Thursday, October 29, 2009

"With Them That Weep"

We are living in days when many thousands of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ in the United States have lost their livelihood, their homes, and the life they had long known and loved. Others have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other nations, persecution of believers is increasing at an alarming scale, and uncertainty about the future is felt by everyone everywhere.

"Weep with them that weep." (Romans 12:15)

Our Lord is "full of compassion," that is, He feels the feelings of those who hurt (Psalm 86:15). He calls us to the same. "Having compassion one of (for) another, love as brethren. Be pitiful" (I Peter 3:8). We must choose to care, and prayerfully devote ourselves to God for those who share with us the grace of life in Christ. For many, we will only be able to pray, but such an "only" is as vast in effect as "the unsearchable riches of Christ" accessed and dispensed thereby. For others, we will be called to help, to give, to encourage, and offer a loving heart and a willing shoulder for their tears.

Some brother or sister lost their job, their career, today. Another walked away from a beloved, but foreclosed home where the echoes of family devotion and joy still ring. A mother found out that her son died in Afghanistan. And somewhere, a fellow believer sits alone and lonely in a prison because he loves the Lord Jesus too much to deny Him, regardless of sacrificed liberty. In Heaven, a Heart grieves in such grief known by beloved children whom God's perfect wisdom determines must not be instantly delivered from the present distress. It is a pierced Heart that once knew sorrow to an infinite degree, and that confirms through much shared pain that "we have not a High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 4:15).

If we have believed, this Heart beats in our own chest through the presence of the Holy Spirit. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us" (Romans 5:5). We may not always feel it, and reminders will often be required to help us shed tears of compassion for brothers and sisters who may not have any more tears to shed. But the compassion is there, and we must be sure to express it in whatever form our Lord leads us to exhibit toward our hurting brethren. The writer of Hebrews closes our consideration with the call to keep close in mind and heart the truth that so long as we live in a fallen world, our joy in Christ will necessarily be accompanied by the sorrow of our Lord's loving compassion toward the hurting...
"Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body."
(Hebrews 13:3)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Consider Him"

"Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Hebrews 12:3).

"Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" will always be the energizing dynamic in the lives of born again believers (Hebrews 12:2). We can do all things through Christ, but we can do nothing without Him (Philippians 4:13; John 15:5). Our spiritual enemies are well aware of this infinite power abiding within the spirits of Christians, and thus do everything possible to distract our attention and focus from the One who is the very Life of our lives. Obviously carnal things and seemingly good things are used as weapons against us, and if we allow them to cause us to look away from "the author and finisher," discouragement will inevitably result.

We must first establish as principle within our hearts and minds that the Lord Jesus will "have preeminence" in all things (Colossians 1:18). Our Savior is the chief delight of His Father, and the Holy Spirit seeks always and only to reveal and glorify the Son (John 15:26; 16:14). We must join this Divine determination to exalt the Lord Jesus, understanding the all-encompassing nature of His place in our existence. "To live is Christ" declared the Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:21). We must declare it with Him.

Proper understanding of the Bible depends on proper relationship to this truth. Dr. M.R. DeHaan once wrote that we have not found the true interpretation of any Scripture until we have somehow seen the person and work of the Lord Jesus therein. "The Scriptures... testify of Me" said our Lord, and a reading of the Bible that does not include expectant searching for Christ will not fully yield the abundant harvest God has planted for us in the pages of His Word (John 5:39).

Our relationships with people must also be interpreted and engaged in the light of the Lord Jesus being the most important party of every bond and involvement. God places family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and strangers in our lives for the purpose of their knowing Christ by us in our attitudes, actions, words, and self-sacrificial love. This is purpose number one in every relationship, and there is no truth more practically life-changing than the awareness that we exist to present and represent Christ to every person in our lives.

The call to "consider Him" involves countless other aspects of our lives. Again, to live is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else. May we respond to our Father's determined purpose that His Son will be exalted in us, and to the Holy Spirit's working in us to accomplish this glorious reason for our existence. As we do, we shall not be wearied and faint in our minds because "Christ, the power of God" shall be the power of our lives (I Corinthians 1:24).

