Thursday, June 28, 2012

“We” Part 2

      Life as a “we” flows upstream against our normal thoughts, perceptions, emotional and physical sensibilities.  Sight tells us we are alone.  Reason frequently agrees.  Emotion most often feels as if life is solitary, and bodily sensations of God come only when He sees fit to bestow them (and are easily counterfeited by the world, the devil and the flesh). 

    “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit” (Galatians 5:17).

     Our Heavenly Father would not have us seek to manufacture conscious experience of Himself by artificial means.  He is the One who ordains the present life of believers in which we do not always or automatically realize His presence with us.  He does, however, impart moments when Christ looms so large in our field of awareness that we may feel as if we can almost touch Him.  He also calls us to “exercise thyself unto godliness” by availing ourselves of the reminders provided in the Scriptures, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and opportunities to trust God in the everyday occurrences of life (I Timothy 4:7).  These gifts frequently wake us up, as it were, to the Life/life wherein we remember and affirm the reality of Christ’s presence.

     If we have trusted in the Lord Jesus, we are always a “we.”  “I am with you always… I will dwell in them, and walk in them” (Matthew 28:20; II Corinthians 6:16).  We may forget the Truth, we may disbelieve or ignore it.  But we are always a “we” in our relationship with God, even as He dwells in the “We” of Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:26).   One day, the blessed reality will saturate our awareness and understanding as a long eternity stretches forth before us in the immediate presence of God.  For now, we “see through a glass darkly” as we “walk by faith, not by sight” (I Corinthians 13:12; II Corinthians 5:7).  Let us choose to remember, affirm, and rejoice in so great a gift given to our hearts by God, the gift of Himself with us both now and forevermore.

“In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”
(Psalm 16:11)

Tomorrow: the cost of “We.”


     In our relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, what is God’s part, and what is our part?

     No simplistic explanations suffice to answer this question, as evidenced by the Apostle Paul’s enigmatic declaration of life in Christ written to the Galatians (2:20).

     “I am crucified with Christ.”  Paul is dead and gone.

    “Nevertheless I live.”  Paul resurrects and returns.

    “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”  Paul leaves again, and furthermore declares that Another has taken residence and action in the Apostle’s heart.

    “And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”  Again, Paul reappears to live.  However, the circle of life, as it were, culminates in both Christ living, and Paul living.

     Paul’s accounting of death, life, and life in Christ reflects the New Testament teaching that the Spirit of the Lord Jesus lives in us in order that we may live through Him.  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (I John 4:9).  The Christian life therefore involves not only the Lord Jesus, and certainly not only us.  Life is rather a “we” as the Spirit of Christ indwells, motivates, leads and enables, and as the spirit of the believer responses in faith, submission, and confident anticipation that we are powerfully enabled through Christ to trust and obey God.

    Emphasis solely on the life of Christ inevitably leads to passivity and failure to access the power of God already provided to every believer (II Peter 1:3).  Emphasis solely on our own dedication and determination leads to pride when we believe ourselves to be successful, and despair when our too frequent failures reveal our innate emptiness apart from the Lord Jesus (John 15:5).  How, therefore, are we to understand His role in living within us, and our role in responsive living to His dynamic presence? 

     This question of all questions requires a lifetime to answer.  Recognizing the Biblical truth of Christ living in us so that we may live through Him establishes our quest to increasingly discover the wonder of life lived as a “we” rather than simply a “He” or a “me.”  There is no more fulfilling or joyous experience of living, and in real terms, there is no other.  The Spirit of Christ lives in us so that we may live through Him.  May we grow in this grace and knowledge of a Savior whose indwelling presence does not annihilate us, but rather actualizes the God-given gifts and faculties of our humanity, so “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

“We shall live with Him by the power of God.”
(II Corinthians 13:4)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

“The Gift of Himself”

     To be alive, as God defines life, requires vital spiritual union with the Christ who declared, “I am… the life” (John 14:6).

     “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (I John 5:11).

    We exist to be “the habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).  Faith in the Lord Jesus ushers us into such amazing relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of our being.  God draws nearer to us than our next breath, as it were, and our spirit becomes the central core of our self and personhood.  “Ye are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” (Romans 8:9).  The Holy Spirit births the person we were made to be, enlivening us by uniting us with the Lord Jesus in a bond closer than His disciples knew during their three years of walking in physical proximity with the Savior.  “The Spirit of truth… He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17).

