The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…
(Thanks to Larry and Jane for inspiration on this one. And to so many of you who have shared and testified to their experience of "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" ).
"The Serenity of the Sanctuary"
"Thou art in the cleft of the rock" (Song of Solomon 2:14).
"Your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).
For born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, the part of us that comprises the heart of us dwells in the safest haven imaginable. "Ye are in Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 1:30). This refers to our spiritual being, of course, as opposed to our earthly members and faculties that have not yet "put on incorruption" (I Corinthians 15:53). We can still be greatly challenged in our thinking, speaking, acting, and relating capacities, and certainly in our emotional sensibilities. We nevertheless do well to frequently remember and affirm that our enemies cannot break through the perimeter of Christ, as it were, to foist damage or destruction on our "life… hid with Christ in God."
Many years ago, the home of a dear friend and his wife suffered severe damage in a hurricane. I called to see how they were doing, and my friend responded, "The outer courts are in shambles. But the inner court is at peace." More than their home, he meant that he and his wife felt everything anyone else would feel when calamity and its effects came their way. Troubled thoughts coursed through their minds. They felt the emotions that accompany loss, and the challenges that lay ahead concerning both body and property left their marks. However, my friend and his wife know and walk with the Lord Jesus. Thus, deep in their spirits, His Spirit bestowed "the peace of God which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). The inner court abode in peace because the Prince of peace dwells there, and because He administers His assurance within regardless of what may lie in ruins without. Thus, my friend could affirm the serenity of the sanctuary regardless of outward conditions, circumstances, and situations. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusted in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3).
God's peace in Christ presently involves conviction more than emotion. We do feel His peace at times when it seems unlikely. However, we must frequently know His assurance when our emotions flow in a completely opposite direction. The Christ who already dwells in our spirits has not yet enveloped our soul and body with His direct presence. "This mortal must put on immortality" (I Corinthians 15:53). Thus, we will often be called upon to affirm God's peace within - "the inner courts" - when the outer courts seem to be "in shambles." Knowing the difference helps us to walk according to our convictions regarding God's promised presence, involvement, and keeping in all things, at all times, and in all conditions.
"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."
(II Corinthians 4:8-10)
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.
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