"I am... the life."
(John 14:6)

"This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear ye Him."
(Matthew 17:5)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"No Frame Of Reference"

God created a human race that quickly rebelled against Him. Rather than destroy Adam and Eve, however, He immediately set about to reveal His purposes of loving redemption. "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21).

No one else would have done this. No angel of heaven nor human of earth would have acted in such grace and mercy, foreshadowing the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the cross of Calvary. Such goodness exists inherently only in the God of the Bible, the living and true God. In the wonder of His heart and purpose, He determined in eternity past to redeem humanity by its most terrible crime of torturing the Lord Jesus Christ to death on a cross of shame and rejection. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (II Corinthians 5:19).

We have no frame of reference for such a heart. Even in the present dispensation wherein believers are inhabited by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, and often reveal His character and nature, it is still true that the fullness of Divine mercy cannot be adequately displayed. "Thou art God alone" declared the Psalmist, and nothing so declares our Lord's singular nature as His attitude and actions toward those who defy Him (Psalm 86:10).

In Heaven, the greatness of God's power, majesty, and magnitude will rightly cast us to our faces in awe. I am convinced, however, that something else will drive us even lower in worship and adoration of our Creator. The wounds on the hands, feet and side of the Lord Jesus still remain in His glorified body (John 20:27). They tell us of a Heart for which, again, we have no frame of reference. In one sense, we never will. Even in our own glorified state, we will never completely fathom the singular goodness of God. He gives His dearly Beloved for His enemies, for those who spit upon Him, taunt Him, pluck His beard, flog Him, crucify Him, and kill Him. What kind of Heart is this? We presently do not know more than a glimmer of its glory, nor will a long forever allow us to fully answer the question. We have no frame of reference, either now or in eternity.

"The Lord is good."
(Psalm 100:5)

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Feelings, Good and Bad"

It is a pleasant thing to feel good, and we do well to give thanks for the times in life when God blesses us with spiritual, emotional and physical tranquility and pleasure.

However, if feeling good is established as the goal of life, we will discover that a cruel and destructive tyrant has taken control of our existence. God has not determined that we are to always feel good in our present existence. Sorrow, pain and discomfort are necessary components of life in a fallen world wherein resides a fallen devil and fallen human flesh (including our own). Feeling good all the time would deceive us into believing that a dying planet can be the home of our hearts. It cannot, and let us thank God that He lovingly promised sorrow to Adam and Eve as a means of arresting their attention - and ours - to the need for redemption from a world that "lieth in wickedness" (Genesis 3:16-17; I John 5:19).
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:1-3).

The born again believer would not want to feel good when he is disbelieving and disobeying God (Psalm 51:17). He would not want to feel good in times when God brings portions of sorrow and difficulty as the necessary preparation for ministry to others (II Corinthians 1:4). He would not want to feel good when the Holy Spirit is pressing his heart with the lostness of unbelieving humanity, or the waywardness of a fellow believer (Romans 9:1). He would not want to feel good when considering brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and martyred for the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 13:3). And he would not want to feel good in those times when he is remembering the cross of his Savior, and the agony, forsakenness and death experienced by the Lord Jesus in His sacrifice for us (Isaiah 53:3).

Accepting the fact of sorrow, pain and difficulty as necessary components of life in Christ is a fundamental lesson of genuine godliness. This does not preclude pleasure, of course, nor does it mean that life will always be filled with pain (although let us remember with much reverence and prayer that some brothers and sisters are called to a life of continual hurt whereby God is glorified in a most special way as they faithfully trust and submit unto Him). It does mean that it is necessary that we are to not always feel good in our present life. Our Heavenly Father loves us enough to include sorrow and pain if we are thereby drawn into a greater experience of Him, and prepared to walk with Him in godliness and ministry to others. Perhaps most of all, suffering can lead to a greater identification and likeness to the Lord Jesus. Conformity to His image is our Father's ultimate purpose in our lives, and we shall discover that growing likeness to Him is the joy of our hearts, even if our souls and bodies do not always feel good in the process...