     Our response to this wondrous teaching of Scripture involves many aspects of faith, expectation, application and submission.  First, however, we must simply accept and believe that the Truth is, in fact, true.  In principle, most born again believers understand and affirm the gift of life in Christ.  Our Heavenly Father, however, desires far more than mere intellectual assent to the presence of Christ’s life within us.  He would have us remember and believe in times of blessing, challenge, and perhaps most difficult of all, in times of the mundane, everyday realities of life.  Indeed, a greater and transcendent Life, the risen life of the Lord Jesus Himself, pervades all.  We often don’t think about it, we forget, or we may at times even choose to disbelieve that God is present and active in every moment.  Nothing changes the truth, however.  “To live is Christ” (Philippians1:21).

     This is written as a simple reminder of a Truth we believe, but which requires frequent refreshing in our hearts and minds.  At the greatest cost to Himself, the Lord Jesus has drawn nearer to our trusting hearts than we can presently fathom.  He will never leave, and in this moment and forevermore, our Savior is the very Life of our lives.  No greater gift could He have given to us so freely, the gift of His living presence, the gift of Himself.

“Your life is hid with Christ in God.”
(Colossians 3:3)

Monday, June 25, 2012

“Asleep, On a Pillow”

(Thanks to our dear sister in Christ and friend Karen for the reminder about this most blessed truth.)

    “There arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:37-38). 

    The Lord Jesus Christ trusted in His Father’s care for both Himself and His disciples.  He knew that no one could or would perish in a journey that began with His pronouncement, “Let us pass over to the other side” (Mark 4:35). 

     Had the disciples better known their Master, they would have realized that His complete lack of concern regarding the storm plainly indicated that no wave, no wind, and no amount of rain or sea could have swamped ship or sailor.  The Lord Jesus trusted in His Father’s providential care, knowing that the purposes of God for His life were yet to be fulfilled.  Thus, He slept when other strong men well accustomed to stormy seas cowered in fear.  “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

     So long as we can gaze into the hinder part of our ship, as it were, and see the Lord Jesus asleep on a pillow, we can join Him in rest.  Regarding God’s working in our lives, our Savior’s brow is unfurrowed, He does not wring His hands in nervous trepidation, and His heart beats at the normal rate.  Certainly, storms will rage in our lives, tempting us to fear that we will be swamped and drowned.  “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” beckons us to His peace because by spiritual definition, born again believers have entrusted all care to Him (Hebrews 12:2).  As long as we know He remains calm, we can therefore rest with Him in the peace of Providence.

     Let us gaze into Heaven, beholding the unfurrowed Brow, the relaxed Hands, and the Heart at peace.  In both small matters and large, our Master perfectly trusts in His care for us.  He can weave both blessings and buffetings into our best interests, and He will waste nothing in our lives as He fulfills God’s loving purposes for us.  “Asleep, on a pillow.”  The ancient image of quiet tranquility whispers to us in this hour that as our Lord rests, so may we rest with Him.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.”
(Isaiah 26:3)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

“Our Yesterdays” Addendum

     When journeying to our yesterdays, we must determine to go there with God, and to God.  Amid the many human, worldly and even devilish realities of the past, our Lord was the great fact of all that happened in our lives.

    “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

     Nothing has ever happened to us that God did not either determine or allow.  He ordained the former in righteousness and devotion to our bests interests and well-being.  He allowed the latter in full confidence of His ability to weave even the worst things into His good for our lives. 

     This is both blessed and difficult truth.  Knowing that our Heavenly Father possesses the will and the capacity to work all things together for good” graces our hearts with wonderful peace.  “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3).  Conversely, few greater challenges call us to the faith that demands we view the negative things and people of our past without resentment, bitterness, mourning and despair.  Our flesh is prone to these spiritual and moral pathologies, leading to turmoil in the present if we allow them to control us.  Viewing the past through the lens of God’s involvement often does not come easy, and we must expect to make choices of faith that conflict with feelings, emotions and attitudes that tempt us to ignore the great fact of our yesterdays.

    We journey to the past with praise and thanksgiving.  Doubtless, many blessings came to us for which we have never given thanks.  It is not too late to do so, nor is it inappropriate to again say “Thank You” for the good things our Lord brought to us.  Regarding the difficult things of our yesterdays, we also acknowledge with praise our Lord’s amazing ability to bring forth glorious resurrection from the most sorrowful suffering and death.  O Lord, Thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; Thou hast redeemed my life” (Lamentations 3:58).

