Friday, April 30, 2010

Confession and Conduct

All born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ hold truths in our hearts that are dear in principle and conviction, but are not always consistently manifested in our attitudes and actions.

There are several reasons for this discrepancy. Let us consider first the possibility of hypocrisy. Believers are tempted to think and say one thing, but do another. How easy it is to assume that because we strongly believe a particular truth of Scripture, we are also faithfully fulfilling the calling of that truth. "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (I John 3:18). The Lord Jesus railed against hypocrisy more than any other sin, and we do well to consistently seek His conviction concerning matters in which our confession is not accompanied by conduct. "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults" prayed the Psalmist, and the possibility of hypocrisy should be at the top of the list of such prayers (Psalm 19:12).

It is also true that our convictions are not fully manifested in our conduct because the standards to which we aspire are infinite in their perfection. Believers are being conformed to the image of the Christ whose person, nature, and way are beyond our highest conception of goodness. He was tortured to death, and forsaken of God and man not for His friends, but for His enemies (Romans 5:8-10). We have no frame of reference for such sublime character, but our Lord is nevertheless working to produce the same in us. However, we will not fully attain to Christ's perfection in this lifetime, and thus our aspirations cannot be completely manifested in our actions.

Finally, God's grace and mercy are revealed in His patience with His trusting, but sometimes wayward children. There is never an excuse for sin, and our Heavenly Father never tempts us or leads us to sin. However, the believer's testimony of experiencing God's ongoing forgiveness and cleansing when necessary provides a powerful influence for leading other Christians to the fount of cleansing, and also unbelievers to faith in so gracious a Savior. Honest confession that our conduct sometimes does not coincide with our confession gives us opportunity to bear witness to so great salvation, and so great a Savior. In our present existence and calling to lead sinners to faith in the Lord Jesus, such testimony speaks more clearly than a pristinely perfect life could ever declare. As one young believer once told me, "I know that God never determines our sin. But He sure does take advantage of it by showing us His grace and mercy in a greater way!"

"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
(Galatians 5:25)

Confession and Conduct

All born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ hold truths in our hearts that are dear in principle and conviction, but are not always consistently manifested in our attitudes and actions.

There are several reasons for this discrepancy. Let us consider first the possibility of hypocrisy. Believers are tempted to think and say one thing, but do another. How easy it is to assume that because we strongly believe a particular truth of Scripture, we are also faithfully fulfilling the calling of that truth. "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (I John 3:18). The Lord Jesus railed against hypocrisy more than any other sin, and we do well to consistently seek His conviction concerning matters in which our confession is not accompanied by conduct. "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults" prayed the Psalmist, and the possibility of hypocrisy should be at the top of the list of such prayers (Psalm 19:12).

It is also true that our convictions are not fully manifested in our conduct because the standards to which we aspire are infinite in their perfection. Believers are being conformed to the image of the Christ whose person, nature, and way are beyond our highest conception of goodness. He was tortured to death, and forsaken of God and man not for His friends, but for His enemies (Romans 5:8-10). We have no frame of reference for such sublime character, but our Lord is nevertheless working to produce the same in us. However, we will not fully attain to Christ's perfection in this lifetime, and thus our aspirations cannot be completely manifested in our actions.

Finally, God's grace and mercy are revealed in His patience with His trusting, but sometimes wayward children. There is never an excuse for sin, and our Heavenly Father never tempts us or leads us to sin. However, the believer's testimony of experiencing God's ongoing forgiveness and cleansing when necessary provides a powerful influence for leading other Christians to the fount of cleansing, and also unbelievers to faith in so gracious a Savior. Honest confession that our conduct sometimes does not coincide with our confession gives us opportunity to bear witness to so great salvation, and so great a Savior. In our present existence and calling to lead sinners to faith in the Lord Jesus, such testimony speaks more clearly than a pristinely perfect life could ever declare. As one young believer once told me, "I know that God never determines our sin. But He sure does take advantage of it by showing us His grace and mercy in a greater way!"

"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
(Galatians 5:25)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Son Of God, the Son Of Man

In both Heaven and earth, there is no one like the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the God who is man, and the man who is God. The Divine and the human perfectly unite in Christ without compromising Deity, or unduly elevating the created nature of humanity.

“Great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh” (I Timothy 3:16).

Our Lord’s dual but perfectly complementary nature is the reason that one day “every knee should bow to Him, of things in Heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” (Philippians 2:10). According to His eternal purpose in Christ, God caused something to exist other than Himself. He made a universe of things, angels, and human beings in order to form a creation that exists along with its Creator. The two, the Creator and His creation, forever exist in relationship to one another, but remain distinct and separate.

In one Person, however, one glorious, wondrous, and mysterious Person, the Creator and His creation are one. The Infinite and the finite unite in the Lord Jesus, and thus both Heaven and earth must acknowledge and affirm the Apostle Paul’s declaration of the supremacy of Christ:
“He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

In the ultimate sense, the will of God is never a mystery. He is working all things after the counsel of His own will for the purpose of exalting and revealing the Christ who is the Son of God and the son of man. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else. Indeed, when all is said and done, only one will be left standing – on nail-scarred Feet.

The Holy Spirit is presently working in both Heaven and earth to fulfill this eternal purpose.
“Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me” (John 16:13-14).

“When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me” (John 15:26).
There is the Creator, and there is creation. This is all that exists. God’s determination of this reality led to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus as a man who would be required to redeem creation from sin. It is also the reason for His supremacy because no other being spans the seemingly impassable gulf between the Creator and His creation. By Biblical definition, the Divine and the human are so different in being, character, nature, and way that it seems impossible that the two can dwell in a perfect unity of oneness. Nevertheless, in the Lord Jesus, God is man, man is God, and the Creator and creation coexist in the most sublime of all wonders. Yes, in both Heaven and earth, there is no one like the Lord Jesus Christ.

"God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8-9).

"A body hast Thou prepared for Me." (Hebrews 10:5)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Found In the Heart

The prayers God answers are the prayers He originates.

"For Thou, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to Thy servant, saying, I will build Thee an house: therefore hath Thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto Thee" (II Samuel 7:27).

David "found in his heart" the leading and enabling of his Lord to pray in accordance with God's will. God illuminated David with the knowledge of His purposes concerning David's house and lineage, a heritage that would ultimately lead to the Lord Jesus Christ. "Christ cometh of the seed of David." David's prayer therefore began in Heaven, was faithfully assimilated and prayed upon the earth, and then returned to Heaven fragranced with the Divine and human elements that true prayer always involves (John 7:42).

