Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"How Near?" Part 2

(We continue our consideration of the truth that believers are called not only to confidence in God, but to confidence in the relationship He has provided for us in Christ).

It is not enough to believe in the willingness and power of God to act on our behalf. We must also believe the assurance declared by His Word that we are inseparably united to the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ "by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand" (Ephesians 5:2). We must believe the truth about our relationship to God.

This may be more challenging than our basic confidence in God because relationship involves not only our perspective of Him, but of ourselves. We know that He perfectly fulfills His role, but we also know that we do not. Our sins and failures either whisper or scream to us that it is absurd to think that we might confidently relate to our Heavenly Father. The world, the devil, and the flesh join the chorus, and if our doctrinal understanding of Christ's atoning work on our behalf is limited or inadequate, chances are small that we will consistently avail ourselves of our freely given relationship with God. Just as tragic, the spiritual growth and change that results from such fellowship with our Lord will not be fulfilled. This leads to even less communication, which leads to a progressively downward spiritual spiral. The end result is a nominal Christian experience that bears little resemblance to the joyful holiness promised by the New Testament. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

In our best spiritual moments, our access to God is "by faith into this grace wherein we stand." In our worst spiritual moments, our access to God is "by faith into this grace wherein we stand." The same is true of all other moments. Consistently faithful obedience certainly makes it more likely that we will walk in close fellowship with God. But it does not secure or maintain our access to Him. Unbelief and disobedience make it less likely that we will commune with God. But such carnality does not bar our access to God. Ever and always, the Lord Jesus alone is our access. He is the "way." He is the "door." He is the "mediator" whereby we "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (John 14:6; 10:9; I Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 10:22). If we come by Him, we may come in this moment, and in all moments forevermore.

If we encountered the most wayward believer in the world (if such a thing could be measured), what should our message be as we attempt to restore our brother? The answer would doubtless involve numerous aspects of God's truth directed to the specific circumstances and condition of the fallen one. First and foremost, however, attention must be directed to the Lord Jesus. What, as it were, are His circumstances and conditions? And what is His relationship to our brother, and our brother's relationship to Him? True and abiding restoration is only possible as these holy issues originate and guide the restorative process because neglect of them originated and guides our brother's waywardness. Ever and always, Christ is the heart of the matter, and the matter of the heart. Restoration happens through Him, or it does not happen at all.

We live in a generation distracted from the truth that the Lord Jesus is to have the preeminence in all things (Colossians 1:18). Let us be sure that we are not carried along in the deadly tide that drowns living and vibrant relationship with God. Again, we come to our Heavenly Father by the person and work of His Son, and by the inviolable relationship He provides as "He ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25). May our Lord grant much light and remembrance to us of this most blessed truth that fills our hearts with the wonder of His Person, and our hands and feet with His holy character.

"This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent...This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son."
(John 17:3; I John 5:11)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"How Near?"

(We continue our consideration of the New Testament's emphasis on the believer's confidence not only in God, but in the relationship with Him given to us in Christ.)

Part 1

Confidence in our relationship with God presents great challenge to born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. For many, the mere thought reminds of too many failures and too little unfettered devotion to the glory and will of God. "How can I be confident in a relationship wherein too often I have been - and still am -a no show?"

The answer lies where all answers lie, in the Word of God. The Bible unequivocally declares that God has established in every believer the ongoing possibility of vital relationship with Him. Whether we have acted on the Truth is not the primary issue. The Truth itself is the issue. Through the person and work of the Lord Jesus, we may presently approach the aptly-termed "Throne of grace" regardless of how faithful, obedient, and devoted we may or may not have been (Hebrews 4:16). When we get there, our Heavenly Father will lead us to contrition and repentance if necessary, and if sins have been committed that affect other people, our path from the Throne may lead us to their doorstep to offer apology and make restitution. However, the fundamental issue is our approach and subsequent relationship to God. Christ and Christ alone is the basis of such grace. As long as "He ever liveth to make intercession for us," we may and must come (Hebrews 7:25).

God has given to His trusting children the agencies of the Lord Jesus, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of believers as the primary means by which we relate to Him. Three of these gifts are pristinely perfect in their substance and dynamic working on our behalf. While not perfect, the fourth consistently illuminates the face and fact of God as we walk with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Confidence in our Lord's relating to us and our capacity to relate to Him should therefore teem within our hearts and minds in abundant excess. If this is not the case, we need search no further than an inadequate understanding of Truth as the culprit. Regardless of how well we think we know the Bible concerning relationship with God, something is amiss in our understanding if our communion with God is not consistent and vibrant.

We must devote ourselves to increasing awareness and affirmation of the magnitude of the Lord Jesus' redeeming work on our behalf. Mere glimpses of such glory will call the born again heart near to the heart of God, effecting revolutionary change that results in the blessed knowledge that so long as we come by Christ, we can come. "Beholding as in a glass (mirror) 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). Our Heavenly Father's confidence in how closely He has united us to His Son is far greater than our own, and the more our assurance reflects His assurance, the more we will think, speak, act, and relate accordingly. May nothing keep us from availing ourselves of so great salvation made possible by so great a Savior.

"Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him."
(Ephesians 3:11-12)

Monday, June 28, 2010

How Near?


The New Testament calls born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ not only to confidence in God, but to confidence in our relationship with Him.

"The Spirit beareth witness with out spirits that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).

"Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11).

"He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

"His divine power hath given unto us all things which pertaineth to life and godliness" (II Peter 1:3).

"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:19-22).