     Many of our mental, emotional and even physical maladies afflict us because we journey to our yesterdays without God.  Certainly, we may not understand how He can weave both good and ill into His loving purposes, particularly the latter.  It is enough to know that He can do so, and that He is more than willing to coordinate all for His glory and our greatest good.  Let us therefore build altars of the heart regarding our past, sacrificing ignorance and unbelief regarding God’s loving involvement in every moment.  Indeed, our yesterdays were actually His yesterdays.  Nothing that happened therein is beyond our Lord’s ability to weave glory into the tapestry of Christ that graces the past, present and future of all who trust in the Lord Jesus…

“Lord, Thou hast been our dwellingplace in all generations.”
(Psalm 90:1)

Friday, June 22, 2012

“Our Yesterdays” Conclusion The Best Robe

(Friends: this is a repeat that I feel illustrates the point we considered yesterday regarding God coordinating together our yesterdays for good to those who love Him.)

"Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him" (Luke 15:22).

    Who is blessed with “the best robe?"

     Is it the Lord Jesus Christ upon His triumphant return to Heaven, after He victoriously trampled sin, hell, and the grave under His nail-scarred feet? Might it be David upon his coronation as the king of Israel? Or, could it refer to an overcoming saint finally reaching glory after living an earthly lifetime of faith, obedience, and sacrifice for God and others?

     While the Lord Jesus, David, and the godly believer seem likely candidates for such Biblical affirmation, the truth is that they are not the subjects of this blessing. No, the best robe in this passage graces one who expected nothing of the sort, and who would seem unworthy for such exalted garb.

    "And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father.  But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.  But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:15-24).

    We have all sinned against our Father and wasted His inheritance to the degree that we most appropriately wear the odor of swine. If we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, however, God bestows the best robe upon us.  He enrobes us with our Savior's righteousness and remembers no more our rejection of Him.  Our Heavenly Father looks upon us and sees the robe, the best robe.  Forever thereafter He relates to us as the loving Father of sons and daughters who were dead, and are alive again, who were lost, and are found.

    Such grace presently motivates our loving response of faith and a life lived for the glory of the Lord Jesus.  Upon our arrival in Heaven, the extent of our Lord's redemption will bless us in even greater awareness and appreciation. The realization will take our breath away, and we will feel that we cannot bow low enough to exalt the Author and Finisher of our salvation.  This will be true.  However, we will also hear our Father's command that we stand so that the universe can view the Blood-washed garment of righteousness we wear.  The glory of the Lord Jesus will shine forth from us in a splendor heretofore unknown, and the display of grace will begin that requires an eternity to fulfill...

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
(Ephesians 2:4-7)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

“Our Yesterdays” Part 4

     Perhaps the greatest challenge in our understanding regarding God working all things together for good involves our yesterdays of sin and failure.  Are we to believe that our Heavenly Father weaves even our times of unbelief and disobedience into His good purposes of conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ?  If so, how does this not lead to the erroneous and dangerous notion of “Let us do evil, that good may come?” (Romans 3:8).

     First, let us acknowledge the possibility that the truth of “all things together for good” can lead to a wrong view of our Lord’s working in our lives.  As the Apostle Paul often experienced, grace is easily misunderstood as our spiritual enemies use even Truth in their attempt to distract and deceive us.  Some will inevitably see an opportunity for waywardness in this Biblical truth.  “Well, if God works it out all for good, including sin, what does it really matter how I live?  It’s all good in the end!” 

     Such a notion cannot rest comfortably in a genuinely born again believer’s heart as we remember the consequences of sin borne by our Savior on the cross of Calvary, and by ourselves as God often allows us to reap bitter fruits sown by unbelief and disobedience.  However, our flesh can be tempted in the immediate sense to see a false rationale in God’s all-encompassing work in our lives.  We must therefore reject any thought that Joseph’s brothers, for example, did an acceptable thing by consigning their brother to slavery because God ultimately “meant it unto good” (Genesis 50:20).  They did not, any more than do we ourselves when we distrust and disobey our Lord.  Sin is to be hatred and rejected in the believer’s heart as the terrible thing it is, that is, the dark horror that made our Lord’s misery, forsakenness and death necessary.

     The truth remains that God often takes advantage of our waywardness in His good purposes.  The prodigal son learned much in the slough of the swine, preparing him to return in proper shame and contrition to his merciful father (Luke 15:14-18).  “I am no more worthy to be called thy son” he confessed, even as he also had confidence that his father would at least receive him again as a servant.  We know, of course, the response of the father, and one can only imagine how much he was thereafter loved by a son who had gone so wrong, but who had also learned vital lessons in the squalid mire of his sin.  “To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (Luke 7:47). 