We "ask amiss" when prayer originates not with God, but with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Doubtless billions of such prayers have been prayed in human history, and doubtless we have all participated in misguided offerings. Prayer is at once so simple that a child can perform the act, and so mysterious that no less than the Apostle Paul himself confessed, "we know not what to pray for as we ought." A good friend has suggested that one of the best things we can say to God as our prayer begins is the admission, "Lord, I don't know what I'm doing here!" We don't, and thus the Holy Spirit is required to lead and enable us to pray in a manner that satisfies both God's heart and our own. This makes prayer a matter of both relationship and Truth as we trust our Lord for His moving within our hearts, and we seek His Word in how to relate to God so we can have confidence that we are rightly responding to Him (Romans 8:26).

We wouldn't want it to be any other way. By definition, prayer is the act of acknowledging the greatness of God, and the weakness of humanity. "O Lord my God, Thou art very great... Lord, make me to know how frail I am." Whether we directly utter the words or not, our prayers must always be graced with the awareness of complete dependence on the Spirit of the Lord Jesus to work in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure." He is the beginning and the ending, the Alpha and Omega of true prayer, and all glory is His when a trusting believer call us upon God, and God answers. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" declared Paul. Nothing more requires the power of "through Christ" than prayer, and nothing more thrills our hearts than those times we can confess with David, "Thy servant hath within his heart to pray this prayer unto Thee" (Psalm 104:1; 39:4; Philippians 2:13; 4:13).

"Call unto Me, and I will answer Thee, and show Thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."
(Jeremiah 33:3)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Advantage Of Ignorance (In Our Prayers)

An old acquaintance came to mind yesterday, a man with whom I've had no contact in over 7 years. I decided to pray for him, and realized that I really don't know anything about my friend's present life.

Rather than a liability, the realization of our ignorance is actually an advantage in our prayers. By definition, prayer is the acknowledging to our Lord that He is God, and we are not. We seek Him because we need Him to do something for us and others that we cannot do ourselves. Just as importantly, the act of prayer directly or tacitly admits that we do not fully know what the beneficiary of our praying actually needs. Again, God is God, we are not, and only He sees through to the heart of every matter and every person.

Prayer for my old friend thus became more an affirmation of who God is and what He can do rather than a focus on my friend. "Heavenly Father, I thank You that John (not his name) lives and moves and have his being in You. I thank You that he is 'naked and opened' unto Your eyes. And I thank You that John's past and future are as perfectly known by You as is his present. Upon this basis, I ask You to work in John's life according to Your glory, will, and eternal purpose in Christ, and according to the needs of John and those with whom he lives his life." I also prayed about several matters concerning John that were actually specific to him, although again, I have very little knowledge of his present life and experience (Acts 17:28; Hebrews 4:13; Psalm 147:5).

I think that such God-centered prayer faithfully expresses the Bible's teaching in this most blessed matter. Prayer is about His interests primarily. The more His glory and will is furthered in the life of those for whom we pray, the more their interests will also be benefited. In the past, I have often finished praying for someone and been concerned that perhaps I missed a detail. There is little cause for such concern, because the human factors of our prayers, while certainly important, are the not the primary issue. Divine factors must be our focus, and as we affirm His dynamic working and involvement in our praying, our Heavenly Father will reveal Himself as needed in the earthly details and aspects that concern us.

Only God knows the heart, from which the issues of life proceed. Only He has seen every moment of our lives. Only He defines and perfectly knows our needs. The act of prayer, by Biblical definition, acknowledges these truths, and forms in us the proper attitude of humility and dependence. Thereby we can pray with great assurance, not in ourselves or our ability to pray, but in the perfectly wise and faithful Lord to whom we direct our requests.

"The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
(Romans 8:26)

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Ability of Availability

"Our greatest ability is availability." The old axiom is true, and faithful to Scripture.

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Hebrews 12:1).

The born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is an abundantly gifted and equipped creation of God, capable of great things for his Savior's glory. The Christian's capacities, however, were not spiritually birthed to be used independently.

"Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).

"True holiness" means that we are separated unto the Lord Jesus for His purposes. We belong to Him, we know it, and we consistently acknowledge the reality of being "bought with a price." In essence, we ask God to avail Himself of His rightful claim upon us, working in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure." The gifts He bestowed upon us through the indwelling Holy Spirit are thus energized to fulfill the reason for our existence. Our abilities are actualized by their availability to God (I Corinthians 6:20; Philippians 2:13).

Recognizing that we belong to God rather than ourselves prepares us to be "a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work." Thereby we live in the Biblically-defined faith of both trust and submission of ourselves to the Lord. "Ye are not your own" declared Paul, and there are few greater assurances of peace in Scripture. Indeed, only one benevolent master exists in the universe. All others, including ourselves, destroy us as they govern us. Making our abilities available to God for His purposes enlivens us and brings our hearts to rest even we are mightily energized to stand, walk, and run for the glory of the Lord Jesus (II Timothy 2:21; I Corinthians 6:19).

"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
(Matthew 11:28-30)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Three Thousand Dead, Three Thousand Alive - And Counting

(The 3,000th Orange Moon devotional. From the bottom of my heart, I am thanking God for all of you as I send this out. And I thank you. Glen).

Three thousand people died on the day the law was given. Three thousand people were born again unto eternal life on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given.

"And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us... And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men" (Exodus 32:1; 27-28).

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Exodus 32:27-28; Acts 2:41).

"The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" (II Corinthians 3:6).

The law was perfect, but it could not save sinners from their sin. It was rather given to be a "schoolmaster to lead us to Christ." The law was the character of Christ in moral, ethical, and ritual form, and the failure of Israel and all of humanity to fulfill its tenets revealed our need for "a new and living way" to God (Romans 7:12; Galatians 3:24; Hebrews 10:20).

"I am the way" declared the Lord Jesus. Only Christ can save us from the sin that dominates our hearts until His Spirit enters our innermost being to make us His home. The law spoke to man from without; the grace of God confronts us from within by the conviction of the Holy Spirit as He personally confronts us with God's gift of a Savior, and our condition as condemned sinners. Only the Lord Jesus can change our heart, and thus establish the process whereby our sins are forgiven, and we are increasingly conformed to His spiritual and moral image (John 14:6).

