war,” the Holy Spirit intends to arrest our attention and cause us to look for the deeper meaning in the text.

King David should have been leading in battle, but he chose to send Joab in his place and relax at the palace.

David neglected his calling as king

And his purpose in growing

In His relationship with God

and in leading the Israelite

Army in the battles of His Lord.

Instead of doing battle in the fields of Rabbah of the Ammonites, David lounged in his bed in Jerusalem.  The giant of Sinful Slumber slew King David long before the giant Lust unlimbered its deadly sword.  When David abandoned his purpose he paid a very heavy price, as did all those he was responsible for leading.

We are rightly inspired when we read of

David’s glorious victory against Goliath,

But may his appalling failure

Also inspire us to not let down

In our daily walk with God.

Let us stay focused and committed to our calling, regardless of the cost or circumstance, knowing that “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest” may very well lead us into God-dishonoring defeat, just as the great king David  was conquered by the giant of Sinful Slumber.

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 Is The Church’s Mission And Message For Our World Today? Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9jan  Today we look at the second part of what the Bible teaches regarding the mission and message of the church for our world today.  Yesterday we looked at the first two aspects of this topic: (1) The church’s mission and ministry was a helpful ministry; and (2) The church mission and ministry was a Gospel ministry.  We took an indepth look at what the Bible teaching us about these two important and essential truths.  Today, we will look at the final principles taught in Acts 20:

(3) Paul’s ministry was a teaching ministry.

In verse 27, Paul reminds the Ephesian elders that he had “not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”  In his book, Evangelism in the Early Church, Michael Green emphasizes the importance of “teaching evangelism’” (pp. 204-206).  At the very beginning of the book, he speaks of his own commitment to both evangelism and teaching.  His words, written in 1970, are still very relevant to our 21st century Church. This is what he says,

“Most evangelists are not very interested in theology;

Most theologians are not very interested in evangelism.

I am deeply committed to both” (p. 7)

Deeply committed to both evangelism and teaching – what a good description of the church’s mission and  ministry!  His ministry was a Gospel ministry, announcing the Good News of Jesus death and resurrection, calling on men and women to come to Christ in repentance, to come to Christ in faith.

Paul’s ministry was also a teaching ministry.  He did not rest content with inviting people to make a new beginning with Christ . . . He called them to go on with the Lord . . . He called them to press on to maturity.  God has so much to say to us.  There is so much more than the call for conversion.  The Lord is calling us to walk with Him and grow in our faith all the days of our life.

True conversion is not just a one-and-done event.  It is a lifelong experience of divine grace, a lifelong experience of turning to God in repentance, a lifelong experience of learning to trust in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and living in His power and grace.  If this lifelong experience of God’s salvation is to grow strong in our hearts and lives, we need “the whole counsel of God.”

We need solid teaching from the Word of God.  We need teaching which rebukes us when we move away from the paths of righteousness, teaching which corrects us, calling us back into the paths of righteousness.  We need teaching which will lead us in the paths of righteousness, teaching which will keep us walking in the paths of righteousness.

The Christian life is a journey.  On this journey, we are travelling with God and we are travelling in faith.  On this journey, God has a plan for us.  It is His perfect plan.  He wants us to grow – in our knowledge of Him, in our faith in Him, in our love for Him, in our surrender to Him  God does not want us to remain “babes in Christ.”  He does not want us to remain content with “the milk of the Word”’ (1 Peter 2:2).  He wants us to move on to “solid food” (Hebrews 5:12,14).  He has given us “the whole counsel of God” so that we can grow more and more like Christ, so that we can bring more and more glory to God.

We must never rest on our laurels.  When the challenge of God’s Word comes to us, calling us on to maturity, we dare not say, “I’m a believer,” as if that was the end of the matter.  When God is calling us on to maturity, He is not asking, “Are you a believer?” He is asking, “Are you a growing believer?  Are you growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?”

On this journey with God, this journey of faith, this journey of spiritual growth, the church’s mission ad ministry is to help their members be a living echo of this great prayer from the 13th century: “‘Day, by day, O dear Lord, three things I pray, to see You more clearly, to love You more dearly, to follow You more nearly, day by day.”

(4) Paul’s ministry was a prayerful ministry.

The church’s mission and ministry is not only speak to the people.  It also speak to God.

The believers of the first century church spoke to the people for God and they spoke to God for the people.  In his message to the Ephesian elders, Paul said, in verse 32, “So now, I commend you to God.”  At the end of his message, ‘he knelt down and prayed them all” (verse.36).

Paul was a preacher.  Paul was a pastor.  Paul was a man of prayer. He prayed for the people.  He prayed with the people.  He prayed that they would receive God’s grace.  He prayed that they would know that all of their sins had been forgiven.  He prayed that they would grow strong in their faith.  He prayed that they would be sanctified, that they would live a Godly life, a Christ-like life, a Spirit-filled life, a life which brings glory to God.

How are we to live the kind of life which brings glory to God?  In his prayer for the Ephesians, Paul points us in the direction of a life that is full of God’s blessing:

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17,19).

The church’s message and ministry involves praying that God’s people will get to know how much the Lord loves them and how much they can be changed by His power.  As they think of the Lord’s great love for them, they will want to love Him more.  The church’s prayer is that The story of their member’s lives will be “Loving Him who first loved us.”

God calls us to worship Him.

He calls us to walk with Him.

He calls us to be His witnesses.

He calls us to be His workers.