    We will one day see that God wasted nothing in His purpose of birthing, maturing and glorifying many sons and daughters who bear the image of the Beloved Son.  In Heaven, we will better understand our Father’s working of all things together for good, and we will be even more amazed by His pervasive involvement in every moment of our earthly sojourn.  We will better know the extent of our Lord’s forgiveness, and how He used even our darkest times to illuminate and redeem us.  We will love much as a result, and the wonders of God’s grace and mercy will fill us and thrill us forevermore as we declare with the Psalmist…

“Great is Thy mercy toward me, and Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell!”
(Psalm 86:15)

Tomorrow: Conclusion, “The Best Robe”

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

“Our Yesterdays” Part 2

     Among the memories than can negatively affect us, the sins and wrongs of others against us often provide the greatest challenge.

     This is especially true of those closest to us.  “And one shall say unto Him, What are these wounds in Thine hands?  And He shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends” (Zechariah 13:6).  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself  suffered and died by the instigation of His own people, the children of Israel.  In similar manner, family and friends often bear the sharpest, most painful sword whereby we suffer wounds  that do not easily heal.

     As referenced in yesterday’s message, God does not determine the sins of others against us.  Thus, believers may view wrongs committed against us as real in the human sense.  Wrong is wrong, and it is justifiable to believe that our offenders have sinned against God and ourselves.  We can discuss the matter, and forthrightly tell where we believe we were wronged.  We must also forgive in the spirit – and by the Spirit – of our Lord’s command: “Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

    More importantly, however, we must choose to believe that God anticipated sins against us according to His infinite foreknowledge and understanding (Psalm 147:5).  He did not cause them to happen.  He is, nevertheless, perfectly prepared to coordinate them into the good of His ultimate purposes for us, namely, conformity to the image of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).  The greatest truth about the wrongs of others involves the confidence that God can redeem them for our benefit to the degree that lingering pains provide opportunity to trust God, and to thank Him for His working all things together for our good. 

    From minor slights or oversights to the most egregious sins, our Heavenly Father weaves the wrongs of others into His loving purposes for us.  We must establish this truth as paramount regarding hurtful memories of wrongs committed against us.  Upon this basis of truth and faith, peace fills our hearts rather than debilitating sadness, resentment and bitterness.  We find ourselves enabled to love our offenders, even as Christ loves us.  Indeed, let us recall that our very faith began when the only perfectly innocent Person who ever lived was tortured to death by offenders who represented not only themselves, but also you and me.  From this most horrible of sins, God brought forth the very best thing, namely, our eternal salvation.  He is able and willing to do the same with those far lesser sins committed against us, and peace awaits us when we recall that the greatest truth about a painful past was a Lord prepared to weave all into His good for us.

“And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions.”
(Acts 7:9-10)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“Our Yesterdays” Part 1

     Many of our painful memories from the past result from the sins of others, or of ourselves.  Their lingering presence in our heart and mind often bears the barbs that continue our discomfort.

     Concerning the Bible’s declaration that “all things work together for good,” can we fit sins, including those of ourselves and others, into the picture of a God who wastes nothing in our lives? (Romans 8:28).

     The answer is yes, but it is a “yes” that requires much Biblical consideration.  First, let us completely reject any notion that God’s ability to use even sin for His purposes in Christ means that He ever determines it.  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” (James 1:13).  The Lord’s pristinely perfect character, nature and way prevents any possibility that He causes us to sin, despite the fact that He is able to weave our waywardness into His ultimate purposes.  No darker shadow can pass through our understanding than the notion that God causes sin, and we must never state or imply such error.

      We must also acknowledge that God’s involvement in all things does not preclude sin from having negative consequences in the lives of His trusting children.  The atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ perfectly and forever justifies all who believe, but as a loving Father, God allows our unbelief and disobedience to bear its uncomfortable fruits.  Furthermore, He may chasten us in love if we do not repent and confess our sin.  Thus, we take the matter very seriously, and never allow ourselves to believe that sin is inconsequential because God weaves it into His purposes.  “Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (II Timothy 2:19).

     As a young believer once said to me in a simple, but brilliant illumination of truth: “God does not determine sins, but He sure does take advantage of them.”  One could read a hundred theological textbooks without finding a clearer expression of the Lord whose eyes are too pure to even behold sin, but who heart and mind nevertheless weave even the most terrible unrighteousness into His eternal purposes.  Therefore, as we rightly include sin and failure in the “all things” of Romans 8:28, we do so in remembrance of the horrific nature of even the most seemingly inconsequential misstep of unbelief and disobedience.  The Lord Jesus suffered and died in untold agony for our sins.   Never can a born again believer view sin in anything but the hateful of terms, even as we maintain that our Heavenly Father is loving enough, wise enough, involved enough, and powerful enough to cause all things to ultimately glorify Him.

