Devotional

Alive & Active

Image result for feeding the poor

 

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3:5

 

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” James 2:17

 

There is a kind of faith that does not save, and the only way for you or me to distinguish between the faith of Christ Jesus that saves, and a faith that may profess Christ but does not save, is by what that faith produces.

 

Jesus said, “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” Matthew 7:20 NLT

 

Yes; it is possible to have a false assurance of salvation, meaning that we could think we are saved when in fact we are not. Jesus makes this point very clear in several passages. One such passage is Matthew 7. In verses 22 & 23 He said,  “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

How horrifying would that be? God’s love should compell us to compassionately speak the entire truth to all. Yes, that’s right, when we do speak it, we’ll not be very popular with the world, and with many who have joined themselves to the church and yet are still of the world—they don’t know the real Jesus Christ.

 

“The faith that saves is that which actively produces the virtues of Christ within the believer.”

 

These virtues of godliness perform, they do stuff—they are active. The working of His Holy Spirit within is reproducing all the attributes of God in those who belong to Christ. It is called being sanctified—set apart from the world to become holy, just as He is holy. Our works of righteousness can never save us. But the reason God saved us is so that we can and will do good works (Ephesians 2:10).

 

Enjoy these beautiful lines from “The Book of Praise.”

 

Tis from the mercy of our God

That all our hopes begin;

His mercy saved our souls from death,

And washed our souls from sin.

His Spirit, through the Savior shed,

Its sacred fire imparts,

Refines our dross and love divine,

Rekindles in our hearts.

Thence raised from death, we live anew;

And justified by grace,

We hope in glory to appear,

And see our Father’s face.

Let all who hold this faith and hope

In holy deeds abound;

Thus faith approves itself sincere,

By active virtue crowned.

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Categories: Christian Doctrine, Church, Devotional, Faith, Growing in Faith, Poem, Poetry, Salvation, Sanctification, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Power to Spare — Part 2

Welcome to the life giving words of God that we will be using in this post. I hope you’ve read part one of this series. Reading the book of Colossians will help you to understand the context of what we’re talking about—living in the power of the risen Christ!

be-prepared

In our Colossians text we find an empowering master key, both for conquering sins of the flesh, and for practicing godly relationships in the church, the home, the workplace, and the world in general. Here in Colossians the Spirit in essence is saying: 

To win against sin, live in light of your new identity in the risen Christ. 

 

  1. As Christians, we all battle against the sins of the flesh. 

Occasionally you’ll meet a dear saint who claims that he lives above all temptation and sin. That he or she has learned the secret of victory, where they abide in Christ to the point that sin is never a problem! They intimate that they have no more temptation, and they always respond correctly, with never even a wrongful thought. I wouldn’t purchase a used car from a person who says that. In order to disprove their claim, just talk to those who live and work with them. You’ll no doubt hear a different story.  

 

I pray that every one of us is able to admit our continuing need for God’s grace and mercy, and confess that we fight a daily battle against the sins of the flesh. These sins are mainly what Paul has in mind when he directs us in Col. 3:2 not to think “on the things that are on earth.” That phrase is repeated verbatim (in the Greek text) in verse 5, where Paul tells us (literally) to put to death our members “that are on earth.” He goes on in 3:5 & 8-9, to list many sins that we may struggle against: immorality, impurity, fleshly passion, evil desire, and greed, along with; anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, and lying. Paul wouldn’t tell us not to have our minds characterized by these sins, and to put them to death, if we were not going to face some battles concerning these things.  

 

Through the new birth (regeneration or salvation), we are radically different than we were before. We were once enslaved to sin, but Christ has set us free—free to choose the things above and walk in the Spirit, rather than being controlled by the lusts of the flesh. Our old nature, however, was not eradicated! It’s up to us to seize upon the power made available to us to resist temptation by walking in the Spirit, which is relying on God’s power. It is great news that we are no longer bound to obey the demands of the flesh. As Christians, we have to actively fight against these sins, BY living in the victory that Christ won for us. Though we still sin at times, that’s not what we want to do—we want to be holy as He is holy. Our hearts and minds have been redeemed, so that we now want what God wants. And that brings us to the question: How can we be more obedient to the One we love? 