Can we ever hope to live such a God-centered life?  We cannot do so in our strength. Without Christ, we can do nothing.  With Christ, everything changes.  We become a new creation in Christ Jesus. We receive new strength.  Paul speaks about this strengthening when he prays for the Ephesians: “For this reason I kneel before the Father … I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 4:14,16).

Paul was a man of action.  He travelled from place to place, preaching here and preaching there.  This is not, however, the full story of Paul’s life.  We must always remember that he was also a man of prayer.  From Paul’s ministry, we learn this great lesson: “The fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (is powerful and effective)” (James 5:16).

There is such a clear connection in Scripture between prayer and power.  We ask, ‘Why is there not much power?’ James tells us –  “‘You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2).  We wonder, “How can we receive more of God’s power?” Jesus tells us – “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7).

If we are to see God’s power in our worship and witness, in our walk with God and our work for God, we must come to the Lord with this request, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

We have looked together at the message and ministry of the 1st century church as seen in the Apostle Paul’s message to the church leaders in Ephesus in Acts 20.  It was to be a helpful ministry, a Gospel ministry, a teaching ministry, a prayerful ministry.  My desire and prayer is that God will help us to learn from this truth.  May we learn the great lesson contained in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their 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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What Is The Church’s Message And Ministry For Today’s World, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9jan  I want to use the next two blogs to share with you what I have discovered and been committed to regarding the mission and message of the church for our world today.  What is different about in the 21st century as compared to those living in the first century?  In so many ways, the 21st century is completely different from the 1st century.

With our computers, we can instantly read and hear about events that are happening live on the other side of the world; we can listen and view a pod cast from anywhere in the world!  This is so different from life in the time of Christ and His Apostles.  Very different – Yes! – but there are certain issues that are the same.

Can we, in the 21st century, afford to ignore the voices which speak to us from the 1st century?  We search for a model for Church life, a model for ministry for the 21st century.  We search for, and learn, about modern methods of communication and caring.  Still, we are faced with the question –

Why aren’t we proclaiming the message

And

Following the mission and ministry

Of the 1st century church?

When I was a student in college, I listened to a message by a prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. R. G. Lee, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.  He preached on the third verse of the letter of Jude where we are exhorted to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the people of God.”

As I listened, my hearts said, “Yes. This is it. This is one of the main purposes and mission of the church for today.  This is the message our world needs to hear.  This is the message we must never forget.”

As we seek a way forward, God’s way for the 21st century, we need to see that the way forward begins . . .

When we go back to the Word of God,

Back to the Savior,

Back to mission and message

Of the first century church.

We have a clear and effective for our message and ministry in Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20!

Paul is a man from the 1st century,

Yet his message is for our time.

It is a message which calls us to take God seriously.  It is a message which calls us to listen carefully to God’s Word.  Paul calls us to center our lives on Christ and His message and ministry.  He calls us to commit ourselves to preaching the Word and discipling believers.

Paul speaks to the leaders of the church at Ephesus and instructs them regarding their purpose and priority.  The Bible records his words in Acts 20:18-21, 27-28, 31-32, “. . . You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you and taught you publicly and rom house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” . . . “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood” … “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears, so now brethren, I comment you to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

From these verses we see the strategy and substance of Paul’s ministry and the first century church ministry.

(1) The church’s ministry was a helpful ministry.

He tells us, in verse 20, that “he kept back nothing that was helpful.”  In his public preaching of God’s Word and in his pastoral work in the homes of the people, Paul prayed that his ministry would help the people to grow in their knowledge of God, their love of God, and their service of God.

Why was Paul’s ministry such a helpful ministry?

It was helpful because it was real.  He was a man living in the power of Christ’s resurrection, a man who could truly say, ‘For me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).

His ministry was helpful because it was a ministry of powerfully showing in his personal life the power of salvation as work, in His fearless preaching, faithful pastoral work, and fervent prayer.

Paul was fearless as he preached God’s Word to the people.

He was faithful in the ministry of bringing Christ to the people in their own homes.

He was fervent in prayer as he asked God to use His to change the people.

This is where the helpfulness comes from. It comes from above. It comes from the Lord.

When we have done all that we can do, we must look away from ourselves to the Lord and say it is, “Not by might. It is not by power. It is by the Spirit of the Lord’” (Zecharaiah 4:6).

When we look at all that has been achieved, we must learn to look away from ourselves to the Lord and say, from the heart, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:23).

This is helpful ministry . . .

Ministry which serves the purpose of God’s salvation,

Ministry which depends on the presence of God’s power,

Ministry which maintains the priority of God’s glory.

This is helpful ministry – bringing Christ to the people, bringing the people to Christ.  It is ministry that never forgets to say, “Our help is in the Name of the Lord . . .” (Psalm 124:8).

(2) The church’s ministry was a Gospel ministry.

In verse 24, he describes his ministry.  He tells us that he “received this ministry from the Lord Jesus.”  He also tells us that it is a ministry of “testifying to the Gospel of the grace of God.”

What is the Gospel?

It is the Good News:

Christ has died for our sins,

Christ has risen from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Is the preaching of the Gospel simply the announcement of these facts? No!

It is more than that.

There is also the challenge of the Gospel,

The call to repentance,

The call to faith (verse 21).

God not only wants us to tell people something . . .

He wants us to asking them something.