“In Him is no darkness at all.”
(I John 1:5)
“Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee.”
(Psalm 139:12)

Tomorrow: How we view the sins of others against us

Monday, June 18, 2012

“Our Yesterdays” Introduction

     We cannot change the past.  We can, however, change how we view it.

     When remembering our yesterdays, does God and His loving, dynamic involvement in our lives first come to mind?  Probably not.  Initially, we tend to recall events, people, blessings, difficulties, and perhaps most of all, our actions, feelings and how well or poorly we perceive ourselves to have handled whatever came to us.   All of these things are real and consequential, and very much with us because our brains are programmed to recall much of what happens in our lives.

    God, conversely, works in a manner that largely remains hidden from our eyes and understanding.  To some degree, we know His motivations, purposes and ways, as revealed in Scripture.  However, the particulars are so many and so complex that we could never understand and assimilate them even if the Lord attempted to explain His working.

    “Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (Psalm 139:3-6).

     The great fact about our yesterdays was the same as it is today.  God surrounded our paths.  He followed us, and waited for us at every destination to which we would arrive.  His hand was upon us, and as His trusting children, He dwelt within the very center of our being.  God was the great fact about our yesterdays.  We have lived no moment that He did not determine or allow in the confidence that He could weave all things together for the good of conforming us to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29).  Thus, when we venture in our memories to the past, let us always go there with God, and to God.

     Few greater redemptive truths more set our hearts at peace.  When faith in the presence and working of God accompanies our memories of yesterday, the painful, paralyzing effects of difficulties begin to lose their debilitating influence in our lives.  The good times also become even more pleasant in our recall because we affirm that they were gifts from our Father to us.  We look back and “see” by faith the Heart and Hand that assures us of good, God’s good, in all things.  He is that wise, that powerful, that involved, and most of all, that loving.  Yes, our Heavenly Father was, is, and always will be the great fact of every moment of our lives, and of our eternity.  This is peace, and there is no other.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because He trusteth in Thee.”
(Isaiah 26:3)

Tomorrow:  Sins and failures of the Past

Thursday, June 14, 2012

“The Grace of Loss” Part 4

    “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39).

     The fleshly, worldly life we must lose tells us that circumstances, situations, conditions and people determine the fulfillment of our hearts.

     The spiritual life we find in the Lord Jesus Christ declares that He and He alone determines the contentment and satisfaction of our hearts.

      “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

     Things, circumstances and people certainly affect us, but they do not determine us unless we allow them to do so.  It is vital that we build an altar within our hearts, as it were, an altar whereupon we sacrifice the deception that outward realities determine the joy and peace of our hearts.  They do not.  Christ alone provides such fulfillment. 

     “Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy… My peace I give unto you” (Psalm 43:4; John 14:27).

     When things are going well, and people are being kind to us, let us rejoice in such blessing without being distracted from the Blesser Himself.  When times are hard and people are unkind, let us not think that we cannot rest in peace, and experience joy.  We will feel the emotions, think the thoughts, and know the physical sensations that come with the experiences of life.  Through Christ, however, believers can transcend the natural by the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit within us, and the response of faith that affirms the Source of our joy and peace.

      “Heavenly Father, You and You alone are the Life of our lives, and the contentment of our hearts.  This we believe.  We will be tempted often to think otherwise, however, and too often in the past we have succumbed.  Thank You for Your merciful patience, and Your ongoing work to direct our hearts toward their only source of fulfillment.  And thank You for so great a Savior, who died to save us from our idolatry, and arose to fill us with His all-sufficient life.  Grant grace in this day that we might remember and affirm, Christ only, Christ always, Christ forever!  In His name we pray, Amen.”

“The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
(Romans 8:2)
“I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
(Philippians 4:11)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

“The Grace of Loss” Part 2

    “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39).

     When we lose our erroneous view of our lives by consecrating ourselves to the truth that Christ alone fills and fulfills our hearts, we find ourselves increasingly liberated to find life in its truest and most blessed form.  “To live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).

     “God… giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17).

     As long as we believe that things (including and especially people) are necessary to our heart’s contentment, enslavement rather than enjoyment characterizes our experience of them.  However, when the Giver becomes the source of joy in which we trust, His gifts find their rightful place as opportunities for true worship rather than idolatry.

     Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ can lose everything, but if the Savior remains, we lose nothing that is required for the contentment and sanctity of our hearts.  This is a hard truth, and if upon first reading, you quickly and blithely respond, “Amen!,” may I suggest that you read the words again.  Indeed, everything in our flesh shudders at the notion that Christ alone can fill and fulfill us.  The truth is true, of course, but few realities more require solemn and prayerful consideration than the fact that only the Lord Jesus can rightly occupy the innermost temple of our hearts.  “He is thy life” (Deuteronomy 30:20).

