The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…
"Acceptance With God"
"He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).
"We labor that we may be accepted of Him" (II Corinthians 5:9).
So, which is it? Acceptance with God, based on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ? Or acceptance, based on our "labor?" The answer, of course, is both. Paul's epistles to the Ephesians and the Corinthians are the inspired Word of God. So, we must accept both perspectives as true. We are accepted in Christ, but we also work to be accepted by Him.
Upon first consideration, this may seem contradictory. It is not, of course, but we do need to consider how the dual truths of acceptance with God correlate. "O send out Thy light and Thy truth. Let them lead me" (Psalm 43:3).
First, Paul's affirmation of acceptance in Ephesians refers to the person of born again believers in the Lord Jesus. We are spiritually in Christ, He spiritually dwells in us, and the union means that God forever receives us no less than He does His Son.
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1-2).
When God looks upon us, He sees as as united to Christ. He accepts us accordingly, by grace, and nothing changes this freely given reality of our spiritual enrobing with the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (I Corinthians 1:30). Yes indeed, accepted in the Beloved!
Again, however, we also "labor to be accepted of Him." In the very wording, we discover the Apostle's meaning. Our labors, or practice, may or may not be pleasing to God. A large portion of the New Testament epistles involves exposure and critical analysis of first century believers' wayward ways, which God did not accept (I Corinthians; Galatians; Hebrews; 1 John, et al.). A perfectly righteous God cannot accept attitudes, actions, and ways of relating to Him and others that do not meet the test of Christlikeness. We would not want Him to so compromise His integrity. Thus, while God accepts our person forevermore in Christ, He does not and cannot accept practices of unbelief and disobedience.
All loving human parents rear their children according to this dual acceptance. We affirm our undying love, even if our child prematurely asks for his inheritance, and then sets forth to waste it on riotous living (Luke 15:11-32). "This my son" joyously pronounced the father of the repentant rebel upon his return home. The son was his daddy's boy, no matter what. However, had his son not returned in repentance, the father would not have received him. Because he did not love him? No, because he did love him. Scripture teaches that acceptance of a son's wrong actually constitutes hating him (Proverbs 13:24). Thus, we love our children by the grace of accepting their person. And, we love our children by the grace of rewarding faithfulness, but not receiving unfaithfulness.
Knowing our eternally secured acceptance in the Beloved makes far more likely and consistent a life of acceptable labors. We must know both aspects of God's acceptance in order to honor Him, and in order to know the joy that we are secure in His love, but also that He loves us enough to not accept ways that lead to destruction.
"David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."
"For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God."
Weekly Memory Verse
I will love Thee, o Lord, my strength!"
Weekly Memory Verse
Does our proposal that we should not seek to love, trust, obey, and serve God by a sense of restitution or reimbursement leave us open to the accusation that we share a message that leads to licentiousness and irresponsibility. The answer is emphatically, Yes!
"We are slanderously reported, and… some affirm that we say, Let us do evil, that good may come" (Romans 3:8).
No less than the Apostle Paul, the primary herald of God's grace and truth in the Lord Jesus Christ, faced charges regarding His message of a "free gift" and "things… freely given" (Romans 5:18; I Corinthians 2:12). Enemies distorted Paul's message, of course, and even friends sometimes misunderstood the full content and intent of the salvation in Christ he communicated. This was inevitable because God's truth greatly challenges the human heart and mind. Strongly affirming grace must be accompanied by equally strong affirmation that God's free gift in Christ leads to faithful godliness. How this happens will require a lifetime of heeding the Apostle Peter's mandate: But grow in grace, and in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).
What is God's role of grace? What is our role of faith? How do the two paths unite to run parallel to one another, with Christ as the unifying and maintaining bond of truth? While we can and must find adequate answers to empower a life of faithfulness to God, we also never find complete explanations to this most vital inquiry in our present lifetime. Thus, we will be tempted to take advantage of grace - licentiousness - or we will be tempted to minimize the scope and power of grace - legalism. The former possibility concerns our present consideration. It seems that obligatory service to God - we owe Him - would be the best motivation whereby we might avoid falling into the pit of "Let us do evil that good may come." It doesn't work that way, however. Seeking to serve our Lord based on such sensibilities inevitably results in failure, frustration, and ultimately, a deep sense of futility regarding the possibility of genuinely walking with God in self sacrificial love. Paul's testimony in Romans 7 of seeking to live the Christian life by obligated legalism rather than grace confirms this well intentioned, but wayward path:
"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me" (Romans 7:9-11).