Will you repent?   Will you believe?  Luke laid out this principle for the followers of Christ in Luke 18:13 where God tells us, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him” and in Luke 18:13 where God shows us what we are to ask of Him, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

This is our message:

Because of what God has done in Christ

We are to proclaim a message of repentance and faith toward the Lord Jesus.

People must turn from their sin;

They must turn to God;

They must take their sin to Jesus

And people must trust Him for forgiveness.

To everyone who hears the Gospel, the question is asked, “What will your response be?”

As I look back over my own spiritual journey, I am forever grateful to those who impressed on me the need to make my personal faith and repentance response toward Jesus Christ.  It was not enough to know and believe that, “God so loved that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16).  There needed to be something more powerful and personal – “the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).  It was not enough to say, “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world” (John 4:12).  There needed to be the personal confession of faith – “Jesus Christ is my Savior.”

Paul was a faithful and fearless preacher of the Gospel.  If, in our generation, we are to follow his example and the example of the 1st century church, we must not hesitate to impress upon the people the necessity of “repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”’ (verse 21).

Last year, I had the privilege of attending a pastor’s conference.  One of the speakers preached out of the Book of Hebrews and the points of his message was centered around three verses in that marvelous Book:

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).

“Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).

“Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

In these three statements, we have the key features of Gospel ministry:

First, we are to hear the Gospel – the Good News that Christ died for our sins;

Second, we are to believe the Gospel“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be

Saved” (Acts 16:31);

Third, we are to live the Gospel – Christ has died for us.  Now He calls us to live for Him.

This is to be Gospel message and ministry

Of the church today:

Hearing the Gospel,

Believing the Gospel

And

Living the Gospel.

May God help us to be faithful to His Gospel

In our preaching and teaching,

In our believing,

And in our living.

Tomorrow we will look at the final aspect of the church’s message and ministry that we should be committed to today.

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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Snowflakes and Saints

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

8jan  For many of us who live in the cooler Midwest and northern climates, this is the time of year for snowflakes – lots of them!  So far this winter we have had no heavy snowfalls … but I am sure that will change before spring comes!  I thought this would be a good time to talk about snowflakes and saints, because they have a great deal in common.

Here are a few facts about snowflakes.

  • The shapes of snowflakes are delicate and intricate.
  • Snowflakes are not always symmetrical.
  • Snowflakes have six sides, with almost an infinite number of possible variations.
  • Snowflakes are formed from moisture droplets held within clouds when the air temperature drops to 32 degrees or lower.
  • Air currents, air temperature, and the moisture content of clouds influence the size and shape of snowflakes.
  • AND no two snowflakes are alike.

Which brings me to the connection between snowflakes and saints: NO TWO SAINTS ARE ALIKE.

  • You are a one-of-a-kind creation, fashioned by the hand of the Almighty.

Created in the image of God, you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13).  Nobody has the same set of fingerprints as you . . . nobody has the same foot prints as you . . . nobody has the same look or voice as you . . . nobody has the same genetic code (DNA) as you.

  • You are a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, held firmly in the hands of the Master.

You have a history that nobody else has – a history that God wrote before you were born!  Yes, all the days ordained for you were written in God’s book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).

  • You are a unique image-bearer of God, with a never-before-lived past and a singular present.

You were made by God for God; because He has not made anyone else just like you, He has a special and specific purpose and plan for your life.

Now, if you are waiting for me to suggest just what your specific calling is in this life, you will be forever waiting!  I sometimes talk with folks who hope I will tell them whether God has called them to be “a butcher, a baker, or a candle-stick maker” (to borrow from an old rhyme).  But I simply cannot do that.  Am I in the place of God?  But what I can do is to share the general and universal call given to everyone who has ever been born and that is . . . You were created . . .

TO KNOW AND SERVE GOD!

You are uniquely qualified to serve God right where you currently are.  Whatever field you are in . . . whatever job you have . . . that is the place where you are to be serving God.  Your unique passion, interests, gifts, talents, and abilities will enable you to serve God right where you are, right now, today, in a way nobody else in the world can do.

What are you called to do?

God simply wants you to prayerfully do all you can,

With all He has given you to do it with,

To know Him and then praise and bring glory to His name

Through what you do, say, and are.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:14-18, “Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.  Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact god has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

Different body parts are designed by God to play different roles.  But they are all vital to the functioning of the body.  So too, the saints in the body of Christ have different roles to play that are vital to the functioning of the body of Christ – the church.  Regardless of where this finds you today – whether in a season of plenty or want, health or sickness – God is calling you to do your part in expanding the cause of His kingdom.

Will you answer the call?  If not you . . . who?  If not now . . . when?

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

How To Live Successfully In The Coming Year, Part 5

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

LivingSuccessfully2 We have been looking at essentials truths that we need to know and apply in our lives in order to discover the provisions and power from God to live in a way that will bring praise and glory to God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Last Wednesday we looked at how God wants us to live successfully and that He has given us His grace to enable us to live life successfully.  Wednesday we looked at the first essential discipline – A Daily Time Of Focused Communion With God.  Thursday we looked at the second essential discipline –  A daily appropriation of the gospel.  Friday we will talk about the third essential discipline – A Daily Commitment to God as a Living Sacrifice.  Today we will look at Essential Discipline #4: A Firm Belief in the Sovereignty and Love of God

This essential truth doesn’t have the word daily in it, but it must be practiced continually. Years ago M. Scott Peck wrote a book entitled, The Road Less Traveled that began with a three-word sentence:

“Life is difficult.”