     Upon realizing and responding to this great fact of our existence, we begin to find a form of enjoyment we’ve never before known.  People, for example, offer a new and sublime possibility of real and joyful relationship.  Since we no longer view them as the source of our contentment, we can love and be loved with a restful, genuinely unselfish heart.  Furthermore, we find our hands empty and free for experiencing the wonder of our Lord’s promise: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).  We couldn’t know such blessing when our peace depended on others being what we wanted, or thought we needed them to be.  With a heart full of an all-fulfilling Christ, however, both friends and enemies become opportunities for His self-sacrificial love that finds its joy in giving rather than receiving.

     This truth applies to everything else in our lives as well.  Possessions, places, dreams, opportunities and “all things” find their proper place of subservience in our hearts when therein, the Lord Jesus finds his proper place of sufficiency.  As Frances says so simply, but so beautifully, “Having Him, we have all.” When our Savior reigns within us in such confidence, things no longer possess us.  We possess them as His stewards, and the Holy Spirit enables us to enjoy the gifts God so richly gives, or to let them go if He so chooses.  The Source remains in both cases, and we increasingly discover the blessed truth that our hearts were made for the One who promised, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:19)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

“The Grace of Loss”

    “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:39).

     In God’s economy, gain is loss, and loss is gain.

    When a son or daughter of Adam’s lost race finds “his life,” he sooner or later discovers that “if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23).  The caricature of “life” found apart from the Lord Jesus Christ may offer a moment or two of seeming vitality, exhilaration, happiness, and sense of purpose.  Loss always looms, however, as fool’s gold awaits every prospector who seeks fortune in that fleshly bauble which glimmers for a time, but which disappoints for an eternity.

     The wisest of Adam’s race sought to find his life in every way imaginable.  Solomon came back from the quest with the sad report, “There’s nothing there!  There’s nothing anywhere in this fallen world!  All is vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 1:14).  The king’s message declares the emptiness of heart that awaits all who trust in dust, as it were.  As the Lord Jesus said, we find ourselves only to lose ourselves if our own fulfillment and happiness becomes the quest of our hearts.

    The Gospel of Christ blessedly offers the possibility of loss, the loss of our deluded notion that the life can be found in the graveyard of ourselves.  “I am… the life” declared the Lord Jesus.  “To live is Christ” responded the Apostle Paul (John 14:6; Philippians 1:21).  What is our response?  Do we believe that anything or anyone other than our Savior can fill and fulfill our hearts?  Do we view anyone or anything else as indispensible to our joy and peace?  Are we confident that we could lose all without losing anything, so long as the Lord Jesus remained?  Have we discovered the truth that in this life, gain is loss and loss is gain? 

     The Spirit of God beckons to our hearts in this moment to end the futile quest that life can be found in our own perspective, pleasure and purpose.  It cannot.  Life exists only in He who “is thy life” (Deuteronomy 30:20).  May our Lord grant to us much grace, the grace of loss, so that He might bless us with the gain found only in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”
(Philippians 3:7-8)

Monday, June 11, 2012

“To Be Loved”

    The first motivation of love that led the Lord Jesus Christ to His cross of shame, torture, forsakenness and death was not directed toward us, but rather toward Another.

    “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do” (John 14:30-31).

    The Lord Jesus died first as the expression of loving obedience to His Father. This does not minimize His “great love” toward us (Ephesians 2:4). It rather enhances the understanding of our belovedness because we see that God’s devotion to us flows from the triune devotion that exists between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    We are loved by the Father because the Lord Jesus so blesses Him that He desired multitudes more like Him. “To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God… “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory” (John 1:12; Hebrews 2:14).

     We are loved by the Son because He made us, and because He seeks to fulfill His Father’s pleasure that many Christ-like sons and daughters should exist. “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29).

    We are loved by the Holy Spirit who devotes Himself to us in humble deference to the will of the Father and the glory of the Son. “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” (John 16:13).