"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh."
(II Corinthians 4:10-11)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"The Wrong Prayer"

Why do born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ experience many of the difficult, painful, and bewildering things encountered along the path of righteousness? One answer is that at some point in our Christian life, we have prayed the wrong prayer, perhaps along these lines:

"Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that I belong to You for Your glory, Your will, and Your eternal purpose in Christ. You have bought me with a price, the precious blood of the Lord Jesus, and I devote myself and my entire being to You for Your purposes. Have Your own way in me, Father."

In real terms, this is actually the right prayer. "Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Romans 6:13). We exist for the glory, will, and purposes of the Lord who has redeemed us at the highest cost imaginable. It is our "reasonable service" to consecrate ourselves completely to Him, and such a prayer of devotion is the expression of our heart's acknowledgement that we belong to the Lord Jesus (Romans 12;1-2).

It is the wrong prayer, however, if we desire a life of ease and comfort. In a world that "lieth in wickedness," there is no possibility of richly fulfilling the glory, will, and purposes of God apart from much difficulty. Our spiritual enemies will see to that, as the world, the devil, and the flesh (including our own) challenge our consecration in every way possible. More importantly, our Heavenly Father Himself must orchestrate and allow our challenges because conformity to the image of the Lord Jesus is His ultimate purpose in our lives (Romans 8:29). Our Savior was a "man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3). By definition, being like Him requires our walking the path He walked, and in varying modes and measures, all devoted believers will share in "the fellowship of His sufferings" (Philippians 3:10).

Again, the wrong prayer is actually the right prayer, the most right of all prayers. But it may sometimes feel as if we made a mistake by placing our being completely in the hands of God. We didn't, however, and the days and the eternity to come will reveal that the only safe harbor for our hearts is found in the prayer of loving consecration, "Not My will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42). Our Lord Himself prayed this prayer, and it led to a cross. But it also led to an empty tomb, and a throne of glory. The same will be true in our lives, and in those times when we can't understand our trials, "the wrong prayer" - the right prayer - may well be the reason for them.

"For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake."
(Philippians 1:29)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Neither Should He Eat"

"Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away" (Matthew 5:42).

Taken by themselves, our Lord's words concerning our generosity would seem to mandate a universal practice of benevolence that asks no questions, and makes no qualifications regarding the believer's giving to the needy.

This is not the case, however. First, no declaration or passage of Scripture is to be taken by itself. "Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10). Even the words of the Lord Jesus Christ must be interpreted in accordance with the entirety of Scripture. We cannot understand any specific truth of Scripture without other Scripture to provide clarity and completeness of meaning.

This pointedly applies to the issue of the believer's giving, and to the personal responsibility required by both benefactor and recipient.

"For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10).

The Apostle Paul reveals to us that our beneficence is to be exercised with reason, caution, and the understanding that we do no one any favors by rewarding irresponsibility. The human heart was made for stewardship. We are called to the personal application whereby our receiving of supply flows naturally from devoting ourselves to works that glorify God and benefit others. Our original forefather Adam was given all that he needed in the Garden, but he was also called to responsibly apply his blessings by being the caretaker of the Garden (Genesis 2:15). We are all called in some manner to the same receiving of God's good gifts, and the responsible use of them for good purposes.

The consecrated believer will always seek to help those who cannot help themselves, with whatever means God has supplied. However, we are not to provide for those who are not willing to apply themselves to the personal responsibility that is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. We seek first and foremost to ourselves walk accordingly. But we also seek to promote personal responsibility in others, and the nature and practice of our charity must reflect this calling. Indeed, to fill the bellies of those who will not use able hands is deceiving and gravely damaging to their hearts. And such an unwise practice sends forth a false and deceptive message concerning what the Bible actually teaches, and what Christians actually believe.

"Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you."
(II Thessalonians 3:8)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Pleasure In His People"

"Enoch... had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith, it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:5-6).