Most people would agree with that.  If you’ve lived very long you realize life is difficult, or at least it’s often difficult, and sometimes it’s even painful.  And . . .

Over time you will experience

Both difficulties and pain.

If you want to live successfully in the coming year, if you want to stand firm in the face of life’s difficulties and pain, then you must have a firm belief in the sovereignty and the love of God.

You must not only believe that God

Is in control of every event in His universe

And specifically every event in your own life,

But that God, in exercising that control,

Does so from His infinite love for you.

Many passages show us the sovereignty and love of God, but I have chosen Lamentation 3:37-38, “Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it?  Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed?”  I have chosen this particular passage because it affirms God’s sovereignty over the actions of other people.

So much of life’s pain is caused by the sinful actions of other people.  And if you do not believe that God is sovereign and in control of those actions, you will be tempted to become bitter.  And if you become bitter, you begin to turn aside from God, and you will not stand firm.  You will not endure if you let other people’s sinful actions cause you to become bitter.

One of the ways we can keep from becoming bitter

Is to realize that God is in sovereign control

Even over the sinful actions of other people.

Joseph is the classic illustration of this.  Three times in Genesis 45 (especially verses 5–8), after Joseph had revealed himself to his brothers he told them that God had been in control all the way along.  For example, in verse 8 he says, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.”  Then in Genesis 50:20 he says, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”  Joseph believed in the sovereignty of God, even in the sinful actions of his brothers.

Look further in Lamentations 3:38, God says to us, “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?”  That is, God is in sovereign control over the difficulties and the pain just as much as He is in control over what we would consider to be the good things, the blessings of this life.  Now we should thank God for the good things of life.  We are to be thankful people.  But what about the bad things, the things that we would not choose to have in our lives?

The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:81, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Paul said, “This is the will of God . . . that you abstain from sexual immorality.” Obviously he is speaking of the moral will of God.  Paul uses this same phraseology in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where he says, “For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  It is the moral will of God that we give thanks in all circumstances.

How do we do this?  We do it by faith.  We don’t just grit our teeth and say, “Lord, I don’t feel thankful, but you said to give thanks, so I’m going to give you thanks even though I don’t feel thankful.”  That’s not giving thanks.  We do it by faith. We do it by trusting in the promises of God.  We do it by faith in the words of God through Paul in Romans 8:28-29, where he says “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Paul defines the good in verse 29 as being “conformed to the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is what God is after.

He wants to conform us to the likeness of Christ; so He brings or allows these various circumstances . . . circumstances that we ourselves would not choose.  He brings them into our lives because He wants to use those circumstances in His way to conform us more and more to the likeness of Christ.  And so by faith we can say, “Lord, I do not know what particular purpose you have in this difficulty or this pain, this trial. But you said that you will use it to conform me more and more to Jesus Christ, and for that I give you thanks.”

We also do it by faith in the promise that He will never leave us or forsake us.  The writer of Hebrews quotes from the Old Testament when he says, “For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). That word “never” is an absolute word.  It doesn’t mean sometimes or most of the time; it means never.  You can count on that.  Then, we can look ahead to Romans 8:38–39, a passage that we can summarize as saying that God has said that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from His love in Christ Jesus.

It’s possible that sometime in your life things will totally fall apart and you will feel that you have nothing left.  There are two things that God will never take away.

God will never take away the gospel.

In the most difficult days of your life you still stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  Your sins are forgiven.  Even your doubts are forgiven because Christ fully trusted the Father on your behalf.

And, second,

God will never take away His promises.

These two assurances will remain even if everything else is stripped away.  If you were brought to the point of being like Job, this you can count on.  You stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  He will never, never take the gospel away from you.  And you will always have His promise, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

These are the four essentials.  I’m sure there are other important considerations, but I believe these are fundamental.  And so I would commend them to you:

  • A daily time of focused communion with God,
  • A daily appropriation of the gospel,
  • A daily presenting yourself as a living sacrifice, and
  • A continual firm belief in the sovereignty and the goodness of God.

As I close today’s blog, I want to inject another word for our consideration in the subject of living successfully in the coming year.  That’s the word “perseverance.”  The word “perseverance” is very similar in meaning to the word “endurance,” and often we equate the two.  But there can be a subtle difference.  The word “endure” means to stand firm. We are to stand firm.  We are not to be carried about with every wind of doctrine theologically.

We’re to stand firm.

But we need to do more than stand.

We need to move forward.

In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul says, “I have finished the race.”  Obviously he was talking about motion.  And “perseverance” means “to keep going in spite of obstacles.”  When Paul says, “I have finished the race,” basically he was saying, “I have persevered.”  We do need to stand firm, and the Bible over and over again exhorts us to stand firm.  But remember, that’s more than just standing still.  If we get that idea, we’ve missed the point.  We must move forward.  We must persevere.  We must be like Paul and say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” May you and I be like the apostle Paul.

In closing, I want to come back to the realization that any of us could become a Demas, and it’s only by God’s grace that any of us stands firm and keep the faith.  We need to acknowledge our total dependence upon God and our total indebtedness to Him. We should be thankful for His grace and pray that by His grace we will live successfully in the coming year.  As we consistently practice the disciplines we have looked over the last week we can be confident that God will use them to deepen our walk with Him, develop a deeper faith in Him, and be able to live successfully in the coming year and beyond.