We only truly live when we are trusting God in the submission of faith as revealed and defined by the Word of God. All other experience is actually a form of death, and produces little more than chaff driven away by the wind. "To live is Christ" wrote the Apostle Paul, and nothing else qualifies. Grace gives to us the living person of the Lord Jesus, and we "live by Him." The testimony of three thousand on the day of Pentecost, and countless multitudes throughout the centuries, bears witness to the Savior who is "the resurrection and the life." May our Heavenly Father illuminate us more and more with the wonder of being alive unto Him because we are spiritually united with the Christ whose promise shines within our hearts...

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

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"No Fear In Love"

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear" (I John 4:18).

The realized love of Christ and fear are mutually exclusive, and cannot co-exist in us.

When we allow worry and the sense of insecurity to control us, we focus on ourselves rather than the glory of God and the blessing of others. This is true even when our fears concern others such as our loved ones. We do them no service when legitimate concern leads to fear rather than faith because the love of the Lord Jesus Christ does not flow from the self-centeredness of being afraid. "Charity (love)... seeketh not her own" declared the Apostle Paul, and thus our loved ones need from us not the selfishness of fear, but the unselfishness that always flows from confidence in the Lord Jesus (I Corinthians 13:5).

"What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psalm 56:3).

Note David's directing of attention away from his feelings and perceptions of jeopardy to confidence in the faithfulness of God. Such response empowered by the Holy Spirit makes possible the working of God in us for His glory and the blessing of others. We live assuredly from strength, His strength, rather than the weakness of our flesh. Christ is exalted, and when our temptations to fear concern others, He is revealed to them through the confident prayers we pray, and through our attitude and demeanor of God-centered peace (as opposed to flesh-centered uncertainty and fear). Our actions also reflect the fact that we are led and enabled by the love of Christ as His assurance leads and enables us. We "work the works of God" rather than the works of the flesh (John 6:28).

Few greater challenges confront us in our walk with God. More importantly, few greater opportunities await us as the uncertainties of life lead to conscious acts of "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." This is peace, the peace of Christ's love that blessedly casts away the self-centeredness of fear by replacing it with our Lord's selfless devotion to our Heavenly Father and the needs of others (Hebrews 12:2).

"Faith... worketh by love."
(Galatians 5:6)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Not Unto Us!"

"And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein" (Acts 14:12-15).

The godly preacher and teacher finds horrific the drawing of people to himself rather than the Lord Jesus Christ whom he represents, and seeks to glorify.

Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes in anguish when the people sought to worship them, and vehemently proclaimed as vain the honoring of anyone other than the living God. All who represent the Lord Jesus must aggressively seek to exalt Him and direct attention away from themselves. "Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give glory!" prayed David. Furthermore, those who seek for genuine preachers and teachers must aggressively seek the ministry of those who confess "like passions with you," and thus the turning to the living God who alone is worthy of trust and devotion (Psalm 115:1).

We live in a generation wherein such truth is often forgotten, neglected, or even rejected. It is not easy to find men like Paul and Barnabas who understand how easily the trust of people is directed toward the messenger rather than the Savior. However, we must prayerfully make the effort to listen only to those who aggressively deemphasize their own names, faces, and merits as they spotlight the Lord Jesus. We will be held accountable for the choices we make concerning those spiritual influences to whom we expose ourselves, and the self-important, self-serving and self-exalting will inevitably mislead us (even if their message is reasonably faithful to Scripture). There are few more important issues in our walk with God, and may He lead us to those who join Paul, Barnabas, and David in the sincere and passionate determination, "Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us!"

"Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou only art holy."
(Revelation 15:4)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"On Every Page, and In Every Word"

In a recent reading of the opening chapters of I Kings in the Old Testament, I was fascinated by the intricate detail that went into the building of Solomon's temple (I Kings 5-8).

"Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life. And they are they which testify of Me" (John 5:39).

The intricacies of the temple point to the intricacies of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. "They testify of Me" declared the Lord Jesus of the Old Testament, and thus the entire Bible offers to us the possibility of seeing the glorious wonder of the God who is man, and the man who is God (John 5:39).

Our hearts and minds were made for this, and our fulfillment hinges upon devotion to the centrality of Christ in Scripture, and in all things.

"He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18).

To know who God is, we must know the Lord Jesus. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." To know who man is intended to be, we must know the Lord Jesus. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who... was made in the likeness of men." The second Person of the triune Godhead is also the "second man" who redeems the trusting heart from the spiritual and moral disaster of the first man Adam. Christ is both the Son of God and the son of man, and thus in Heaven and earth, there is no one like our blessed Lord (John 1:18; Philippians 2:5-7; I Corinthians 15:47).

The Bible, God's perfect Word formed and written through human agencies, exists for the purpose of revealing the Divine/human Lord Jesus. The intricacy of Solomon's temple and the entire Old Testament reveal the ineffable wonder of Christ in countless ways. Many lifetimes of study would not be adequate to understand how all point to the person and work of our Savior. Our main objective in reading the Bible must therefore involve the searching for the Lord Jesus in either the diffused light of the Old Testament, or the direct light of the New. Rich veins of God's Spirit and truth will bless our pursuit, and we will be increasingly changed into the spiritual and moral image of the glorious One who dwells on every page, and in every word of the Bible...

"Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
(II Corinthians 3:18)

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Our Devising; His Directing"

From Lucifer in Heaven, to Adam in Eden, to unbelievers in this present hour, those who reject God do so in the deluded notion that life in the Lord's universe can be lived independently of Him.

"A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

A person can deny God to the extent that he blusters of atheism. He can make his plans, and boast of "doing my own thing." God nevertheless directs his steps. This does not mean that the unbeliever does the Lord's will in the sense of faith and devotion, and it certainly does not mean that the Lord instigates or affirms sin in any manner. However, the God who "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" nevertheless involves Himself in the pagan life for His own purposes. The supposed atheist "lives and moves and has his being" in God, and even his personally chosen steps of sin will be coordinated into the Lord's eternal purpose in Christ. "The LORD hath made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil" (Ephesians 1:11; Proverbs 16:4; Acts 17:28).