That finite beings can bring pleasure to the heart of an infinite God is an amazing thing. Our Creator is emotionally involved in our existence, even to the degree that He took upon Himself the nature and experience of our existence.

"Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren... we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15).

One reason that faith so pleases our Lord is that He Himself knows the challenge of trusting God in a fallen world dominated by unbelief. The Lord Jesus Christ lived an earthly lifetime by faith. "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself: but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works" (John 14:10). Our Savior was "tempted in all points like as we are," including and especially in matters of the faith that is the spiritual lifeblood of the saints. "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17). He therefore perfectly understands that believing the Word of God involves great sacrifice of our natural inclinations, and great determination fueled by the Holy Spirit to rest our hearts in "Thus saith the Lord."

When a trusting son or daughter of God in Christ chooses to confess and believe the Scriptures in the face of so much that cries against them, our Heavenly Father is pleased. "Faith worketh by love," and there is in fact no greater expression of devotion to God than our determining to trust Him (Galatians 5:6). We live by faith, and we love by faith. There is no more elemental dynamic in our lives, and no greater way to honor and please the God so worthy of glory and pleasure. Doubtless in this hour, issues of life press against us, and call us to believe. Let us remember that joy, the joy of God Himself, is a primary and wondrous result of such faith, even as the Psalmist declared of our capacity to affect the emotional state of our infinite Creator...

"The Lord taketh pleasure in His people."
(Psalm 149:4)

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Determined Or Allowed"

God has determined or allowed everything that has ever happened in the universe, or is presently happening, or will happen in the future.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice: and let men say among the nations, The LORD reigneth “ (I Chronicle 16:31).

This truth presents countless implications to our hearts and minds, including the realities of this present moment. We are as we are and where we are by the determination or allowance of God, and He knew from eternity past that we would come to this time, this condition, this circumstance, and this reality. “His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5). Accordingly, we always start or proceed from where we are in relating to God, recognizing that He is the great fact of every moment, and seeking His guidance and enabling for our next step.

“Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5).

The need of this hour may be honest acknowledgement of sin and humble repentance. If so, we are in the sphere of God’s allowance rather than His determination. He does not lead us to sin, or tempt us in any way to do so (James 1:13). However, in the mystery of His eternal purpose in Christ, our Creator has granted freedom to human beings whereby we may use the breath He gives to disbelieve and disobey Him. Our confession of sin involves the admission of having used God’s good gifts for wrong purposes, particularly His amazing gift of freedom. But even more, we confess and believe that God foreknew our waywardness from eternity past, and our need for a Savior. Thus, the Lord Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). This applies to the lost sinner in need of salvation, and the sinning saint in need of a Father’s restoration and cleansing.

If repeated sin and irresponsibility has led to this time, place, condition, and circumstance, it may seem as if there is there is little use in approaching God. We may feel that His attitude toward us is, “You have made your own bed, and now you must lie in it!” Certainly it is true that we may be lying on an uncomfortable bed of our own making, and God’s established reaping and sowing mechanism has brought us to our present distress. However, our Lord’s heart is guided by a completely different sensibility toward us than "You have made your own bed..." He rather made a cross for His beloved Son, and at Calvary, the Lord Jesus hung on it for our redemption. This is the guiding template of grace and mercy in the heart of God, and if in this present moment, we will come in honesty, humility and faith, He will receive us with purpose to redeem us regardless of the nature or measure of our sin.

We begin from wherever we are with the God who had determined or allowed wherever we are. There is hope for the hopeless, and there is somebody who can and will do something about the blessedness or difficulty of this present hour. "The Lord reigneth." We are now and always in the sphere of His domain, "living and moving and having our being in Him" (Acts 17:25). Recognition of this truth is the light of our hearts, and the moving of the Holy Spirit upon us or within us in calling us to begin or continue with God from where He has determined or allowed us to be.

"He is... the beginning."
(Colossians 1:18)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Grace and Works"

Part 2
(Continued from Monday)
(Thanks to John C. for inspiration on this one.)
A pastor friend of mine recently made the statement, "There are only two religions in the world, grace and works. But only grace works."

