New Self

“Put on the new self, created to be like God”  Ephesians 4:24 

William’s first experiment with drugs was his last year in high school. Wow, was it fun to be with so many cool “friends” expanding their minds with various pharmaceuticals. William was certain the drugs increased his creative abilities and opened his mind to greater understanding. They also sank their evil talons into his soul with a powerful death-grip, creating a tremendous addiction that sent William spiraling into an abyss of destruction. Within a few months, he was an addict. 

Eight years later, after several stints in jail, loss of friends and relationships, William discovered he qualified for a sponsored rehab out in the clean air of the desert. He had high hopes. This would change his life. And it did…temporarily. His new life lasted three short months until one of his former friends invited him to a party where drugs flowed freely. His will power was not up to this formidable test, he was back on the slippery slide to destruction.  

William’s life is not unusual. Most people cannot possibly stay clean from drugs and alcohol on their own. True change, life-change, is only possible through faith in Christ because He provides supernatural power to overcome these mind-numbing addictions. With Christ in your life, fending off the Devil’s attacks, permanent change is indeed possible. Faith in Christ brings a new life. 

Ephesians 4:22-24  “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”   

2 Peter 1:3-4  “By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence. And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” 

Galatians 2:20  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  

Colossians 3:1-4  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”  

Colossians 3:13-16  “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” 

Philippians 2:1-4   “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  

But what if I am a Christian and have given myself to sin more than once. Does that mean God’s power is not in me or strong enough to help me avoid the sin? No! God has done everything necessary to give us new life and daily renewal. His forgiveness is everlasting. If I am struggling with sin, God has provided the way to victory. He created us and understands our weaknesses.  

1 Corinthians 10:13  “Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps His promise, and He will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, He will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.” 

1 John 1:8-9  “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. But if we confess our sins to God, He will keep his promise and do what is right: He will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing.” 

Walking with God provides a new life, a life free of condemnation. Jesus is at the right hand of God’s throne, fending off all of Satan’s accusations and granting us forgiveness of all sin. However, once we have tasted the incredible love of Christ, it is our responsibility to want a new life, to repent of our sins, to believe in the Bible which is God’s guidebook for all Christians. Our forgiveness is absolute but we have to accept it as absolute.  

The Resurrection!

“I was dead, but look, I am alive forever and ever” ~Jesus

         Without doubt, the most important event on the calendar for followers of Christ, is what is known as Easter or Resurrection Sunday. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important moment in the history of the world. Three days prior to His resurrection, He had completed the most agonizing part of his triumphant purpose by willingly giving his life to pain and death, crumpled on Calvary’s cross. However, that was only the beginning, not the end.

         After three days in the tomb, Jesus rose, shed His death clothes and spent 40 days giving final instructions to His disciples. And because of that, we too have the promise of eternal life just as He gave to the thief on the cross beside him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”  Luke 23:43

         The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the focal point of our hope as found in the following Scriptures:

         1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 19 “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty—For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.”

         Acts 2:24, 32 “God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it—God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this.”

         Matthew 28:1-10 “Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee) went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

         “Then the angel spoke to the women, “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

         Luke 24:46-48 He also said to them: “This is what is written: the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

         1 Corinthians 15:1-8  “Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.”

         Acts 4:33  “And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus—”

         Acts 26:22-23  “I teach nothing except what the Prophets and Moses said—that the Messiah would suffer and be the First to rise from the dead, to bring light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”

         Romans 10:9-10  If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

         There are many scriptures which relate the risen Lord being seen as a living testimony of His resurrection. His absolute victory over death and its decay gives all the  believers in Jesus Christ an unwavering hope of everlasting life with Him. Although we shall die, unless Jesus returns with the trumpet blast and angelic shout first, we shall not perish but taste life that never ends, residing in the New Jerusalem with Almighty God and the resurrected Son.

Only Our Duty

“We’ve only done our duty” Luke 17:10

The weekly Bible study group was involved in an animated conversation about what God expects when we are seemingly taken advantage of or taken for granted. The conversation was going along the normal path of defending positions such as: 

“Well, God doesn’t expect us to be doormats, you know,” said Gloria.

“I’ll have to line up with Gloria on that one,” said Frank. “We are special to the Lord and He wants us to defend our faith at all costs.”

Most of the group chimed in at that point, defending the “we’re not doormats” position. Until Glenn, the class leader said, “Well, actually He does you know.”

The room got very quiet out of disbelief and embarrassment. 

“Do you remember the scene at the last supper when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet? That was a shock to them because it was a servant’s job, beneath them. But our Lord went from man to man, washing and drying everyone’s feet telling them, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.” ~John 13:14-15

“In the Book of Luke, Jesus tells the parable of a slave who after working all day in his master’s field comes in to make and serve the dinner for his master. Jesus then says, “Does he thank that slave because he did what was commanded? In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, ‘ We are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.’” ~Luke 17:9-10

No one spoke as they processed what was just read. Instantly everyone knew they were far from that attitude. Just the opposite, most resented the idea of being a good-for-nothing slave who has merely done their duty. Surely this was some colossal misunderstanding.