Along the way, the unbeliever can certainly thwart the will of God in the specific and personal sense, and his sin can impact others in a destructive way. Ultimately, however, evil will be so overcome by the Lord's good that it will have served His purposes. God is so wise, so powerful, and so loving that His allowance of evil in the universe does not and cannot thwart the fulfillment of His eternal purpose in Christ. For those who believe, such truth graces us with peace that passes understanding. For those who will not believe, such truth is hated in the present sense, and horrific concerning eternal destiny. We cannot escape the fact that we live in God's universe, and that He makes the rules, as it were. What we do is done with the breath He gives, and we have our being in Him. Our existence is Theocentric, either happily or unhappily, and for the trusting heart, all things will unquestionably and undeniably "work together for good" (Romans 8:28).

The cross of the Lord Jesus most illuminates this path of consideration. The worst thing that ever happened, the murder of the innocent Son of God "by wicked hands," was nevertheless the product of "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." Thus, for the believer, the worst thing is also the best thing because the death of the Lord Jesus as our sinbearer was our only hope for salvation. All other occurrences in space/time history pale in comparison to this, and therefore we must view all things through the dual lens of life lived freely, but also within the scope and direction of Divine purpose. There is no need to intellectually reconcile the two realities, and such an attempt may even do us spiritual harm. It is enough to know that "as for God, His way is perfect," "His understanding is infinite," and the heart of His Son bears the wound of a spear both Divinely and humanly inflicted to ensure us that holy wisdom and love pervade the unfathomable mystery of our devising and His directing. This is peace for the heart and mind of those who believe, and there is none other (Acts 2:23; II Samuel 22:31; Psalm 147:5; John 20:27).

"The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof."
(Psalm 97:1)

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Just as faith and obedience to God require His power rightly applied, so does unbelief and disobedience involve the misapplication of His enabling.

"Thus saith God the LORD, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein" (Isaiah 42:5).

Those who rage against God, whether vociferously or quietly, do so with the breath and spirit He provides. The very being of Satan himself is upheld by his Creator, and the devil can do nothing apart from the Lord's allowance. Recall that our enemy required God's permission to attack Job, and that "the messenger of Satan" who buffeted the Apostle Paul's flesh served the Divine purpose of Paul not being "exalted above measure because of the abundance of the revelations" that that had been given to him (Job 1:12; II Corinthians 12:7).

A myriad of mysteries arise upon such consideration, and most importantly, it is vital that we not assign the origin or doing of wickedness to God Himself. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." There is no greater doctrinal error than to directly or implicitly place responsibility for evil on the Lord of perfect righteousness, and we do well to avoid any such notion, or any purveyor of this blackness of darkness. "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works" (James 1:13; Psalm 145:17).

Still, God has anticipated from eternity past the doing of every wicked thing, and the doers use the "life and breath and all things" He provides for the accomplishment of sin. The Apostle Peter noted this strange (to our understanding) union of Divine perfection and human imperfection in the first Christian sermon ever preached. "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." What was the cross? Was it the will of God? Or was it wickedness, which by definition is not the will of God? It was both, and we must still our minds' restless yearning to reconcile contrary realities with the heart's assurance that as long as our Lord understands the mystery of His way, we can rest in perfect peace. "His understanding is infinite," and thus spans, encompasses, and transcends good and evil in a Mind that numberless eons from now will still be taking our breath away with wisdom that illuminates us even as it bewilders us (Acts 17:25; 2:23; Psalm 147:5).

We can trust someone like this, especially when we know that the heart of God is just as breathtaking as His mind. Our Heavenly Father is both infinitely wise and lovingly good, and in this moment and forevermore, the Spirit of God calls us to berth our own hearts and minds in the only safe harbor that exists for them...

"As for God His way is perfect... And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, and who are the called according to His purpose."
(II Samuel 22:31; Romans 8:28)

"Realm of Sweat... Realm of Rest"

In the natural realm, the Bible commands that work is the necessary forerunner of food.

"If any would not work, neither should he eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10).

Conversely, in the spiritual realm works do not obtain nor maintain our partaking of the free gift of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God and not of works, lest any man should boast... You are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (Ephesians 2:8-9; I Peter 1:4;5).

In our earthly existence, those unwilling to work should not eat. Conversely, in heavenly matters of relating to God, we starve spiritually if we attempt to earn favor with God by working. The dichotomy is striking, and raises the question of why our Heavenly Father has determined the difference in the two realms.

The first answer is that working for earthly sustenance results from God's judgment after Adam's sin. Before the first man fell, food was freely provided by the Creator. "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat" (emphasis added). After he sinned, however, Adam was required to work and sweat in order to eat. "In the sweat of thy face, thou shalt eat bread." This curse has not been removed from the natural realm because it serves the necessary purpose of revealing to humanity the terrible consequences of sin. Eating without fulfilling matters of personal responsibility therefore hinders the light of God in our lives, endangering our spiritual well being (Genesis 1:29; 3:19).

Eating without working also violates the truth and meaning of love. Except for very rare circumstances in the world as it presently exists, food must be obtained by work and sweat. Somebody has to put forth the effort, and those who eat apart from fulfilling personal responsibility do so upon the backs of others. This breeds the self-centeredness that is the very opposite of the love of God, and the love for Him and others to which He calls us. Fewer more devilish or carnal attacks can be made upon the soul of an able-bodied person than to give him that for which he should be required to work.

Finally, the sweat of the natural realm helps to prepare us for the rest of the spiritual realm. Work, tiredness, and struggle provide a backdrop for the message of another way, another world, and Another's provision of "every good gift and every perfect gift." Through Christ, God offers to us "milk without money and without price," freely blessing us with "all spiritual blessings" through the price that only One could have paid. A lifetime of sweat instills in us a longing for such an eternity wherein we will work for reasons other than mere bread. Indeed, we will labor in our heavenly destiny, but not for food. We will rather work from the power of the freely given"Bread of heaven," being liberated to accomplish greater things for greater purposes than mere survival (James 1:17; Isaiah 55:1; Ephesians 1:3; Psalm 105:40).

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
(Titus 3:5)

"Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth."
(Ephesians 4:28)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Scene Of Serenity"

"Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love" (II John 1:3).

Grace is God giving to us what the Lord Jesus Christ deserves. "We are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." Mercy is God having given to the Lord Jesus what we deserve. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Peace, peace between God and ourselves, is the blessed result. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:16-17; Isaiah 53:6; Romans 5:1).

"God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21).

Our Heavenly Father desires our hearts to be a tranquil scene of serenity. "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts." He has provided a salvation that makes such blessedness possible in a world wherein the tranquil and the serene are continually sought for, but rarely obtained. Only the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus can provide peace because humanity's problem is very different than most people consider. Circumstances, situations, and conditions have nothing to do with true peace. Right relationship with God has everything to do with our hearts being that tranquil scene of serenity. Recall the Lord Jesus asleep in the midst of the storm that threatened to sink the ship on which He sailed the Sea of Galilee. He was at peace because His relationship with His Father was secure and serene. This is peace. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else (Colossians 3:15; Mark 4:38).