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

How To Live Successfully In The Coming Year, Part 4

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

LivingSuccessfully2 As we have approached the first days of a new year, we have been looking at essentials truths that we need to know and apply in our lives in order to discover the provisions and power from God to live in a way that will bring praise and glory to God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday we looked at how God wants us to live successfully and that He has given us His grace to enable us to live life successfully.   Yesterday we looked at the first essential discipline – A Daily Time Of Focused Communion With God.  Yesterday we looked at the second essential discipline –  A daily appropriation of the gospel.  Today we will talk about the third essential discipline – A Daily Commitment to God as a Living Sacrifice.

The Bible says in Romans 12:1,”I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  As we daily reflect on the gospel and what God has done for us in Christ, this should lead us to present ourselves as daily, living sacrifices.

In using the word “sacrifice” Paul was obviously drawing from the Old Testament sacrificial system.  Those sacrifices are set forth for us in the book of Leviticus, and all of them together portrayed the one great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Whether or not Paul had in mind a particular sacrifice, one of them, best helps us understand what Paul is saying when he says to present our bodies as living sacrifices – That is the burnt offering.  The burnt offering helps us understand what Paul is saying because two things were unique about the burnt offering.

First, of all of the animal offerings, the burnt offering was the only one in which the entire animal was consumed upon the altar.  With the other sacrifices, only certain portions were burned on the altar, and the remaining portions were reserved for the priests or even in one case for the offerer and his family.  But with the burnt offering the entire animal was consumed upon the altar.  And for that reason it was called “the whole burnt offering.”

It signified not only atonement for sin

But also

Consecration or dedication of the offerer to God.

Second, the priests were to present a burnt offering twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, so that the fire would not go out upon the altar (Leviticus 6:8–13).  In other words, there was always a burnt offering being consumed upon the altar.  For that reason it has been called a continual burnt offering.  So there were two descriptive terms – a whole burnt offering and a continual burnt offering.

One can readily see the application that can be drawn from that.

The whole burnt offering would signify

That we are to consecrate our entire being,

Not only ourselves but all that we have.

Everything about us we are to consecrate,

To dedicate to God,

To present to Him as a sacrifice.

The word “continually” (Leviticus 6:13; Hebrews 10:1) is a significant word because God is saying to us that this must be repeated constantly.

Just as we have a tendency to revert

To a works-based relationship with God,

We have a tendency to want to take back

That which we have committed to God.

Often in a moment of high spiritual emotion we might sincerely and honestly say, “Lord, I give my whole being, my body, my mind, my service, my money, everything about me, Lord, I consecrate it all to you.”  And then we go out and in a few weeks we’re confronted with some issue, and we tend to draw back, and we realize that we’re not as consecrated as we thought we were.

Daily renewal of this consecration

Helps us to keep from doing that.

The second word that’s significant in Romans 12:1 is the word “present.”  Paul says to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”  The idea of this phrase is “to give over to or to put at another’s disposal.”

God has not asked us to loan ourselves temporarily to Him.  He’s asked us to present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices to use as He pleases.  The fact is, objectively this has already taken place.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.”  Paul wants us to affirm in our hearts and in our emotions what is true in reality, but he approaches it by way of an appeal.  He does not say, “This is your duty to do.” He does not say, “You’re not your own; you don’t have a choice in the matter.” He says, “I appeal to you . . . by the mercies of God.”

We see something similar in the short letter of Paul to Philemon.  The purpose of the letter was to ask Philemon to receive Onesimus, to forgive him for having run away and probably having stolen as well, and to receive back him as a brother.  Now that’s quite a thing to ask, so this is the way Paul approaches it: “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you” (Philemon 8–9).

Paul could have said, “Philemon, you don’t really have a choice. It is your Christian duty to forgive and receive Onesimus.”  But Paul didn’t approach Philemon that way.  Instead he appealed “for love’s sake.”  He did not want to coerce Philemon; he appealed to him to do for love’s sake that which he should do in obedience to the command of God.

In the same way, the apostle Paul appeals to us. He says, “I appeal to you . . . by the mercies of God.  Do you want to know what the mercy of God looks like? Read Ephesians 2:1-5.  We were dead in trespasses and sins.  We were absolutely helpless. We were not just sick – we were dead.  We were slaves to the world, to Satan, and to the passions of our flesh.  We were by nature objects of God’s wrath.

That was our condition.

That’s why we needed mercy.

Then Paul says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us . . . made us alive together with Christ.”

That’s mercy.

Do you see yourself today

As an object of God’s mercy?

Do you realize that apart from God’s mercy you would be headed for eternal damnation?  That’s why Paul says, “I appeal to you . . . by the mercies of God.”

Presenting our bodies as living sacrifices is not something that we check off and say, “Well, I’ve done that; it’s my duty to do.”

It should be a spontaneous response

To our appropriation of the gospel.

We are talking about communion with God.

We are talking about being embraced

By His love and His mercy and His grace.

And we see that in the gospel.

The apostle John said that God showed His love to us by sending his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10) – that is, to exhaust the wrath of God that you and I should have experienced.

As we daily appropriate the gospel,

We bask and rest in His love and grace,

And this will lead us to present

Our bodies as living sacrifices.

But that has to be renewed daily.

We can’t live today on yesterday’s commitment.

We never outgrow your desperate need for Christ.

How do I keep going?  How do I keep from feeling sorry for myself?  Each day as I appropriate the gospel for myself, I say to God, “I am your servant.  Because of Your mercy to me and Your grace at work in me, I again present my body as a living sacrifice.  If this means continual ministry concerns and time pressure, I accept that from You and thank You for the privilege of being in Your ministry.”