One can rightly believe in the willingness and power of God to mightily involve Himself in our lives. However, if we do not understand and affirm the New Testament's ongoing declaration of how near God has drawn Himself to us in Christ, failure to confidently relate to our Heavenly Father will lead to failure in every other venue of our Christian experience. The promises of Scripture will seem like little more than fanciful whims of philosophy and principle that may apply to somebody somewhere, but which have far too little to do with our personal expectation of genuine godliness in this moment and in the future.

Should the believer expect to obey or disobey God? While acknowledging the possibility and fact of sin in our lives, the New Testament's emphasis calls us to anticipate consistent obedience. "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14). Weakness in our doctrinal understanding not only of God Himself, but also our relationship to Him, is the primary reason for erroneous expectation and the too frequent erroneous practice we all would confess. We must rightly believe in the Lord Jesus, and we must rightly believe in the nearness to our Heavenly Father He purchased by His suffering, forsakenness, and death on the cross of Calvary. Our spiritual enemies fight this confidence from the moment of our new birth, and we can be sure they are fighting it right now.

As a dear friend often asks rhetorically, "Whose are we, and who are we?" Growth in the Biblical answer to these vital questions will lead to confidence and joyful relating to God. Upon this basis, we will know Him better, and thus better love, trust, obey, and communicate Him to our world. As we often suggest, in proportionate degree to our Lord's forsakenness on the cross, born again believers are "accepted in the Beloved." Past experience, present feeling, and trepidation about the future must not be the basis of whether and how we approach God in this moment. We come always by the person and work of the Lord Jesus, and as we do, our Heavenly Father effects His ongoing process of changing us into the likeness of the Son with whom we are more closely united than we often allow ourselves to believe.

"Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
(II Corinthians 6:16)

Friday, June 25, 2010


The stronger our convictions (if they are faithful to the truth of Scripture), the more gentle and tender-hearted we will tend to be.

"The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves" (II Timothy 2:24-26).

Not only is it possible to make a forthright and confident stand for Truth without harshness or rancor. It is required. The Holy Spirit who leads and enables us fosters not only Christ's light in us, but also Christ's attitude. Indeed, we can be correct in our doctrinal content, but if our demeanor and attitude are wrong, we are wrong. Born again believers are not engaged in spiritual battle to win arguments, but rather to present the spirit and truth of Christ in a manner whereby hearts are directly confronted by His living Person. Such expression will involve both what we affirm, and how we affirm it.

The Lord Jesus and His apostles were often pointedly straightforward, especially toward those whose spiritually arrogant and harsh attitudes betrayed not only the doctrine of truth, but also its demeanor. The norm, however, is gentleness, and we must always remember that the power of the Christian gospel is its cross as well as its resurrection. As our words, attitudes, and demeanor reflect the Lord whose sublime character made Him the Lamb of Calvary, the power of such love will bear strong witness to the truth. Our own faces and words will fade from the attention of our hearer, and the Lord Jesus will present Himself to the hearts of those who will hear and receive Him.

"When He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously."
(I Peter 2:23)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"It Is Written"

"And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die... The woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die" (Genesis 2:16-17; 2-3).

We do not know why Eve added the restriction of "neither shall ye touch it" to God's command originally spoken to Adam. However, of this we can be sure: the human race has ever since been plagued by great difficulty in accurately knowing the word and will of God.

This is why our Lord gave to us the Bible. We desperately need an authoritative text to originate, sustain, and protect our understanding of Truth. Our own surmisings lead us astray - "there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 16:25). The thoughts of other human beings just as susceptible to error are also fraught with danger - "many false prophets are gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). Nor can internal impressions, leadings, voices, and promptings concerning God's will be considered reliable in a world inhabited by "seducing spirits and doctrines of devils" (I Timothy 4:1).

In His wilderness temptation, the Lord Jesus Christ countered and overcame Satan by precise wielding of "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Ephesians 6:17). Our Savior quoted the book of Deuteronomy three times as He confronted three temptations. He stood and fought on the basis of "It is written" (a phrase used 63 times in the New Testament alone). Considering that the Lord Jesus was Himself the living Word, this fact is striking. One might suspect that He could have faced devilish challenge by affirmation of His Father's personal presence, voice, and internal leading. Instead, He wielded the weapon of "It is written."

How much more must we wield the same tangible sword. This is a great challenge in a generation of relativism and subjectivism in both the world and the church. If we can trust current statistical surveys, nearly all unbelievers and most professing believers do not think that absolute truth exists. This excludes the Bible from considerations of truth because it claims for itself absolute perfection concerning its expression of light and reality. "Every word of God is pure... All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (Proverbs 30:5; II Timothy 3:16). Little wonder, therefore, that much of the institutional church is ignored and mocked by a world that sees it attempting to wage a swordless and shieldless fight for Truth.

We must be sure that we are armed and prepared to "fight the good fight of faith" (I Timothy 6:12). The Lord Jesus showed us the way by His devotion to the text of Scripture. We must join the battle, fighting from the victory of Calvary, the empty tomb, and the occupied heavenly Throne as prophesied by the Old Testament, and proclaimed by the New. "It is written." It is, and we are honored and required to join the Captain of our salvation by wielding the same Sword of the Spirit in which He so clearly trusted.

"Thy Word is truth."
(John 17:17)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Love of Grace, the Grace of Love

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen" (II Corinthians 13:14).