When all is right between ourselves and God, all is right. Challenges, problems, pains, and difficulties will still abound in a world such as the one in which we live, but the peace of grace and mercy abides in all those who affirm that God has given to us what the Lord Jesus deserves, and to Him what we deserved. Most importantly, love will abide and flourish in all who grow in the wonder of so great a salvation. Love will beget love as our devotion to our Lord increasingly springs forth from the knowledge of His devotion to us. There is no other way to be at peace, and no other way that the genuine love for God can be formed in us. Thankfully, we need no other way.

"Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means."
(II Thessalonians 3:16)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"The Shadow Of Thy Wings"

Painful memories of the past tend to be very human, as it were. We often focus on ourselves and others as we recall difficulty, and may forget the involvement of someone else who was there as the most important party in every experience.

"God... worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:3; 11).

Nothing has ever happened in the life of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ that was not either determined or allowed by our Heavenly Father. Thus, we must never traverse the path of remembrance without Him. When we visit the past, we must always go there with God, and to God.

Certainly He was there in our blessings, and was in fact the Giver of them. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." We all have a deficit of thanksgiving, and fond recollection of good things and good times forms a holy altar of gratitude when memory is graced with expressed appreciation for Divine gifts of grace. "When I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate on Thee in the night watches. Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice" (James 1:17; Psalm 63:6-7).

Our Father was also there in our challenges, directly orchestrating some for purposes of maturing, disciplining, chastening, and perhaps most importantly, preparing us for ministry to others. Other pains resulted from the sins and injustices of a fallen world, and should not be viewed as the direct design of our Father's hand. However, just as no devilish or fleshly thing has ever happened in God's universe that He did not allow, so is this true in our personal lives. Nor has anything happened that took Him by surprise, or that He will not "work together for good" in the blessed purpose of conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). Certainly His allowances may be mysterious in the details, but there is no mystery in the overarching "shadow of Thy wings" under which every moment of our lives has been lived.

Again, when we visit the past, we must never go there without God, and we must go there to God. He was the great reality, the great fact, and the great influence of all, and we will one day see that nothing in our lives will have been wasted. Our Lord is that wise, that powerful, that loving, and journeys to the past with Him and to Him illuminates both blessed and difficult memories with the glorious light of the God who was there, even as He is here.

"I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Thy wonders of old."
(Psalm 77:11)

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Radiant Wonder"

In the preface to his book, "The Pursuit of God," A.W. Tozer wrote of "the radiant wonder that should accompany faith in Christ."

The Psalmist David also declared that the knowledge of God is the most fascinating of all understandings and sensibilities.

"Remember His wonders... Declare His wonders" (Psalm 105:5; 96:3).

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ ushers us into realities that are infinitely greater than anything the natural world has to offer. The many thrilling sights, sounds, visions, and experiences of creation all point to the greater things of the Creator who originated and empowers them. "The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead." "The things of Him," that is, the characteristics, ways, and nature of God Himself are the heart of all glory, and we miss truth and reality if we miss the "radiant wonder" that inhabits both Heaven and earth (Romans 1:20).

If God orchestrated our life so that we found ourselves alone on a deserted island, with only food, water, and shelter, could He nevertheless fulfill our hearts? Would His joy, peace, strength, and assurance remain? The answer is yes, but it would be required of us that we believe and submit ourselves to the truth of His willingness and ability to grace our lives with radiant wonder in any circumstance. This present moment commands that we affirm the singular filling and fulfilling of God Himself, and our experience of His wonder will grace our lives to the degree we believe the truth that if all we had was the Lord Jesus, we would have all. "Thou art God alone" (Psalm 86:10).

Believers must expect the glory of God to fill us in both awareness and experience. "I will look for Him." It is not inevitable that Tozer's "radiant wonder" will characterize our present life, and even dedicated believers sometimes occupy themselves with the hem of God's garment rather than with it's holy Wearer. We would all acknowledge that too often we have "worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever." We have exchanged the eternal for the temporal. Thankfully, one of the wondrous qualities of our Lord is forgiveness and the possibility of going forth anew and afresh to seek Him (a thing of radiant wonder itself). This moment offers the possibility if we have been distracted, and it is a matter of surviving and thriving that we establish God alone as the Life of our lives, the Blessing of our blessings, and the glory of our existence (Isaiah 8:17; Romans 1:25).

"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God."
(Colossians 3:1-2)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jackson and the Red Pen -- Conclusion

"I've got to tell" said our grandson Jackson upon learning that his grandmother Frances had given to him the rare treasure of a red pen.

Without realizing it, Jackson was echoing the sentiments of another beneficiary thrilled by a gift given from a loving benefactor.

"For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee. And again, I will put my trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given Me" (Hebrews 2:11-13).

The Lord Jesus Christ spoke these words of thrilled gratitude to His Father concerning the body of Christ. Our Savior considers us to be a gift given to Him by His Father. Let these words sink into your heart and mind for a moment, and then join me in being overwhelmed by the enormity of their meaning.

It is one thing to consider the Lord Jesus as God's gift to us. This He is, and eternity won't be long enough to extol the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for their bestowal upon believers of the freest gift ever given, the gift of salvation in Christ Jesus. However, it is another thing altogether that our Lord views us in such terms. There are fewer more spiritually counterintuitive thoughts. How can those such as ourselves possibly be God's gift to His Son?

First, our Lord lived, suffered, and died to be our Master and Elder Brother. Certainly He earned us as no one else has ever merited any hard won prize. This is true. Nevertheless, the Lord Jesus is of such heart and character that even a terrible, bloody, and forsaken cross is not considered in such terms. As Jacob's love for Rachel caused seven years of service to seem "but a few days," so does the love of Christ for you and me cause our Lord to view His untold sacrifices for us in far more limited terms than they actually involved. Amazing, and such love must cause in us a great deepening of how beloved we are, and how glorious is the Master who exults in the gift we are to Him. "For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame" (Genesis 29:20; Hebrews 12:2).