In fact one of my life verses is Ephesians 3:8, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”  I am not only a recipient of the grace of the gospel; I also have the privilege of teaching it to others.  So through my appropriation of the gospel to myself, my “living sacrifice” becomes a privilege.  I am constantly in awe that God would give me the privilege of teaching many Christians that the gospel is not just for unbelievers but for them to live by every day.

Tomorrow we will look at the final of four essentials truths that are the foundation for living successfully throughout this year.

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

How To Live Successfully In The Coming Year, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

 

2018BlogTheme

LivingSuccessfully2As we have approached the first days of a new year, we have been looking at essentials truths that we need to know and apply in our lives in order to discover the provisions and power from God to live in a way that will bring praise and glory to God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday we looked at how God wants us to live successfully and that He has given us His grace to enable us to live life successfully.   Yesterday we looked at the first essential discipline – A Daily Time Of Focused Communion With God.  Today we look at the second essential discipline –  A daily appropriation of the gospel.  This might be a new concept to a lot of readers, so I will take some time laying this truth out.

Those who have read anything of Luther’s life and theology will be familiar with his phrase, “simul iustus et peccator.”  That is, the true Christian who has trusted Christ alone for salvation is “at the same time just before God and also a sinner.”  The chief Bible  passage for this truth is found in Romans 7:14–20, where Paul confesses his failure to obey the law of God and to avoid that which he should not do.  Yet, Paul did not lose his justification before God, for he stood before the majesty of God not by his own record of obedience but by the obedience of Christ.

Luther grasped this reality and believed that a wholehearted embracing of this truth was critical to appropriating the gospel and living in the joy and freedom of the gospel.

The Bible says in Romans 7:14-20, “For as long as I live in the flesh, sin is truly in me. But because I am covered under the shadow of Christ’s wings, as is the chicken under the wing of the hen, and dwell without all fear under that most ample and large heaven of the forgiveness of sins… And although we see [our sin], and for the same do feel the terrors of conscience, yet flying unto Christ our mediator and reconciler (through whom we are made perfect), we are sure and safe… Thus a Christian man is both righteous and a sinner, holy and profane, an enemy of God and yet a child of God.”

Christian culture today is saturated with messages from well-meaning Bible teachers who long to see believers living “the victorious Christian life.”  Although such perfectionistic, higher-life teaching comes in many forms, at the core is the message that if one follows a particular program of surrender (or repentance or other works-based techniques), he or she will rise above known sin.  Though few actually claim that a Christian can be perfect, these method-based teachings do imply that such attainment can be ours if we work long and hard enough.

This general message can be traced to a compromise on the doctrine of man.  In the late 1700s and early 1800s, much of the Western church came to embrace various forms of Pelagianism.  Named after a 5th-century teacher, Pelagianism in its original form claimed that man’s nature is fundamentally good and therefore perfect obedience to God is within man’s ability.  In Semi-Pelagianism, man is seen as sinful yet still able to keep the law of God without sin.

All such Pelagian-influenced views prevent an individual from facing the full reality and implications of sin in his or her life.  This often leads either to doubt or arrogance.  If I wonder, “How can I be a Christian and still be stuck in this same sinful habit?”  I will begin to doubt my salvation, the Bible, or both.  If I think I am actually keeping the law of God and meeting His standard of perfection, I will become full of pride and self.  Any sort of perfectionistic belief will also tempt me to judge and condemn others for their failings and indwelling sin.  I will respond in pride to Christian brothers and sisters, rather than in humility and gentleness.

Perfectionism may have had a slightly different form in Luther’s day, but he still encountered this false theology.  Naturally, he faced it squarely and rejected it, considering it to be a denial of the gospel.  His biblical observation of simul iustus et peccator allowed the believer to face the truth of his life, while still enjoying confident acceptance by God in the gospel.

The truth that the believer

Is at the same time

Justified before God

And yet still a sinner

Is a doctrine we must know,

Lest we be driven to despair and discouragement.

Others have also believed and taught this doctrine.  For example, The Heidelberg Catechism, published in 1563, answers a significant question after looking at the law of God: “But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments? No, but even the holiest of men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience…” (HC 114)

Making a similar point, the Puritan Thomas Watson wrote, “Man is a self-exalting creature; and if he has anything but of worth, he is ready to be puffed up; but when he comes to see his deficiencies and failings, and how far short he comes of the holiness and perfection which God’s law requires, it pulls down the plumes of his pride, and lays them in the dust; he weeps over his inability; he blushes over his leprous spots… God lets this inability [to keep His law] upon us, that we may have recourse to Christ to obtain pardon for our sin and failure, and to sprinkle our best duties with His blood. When a man sees that he owes perfect obedience to the law, but has nothing to pay, it makes him flee to Christ to be his friend, and answer for him all the demands of the law, and set him free in the court of justice.”

The great Princeton professor A.A. Hodge was also quick to see the reality of sin in the believer’s life: “The more holy a man is, the more humble, self-renouncing, self-abhorring, and the more sensitive to every sin he becomes, and the more closely he clings to Christ.  The moral imperfections which cling to him he feels to be sins, laments and strives to overcome them… it has been notoriously the fact that the best Christians have been those who have been the least prone to claim the attainment of perfection for themselves.”