Grace and love are inextricably bound in God's attitude toward the human race. Were it not for His capacity for unmerited and unexpected favor (the Biblical definition of grace), our Creator could not love us. The Lord Jesus Christ made possible this benevolent affection of God by His direct involvement with the human race. Our Savior made us, He sustains our being, and He died and arose from dead for us to make possible His Father's lovingkindness. Were it not for the grace of the Lord Jesus, God could not righteously and justifiably love us. Because of such unexpected and unmerited favor in Christ, however, the love of God is bestowed upon us in such measure that it "passeth knowledge" (Ephesians 3:19).

We will never know a Divine love that is not the companion of Divine grace made possible by the cross of Calvary. Our blessedness came to us at a cost of pain, sorrow, forsakenness, and death far beyond our capacity to comprehend in this life or in eternity. Grace is free, but it was not cheap, costing our Savior His lifeblood, and for an agonizing time on the cross of Calvary, the presence of His Father and the Holy Spirit with whom He had been eternally united. "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).

This bloody and soul-rending upheaval in the triune God made possible for us the love of grace, and the grace of love. Indeed, to the degree the Lord Jesus was forsaken on the cross of Calvary, we are "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). God's love for us in Christ is such that our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west," enabling a love whereby He can relate to us as if we had never sinned. We know the origin of such gracious acceptance, however, and for a long eternity we will join those around the throne of God who proclaim the holy basis of the grace of love and the love of grace...

"They sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
(Revelation 5:9)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"But Men"

"And in the eleventh year of Joram the son of Ahab began Ahaziah to reign over Judah. And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window. And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said, Had Zimri peace, who slew his master? And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot. And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king's daughter. And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands. Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel: and the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel" (II Kings 9:29-37).

As God had foretold through the prophet Elijah, Jezebel's shattered body was eaten by dogs at the end of her sordid life of wickedness, and her remains became dung of the field rather than resting under a monument of remembrance (II Kings 9:36-37).

The Bible speaks plainly concerning those who reject God, and particularly those who do so in positions of authority, power, and influence. Justice will be served, and one of the best prayers we can pray for rulers is that the terror of the Lord and His impending judgment will be communicated to them. "Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men" (Psalm 9:20). Satan deceives rulers by causing them to view themselves as de facto gods (and some even perceive themselves as literal deities). Their only hope, therefore, is for the living and true God to become known, revealing the wicked insanity of rulers who believe themselves capable of usurping the Lord's place in the lives of people.

Becoming dung of the field was actually the least of Jezebek's worries. An eternal lake of fire and banishment from the presence of God will be her final end, as it will be for all who reject the Lord Jesus Christ (II Thessalonians 1:7-9). Ungodly rulers face an especially terrible consequence for their attempted usurpation of God and misleading of people, and it is a good thing for them to be confronted by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God with impending destruction. As in the Old Testament, only a few may repent because power gravely enshouds the human heart with delusion. We pray nevertheless, and in the larger scheme of things, there may be few more important intercessions.

"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. Yet have I set My king upon my holy hill of Zion."
(Psalm 2:2-6)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Learning and Unlearning

Growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ involves unlearning as well as learning.

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16).

God's Word involves both the inclusion of truth and the elimination of error in us. We do not come to the Lord Jesus Christ as blank slates, but rather as world, devil, and flesh-imprinted hearts and minds requiring ongoing reorientation of thought, attitude, word, and deed. The process is lifelong, and a primary reason for consistent Bible reading involves the fact that we need reproof and correction no less than doctrine and instruction of righteousness. The flesh of even the most ardent believer remains susceptible to deception and distraction, making necessary the continual "entrance of Thy words" to expose and illuminate areas of darkness (Psalm 119:130).

An excellent prayer to pray for each other and for ourselves asks God to confirm, defend, and enhance our correct knowledge of His Person, and understanding of truth. It also requests His uprooting, pulling down, throwing down, and destruction of incorrect knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 1:10). Both dynamic workings of the Holy Spirit are necessary in us, and wise is the believer who humbly seeks reproof and correction in the Bible given to provide both the entrance of light and the elimination of darkness.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
(Psalm 139:23-24)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Needing Need

"My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ" (Philippians 4:19).

Contextually, the meaning of Paul's statement is that God shall supply for all our needs. This is the proper and doctrinally correct understanding of his statement.

I always find it intriguing, however, that a cursory reading of Philippians 4:19 seems to indicate that God's supply is need itself. Again, this was not the Apostle or the Holy Spirit's intention, but the truth of the matter (confirmed by many other Scriptures) is that in our present existence, we actually need need. Without necessity in its countless forms experienced during our earthly lives, we would never begin to look outside ourselves for our Lord's supply.

Believers often pray for God's supply to a particular need, but the need remains and God seems not to have answered. This very well may indicate that our need is the need itself. Paul prayed thrice for his thorn to be removed, but the Lord revealed to him that a thornless life would lead to pride and the inability to minister by the power of Christ (II Corinthians 12:7-9). Doubtless the same is true in our lives, and as we trust God to supply for our needs, He may well do so by orchestrating challenging conditions and circumstances that keep us in a place of humility, dependence, and trust. Yes, His supply for our needs may sometimes be need itself.

"I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."
(Philippians 4:12)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Grace and Peace

"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:1-2).

The Apostle Paul saluted the believers in Ephesus of his day with grace and peace from the Father and the Son. Paul also broadened the scope of his declaration to include all Christians everywhere and in every age - "the faithful in Christ Jesus." Thus, believers live their lives in the atmosphere of Divine favor, and in the loving good will of the God affectionately committed to our best interests.