I think that's a great way to express two truths. First, only Christianity proclaims that forgiveness and newness of life with God is provided by Him as a free gift of His unexpected and unmerited favor. All other spiritual claims require the efforts of human hearts and hands, efforts that are impossible for any lost sinner to fulfill. Unbelievers are dead in terms of spiritual inclination and capacity, and apart from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, would have no interest in God or godliness whatsoever. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3:10-11).

It is also true that the grace we cannot work to access is nevertheless the means by which genuinely godly works become the natural, or supernatural, course of our lives. The grace of God in Christ births a "new man, created in righteousness and true holiness," and one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:24; I Corinthians 6:17). Grace changes the heart, establishing faith and obedience as the truest delight of our innermost being (Romans 7:22-25). We may not always live accordingly, but nothing alters the fundamental change of being and nature that occurs when we believe. We are "new creatures" in Christ, and are called to account ourselves as "alive unto God" (II Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:11). Grace provides such newness of life as a free gift, and becomes the dynamic basis for all good works. ""By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:10; emphasis added).

Grace works. It works in justifying the sinner, and sanctifies and ultimately glorifies the saint. Nothing else can accomplish such a miracle in the human heart, and nothing else is required. Indeed, where the believer is having difficulty in the works to which we are called, the source of the problem is that he is having difficulty in matters of grace. The writer of Hebrews confirms this in his declaration of the wondrous origin and dynamic of all true godliness: "Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28). Our Heavenly Father would have us know Him always in terms of John 1:17: "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." It is the only way we could have began a relationship with Him, and it is the only way we can reveal in thought, attitude, word, and deed that such a relationship exists. Yes, let us have grace.
"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
(II Peter 3:18)

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Small Matters"

I once heard it proposed that the way we handle really big challenges determines the course of our lives. I am sure that there is truth in this, but I am convinced that our response to small matters is actually far more consequential in the living of life for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines" (Song of Solomon 2:15).

There are so many small matters, and in relative terms, so few large. Trusting and obeying God in the every day and the mundane is therefore far more likely to determine the atmosphere of our hearts, and the path of our feet. Consistent and persistent relationship with Him is required if we are to walk with our Lord in the small matters. We ponder and apply His Word, pray as a matter of life rather than ritual, fellowship with likehearted believers, and view all things as the venue wherein God is working to reveal His glory in our lives. "He... worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:10-11).

We also recognize that our spiritual enemies are well aware that it is "the little foxes, that spoil the vines." Countless skirmishes await us in the mundane matters of life, but if we fail to recognize the significance of each moment, we will not "fight the good fight of faith" where the battle is most often waged (I Timothy 6:12). Minor irritations, every day chores, scheduling challenges, unexpected problems, physical issues, difficult people - such small matters form the battlefield whereupon the victory of the Lord Jesus can be revealed in glorious display. Or, we can fail to avail ourselves of His abiding and overcoming presence, and thus life our lives as if God is far away and Christ is not risen from the dead. Our enemies are ever at work to cause the latter tragedy. We must be ever at work through the Holy Spirit to ensure the triumph of the former.

Our Lord is with us and within us if we have believed, and no issue is without His involvement. The small matters of the day are therefore not really small at all. They are huge. This day will bring many to our doorstep, and recognizing their significance will prepare us to know and respond to our Lord in ways that we might otherwise miss. The little foxes may potentially spoil the vines, but for God's trusting sons and daughters in Christ, the little choices to trust and obey will prevent that from happening, and even more, reveal the glory of the living and true Vine with whom we are inseparably united.

"Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
(I Corinthians 10:31)

"God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work."
(II Corinthians 9:8)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Risen With Him"

In this day, as in every day, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will require resurrection if we are to genuinely trust and obey God.

"If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Romans 8:10-11).

Apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit enlivening our humanity, we cannot think, feel, speak, act, or relate in a manner pleasing to God. "Without faith, it is impossible to please Him," and it is by faith that we access our Lord's working to transform in living experience the tomb of our flesh into a temple of the risen life of Christ (Hebrews 11:6). It is a humbling truth, and one that our flesh will greatly resist, as will our spiritual enemies who recognize that the believer is meant to be a display of the truth that our Savior is risen from the dead.

When we think a true and Biblical thought, the risen life of Christ is the power thereof. When we feel pure and godly emotion, the risen life of Christ is the power thereof. When we speak words that exalt God and edify others, the risen life of Christ is the power thereof. When we act in manner that honors our Lord and fulfills His will, the risen life of Christ is the power thereof. And when we relate to God and others in love, the risen life of Christ is the power thereof. Our bodies, that is, our earthly humanity, is abjectly dead in terms of any good thing - "in my flesh dwelleth no good thing" - and thus, we are totally dependent on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus to become more than historical fact (Romans 7:18). It must become personal reality and applied enlivening of our mortal bodies if we are to live in terms that God defines as life.

Much of this enlivening happens without our knowing it as we submit ourselves to the glory and will of the Lord Jesus. However, many opportunities will also present us with the opportunity to consciously trust in the risen life of Christ to be manifested in our inherent weakness. "Without Me, ye can do nothing" declared the Lord Jesus to His disciples (John 15:5). The same is true of us, and wonderfully, we will never live a moment of our lives in which we are without Him. Our Lord is present both with and within us, and ready to reveal in practical experience the truth that He is risen from the dead. We are "risen with Him" in the spirit, and as we believe, the Life that resides deeply within us will come forth in our thoughts, emotions, words, deeds, and relationships .

"Ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead."
(Colossians 2:12)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Burned To Oblivion"

The "deleted items" email file that I assume we all have on our email programs seems to me to be contradictory. Unless itself emptied, the files are all there, and are just as available as they were before we hit the delete button. Also, my understanding is that even if you empty the deleted repository, the files still exist somewhere in our computers and can be accessed by those with the knowledge and skill to recover them.

This reminds me of the temptation we have to disbelieve the extent of our Heavenly Father's forgiveness, as provided in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because we do sometimes experience lingering consequences resulting from waywardness, we may feel as if Divine disapproval and even rejection linger also. This is not true, and in fact, any disapproval and rejection on God's part regarding our sins is directed toward them, and not toward we ourselves. Our salvation in the Lord Jesus is so wonderfully redemptive that God will not even place our sins on our account, having imputed them all to our Savior when He died on the cross.

"Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:8).

In the lives of born again believers, God deals with sin not as a punitive judge, but as a loving and true Father. He chastens as necessary, and such corrective measures can be severe if we do not respond to the Holy Spirit's reproof and correction. Of wandering believers, the writer of Hebrews declared that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). Indeed, our Father loves us enough to hurt us if necessary, and no Christian who rightly knows and interprets his Bible can take the possibility of loving chastening lightly. "Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth" (Hebrews 12:6).

Nevertheless, such correction is not punitive, and in no way affects the full acceptance of our person as justified in the Lord Jesus. We are "accepted in the Beloved," and all punitive measures of wrath and rejection were meted out against our Savior in the fires and darkness of Calvary (Ephesians 1:6; I Peter 2:24). There, in His untold sorrow, agony, loneliness, and death, the Lord Jesus became the repository of our sins to the degree that "He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (II Corinthians 5:21). In the sight of our Heavenly Father, such redemption was so perfect in measure and mode that all who enter into Christ by faith are "made the righteousness of God in Him." The Lord Jesus is "made unto us righteousness," and our Father forevermore views our personhood in terms not of sinner, but of saint (I Corinthians 1:30).

We must join Him in such a high view of the atoning work of His beloved Son, and our beloved Savior. Love, worship, appreciation, gratitude, and devotion will grow in us as we do, and our expression will become far more reflective of our essence. "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25). There is no deleted items file concerning our sins in the heart and mind of God. No, they were rather burned to oblivion in the wrath poured out on the sin of Calvary. Let us bow in worship as we remember that it was our Lord Himself who was made to be that sin, and that in direct proportion to such horror, we are now and forevermore "the righteousness of God in Him."

"Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
(Hebrews 10:17)

Monday, October 5, 2009

"Changed Mind, Changed Life"

It is easy to think about and talk about changing our minds. It is very difficult to actually do it.

"The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Romans 2:4).

The Greek root word for repentance is "metanoia," meaning a change of mind. Referencing hypocrites in Romans 2, the Apostle Paul declares that the goodness of God is at work to change the faulty thinking of such ones. How much more, therefore, is our Heavenly Father working to renew the minds of His trusting sons and daughters in the Lord Jesus Christ?

How we think affects everything in our lives, including our beliefs, attitudes, words, and actions. Changing any of these for the better requires the entrance of different thoughts reflective of God and His truth, and the examination and expulsion of contrary perspectives. We are dependent on Him for this process of sanctifying our minds, and the understanding that His goodness is always at work in leading us to repentance provides a strong foundation for the actual experience of a progressively changed mind, and the blessed fruit of a progressively godlier life.

Our calling is to recognize the need for such change, trust the Lord that He is the primary agent thereof, and participate by availing ourselves of the abundant resources He has given to renew our minds. The Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the church of God are the means by which He most often works.

First, the Holy Spirit indwells us, and is forevermore with us in a presence that is not static, but dynamic. Realizing that He is working to reveal truth about every matter in our lives with increasing clarity puts us in a frame of mind where we expect Him, and thus more often experience Him.

The Scriptures are also fundamental in the ongoing repentance that changes our minds and our lives. "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). Consistent reading and application of the Bible leads to consistent reorientation of our thinking in both doctrinal and personal terms.

Finally, regular fellowship with faithful brothers and sisters in Christ provides much help in the shining of God's light into our hearts and minds, and thus causing us to together "think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).

Our minds need to be changed. Good and true thinking needs to be enhanced with even better thinking. Wrong thoughts need to expunged by the entrance of truth. And new thoughts never before considered need to be added to our minds, causing us to know our God and His blessed reality in ways presently beyond our imagination. Realizing that our loving Heavenly Father is working to accomplish this purpose, and that it is His goodness that leads us to repentance will go far in enabling us to know a changed mind, and a changed life.

"Be renewed in the spirit of your mind."
(Ephesians 4:23)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"The Rest of Our Lives"

In praying about a challenging matter recently, I expressed to the Lord that I wanted to faithfully walk with Him therein for the rest of my life.

The thought immediately occurred to me that "the rest of my life" is simply today. We have no guarantees that we will be in the world tomorrow, and the day in which we live is therefore our only assured opportunity to trust and obey God.

"O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness" (Psalm 95:6-8).

In particularly challenging issues concerning godliness, it is a great comfort to realize that our Lord does not call us to faithfulness beyond this present day. Our spiritual enemies would have us view our lives in such large terms that the small matters of the day - where life is actually lived, and where the provision of God actually exists - are neglected due to a clouded focus. Recognizing that we are called to faithfulness only in the present moment illuminates our heart with the light of truth and reality, and enables us to see God's "I AM" in the now where by definition His "I AM" can only exist (Exodus 3:14).

Great challenge also awaits us in this perspective. Our flesh loves the notion of looking beyond today because it is infected with the pride of believing that we will be on the planet tomorrow, and that we can even determine the course, nature, and condition of the future. "Ye shall be as gods" said Satan to our original forefathers, and part of being a deity is confidence in our ability to dictate tomorrow as well as today (Genesis 3:5). Living in the present therefore requires putting to death this proud notion by the humble acknowledgment that the living and true God is God, and we are not. Accordingly, we walk with Him in the only hour that He assures. This hour.

"The rest of our lives," is today, or more literally, the rest of our lives is this moment. Trust and obedience is possible only right now. Grace for such godliness is only available right now. Great rest of heart, and great faithfulness awaits us as we attend ourselves to the matter at hand, and to the living presence of the great I AM.

"Go to now, ye that say, Today or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil."
(James 4:13-16)