 

soldier

 

  1. To win the battle against sin, we must understand our new identity in Christ.

 

These verses are very Christ-centered. Paul mentions “Christ” four times in four verses. There are two sides to our identity in HimFirstly: 

 

  1. We died with Christ.

In Colossians 2:12, Paul states that we were “buried with [Christ] in baptism.” And then in verse 20 he says that we died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, which I believe refers to a rules-based approach to God. Now again in Col. 3:3 he explains, For you have died Jesus wants us to understand that when we trusted in Christ we became identified with Him in His death. (See, also, Rom. 6:3-11; 7:4, 6; Gal. 2:19-20; 6:14.) 

 

The problem with this truth is that I don’t feel dead toward sin, or to the world. In fact, to be honest, when I am tempted to sin (which is often), my old nature feels very much alive and well! There’s a strong inner desire to indulge in sin because the sinful flesh is still in my body waging war against my mind, but it’s not in my spirit. So then, what does it mean that I am dead to sin, in Christ? And how can this help me to overcome sin in my life? 

 

One answer lies in our remembrance that death, in the Bible, never means cessation of existence, but rather, it means separation. When we die a physical death, the soul is separated from the body. To be identified with Christ in His death means that I am separated from the power of the flesh, from the power of sin, and from the grip of this evil world. I am now a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, so that I do not have to obey the sinful laws of my old country, of this sinful world. 

 

I like using the illustration of a man who was a citizen of a country which had imposed a 6 p.m. curfew, but then he moved to the United States and becomes a citizen there. He’s no longer under that old curfew law. But because he has lived under that old law for so long, he still may feel if he’s bound to keep it. But the truth is, he’s not. He died to that old law and its power over him so that he now can live under the new laws of freedom that characterize his new country. 

 

Here’s a different analogy of the same principle. I grew up sort of country, so I’ve seen a lot of old cars sitting up on jacks in people’s yards. If you’ve ever seen a car with the wheels off the ground, you know that (if it runs) you can step on the gas pedal and the wheels will spin like crazy, but the car doesn’t go anywhere. The wheels are separated from the ground. When you’re tempted to sin, your old nature may get all revved up and make a lot of noise, but we now can say, “My old nature died with Christ—I am separated from its power.” It has been rendered inoperative, so that it doesn’t have to go anywhere! As Paul says in Romans 6:11, “Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” 

 

Therefore, it’s not a matter of feeling dead to sin, but rather it’s a legal fact. If we’re joined to Christ by faith, we’re one with Him in His death. We’re divorced from the old life, which was like a tyrant, keeping us in sin. But now we’re married to a new husband who gives us new life and freedom from sin. But we didn’t just die—we have new life! The stellar flip side is this — 

 

  1. We have been raised up with Christ to the right hand of God.

 

Paul mentions this in Colossians 2:12-13: 

… having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions. 

 

Now, again in Col. 3:1 — “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” In the Greek text the word “if” does not imply uncertainty. We can be certain. And Paul is writing that God wants us to consider the implications of it. Like being united with Christ in His death, being raised up with Him is not a matter of feeling, but one of fact. When Jesus was raised from the dead, if by faith we’re in Him, we also were raised. 

 

Being raised up with Christ teaches us that salvation is not a matter of human decision or will power, but rather of God’s mighty power imparting life to us back when we were dead in our sins. Salvation is not making a resolution to kick our bad habits to the curb, or to clean up our act. It rather involves the life-giving power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. It means, as the Puritan, Henry Scougal, put it, “The life of God in the soul of man.” It means that we are so united with Christ that He is our life! Col. 3:4 says When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
 

Just as a branch draws its life from the vine (John 15:1-6), so we must live in dependence upon the supernatural power of the risen Christ. We place no trust in our own human strength or will power, as if we merely receive a little help from God now and then when we think we need it. It means living in union with the risen person of Jesus Christ. He is our new identity. 

 

(To Be Continued)  Have  a Power packed day in Christ! God Bless You.

Categories: Bible, Christian Doctrine, Christian Living, Devotional, Faith, Growing in Faith, Sanctification, Self Improvement, Success, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waiting in Hope

waiting

 

Leading Israel’s army, Joshua waited seven days for something to happen as they marched around the walls of Jericho. It must have felt like a silly thing to do, but this is what God had told them to do. Their patient trust was finally rewarded as the walls fell down, just as the Lord had promised. Without the hope that faith secures, waiting on God can often seem a difficult task, and can give rise to doubts. But that’s only when we’re not operating in faith.

Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for the promised pregnancy with Isaac in their old age. God had promised to make David king over all of Israel, but it wasn’t until waiting about 18 years before that happened. The Jews waited centuries for Messiah to come, but then He came. For ten days, Jesus’ disciples waited in Jerusalem for the power of God’s Holy Spirit to come. My own mother waited for several decades for her prayers to be answered. But finally, I fully surrendered my heart to Christ.