We must remember and affirm this attitude of God toward us. Nothing changes His sensibility of grace and peace because the bestowal is based not upon our doings, but rather the doings of our Savior on the cross of Calvary and His intercessory priesthood in Heaven for us. "Christ died for our sins... "He ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25). Grace and peace are forevermore ours because the Lord Jesus knew wrath and anguish, and because His presence at the right hand of God forevermore bears witness to the blessed truth that we are "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

Certainly this does not preclude Divine displeasure regarding our doings. My mother used to tell me, "Glen, I always love you. But I don't always like you." By this she meant that that I could always be sure of her devotion, affection, and commitment to me as a person. My attitudes, words, and actions, however, were not always worthy of acceptance. Indeed, there were plenty of times when she didn't accept them (thank the Lord!), and I still wince a bit when remembering those occasions. Never, however, was there a moment of doubt in my heart and mind concerning my mother's love, and the grace and peace that so clearly pervaded her heart for me. In the same manner, God's favor toward His trusting children in Christ abides forever as the freely bestowed attitude of grace and peace toward us that fills His heart. Our Lord does not, however, accept all our attitudes, words, and actions. "We labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:9-10).

Understanding the distinction is challenging, but necessary. We are accepted in Christ regarding our person. Conversely, our works are accepted only if they are the fruit of the Holy Spirit's working in us "to will and do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Maintaining this dual awareness will both encourage and temper us, leading to secure and loving relationship with our Heavenly Father, and reverent determination to "walk even as He walked" (I John 2:6). Both the mercy seat and the judgment seat must pervade our Christian sensibilities, and as they do, grace and peace will fill our hearts and direct our steps.

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

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

His Servant Vasili

During the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the world was closer to nuclear war than at any time in history. Documents declassified in recent years indicate that a Russian submarine off the coast of the United States was literally minutes away from launching a missile armed with a three megaton atomic bomb on an undisclosed American city. The vessel was under an indirect depth charge attack by an American destroyer seeking to enforce the quarantine of Cuba ordered by President John Kennedy. The captain and political officer of the Russian sub believed that a war had already started, and determined to launch the weapon. However, unanimous consent of the three chief officers of the vessel was required. Second in Command Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov would not agree to launch.

Some historians refer to Arkhipov as "the man who saved the world from nuclear destruction." Personally, I would love to shake his hand, pat him on the back, and hug the daylights out of him because I agree that, if the story is true, Arkhipov is a genuine world hero. However, he is not the man who saved the world. It was God who did that, and Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov was His servant (in the sense that he served the Lord's purposes in the incident mentioned. I do not know if he was a believer).

Obviously, God allows great wars in accordance with the mystery of His purposes in world history. However, such a war as would have taken place in 1962 would have altered the world to a degree that the Bible's prophecies concerning the future could not be literally fulfilled. Thus, our Lord directed His staying hand upon the heart and mind of an officer in an obscure Russian submarine, causing us to give our thanks to Vasili, and our THANKS to the living and true God who "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11).

As we see the world trending ever downward, great comfort fills the believer's heart who has, as the saying goes, "read the last page of the Bible." History is His Story, and while much conflict is allowed by God (and perhaps sometimes determined), the truth of the matter is that our Lord's eternal purpose in Christ will be completely fulfilled in His perfect time and way. All things will work together for good to those who love the Lord, and throughout eternity, the history of time will bear witness to the truth that "as for God, His way is perfect" (Romans 8:28; II Samuel 22:31). Whatever the news of the day brings, and whatever the challenges we will face in times to come, this is the solid ground into which believers joyfully and tranquilly plant the stakes of our tent. As usual, the Psalmist beautifully depicts our security, and we close with the bedrock assurance that we have committed our hearts to the safekeeping of Hands scarred by nails, and resurrected by the power of almighty God...

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah."
(Psalm 46:1-7)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"The Furtherance Of the Gospel"

"I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel" (Philippians 1:12).

The Apostle Paul's challenges provide opportunity for that which most mattered in his life. "The furtherance of the gospel" revealed in Paul and by Paul constituted the reason God did not immediately translate him to Heaven from the Damascus road experience and his subsequent salvation.

The same is true of us. Our calling may be different from the Apostle's commission to travel far and wide, preaching to unbelievers and strengthening the churches of his day. Our Lord nevertheless charges us with the privilege and responsibility to "shine as lights in the world" along the particular pathways of our place in life. Such ministry requires the same dynamic working of the Holy Spirit as in Paul. Things must happen, difficult things, that fall out to the furtherance of the gospel. Indeed, merely memorizing Scriptures and making ourselves available to God for ministry does not fully equip us to actually reveal the Lord Jesus Christ to people. We must know Him as He is revealed in both blessing and difficulty. The latter experience is that which most enables us to present the Savior in such a manner that we are revealing both His person and His truth to our world.

If the particular challenges we presently face, in whatever form, are realized as the means by which the gospel is furthered, our perspective immediately changes. Bonds liberate our hearts to tell of liberty in Christ. Pain provides opportunity to bear witness of God's comfort. Losses lead to testimony of that which cannot be lost, namely, "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). Weakness becomes the vessel of our Lord's strength displayed by us to our world, and difficulties of every variety give us a voice of clarity that can be heard by perplexed and hurting people. If we will open our eyes to this truth often declared in the New Testament, our own hearts will be encouraged and strengthened. Far more importantly, however, the Lord Jesus will be revealed by us to others, and the gospel of His salvation will be furthered.