We also look at ourselves and wonder how we can be viewed by the Lord Jesus as a gift. Too often we have distrusted, disbelieved, and disobeyed Him, and too often we have acted as if we were not purchased by a price so high that eternity will never fully tell its dark measure. Still our Savior refers to Himself in the corporate terms of "I and the children," and says that God has given us to Him. Such affirmation is based on what He has already done in us, but also upon what will be done. The good work begun in all His trusting children will be finished, we will be conformed to His image, and a forever of the Beloved and His beloved will reveal that somehow, some way, we are the gift of the Father to His Son (Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:29).

"I've got to tell!" - "Behold I and the children which God hath given to Me" - Jackson and the Lord Jesus unite to remind us of the wonder of a child, and the greater wonder of a Savior. Thanks to both, and we close by joining the Apostle Paul in expressing the gratitude of our heart to the Father who loves His Son, and who loves us...

"Now thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift."
(II Corinthians 9:15)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Jackson and the Red Pen -- Part 4

The red pen that so thrilled our grandson Jackson costs about fifteen cents when purchased in bulk. It was worth far more to him, however, because his grandmother gave it to him, and because childrens' value systems allow them to appreciate things adults take for granted.

Consider, for example, how valued an inexpensive ball point pen would have been by writers of the Middle Ages. A neat, efficient, and continuously writing instrument would have been considered almost miraculous, and cherished as a precious thing. In our day, it's a throw away item at the first hint of failing to perform as we expect, and replaced by another pen from the same package without a thought.

It is very difficult to appreciate things in a generation of such innovation, technology, and abundance. Sometimes when I'm taking out the garbage, I am tempted to grumble until I remember that the throwaways I am discarding represent the fact of how bountifully God has provided. A banana peel speaks of a banana, an empty milk carton recalls the milk, and trash is the remnant of treasure. Such remembrance makes taking out the garbage an act of appreciation and worship if we are thinking rightly, that is, if we remember that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).

Jackson reminds us that small gifts are gifts nonetheless, and when we consider that God supplies all our need "by Christ Jesus," the truth of the matter is that there are no small gifts. Apart from the person and work of our Savior, God could impart only wrath and rejection to the human race. By the Lord Jesus, however, saving grace is imparted to those who believe, and even unbelievers are in this present life the beneficiaries of the Father who "maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Our Lord's sacrifice of Himself makes such grace possible, and magnifies even the seemingly smallest bestowal of God into a rare and precious thing (Philippians 4:19; Matthew 5:45).

Our next breath will be a gift of the God who "giveth to all life and breath and all things." It will have been purchased by the blood of the Lord Jesus. And if we follow Jackson's example, we will appreciate this "red pen" that is actually something far more precious and valuable (Acts 17:25).

"The eyes of all wait upon Thee; and Thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."
(Psalm 145:16)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jackson and the Red Pen -- Part 3

Had he not been curious about the contents of Frances's workbag, Jackson would never have found the red pen that led to his excited exclamation, "I've got to tell!"

Genuine and effectual witness by born again believers results from a similar exploration and the desire to tell what we've found. The person of God and His doings are the "workbag" into which we venture for the purpose of finding "the unsearchable riches of Christ." There are gifts of infinite variety, measure, and number in His blessed Person, and of His doings the Psalmist declared, "The LORD is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works. All Thy works shall praise Thee, O LORD; and Thy saints shall bless Thee. They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power; to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom" (Ephesians 3:8; Psalm 145:9-12).

There are numerous ways we explore God's Person and doings. First, we consistently read and ponder His Word. As a good friend says, the Bible is "Christ in print," and the humble, trusting heart will often find the face of God shining forth from the Scriptural facts of God.

The Holy Spirit also personally illuminates our hearts and minds with the Lord Jesus as we walk with God. Our Lord is with and within us, and the Christian life is precisely that - it is a life, the very Life of Christ revealed to us and within us as trust and submit ourselves to God by faith.

We also encounter the Lord Jesus in our brothers and sisters who share with us "His inheritance in the saints." How often do our fellow believers' faces, words, attitudes, and actions serve as the wings of the wind of God's Spirit, presenting to us our Lord in unmistakable presence, goodness, and supply. I love the Psalmists' sublime description of such glory: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore" (Psalm 133:1-3).

Finally, and I want to emphasize this point in our present consideration, Jackson delved into Frances's workbag with the expectation that he would not return disappointed. The universe is God's workbag, as it were. Our lives are His workbag. Today and this moment are His workbag! Born again believers are in Christ and Christ is in us. He is our life. He is the center and circumference of all things in our existence, and He "worketh all things after the counsel of His will." The Bible presents to us an all-involved and dyamically active God in whom we "live and move and have our being." As we often suggest, we are as fish that swim in the ocean that is our Lord. Our response must therefore be the opening of our eyes and our being to the Light that shines in the bright noonday, the dark night, and the twilight of both dawn and the receding day. There are red pens everywhere for the Jacksons who know and expect that our Lord's workbag is full of fascination, wonder, and life changing blessedness. "My expectation is from Him" (Ephesians 1:11; Colossians 3:4; Acts 17:28; Psalm 62:5).

The more red pens we find, we more "I've got to tell!" becomes the consuming passion of our lives. And the more we expect red pens of infinite variety and experience to be waiting for us in God's working in our lives, the more we will find them. Our witness is and must be response to His working, and our ongoing awareness that "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17).

"I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless Thee; and I will praise Thy name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honor of Thy majesty, and of Thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of Thy terrible acts: and I will declare Thy greatness."
(Psalm 145:1-6)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jackson And the Red Pen - Part 2

Our grandson Jackson's thrilled response to his grandmother's gift of the red pen led to his desire to share the story of his good fortune. "I've got to tell!" he said with all the enthusiasm of someone who knows that a treasure has just been found and obtained.

The born again believer will experience the same longing to share our blessedness as we consistently walk with the God who "out of His infinite riches in Jesus, giveth and giveth and giveth again." The Christian life begins with the living Word of God inhabiting our very being. By definition, such a One indwelling our spirits will move upon us and within us to bear witness of such goodness. This is the reason the Apostle Paul declared our words to be a factor in salvation.

"If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9-10).

Paul knew that a true experience of Christ would lead to genuine desire to give to others what we ourselves have been given. Our testimony is the means by which we share the gift, and it is impossible that the love of Christ can authentically be received without it also birthing the "I've got to tell" desire expressed by Jackson concerning his red pen. The issue is not so much a matter of responsibility as it is of a can't help it passion experienced by all who are the beneficiaries of "so great salvation." Indeed, to the degree we are walking in the grace and truth of the Lord Jesus will be the degree to which His "burning and shining light" inevitably motivates us to glimmer forth with the testimony of God's goodness to us (Hebrews 2:3; John 5:35).