"The letter killeth" (II Corinthians 3:6). Or, attempting to serve God by obligation rather than love slays our access to the power of the Holy Spirit made possible only by freely given gifts, received by humble trusting faith. "We have access by faith into the grace wherein we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God… the Spirit giveth life" (Romans 5:2; II Corinthians 3:6). Let us then seal within our hearts and minds that which our Heavenly Father long ago sealed in His heart and mind. Salvation and ongoing relationship with Him comes to us the freest gift ever given. By any definition of "gift," we therefore owe Him nothing
Lord, I owe You everything.
No, My child, you owe Me nothing.
But Lord, every breath I've ever breathed,
Every good and perfect gift You've bequeathed, every…
No, My child, You owe Me nothing.
Still your heart just now, let it rest, and listen.
I am grace, I give no other way.
As Abraham and Issac journeyed into the mountain of sacrifice, no mention of praise, thanksgiving, or singing (the popular definition of worship) is mentioned in the text of Scripture. However, Abraham told his servants, "I and the lad go yonder to worship" (the first mention of worship in the Bible - Genesis 22: ). Of course, it may be that Moses simply does not record such expression in the Genesis account. Maybe Abraham and Isaac did praise, thank, and sing as they ventured unto the solemn place of sacrifice. We do not know this, however, and we cannot presume upon the Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures to suggest anything more than the narrative includes.
What then do we know about Abraham and Isaac's worship? Three things:
- Abraham trusted God.
- Abraham obeyed God.
- Abraham sacrificed his human inclinations to do the will of God.
- Abraham loved God in the action.
- Isaac loved God and his father Abraham by submitting to the sacrifice.
To love God self-sacrificially be trusting and obeying Him - this is worship. Indeed, one cannot fail to worship if he self-sacrificially loves God by trusting and obeying Him. Conversely, one can praise God without worshipping. One can thank God without worshipping. One can sing about God, and to God, without worshipping. All of these things can be done with insincerity and even by those who do not even know the Lord. Again, however, one cannot love God by trusting and obeying Him without genuinely worshipping. Little wonder then that the first mention of worship in the Bible omits anything other than the solemn journey into the mount of sacrifice, the journey of faith and obedience.
A believer walked down a city street one day. He looked ahead to see a man approaching him, a man he knew, but who the believer found unappealing and did not want to see. A nearby storefront offered him the possibility of quickly ducking inside before the distasteful fellow saw him coming. The believer began to do, but deep in his heart, something reminded him of Christ's love, grace, mercy, and truth. In the moment, the believer realized the encounter he sought to avoid was an encounter his Lord desired him to embrace.
"But Father, You know how hard it is to get away from Joe once he starts yakking, I mean, talking. And I have so much to do today!"
The sense of urgency regarding the encounter remained, however. The believer thus prayed another prayer, quickly because the other man drew near and the way of escape would not long linger.
"Father, I believe You want me to greet Joe, and I will. Lead me by Your grace to be a blessing of Christ to Him."
This is worship. Because in its holy essence, worship is love, the love of God known, received, and assimilated in our hearts so that it returns to Him and flows out to others. This makes worship possible in myriads of moments, in innumerable ways, and in untold opportunities whereby the Holy Spirit leads us into our own mountains of sacrifice, as led and enabled by His love. Can this involve praise, thanksgiving, and singing? Of course, and it often does. Limiting worship to these expressions, however, fails to meet the Biblical definition of this holy response to God, and means that we may fail to appreciate the fact of worship even as it takes place in our trusting, obedient hearts. This constitutes a tragedy of immense magnitude that must surely grieve our Heavenly Father, and should lead us to a place of repentance if we realize our error.