As with Paul, our Heavenly Father could have immediately transported us to our heavenly home when we believed. Instead, He left us here to bless us with the opportunity to be the vessels of His love manifested to the world. Such ministry always involves sacrifice, and God orchestrates and allows much to come our way that is uncomfortable to us as a means of preparing us to provide the balm of Christ to our world. As we have frequently referenced over the years, the great question of the believer concerning difficulty is not "Why is this happening to me?," but rather, "Who is this for?" Our very faith began with the Lord Jesus walking this path of devotion to God and others. It continues in us as God privileges us with the high calling declared by Paul to the Corinthians...

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made 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. So then death worketh in us, but life in you."
(II Corinthians 4:8-12)

Monday, June 14, 2010


Only one human being has ever lived on the planet Earth.

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).

Humanity is the creation of God. "It is He that hath made us" (Psalm 100:3). We must therefore be what He made us to be in order to fit the definition of "human." By this standard, only the sinless Lord Jesus qualifies to bear the title. Thus He is the only truly human being to have graced the planet, and through Him, God is presently working to produce a vast multitude that bear the likeness of "the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5; Romans 8:29).

The fall of Adam distorted humanity. The redemption of Christ redeems and restores humanity to a state that is actually beyond that of our original forefather. We become the literal temple of God when the Holy Spirit indwells us at the time of our new birth, and we also become human according to our Heavenly Father's definition. We begin to love, trust, and obey God in a personal relationship and intimacy that the Lord Jesus perfectly knew in His earthly lifetime, and which we can increasingly know as we grow in His grace and knowledge (II Peter 3:18). Our humanness is actualized, and our unique personality, disposition, history, and Divine reason for our existence begins to be known and expressed.

To be human in God's universe is an amazing wonder. Angels are said by Scripture to be fascinated by the Gospel that began with their Creator becoming a man, and which continues by redeemed men and women becoming authentic men and women (I Peter 1:12). David asked the question, "What is man, that Thou art mindful of Him?" (Psalm 8:4). God answers by pointing to His Son: "That is man." Furthermore, He directs attention to the company of those in whom His Spirit dwells: "That is also man." Yes, the more our hearts and lives reflect the presence of the Divine presence of the Holy Spirit within us, the more truly human we will be. The more also we will glorify our Lord because He "fearfully and wonderfully" made us, and then became as one of us in order to reveal His glory in the most vivid way possible. "God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).

"And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And He said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have."
(Luke 24:36-39)

Friday, June 11, 2010

"The Vertical Line"

Some of the so-called "great" and "classic" literature as pronounced by the world depicts a nihilistic despair of meaningless amorality or immorality. Absolute truths to which all must answer do not exist in the world painted by many of those authors who may be able to skillfully define certain realities about the human experience, but who reject the great reality of all things. "He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11).

In high school, a journalism teacher took me under her wing and introduced me to classic literature. I enjoyed and benefited from some of the material. However, I found much of it led me down the path to an oblivion where truth exists only in the minds of each individual, and in countless varied forms. I was not a believer in the Lord Jesus yet, but I nevertheless reacted strongly against the meaninglessness and relativism. Somehow I knew that Truth does exist in a purity and transcendence that stands outside of ourselves, and to which we all must answer. Even more, I sensed from childhood that despite my self-centeredness, the world had to revolve around something or someone bigger than myself and/or other human beings.

It does. "The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1). To miss the centrality of God's working in the world is to miss the very heart of our existence. "In Him we live and move and have our being" declared Paul to the philosophers of Athens, adding that "life and breath and all things" are the direct gift of God to every human being (Acts 17:25-28). The line of life is verticle in the sense that the involvement of Heaven is the most powerful and prevalent reality in the world. Conversely, the world's philosophy declares life to be horizontal. Human to human relationships are considered to be the heart of our existence. We hear it often: "family and friends are the most important things in my life." Those who express this are thought to be noble and well-centered, and certainly devotion to relationship with people is a good and even Biblical emphasis. However, the horizontal line of people to people cannot be viewed as primary in an existence wherein we live and move and have our being in God, and wherein He gives to us our very lifebreath.

"To live is Christ" declared the Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:21). Nothing else is, or can be. The primary line of life is vertical. We must "seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1). Furthermore, we must see the line from Heaven to earth intersecting all things in our lives (interestingly, forming a cross as it does). This is the truth and reality that leads to meaning, hope, and the proper experience of horizontal relationship with other people. And this is the message of the most "classic" and "great" literature that exists...

"Thy Word is very pure; therefore Thy servant loveth it" (Psalm 119:140).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Gain of Loss

(For Ross, and for his Mom and Dad)

One of our dear Orange Moon friends is currently in the process of selling the home of his parents, both of whom have passed away in recent years. The house was purchased just months before he was born, and so he is also bidding farewell to the primary place of his childhood. A multitude of fond memories must doubtless fill our brother's heart, along with the pain of parting that always accompanies the loss of precious people and precious things.

As we grow older, such experiences of loss become more and more common. We even learn to expect them, although we also try not to think about them too much. This is as it should be because the challenges of today are always meant to be our focus. However, loss always looms on the horizon, and only the born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ can view this challenging reality in terms of both joy and sadness. We know that the pain of loss is a necessity in our present existence because it prepares and motivates us to seek that which we can never lose.