“Struggling with this one?” Glenn asked. “I think it’s time we faced this issue head on. What I just read is from our Bible. Our literal life-guide. Jesus became a slave as an example to us who follow to do likewise. Jesus doesn’t want us to be a doormat, we say. The truth is, He does. And then, after people wipe their feet on that mat, He says, “wash their feet, just as I have done for you!”

The Apostle Paul has something to say about this subject too: “Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t just think about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and in what they are doing.

“Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, who, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross.

“Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name which is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” ~Philippians 2:3-11

We spend our waking hours worrying about our positions in life, believing that we have “rights” as citizens; that we can have anything we want if we just believe and work really hard. It’s good Karma, what goes around comes around, and so on. Well, those ideas are ideas that come from the enemy of our soul who wants to kill, steal and destroy us. God’s version of life is the exact opposite. Here’s what Paul says: 

“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ, and become one with Him.” ~Philippians 3:8

Be like Christ? Be prepared to give it all up and learn to listen to the still, small voice in your heart.

Weakness!

“I am glad to boast about my weaknesses!” Apostle Paul

Apostle Paul: “Three times I begged the Lord to take (his thorn in the flesh) away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT 

Rediscovering this section of scripture this morning pierced my heart! Re-reading these words of Paul also reminds me of the incredible patience and mercy of the Lord. He knows how much patience and mercy are necessary in my life daily. Thank you, Lord.

How can I show strength in weakness, Lord? I ask. A man needs to be strong to face the world and its hardships and obstacles. Men have to show strength as an example to those they lead; their families and children. Men stand with shoulders squared, heads up and eyes fixed on the prize, the future, their success. It seems to me that weakness has no place in a man’s life.  

Then slowly, as a distant light becomes evident after a long, dark tunnel, I  realized that God’s weakness is not the same as man’s; that His weakness is stronger than man’s strength. And, finally—God’s weakness, the weakness described and displayed by the Apostle Paul, is far removed from the image we conjure up. 

2 Corinthians 13:4  “Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power.”

2 Corinthians 6:4. “In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.”

Philippians 4:11-13 “ I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

The Apostle Paul learned an important secret; and that is trusting that God will provide as He sees fit. Paul learned how to be content with any circumstance. As we read Paul’s description of depending on God for everything, we may bristle a little at the idea of not taking care of everything ourselves. But how can we demonstrate our faith in the Lord, appearing weak to onlookers, without trusting in Christ? 

“The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” ~George Muller

A Child Is Born

“A child is born to us, a son is given to us”  Isaiah 9:6 

Amidst the various Christmas decorations we see popping up each year stand a variety of what we call Nativity or Manger scenes representing the birth of Christ. These range in size from tabletop to life size. Some even have what are called, Living Nativity scenes with people dressed in costume representing that singular moment in history. 

And what is the impact of seeing these scenes year after year after year? Perhaps we have come to see these reminders as ordinary, routine, a bit of tradition. There is an old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt!” Contempt may be too strong a word for our feelings but routine would surely fit. As we dust off our manger figurines and place them carefully on the table or shelf, are we stirred by the Spirit of God? Are we moved to worship Christ the Lord?  

When Jesus was born, it was a time of Kings and mighty rulers wielding their power for good or evil. Surely God would bring the Messiah from the loins of one such mighty man. He would be born to Royalty; a prince, a handsome, strong child, bred in the manner and customs of the Jewish people. 

In keeping with His own creative ideas, Almighty God selected a virgin to bear His Son; an unthinkable idea, beyond human understanding. And so it was…beginning with Mary’s impregnation, every step of the way for Jesus, our Lord, was unique. Born in a manger instead of a magnificent palatial bedroom on silken sheets surrounded by servants. An ordinary baby born to ordinary parents, or so it seemed. 

No palace with pomp and circumstance for Jesus, verifying his standing as Messiah. God instead chose humble circumstances to represent His love for all of us, dramatically pronouncing the Savior’s birth to innocuous shepherds away from all notice. These men had ringside seats to a spectacular, glorious, radiant angelic announcement of The Savior’s birth which included the armies of heaven praising God. Out in the fields, away from notice, God demonstrates His awesome power, proclaiming the most important birth in the history of our world to a few solitary shepherds.  

Isaiah 7:14  “The virgin  will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” 

Isaiah 9:6-7 “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor,  Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. 
“He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David  for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the  Lord  of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” 

About 800 years after Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in a manner not at all in keeping with how we think the Savior of all mankind should be born.

Matthew 1:18-25  “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement  quietly. 

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus*,  for he will save his people from their sins.” *[The Lord Saves]

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet*: 

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child. She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” *Isaiah 7:14

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.  But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.” 

Luke 2:1-20  “At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. 

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. 

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. 

“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.  After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,  but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” 

This year, as we read and remember what God has set in place through the extraordinary yet humble birth of His only Son, Jesus Christ, let’s take time to imagine how we might have reacted to this astonishing event and then thank our Heavenly Father for paving the way to unmerited forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who believe. 