I grew up in a spiritual tradition that emphasizes witness more as a matter of obligation than the abundant overflow of a grateful heart and a subsequently motivated tongue (an emphasis that was rarely successful in fostering witness in most believers). Certainly there is truth in the notion of responsibility to tell. However, the dynamic of grace and truth in the Lord Jesus as taught in the New Testament emphasizes that our faithfulness is always fruit rather than root. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him." Reception first, then the subsequent walk of faith and obedience - this is the dynamic that originated our relationship with God, and the dynamic by which it must continue. The mechanism of grace and truth includes our witness, and our mouths will bear genuine and effective witness only as Christ is known as the abundance of our hearts (Colossians 2:6; Matthew 12:34).

The Christian life involves an ongoing reception of "life and breath and all things." Just as importantly, it is meant to be a conscious experience of "the unsearchable riches of Christ." To the degree that it is will be the degree to which the "I've got to tell" empowers and motivates our tongues. We all have different lives and callings, of course, and our Lord will lead us accordingly. We therefore do well to ask Him for many opportunities to "tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love." And we do even better to ask Him for the living experience of Christ whereby our words are weighted with His love received in us, and then inevitably declared by us (Acts 17:25; Ephesians 3:8).

"Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me."
(Acts 1:8)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jackson and the Red Pen - Part 1

Frances loves playing with our grandchildren Jackson (3), and Emma (2). During a visit to our house last week, Jackson was fascinated by one of Frances's pens, a red ball point that costs about fifteen cents when bought in bulk.

To fully appreciate this story, you must understand that pens also fascinate Frances. She owns multitudes of them, from the inexpensive variety that that intrigued Jackson, to various others that cost more and fulfill various functions in her career as a nurse, her calling as a writer, and her artistic gifting. Her most cherished model is an old fountain pen given to her by our dear friend, the writer Jay Grelen. It is reserved for the most special literary and artistic occasions, and is precious to her for both personal and functional reasons.

Here's the story. Frances allowed Jackson to explore her workbag, and he found a blue marker. "You can't have that, Jackson" said Frances. Jackson put the marker back and pulled out the red pen. His grandmother indicated that he could he have this one.

"I can have it?" he asked.

"Yes, Jackson, you can have it."

"You mean I can keep it?"

"Yes, you can keep it."

"I can take it home?"

"You can take it home."

"I can keep it forever?"

"Yes, Jackson, you can keep it forever."

"Forever and ever?"

"Forever and ever. The pen is yours."

Jackson was amazed. His grandmother was giving him a treasure that must certainly be one of her most prized possessions. He thought for a moment, and then declared that the story must be told, the moment shared, and the gift communicated to others.

"I've got to tell Granny, PawPaw, and Erin about this! (meaning his maternal grandparents and their daughter). While he didn't say it in so many words, Jackson's view of the matter was clear: "This is big, and the story has to be told!"


About a million spiritual implications shine forth from this wonderful moment in Jackson and Frances's relationship. I hardly know where to begin, so this week I am going to pick one each day and share it with you.

I suppose the most obvious is our starting point. If we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, not only has He saved us, but He has also privileged us with the wonderful blessing of telling others about it. "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so" declared the Psalmist. This is not primarily a matter of responsibility, but of grace and mercy beyond comprehension. Indeed, how can God entrust to us the sharing of His goodness with others? Certainly, the light of the stars, the waves of the ocean, or the voices of angels would provide a more adequate sounding and resounding of the song of salvation. Certainly our feeble voices could never be the instruments upon which the anthem is played, and surely our words must fall to the ground almost as soon as they leave our mouths when we attempt to express the grace of so glorious a God (Psalm 107:2).

Not so. Our words of testimony are God's chosen way of spreading His Word from shore to shore. As led and enabled by the Holy Spirit, believers are powerfully equipped to bear witness to the saving grace of the Christ who spiritually inhabits our words and uses them to personally present Himself to our hearers. "Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel!" declared the Apostle Paul. Our brother of old did not mean this so much in terms of failed responsibility as he did the fact that his redeemed heart had to find release for the glory that resided within. "The love of Christ constraineth me" declared Paul, and it constrains us also to tell "the old, old Story of Jesus and His love." Our witness is and must be the overflow of our living experience of the Lord Jesus, and the voices of stars, oceans, and even angels could not so effectually present Him to our peers (I Corinthians 9:16; II Corinthians 5:14).

"I've got to tell!" I know how Jackson feels. I am privileged with the opportunity of preaching, teaching, and singing in almost 300 meetings a year. Very often when I am traveling to a service, the overwhelming thought occurs to me that I am going to tell people precious to God that He has given a gift beyond compare or description. It matters not whether the audience is believer or unbeliever. The truth is the same. At the cost of Himself, the Lord Jesus made possible living relationship with God, and He offers it as the freest gift ever given. For the unbeliever, the gift must be received through repentance and faith. For the believer, the gift must be acknowledged as dynamically present and active. The thought is thrilling, and the opportunity to tell people of so wondrous a bestowal of love sometimes impacts me so deeply that I nearly have to pull my car over to the side of the road.

"I've got to tell!" Yes we do. Believers are God's chosen lamps of His light. Thanks so much, Jackson, for the example. And thanks to the Lord Jesus for not only the gift of His saving grace, but also the privilege of our being called and enabled to bear witness of the freest and most precious gift ever given.

"Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh."
(Matthew 12:34)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"Exceeding, Abundantly Above"

Easter 2010

(For Frances, who continually "stands, walks, leaps, and praises")

Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are supercharged spiritual dynamos of our Savior's life, power, and ability to glorify and obey God.

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Of course, we don't always feel, look, or act like it. Our experience of the Truth is not perfect in this present life, for many reasons. Our flesh is strongly tempted to follow emotions, contrary thoughts, and appearance. A fallen world screams and whisper to us that if God exists, He is far away and uninvolved. Or if He is present, our sins and failures are too many and too great to expect "the power that worketh in us" to actually work in us. And our spiritual enemies work incessantly to counter any notion the we can "do all things through Christ" (Philippians 4:13).