"We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18).
"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

Believers are blessed with the marvelous capacity to appreciate both the blessings of life, and the loss of them. We hold all things lightly, enjoy them as we do, and most of all, give thanks to our Heavenly Father for the ongoing generosity so beautifully proclaimed by the hymnwriter: "Out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth and giveth and giveth again." When the time comes for things to pass, we rejoice that even as the tears fall from our faces, a great light illuminates our loss. That light declares that the one thing we cannot afford to lose is the one thing we cannot lose. "I am with you always" promised the Lord Jesus, and the things which slip from our grasp direct us toward the blessed One who so loves our hearts that He will not leave them once He has entered (Matthew 28:20: Hebrews 13:5). We wouldn't know such heavenly wonder apart from earthly loss, and the comforting heart and hand of our Father would be far less the balm of our soul.

By the end of our earthly sojourn, we will have lost all. But along the way of our sacrifice, eternal glories will have been gained that will be with us forevermore. We will have discovered the true Life of our lives, and the joy of our hearts. We will have learned of Someone who loves us beyond all imagining. We will have found Him to be perfectly true and faithful. We will learn of Calvary, and of the loss there that forever imprinted the wounds of nails and a spear in the body of our Savior. In the pages of Scripture, we will hear the echoes of His lonely voice crying out into the darkness, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). And we will know that our losses, real and agonizing as they are, pale in comparison to those known in the heart of the triune God when the Lord Jesus gave all for our redemption. Indeed, our God knows about loss, and He is therefore perfectly able and willing to comfort us as the things of earth pass away. Such wonderful truth and assurance forms within us the knowledge that loss itself is gain, the gain of knowing that if we lose all, but God remains, we still have all.

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
(Romans 8:18)

"Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
(II Corinthians 4:17)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"Enough You"

There are three options about our cup. Half full. Half empty. Or...

"My cup runneth over" (Psalm 23:5).

The Bible believing Christian recognizes that David did not refer to a perpetually full bank account, a body always brimming with health, or a quiver full of solution arrows that immediately pierce and destroy the problems of life. Nothing in Scripture, and particularly the New Testament, leads us to believe that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ promises in our earthly lives that we will always experience such outward abundance.

"Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints" (II Corinthians 8:1-4).

The Apostle Paul strongly affirms the Macedonian believers, whose generosity proceeded not from material abundance, but from "deep poverty." In the outward sense, their cups appeared to be less than even half full. In that which matters, however, the Macedonians knew an "abundance of joy" in the midst of "a great trial of affliction." Their cup ran over, that is, the cup of their hearts. This is the abundance presently promised to believers, the filling of our hearts by the living God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. He is there in the center of our being, dwelling in more love, life, and enabling than we can imagine.

"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" (Ephesians 3:20).

Note the scene of our Lord's superabundant working - "the power that worketh in us." Our spirits teem with the life of the risen Lord Jesus, whether we know it or not, whether we feel it or not, and whether we act like it or not. He is present within us in the same power by which He arose from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20). Our cup is full, no, it is more than full, even as the Lord Jesus declared, "He that believeth on Me, as the Scriptures hath said, out of His belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38).

Sometimes when there has not seemed to be enough money, health, strength, or quick solutions to difficulty, I have acknowledged such to our Heavenly Father. And then I have added, "But Father, there is enough You!" More than enough, actually, "exceeding, abundantly above all we ask or think" enough. We are temples of the living God if we have believed in the Lord Jesus, and while Satan, the world, and the flesh would tell us that our cup is not even half full, the truth of the matter is that our hearts are bursting at the seams with a Person so vast that "the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee!" (I Kings 8:27). Somehow we do, and it is a miracle. It is also the truth in this moment and forever. Therefore, whatever the account, the body, or the challenge may indicate, we can and must affirm to our Lord which much assurance and joy, "There is enough You!" Our cup "runneth over" - with God Himself.

"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us."
(Romans 5:5)

"I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."
(Philippians 4:12)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Frances and I were discussing a particular challenge recently. "Well, it's just a problem we'll have to deal with," I said, but then caught myself (or rather, the Holy Spirit caught and convicted me). "No," I added, "it's actually an opportunity to trust the Lord and see Him work" (which was likely what Frances was already thinking, although she was too gracious to say it!).

"I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (II Corinthians 12:10).

The Apostle Paul did not make this statement from the basis of great faith, although it takes much confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ to declare such a thing. The faithfulness of God was rather the dynamic motivation and power whereby Paul testified. He had long seen his Lord revealed in the trials, pains, and losses of life. The Apostle had learned that need, in whatever form, offers the possibility of seeing the glory of Christ in ways that abundance and comfort can never display. As with all believers who walk with God, Paul's perspective was progressively transformed throughout his lifetime - "changed from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" - and we are the beneficiaries because of his inspired testimony (II Corinthians 3:18).

Normal human reasoning affirms that problems are problems, or as my brain often suggests, problems are actually disaster(!), catastrophe(!), and end of life as we know it(!). Conversely, the Word of God and the Spirit of God declare problems to be opportunities to know, love, trust, obey, and communicate the Lord Jesus to our world. As we walk with our Lord over time, His trustworthiness shines so brightly in the challenges of life that we find ourselves enabled to see opportunity where once we saw calamity. As with Paul, the primary issue is not our faithfulness, but the faithfulness of God. A personal history of His working in our lives provides the basis for the Holy Spirit to catch and convict us, as it were. "Opportunity" He affirms. And more and more we affirm it with Him even if our flesh screams or whispers otherwise.

No one has ever trusted the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and been disappointed for doing so. And no one ever will. This is the light that shines more and more brightly in the heart of the trusting Christian as time passes, and as eternity arises within us to reveal the perfect trustworthiness of He who is "called Faithful and True" (Revelation 19:11). Opportunity. This moment and this day offer it in the context of difficulty, and we can expect the Holy Spirit to move within us to ensure that we see our God-saturated life as it truly is.

"Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds."
(Psalm 36:5)

Monday, June 7, 2010

"Silent Wonder"

In 1996 (and again in 2004, with improved technology), the Hubble Telescope was pointed at a seemingly blank dot of space where conventional telescopes revealed no galaxies, stars, or planetary systems. Ten thousand galaxies were discovered in the apparent nothingness, each likely possessing hundreds of billions of stars.

Allow the enormity of those numbers to bewilder you (remembering that the area of space viewed by the Hubble is no bigger than a dot when viewed through a normal telescope). Then think of God, and become far more stunned, amazed, awed, enraptured, and filled with wonder. Because vast and multitudinous as creation may be, the greater truth is that the Creator simply spoke to make all things.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:1-3).

The power of our Lord's word in making all things proclaims how much greater He is than His stunningly immense creation. He also maintains the universe by "the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3). Thus, to think of the God of the Bible, or to utter a word about Him, or to consider His person and truth, is a consideration we can never make lightly. Little wonder that Israel of old wouldn't even attempt to utter His name. Little wonder that Isaiah and John fell down before Him "undone," and "as dead" (Isaiah 6:5; Revelation 1:17). Little wonder that hundreds of millions of angels throng the throne of God to incessantly proclaim His greatness (Revelation 5:11). And little wonder that every born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ experiences times when it becomes all too much for us, causing us to bow our heads, knees, and hearts in a silent wonder of rapture.

All this being true, I nevertheless find that another aspect of God's truth causes me to even more experience "silent wonder."

"Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger... His name shall be called Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, "God with us" (Luke 2:12; Matthew 1:23).

Perhaps if I were wiser, I wouldn't write another word, allowing your heart to be thrilled by the thought that creation's Creator took upon Himself the relatively infinitesimal form of a human baby. I will therefore simply add that that in eternity to come, when the universe has been redeemed and purified, we will doubtless be able to explore its vast reaches to discover the infinite glory of God that will shine from every galaxy, solar system, world, and atom. Far more wonderfully, however, the sons and daughters of God in Christ will be escorted by the Holy Spirit on an eternal exploration of the heart, mind, and being of the glorious Creator who simply spoke, and a universe beyond our capacity to measure came into being. He is also the One who entered into that creation as a tiny baby, and who died for it as a humble man. Yes, let us join our hearts in silent wonder...

"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable."
(Psalm 145:3)

"Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart."
(Matthew 11:29)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Only, Always, Forever!

"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).

Christ only. Christ always. Christ forever! This is the heart of God regarding the centrality of His Son in His eternal purposes, and it must be ours as well. He is to be emphasized and exalted in all things, and it is impossible to overstate the place of the Lord Jesus in both time and eternity.

Ponder the Apostle Paul's affirmation "that in all things He might have the preeminence." Our immediate response may well be "Uh-oh." We would all admit that too many areas of our lives remain seemingly untouched and unfilled by the centrality of Christ. In the outworking of the truth, and in our response, this is doubtless the case. In the spiritual reality of the matter, however, the Lord Jesus is in fact the often unseen, unheard, and unknown quantity of every moment. When by faith and submission, we experience the fact of His dynamic presence, we are not making the truth true. We are simply awakening to the reality of a Savior in whom we dwell, and who dwells in us. As Jacob said at Bethel, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not!" (Genesis 28:16). Wherever we are in this moment, we can be sure that the Lord "is in this place," and even more, He is in us if we have believed. As we know such blessed truth to be true, the preeminence of Christ will more and more be revealed in us and by us, setting our hearts ablaze with His glory and light.

The Holy Spirit is in the world to exalt and reveal the Lord Jesus (John 16:14; 15:26). We are in the world to do the same (John 15:27). This is reality. Nothing else is. As we "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," life will be experienced in the measure and mode determined by God, and declared by the Apostle Paul, "To live is Christ" (II Peter 3:18; Philippians 1:21). Any other existence is merely shadowed illusion of twilight. Christ only. Christ always. Christ forever! This is life, truth, and reality. And nothing else is.

"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him."
(Matthew 17:1-5)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Thorn and the Delay

"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, "My grace is sufficient for thee (II Corinthians 12:7-9).

"Therefore His sisters sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick... when He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where he was" (John 11:2-4; 6).

The Apostle Paul desired and prayed for removal of the thorn and the pain it caused. In His loving wisdom, God instead gave to Paul the grace of His unexpected and unmerited favor (the meaning of the Biblical word "grace").

The Lord Jesus Christ allowed Lazarus to die, delaying his arrival at the sad scene of His friend until a miracle not of healing, but of resurrection could be performed.

Our Heavenly Father often works in our lives to reveal the greater wonders of grace and resurrection. We have prayed and sent messengers, as it were, but no Divine aid seems forthcoming. We hurt, and our natural reasoning tells us that a thorn removed and a sickness cured would surely be the best supply for our need. Instead, if we could audibly hear the voice of God, "My grace is sufficient for thee" would ring in our ears. If we could understand our Lord's delay, our hearts would rejoice in the coming resurrection that infinitely surpasses the lesser miracle of healing.

It doesn't feel that we are being unexpectedly and undeservedly favored when our thorn remains. Resurrections to come may seem far away when our particular Lazarus is gravely ill. Nevertheless, in our present existence, the fragrance and beauty of the Rose of Sharon are often best experienced when the blood of its accompanying thorn streams from our pierced hearts. And waiting for our Lazarus to "rise again" necessitates the faith that causes the born again believer to be truly and vibrantly alive in a measure that only patient trusting of God can foster. "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17).