    It is a beautiful thing to be loved by God in the personal sense. It may be even more sublime to realize that our Lord’s love for us originates in a far deeper and more eternal place of the Divine heart. The love bestowed by God upon us has always existed within His triune being. Somehow, the Holy
Spirit draws the trusting heart into the eternally ancient Divine glory of affection, devotion, commitment, and determination to each other that exists in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus prayed for us that we would receive such a wondrous gift of grace, and the Holy Spirit fulfills the request in all who believe…

“O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me. And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
(John 17:25-26)
“The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.”
(Romans 5:5)

Friday, June 8, 2012

“The Care of Our Hearts”

     I could not guarantee the man, “God will change your circumstances, your conditions, and the people who trouble you.”  I could say, and did, “God will take care of your heart as you trust Him.”
      The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him” (Psalm 28:7).
    We rejoice when our Heavenly Father delivers us from our troubles.  We may rejoice even more when He delivers us in them.  The Apostle Paul sought removal of a thorn; he received a particular grace he never would have known had the source of his pain been eliminated (II Corinthians 12:8-9).  Furthermore, his story shines through the ages to illuminate us in our own experiences of God sometimes giving sufficient grace rather than salving of our wounds.
    In our present existence, our Father takes special care of that part of us “hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 1:3).  He takes care of our hearts.  The man I mentioned, a trusting born again believer, will discover this in days to come more than ever he has in the past.  As he said to me, “I am calm right now, and I don’t see how.”  Sufficient grace is the answer, or more accurately, abounding grace that assures us of the underlying theme we seek to express in every devotional, sermon, lesson and opportunity to share with a listening and needy heart.  Namely, no one has ever trusted in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and been disappointed for doing so.  And no one ever will.  Yes, our Lord takes care of our hearts.

“Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.”
(Psalm 36:5)
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous runneth into it and is safe.”
(Proverbs 18:10)

Thursday, June 7, 2012


     There is no genuine gospel in which God seeks only to convert people in order to from His eternal wrath.  Instead, the Lord Jesus Christ came to make possible the birthing of human hearts into living relationship with God.
    “To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12).
     While deliverance from wrath provides a blessed firstfruits of trusting in Christ, deliverance unto the realized presence and working of God in us constitutes our Lord’s greater purposes.  Our Heavenly Father does not seek to merely snatching a brand from the burning, as it were.  We must join Him in the same dissatisfaction.  The Apostle Paul expressed such a sensibility in his epistle to the believers of Galatia: “My little children… I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
     The challenge in this truth involves involvement.  That is, leading newly born or adolescent believers into a mature relationship with God requires time, devotion, communication, and hands on participation.  We must be there for each other, and we must be willing to sacrifice for those whom God calls us to spiritually nurture.  Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you” (II Corinthians 12:14-15).
     Pastors, for example, must do far more than merely stand behind pulpits and speak.  These undershepherds of the Great and Good Shepherd must devote themselves to the sheep by continually recognizing that their greatest ability through Christ is availability.  Indeed, no man is worthy of a pulpit who avoids the fields where God’s flock live their lives. The greatest effect of our Savior’s ministry was not to the multitudes who heard Him speak from hillsides, but to John, Peter, James and the other disciples with whom He walked long and dusty trails for three years.  In the same manner, let us pray for pastors that involvement will be recognized as the primary calling of those whom God blesses to tend His flocks.
    All believers must recognize that true ministry calls us to this hands on devotion to people.  We seek not merely conversion, but consecration of those with whom we share the Lord Jesus.  No greater challenge exists for born again believers, and no greater blessing awaits us than the forming of Christ in others made possible by the functioning of Christ in us through involvement and availability.

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
(I Corinthians 9:19-22)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

“The Believer’s Self Perception” Conclusion

    So reverent of God were the Old Testament Jews that they would not even utter His name.  Certainly, this high view comprises a proper respect and even fear of the One to whom we answer in both this life and the next.  O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth, who hast set Thy glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1).
    Most of the Jews of old, however, missed the truth that God can only be truly known if we also include a low view in our understanding and response. 

     “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” (Matthew 11:28-29).

    The high view of God prepares us to recognize our need and unworthiness.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).  The low view of God, as revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, assures us that we approach a “throne of grace” unto which our Creator beckons us (Hebrews 4:16).  Upon our arrival there, we shall discover that our great and glorious Master bears the heart of a Father, a Lamb, and a Dove.

      “One of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain” (Revelation 5:5-6).

     I am sure that the majesty of God known in Heaven will often cast us to our faces in reverent awe, wonder, and the sense of joining the prophet Isaiah who “saw the Lord high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:3).  “I am undone!” declared Isaiah.  I suspect, however, that our most devoted response will result from the enraptured gaze upon God’s loving humility.  I often make the comment, “The only One who has anything to be proud of, is not.   No trace of arrogance or self-importance exists in the heart of the God so high that He can safely and comfortably be lowly.  Nothing more humbles us, or motivates love in us than the recognition of One glorious in humility, and humble in glory.