This is where a daily appropriation of the Gospel comes in if we are to live successfully in the coming year.  A daily personal communion with God must be first.  After our time in meeting with God and discovering more about God in the Bible we are then able to deal with our position before God and our need of His daily provision of grace.

Since the gospel is only for sinners, I come to Christ as a still practicing sinner.  In fact, I usually use the words of the tax collector in in Luke 18:13, where the Bible says he cried out as he stood before God in the temple, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”  God has been merciful, and I’m quick to acknowledge His mercy in my life and I come in the attitude of that tax collector.

It’s important that we have this time of appropriating the gospel because it’s only through Christ that we have access to God the Father.  The Bible says in Ephesians 2:18, “For through Him we both [Jew and Gentile] have access in one Spirit to the Father.”  We cannot come directly to God. We must always come through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But God not only allows us to come; he invites us to come.  The Bible says in Hebrews 10:19-22, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.”

As we appropriate the gospel it gives us the confidence to come into the very presence of God to have communion with Him.  So . . .

We need to learn to live

By the gospel

Every day of our lives.

In the early years of my Christian life and even in my early ministry I regarded the gospel as a message for the unbeliever.  Now that I was a Christian I personally no longer needed the gospel except as a message to share with unbelievers.  But I learned the hard way many years ago that I need the gospel every day of my life.  I would struggle with personal issues that I could not get victory over.  Satan would attack me with accusations of my sin.  Out of desperation I began to resort to the gospel.  To use an expression I learned years later, I began to “preach the gospel to myself.”  And I subsequently learned that . . .

I continued to need the gospel every day of my life.

That is why I list this discipline as one of the four essential elements.  Consider what the Bible says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  The context of this verse is the subject of justification.  In verses 15–17 Paul speaks of our being justified four times.  He says we’re not justified by works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, and he keeps repeating that thought.  And then in verse 21 he says, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

Clearly in this entire passage, he is talking about the subject of justification.  He is going to get to sanctification later, but that’s not in this context.  The reason I make a point of that is because I want to call your attention particularly to the last sentence of verse 20. “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Remember, in the context Paul is speaking about justification, not sanctification.

Now this raises an important problem or question.  That is, we know that justification is a point-in-time past event.  At the time you trusted Christ you were at that precise moment declared righteous by God.  You were justified.  That’s why Paul in Romans 5:1 speaks of justification in the past tense when he says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  And yet here in this passage he speaks of it in the present tense: “The life that I now live in the flesh,” today.  The life that I live today, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  So if justification is a point-in-time event that happened in our past, why does Paul speak of it in the present tense?

The answer to that question is one of the most important truths we can learn about the gospel.  For the apostle Paul, justification was not only a past event; it was also a present reality.  This is where so many Christians miss it. They can look back to the day that they trusted Christ.  And if you press them on that they will say, “Yes, I was justified at that time.”  But today they seek to live their lives as if it depends upon them.  In their mind they have reverted to a performance relationship with God.  Their thinking is, “If I had my quiet time and if I haven’t had any lustful thoughts and these kind of things, then I expect God to bless me today.”  We want to pay our own way.  We want to earn God’s blessings.

The apostle Paul didn’t do that.  Paul looked outside himself and saw himself clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  He saw himself declared righteous by the work of Christ. We say to a person who trusts Christ, “You have been justified.  You’ve been declared righteous.  Your sins have been forgiven. You stand before God today clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.”  And then we can point to eternity and say, “When you go to be with the Lord forever, you will still stand clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.”  We will have left our sinful nature behind, we will be righteous people made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23), we will for all eternity stand in the righteousness of Christ. That never changes.

But what about from the time of our conversion

Until the time we go to be with the Lord?

For most Christians it’s a performance relationship.

That is why we need a daily appropriation of the gospel,

Because it is our nature to drift toward a performance relationship.

If we do not have a daily spiritual navigational adjustment, we will drift slowly off course.

If we do not daily appropriate the gospel,

We will drift toward a performance relationship with God.

When we do that, we lead ourselves to have a very superficial view of sin in your life – thinking of sin in terms of the big gross sins one can commit . . . then you we tend toward religious pride because we are not doing those things.  If, on the other hand, we are conscientious and we are aware of committing some of “respectable” sin, such as gossip, pride, jealousy, envy, and a critical spirit and we are not consistent in living by the gospel, that it can to guilt and despair.

What resolves that tension is the gospel,

Which reminds us that all sin need to be forgiven

And

That we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

That which keeps us from spiritual pride and allow us to have a right view of sin is the gospel, because the gospel is only for sinners.  We are all sinners, still practicing sinners, even though we’ve been delivered from the guilt and the dominion of sin.  But we still sin in thought, word, deed, and most of all in motive because we often do the right thing for a wrong reason or for a mixed reason.

We want to please God,

But

We want to look good in the process.

We need to admit that we are still a practicing sinner,

But we look to Jesus Christ; to His shed blood;

To His righteous life and perfect obedience

That has been credited to us.

We need to see ourselves standing

Before God clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

Now, that will get you out of bed in the morning!  That will get you excited about the Christian life!  That will keep you from loving the world!  A daily appropriation of the gospel will keep you from getting off course.

The great theologian B.B. Warfield wrote these words: “There is nothing in us or done by us at any stage of our earthly development because of which we are acceptable to God.”  Warfield is saying . . .

There is nothing that we do in ourselves

That makes us acceptable to God.

He continues, “We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot ever be accepted at all.”