Had Paul's thorn been removed, his story would not reach through the centuries to honor the grace of the Lord Jesus. Had Lazarus been healed, the pages of Scripture would not bear the wondrous account of a man raised from the dead. What will our Christ-exalting testimony be in times to come because our thorn remains, and our Lord delays His coming in order to reveal the surpassing glory of He who declared, "I am the resurrection?" (John 11:25). We will likely only know in eternity. However, of this we can be sure: if Paul and Lazarus could speak to us, they would proclaim that the thorn and the delay are prelude to joys known only by those honored to walk the path paved by our Savior Himself...

"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made 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 4:8-11).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Unto Good Works"

"This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men" (Titus 3:8).

The issue of works in the life of born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is challenging. Many shy away from the consideration, fearing that too much discussion will lead to legalism. Certainly this can happen, but the possibility of error must never keep us from the emphasis placed on our actions by the New Testament. The Apostle Paul mandates that the ongoing affirmation of works is not optional among born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are commanded to do so. However, we must be sure we consider the matter in a way that leads not to fleshly legalism, but to an increasing experience of the love and life of Christ.

Paul provides much light concerning this vital issue is his epistle to the Ephesians.

"We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10).

Note the Divine order. His workmanship. Created in Christ Jesus. Unto good works. Our works are the fruit of His work whereby He has made us "new creatures" in the Lord Jesus (II Corinthians 5:17). As Paul testified, "I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily" (Colossians 1:29). Furthermore, the dynamic process continues by our Lord's ongoing operation on our behalf. "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Works are therefore fruit, and if we understand and maintain the holy sequence that leads "unto good works," the consideration becomes a matter of joyful expectation rather than fearful expectation of legalism and failure.

I love McIntosh apples, and would plant McIntosh trees if I lived in a suitable climate. Planting and cultivating them would be for me a thing of joy. However, expectantly awaiting and then harvesting the glorious fruit of the tree would be an even more ongoing and blessed consideration. In the same manner, believers must have much confidence in God's promised working in us to produce "the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:11). We cannot adequately discuss grace without considering both root and fruit because our Lord did not merely save us to get us to Heaven. He saved us to first bring Heaven to us, changing the very heart of who we are through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thereby we are enabled to a life of consistently honoring the Lord Jesus and doing His will. Just as merely having a McIntosh apple tree would not be enough to satisfy, neither is it adequate to simply be a child of God. We are planted in order to bear fruit, and to "constantly affirm" the joyful consideration and expectation of harvest to come.

What will God do in us and by us today? The believer who walks in the grace and truth of the Lord Jesus bears this holy expectation within his heart, and encourages the same anticipation in fellow Christians. Indeed, it is God Himself who has planted us in the perfect soil, light, and nutrients of His Son. Failure to expect and talk about a fruitful harvest is an indication that we are not fully understanding the magnitude of the grace that saved us "unto good works." We are liberated and empowered by the life of God within us to consistently trust Him and obey Him. Let us expect to do so as the expression of our confidence in Him, declaring with the Psalmist...

"My expectation is from Him."
(Psalm 62:5)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"As We Confess..." Conclusion

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).

In the original Greek language in which the Apostle John wrote, confessing our sins literally means agreeing with God and His Word about them. This involves applying ourselves to knowing the truth about our sins, and in times of unbelief and disobedience, making conscious choices to believe the truth in order to experience the restorative forgiveness and cleansing of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7).

In this series of messages, we have considered some of the truths with which we must agree with God and His Word concerning sin and forgiveness in the life of born again Christians.

1. God desires to forgive us far more than we desire to be forgiven. "He delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18).

2. God's provision for forgiveness precedes our need. "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).

3. The Lord Jesus Christ "appears in the presence of God" for us. "He ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 9:24; 7:24).

4. God does not place sin on the account of His trusting children, dealing with us as a loving Father rather than a distant judge (Romans 4:8).

5. Our initial response to God in seeking forgiveness must be the determination to believe that only He can provide it (Psalm 130:4).

6. We must take full responsibility for our sins, blaming no one but ourselves (Genesis 3:12-13).

7. Confession involves faith, that is, we must believe that God forgives us when we come in the way He has made for our pardon. The person and work of the Lord Jesus is the way (John 14:6).

So much more could be considered, and this barely begins the discussion of so vital a matter. As we conclude our consideration, may I suggest that we all determine to grow in the Bible's teaching about God's forgiveness and cleansing. We cannot agree with truth that we do not know, and the more we understand of our Heavenly Father's desire to restore us in times of failure (and the work Christ has done to make it possible), the more we will effectively confess our sins. A cleansed conscience, godly sorrow, true repentance, and joyful confidence will fill our hearts and minds, and rather than wallowing in paralyzing self pity, we will arise to once again trust and obey God.

Our opinion of the atonement of the Lord Jesus must increasingly align with our Heavenly Father's perfect knowledge thereof. He holds a far higher view of our Savior's sacrifice than we do, and upon this basis, provides powerful restoration to the believer who agrees with Him. As always, the issue is simply who is the Lord Jesus, what had He done, what is He doing, and what does He promise to do forevermore for those who have received His gracious gift of salvation? Growing understanding of the answers to these questions will lead to growing faith and obedience. And, in times of sin, we will remember and affirm those truths that quickly restore us to a faithful walk along the Blood-stained and grace-paved path of righteousness.

"For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.
(Psalm 86:5)