The latter point is often missed. Satan and his minions are more aware than we are of the truth that God has "given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3). 2,000 years of church history, beginning with the empty Tomb, has led to continual bludgeoning of our enemies by those who affirm that Christians are temples of the risen Christ who trampled the devil under His nail-scarred feet when He exited the grave. Thus, our enemy seeks to blind and discourage us concerning the "exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think" working of God upon us and within us.

What else can the devil do? He cannot steal the Spirit of Christ from our hearts. Nor can he change the fact that more power resides in one syllable uttered by our indwelling Lord than anything Satan can or ever will do (indeed, the devil's very existence is dependent on the Christ whose word "upholds all things" - Hebrews 1:3). Our enemy can only seek to cast a shroud upon our knowledge and confidence of the power that teems within our born again spirits, the power that created the universe and raised the Lord Jesus from the dead.

I am convinced that if we could audibly hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, "Get up!" would be a constant refrain. "Rise up and walk" said the Apostle Peter to the man whose formerly lame legs had just become the scene of the exceeding, abundant power of God. The man rose up, but he didn't simply walk. "He, leaping up, stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God." This wonderful physical healing speaks even more to the spiritual energizing of the body of Christ. We are the scene and eternal abidingplace of the risen Lord Jesus. His resurrection is our resurrection, and "exceeding, abundantly above" is "the power that worketh in us." We can trust and obey God through Christ, and we can joyfully live lives that reveal to our world that the Tomb is empty and the heavenly Throne is occupied. We must, because our Savior sacrificed too much for us to fail to avail ourselves of the vibrant Life even now teems within our Christ-inhabited spirits.

The Apostle Paul prayed for such awareness and affirmation in the Ephesian believers. We close with our brother's intercession, and with our own that we all will recognize and believe that the resurrection of Christ is not merely a historical fact of 2,000 years ago, or a promise of life abundant in the hereafter. It is the reality of this and of every moment, and regardless of contrary appearance, emotion, or evidence, the Lord Jesus is risen from the dead. As believers of old declared "He is risen indeed," and in the most wondrous of miracles, we are "risen with Him." Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, we are risen indeed! May nothing hinder our knowledge and affirmation thereof, and let us stand, walk, leap, and praise (Acts 3:8; Colossians 2:12).

"Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."
(Ephesians 1:15-23)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Transcended and Transformed

Deep in humanity is the longing for other worldly beings who transcend our own intellect, capacity, and awareness. Fairy tales, fantasy, science fiction, and horror fascinate us with the imagination of greater realms, greater realities, and greater entities than ourselves.

The born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ understands this yearning, having committed both time and eternity to an other worldly Being. In fact, we believe that the longing for the transcendent in the human race is the fruit of God's existence, and of the fact that "in Him we live and move and have our being." Someone exists who is greater than ourselves, and who dynamically and intimately involves Himself in every moment of our lives, whether we know it or not (Acts 17:28).

More importantly, and in stark contrast to worldly fantasy, the living God makes spiritual and moral claims on us. He commands that we consider His Word, taking at face value its propositional truths that call us to repent, believe, obey, and love Him and others rather than ourselves. This is rarely the case in fictional literature and film. Fanciful villains may threaten, scare, and even harm us, but almost never do they call us to be more than we are, and better than we are. Thus, we are far more naturally inclined to imaginary beings who entertain, fascinate, and even terrify us rather than challenge us.

"This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).

The old axiom well expresses the truth: "God loves us as we are, but He also loves us enough to not leave us as we are." Open the pages of Scripture with a humble, trusting, and submitted heart, and we can be sure that change is coming. Our flesh may resist the loving intrusion, but if we are born of the Holy Spirit, our spirits yearn for the light of God that illuminates, encourages, and commands us to soar upward and away from ourselves. Indeed, the born again believer is himself an other-worldly being whose affection is set "on things above, and not on the earth." Deep within our innermost being, we desire our Heavenly Father to call us to the more and the better made possible by the Spirit of Christ who dwells therein. We can be sure that this is exactly what He is doing as His truth transforms rather than titillates us (Colossians 3:2).

"For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."
(Romans 8:29)

"We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty."
(II Peter 2:16)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"One Drop - Part 2"

"One drop of Christ's blood is worth more than all the good works done in the history of man" - Larry Voas.

Any attempt to add works to the redeeming efficacy of the Lord Jesus Christ reveals an inadequate understanding of how much He suffered in order to save us. It also implies a failure to grasp how deeply sin is woven into the heart of humanity until Christ saves and changes us.

The depths of our Lord's sufferings are dark and unfathomable. The very fact of becoming human was a sacrifice, as the Infinite became forever housed within the finite confines of a human soul and body. A lifetime lived amid sin, sorrow, and imperfection furthermore constituted the Lord Jesus as "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." The cross brought shame, agony, and the seemingly unthinkable perversion of death to the Prince of life. Most of all, our Lord was forsaken by the Father who had eternally loved Him. leaving the Son of God to die in the most forlorn loneliness any conscious being will ever know. "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" No answer was forthcoming to the Lord Jesus in that dark hour, and no answer is forthcoming to our understanding of "how deep were the waters crossed 'ere He found His sheep that was lost" (Isaiah 53:3; II Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 27:46). Any attempt, therefore, to add works to the saving grace of Christ is a tacit denial of the Blood shed, the Heart broken, and the Spirit torn asunder on the cross of Calvary.

Supplementing the redemption of Divinity with any trace of our own effort also belies failure to grasp the severity of the spiritual and moral disaster of sin in the human race. The problem is not primarily behavioral. "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." Adam's race is possessed of a corrupted core that cannot be repaired by discipline, determination, or dedication to truth, beauty, wisdom, or even God. We must be born again with a new heart. Only God can accomplish such a miracle of mercy, and wonderfully, the new heart He provides comes with a gift more sublime than seems possible (Proverbs 4:23; John 3:6)

It comes with Himself. "God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts." We were made for this, that is, to be the very home of the Lord Jesus. This is the true heart of salvation, and that which only God could accomplish for us and within us. Our own works are silly intruders in any real consideration of this grace that began when our blessed Lord shed His blood for us, and proceeds forevermore because "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works." First, "created," then "unto good works" - the good works wrought within us by God Himself. The order and the dynamic never changes in our Father's working within us, and it must never change in our thinking and understanding (Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 2:10).

Thanks again to our brother and friend Larry, and to the hymnwriter Annie Flint, who closes our consideration of the freest gift ever given...

"His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men;
for out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again."

"Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
(Romans 5:20-21)