A person who lives in submission to Jesus Christ is someone who is often called upon to wait. And yet there are many good things we can be doing while we wait. Waiting time is not wasting time. With eager anticipation we all wait for Jesus to return and take us to our home in heaven. Yes, these are things that, as Christians, we must learn to do well—trust, hope and patiently wait.

 

They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

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Trust & Obey

Image result for obedience

 

All people have short comings—we are fallible beings, and that’s why it’s sometimes difficult to trust those who may have rule over us. But with God it is much different. He never makes a mistake. The Lord is perfect, holy and filled with love. 

 

“O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29 KJV) 

 

What have I gotten myself into?  That was the predominant thought in my mind at basic-training for the Army. A drill-instructor was demonstrating his control over the men under him. On the roof of a three-story barracks, the drill-sargent ordered a young private to dive head first onto the rocky ground below.  

 

Without hesitation, the trusting soldier took two steps towards the edge, bent his legs for the leap, and sprang up and out to his certain death. Swiftly the Sargent reached out and grabbed the back of the private’s breeches and belt, catching the soldier just in time. 

 

My second thought: There’s no way Id obey such a futile and dangerous order. Observing the imperfections and failings of superior officers stimulated the rebel in me. I didn’t follow every order I was given as a soldier.  

 

Yet, years later I grew very close to my first love. He’s now my Commander in-Chief: Jesus Christ. It wasn’t always easy to trust Him the way that Private trusted his drill-instructor. I have learned, however, of God’s perfect love for me, and of His all-knowing and all-powerful nature. I can trust my life to Him. He’s not a man, who might make a mistake, or tell me to do something futile or foolish.  

 

There are times I don’t understand the Why of a command from God. But I can obey with confidence, knowing He has my best interest at heart. His purposes are flawless.  

 

Thank you, Lord, for your wise leadership. In hindsight we’ll always see the wisdom of trusting and obeying you in all things. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

 

Categories: Christian Living, Devotional, Faith, Military, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gore & Love Intersect

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“The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22 

 

As a boy of ten years, I kept a scrapbook filled with images of lions and tigers hunting. Many of them depicted gory kills. Several decades later, I can still picture the blood covered faces of those vicious beasts. One day my mom happened upon the bloody pictures I’d been saving. Understandably, she became concerned that I might be turning into some sort of twisted, sadistic kid. Blood has a tendency to make us recoil in horror. But my fascination had to do with a compulsion to understand death.

 

Many old Christian hymns include references to the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. Here’s one example—an old favorite performed by some promising musicians. “Nothing But The Blood” 

 

It’s the blood of Christ which cleanses us from our sins. What picture could better display the awful consequences of sin upon the world than grisly blood? God has a good reason for the use of blood in the bible. The blood used in the old sacrificial system of temple worship was a foreshadow of the blood of Christ. Justice demands blood.

When Adam and Eve sinned, it drastically changed mankind—even the earth was changed by a curse. The consequences of sin are exceptionally horrific. “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23a  

And, God says that life is in the blood. “For the life of a creature is in the blood…” Leviticus 17:11a  

And so, spilled blood is synonymous with death—and death is the penalty for sin.

 

As a lasting and stark expression of sin’s staggering cost, God clothed Adam and Eve with dead animal skins. This signified the horrors that the world would experience as a result of sin. Sin brought with it; sickness, war, a curse, slavery to sin, and death for every person since Adam and Eve. Some of the animals changed from herbivores into carnivorous creatures—the images of which I kept in that childhood scrapbook.

 

God has taught me that I should be aghast and horrified at the prospect of sin. It should make me shudder in horror—the same response one would have to a bloody, gruesome death.

But it’s in man’s fallen nature to trivialize sin, rather than to acknowledge its true devastating make-up.

 

Because of God’s awesome love for you and me, Jesus allowed His own blood to be spilled, taking that awful death penalty in our place. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord, (from John 10). The macabre sight of His blood flowing down to puddle in the dust, proclaims God’s monolithic love for you and me. Do you see the importance of the blood? If not, you do not yet understand the way of salvation that God has provided for us. His blood equals love, atonement, propitiation, forgiveness and salvation.

Bloody gore and love intersect at the Cross of Jesus. ©

 

Below is Alan Jackson singing  Are You Washed

 

Categories: Bible, Christian Living, Cross of Christ, Devotional, Faith, Salvation, Testimony, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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