Then he continues with this is important statement: “This is not true of us only when we believe.  It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievement in Christian behavior may be” (Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, [Baker, 1931; reprint 1991], 7:113).  What he is saying is that it doesn’t matter how sanctified we become.  It doesn’t matter how much we grow in the Christian life.  It is always on Christ’s blood and righteousness alone that we can rest.

That’s what it means to live by the gospel.

That’s why we need to appropriate

The gospel every day of our lives,

Because God only accepts us for Christ’s sake.

God sees us clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and He wants us to see ourselves clothed in the righteousness of Christ, so that we will come to Him on that basis and seek to relate to Him through the merit of the Lord Jesus Christ and not through our own works.

All of us in our sinful nature are prone to slide toward a works-based relationship with God.  And even though I have been preaching this kind of message for many years, I can tell you honestly it is so easy to revert in that direction because of our sinful human nature.  It is our sinful nature that thinks we must somehow earn God’s favor by our own hard work or our own faithfulness.  Now we want to be faithful, we want to work hard, but not in order to earn God’s approval, but because we have God’s approval.  And so a daily appropriation of the gospel is essential to enduring to the end.

Tomorrow we will look at the third of four essentials truths that are the foundation for living successfully throughout this year.

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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How To Live Successfully In The Coming Year, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

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LivingSuccessfully2  In yesterday’s blog, I shared how God wants us to live life successfully and that He has given us His grace to enable us to do that.  There are four essentials truths that are the foundation for living successfully throughout this year.  Over the next three days we will discover how these disciplines will give us the power to live in a way that will bring praise and glory to God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Essential Discipline #1: A Daily Time Of Focused Communion With God.

Many readers are familiar with the old classic Practicing the Presence of God, and that is an excellent habit to cultivate.  But the foundation of that has to be a time of focused personal communion with God, and it needs to be daily.  Demas didn’t just wake up one day and make a 90-degree turn.  That doesn’t happen.

Demas drifted little by little toward the attractions of the world.

And if you and I do not practice a daily focused time of communion with God, we will find ourselves also drifting in the wrong direction.

Before the development of today’s global positioning satellites mariners and pilots would have to check their navigational position regularly.  This allowed for corrections to be made that allowed them to stay on course.

You and I need a daily course correction,

The purpose of a quiet time . . .

Is not just to read a chapter in the Bible

And go over a few prayer requests.

Rather . . .

It should be a time of personal communion with God.

Obviously we need a plan.  We don’t just open our Bible and point our finger at a passage of Scripture and say, “This is my passage for today.”  But communion with God is far, far more than a plan.

Communion with God is meeting with Him. . .

It is asking God to speak to us,

And us speaking to Him,

As we read and interact with His Word in prayer

The Bible says something similar in Psalm 42:1–2, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

And in Psalm 27:4 the Bible says, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”

The beauty of the Lord is not a physical beauty.

It’s the beauty of His attributes.

It’s the beauty of what He has done for us in Christ.

The great desire of the psalmist

Was to reflect upon God

And spend time with Him.

This is what the focused time with God is all about.

Any plan you have must direct you to God Himself.  Do we spend time with God or do we just read about God in the Bible?  Spending time with God certainly involves the reading the Bible.

But the object of reading the Bible is to meet with God,

It is to have God speak to us and to respond to Him.

As I open my Bible each day, I ask, “Lord, as I spend time with You today would You speak to me from your Word?  Would you encourage me?  Would you teach me?  Would you rebuke me if I need it?  Lord, whatever You see that I need today, I come to spend time with You.”  Then as I begin to read the passage I respond to God over what I’m reading.  I pray back to Him whatever is appropriate in that passage.

If you read through the Psalms, you will notice that in most of them the psalmist is speaking to God or about God.  When he speaks to God we hear him rejoicing, and sometimes lamenting.  In Psalm 88:4, the psalmist says, O God, why do You hide Your face from me?”  He is interacting with God.  This is what we want to do.  And as we daily seek to have that personal communion with God, God will give us that “navigational fix” and He will show us what course corrections we need to make in our lives so that we do not drift off course.

If you and I are going to live successfully in 2019,

We must make it a practice – a discipline –

To have that focused, daily communion with God.

Our youngest daughter died suddenly in 2008 . . . As I was struggling with the reality of her death, a Scripture passage came to my mind.  It was Psalm 116:15 which says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  With that came the realization that God Himself had an interest in what had happened to our daughter.  For us we lost someone precious and whom we loved dearly; but for God, it was the homecoming of one of His children.  I realized that as incredible as it seems, God eagerly awaits the homecoming of His children.  And then there came to my mind Psalm 16:11, which says “In Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  As I prayed over that Scripture, I remember thinking, “But what about us?”  Quickly there came to mind words from 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.”

With that assurance from God and His Word I grieved, but not as one who has no hope. In addition, I was comforted by the assurance that God had joyously welcomed one of His children home and that she was enjoying His presence forevermore.

Let me hasten to give a warning against becoming legalistic about our time of communion with God.

We do not earn blessings from God

Because we have this time,

Nor do we forfeit His blessing

On a day we miss it.

God does not bless because we spend time with him,

But He often blesses through that time.

We should also not expect God to always speak to us through His Word in such a dramatic fashion as I experienced that day.  As with navigational course corrections, God’s spiritual course corrections in our lives are usually incremental and not especially dramatic.  But they are necessary.

I hope you’ll come back tomorrow as we look at the second of four essentials truths that are the foundation for starting and living throughout this year.

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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