    Christians’ high view of ourselves is based solely upon God’s presence and working in us.  Proper response to the Bible’s teaching regarding this most vital of matters makes possible the genuine lowly view of ourselves that must exist concurrently with the high view.  Affirming the person we are in Christ so secures and fulfills our hearts that we can joyfully follow our Lord down those paths that lead to the joy of His humility.  Yes, the high view makes desirable the low view, and the low view causes us to affirm the high view that so exalts and honors the Father, the Lamb, and the Dove.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: ho, 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).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

“The Believer’s Self Perception” Part 10

    A final and fascinating point in our present consideration involves the truth that the high view of ourselves in Christ makes possible the low view of our complete dependence upon Him, while the low view of humility leads us more and more to believe the Bible’s affirmation of who believers are in our bond with the Lord Jesus.

     No character trait is more contrary to our flesh than humility.  Only the presence of the Holy Spirit can motivate and enable us to view ourselves in accordance with the “lowliness of mind” where we “esteem others better than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3).  The Spirit of the Lamb of God dwells within us to produce His character, attitude and actions.  We must believe this about ourselves, namely, that we are the scene of God’s dynamic working to conform us to the image of His Son.  No higher view of ourselves exists than this gracious and merciful “exaltation” whereby God values us enough to inhabit us by His Spirit of the purpose of making us like the Lord Jesus.  Thereby our native bent toward exalting ourselves can be overcome as we remember and affirm the truth of God’s ongoing working within us. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10).

     As this lowly view more and more saturates our sensibilities, we more and more find ourselves believing the Word of God rather than our own faulty thoughts and inclinations.  Such humility leads us to affirm the Biblical truth of who we are and Whose we are – the high view - against the face of all appearances.  Indeed, pride often causes us to disbelieve Scripture as we exalt our opinions above those of God.  The lowly view of ourselves counters this deception, enabling us to confess our life in Christ even as our flesh bemoans and belittles the Biblically-declared work of the Holy Spirit in us.  “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

    Born again believers are more than we know ourselves to be, and less than we know ourselves to be.  God humbles us in order to exalt us, and exalts us in order to humble us.  Both views of ourselves, the high and the low, unite to form the proper spiritual-mindedness that leads us to glorify the Lord Jesus only, even as we confidently affirm who and what we are in Him.  May God grant much illumination upon the path that winds ever upward in order to lead us ever downward in the lowly humility of our Master’s sublime character, nature and way.

“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament.”
(II Corinthians 3:5-6)

Tomorrow: Conclusion; The Humility of God  

Monday, June 4, 2012

“The Believer’s Self Perception” Part 9

    The high view and the low view of ourselves, as prescribed by Scripture, presents an interesting challenge to our thinking as born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    How do we balance, or properly coordinate viewing ourselves in the affirmative terms of being new creatures in union with the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, while concurrently acknowledging the ongoing presence and challenge of sin in our fleshly members? How do we rejoice in the former without become self-absorbed, and confess the latter without become morbidly self-loathing?

    Only God can answer this question. "The darkness and the light are both alike to Thee" (Psalm 139:12).  Many issues of the Christian life call us to view matters from two vantage points that may seem almost contradictory to our minds.  God as one, and yet existing in three Persons.  Grace given as a perfectly free gift, but works always accompanying a genuine reception of God’s favor.  Our Lord as sovereign, but angels and man as free and responsible.  The Divine and the human perfectly united in the Lord Jesus, said by theologians “to be as much God as if He were not man, and as much man as if He were not God.”  The list could go on and on of truths that we must seek to understand as best we can, but which ultimately demand that we fall before the Lord in acknowledgement of our blindness and His vision: “O Lord God, Thou knowest!” (Ezekiel 37:3).

    This is a blessed thing.  Regarding our current consideration, the high view and the low view drive us to our Heavenly Father in the admission that He must guide us in our understanding of ourselves.  We must personally relate to Him in order to be sure that both truths find their proper place in our understanding and practice.  As the Psalmist declared of God’s dual doctrinal and personal illumination, “In Thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:9).  That is, we must seek both the fact and the face of God in our pursuit of truth.  It is not enough to emphasize doctrine without living experience, nor can living experience be trusted without doctrine.  In the Christ-filled and enlightened heart, both aspects of God’s truth fuel our worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  We seek the living Word in the written Word, and the written Word informs, evaluates and tests our experience of the living Word.

    Only God can enable both the high view and the low view of ourselves so that we walk in confident faith and honest humility.  This is just as we need it to be because, again, such truth drives us to seek God personally for leadership and understanding.  He will faithfully respond to our request for light, and we will grow in a walk with Him that demands we affirm both our strength in Christ, and our weakness in the flesh.

“When I am weak, then am I strong.”
(II Corinthians 12:10)