Divisions

“One body in union with Christ” -Romans 12:5

Without knowing exactly how it happened, Charles was praying with the pastor, asking Jesus to come into his heart and forgive his sins. He’d been attending this church for several weeks, feeling drawn to be there each week, pulled by some strange force, which in part was the obvious love of this man. “There’s something different about Pastor Jim,” he told his friends. “You can see his love is real. I can’t explain it, really, but I know it’s there.”

As time passed, and Charles shared his experience and new-found faith in Christ with others, something strange happened, some Christians he met seemed more intent on which church he attended than the glorious fact of his salvation. It usually went in this manner: “Well, that’s wonderful, Charles, what church do you attend?”

“Berean Baptist,” he would say.

“Oh, is that American Baptist or Conservative Baptist?”

“What’s the difference, we’re all Christians aren’t we?”

“Well, of course but it’s important to know if they believe once saved always saved, don’t you think? I mean, you don’t want to think you can lose your salvation do you?”

“Lose my salvation??” he would say; which opened the door for theological ramblings bent on causing division rather than unity. “Does your church believe in the gifts of the Spirit? How about speaking in tongues? What about baptism? Do they sprinkle or dunk, is baptism essential to salvation, are people predestined for salvation; do you think it’s ok for women to wear jewelry and cut their hair? What about the Holy Spirit, what part does He play in your faith? You have to know these things to choose the right church!”

I need to talk with Pastor Jim, Charles thought. I can trust him.

“Pastor, my head is spinning. I am very confused with all the potential divisions in Christianity I’m hearing of. I thought accepting Christ as my Savior was opening a wonderful door into total forgiveness and a new life trusting my Savior.”

“You’re right, Charles. That is what happened. You must not allow the doubts and divisive thinking of some people to derail your faith. God is not a God of confusion but of unity. When you hear people telling you that you must now do this or that to be assured of your Christianity, look to God’s Word. If their statement does not line up with the Scriptures, then it is not true. God doesn’t want opposing teams in the body of Christ, tearing at the unity Christ died for. He wants us to be servants, loving and serving each other, just as He did when He was walking this earth.

“Tell me, Charles, how did you receive your salvation and forgiveness from Christ?”

Beaming with recollection, he said, “Well you know, Pastor, we prayed together and I asked Jesus into my heart!”

“Amen, my friend. I was there and we cried together as your heart was filled with God’s love. So, let me ask, do you think Christ is in heaven, at the right hand of God saying that you need to do this or that to experience the full-deal meal of Christianity? Do you believe that Christ’s death on the cross was something like step one in the process of salvation? What kind of God would we have who kept the next step dangling in front of us like a carrot on a stick. “Just one more thing to do, to learn, to prove that you are saved, to experience the fulness of God?”

“Yes, I see,” Charles said. “That sounds more like something man would say or add to what Christ has already done.”

“Let’s look at Ephesians 2:8-10: “For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it. God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.”

“Even though you were not aware of it, the Holy Spirit was drawing you to God. God’s grace. Now that you’ve said yes, He can reveal the good deeds He has already prepared for you to do. Our unity with Christ and other Christians accomplishes God’s plans to build His kingdom.”

Romans 12:1-2 “So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.”

Romans 12:5-6 “In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body. So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us. If our gift is to speak God’s message, we should do it according to the faith that we have.”

Romans 12:10 “Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another.” 

WDJS

“But I tell you this: Love your enemies” ~Matthew 5:44

In the 1990’s a youth leader in Michigan began a movement which took hold and spread worldwide. Before long millions of people, young and not-so-young wore bracelets, pins, T-shirts and wrote with pens as they drank from coffee cups all bearing the initials, WWJD which is an acronym for, What Would Jesus Do? The original idea was to cause people to think of their actions throughout their days and nights, based on this slogan. Since Jesus did what His Father told Him in all circumstances, we may see WWJD as a daunting, formidable task for us mortals.

Perhaps another acronym may prove more beneficial to all followers of
Christ: WDJS which stands for: What Did Jesus Say? Rather than attempting to decide what Jesus would do, we can see what He actually said in the Bible. Memorizing the Lord’s statements should act as a key to our choices in life. If you are new to the Bible, look for a version which states it is a Red Letter Edition wherein all the words of Christ are printed in red! 

Matthew 6:14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Mark 8:34 “Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”

John 14:6 “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” 

Matthew 20:18-19 “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

Luke 6:27-30 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.”

Romans 12:1-2 “So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.”

Romans 14:1 “Accept other believers who are weak in the faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.”

Left to our own ideas we cannot tell if the light at the end of the tunnel is God’s provision or Satan’s imitation. However if we choose to read and re-read the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ conversations (WDJS), we will always be prepared for the challenges of life. And for those times of poor choices, we will see the forgiveness of Christ as well.

Our Position in Christ

May 9, 2020

“My sheep listen to My voice—no one can snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:28 

On occasion, there may be events in our lives that lead us to believe we have been shunned or ostracized by a person or from a group. If that happens, it is painful and confusing. It may be that we caused the action or it may not. Sometimes it is the result of cross words or misunderstandings. However, if our position with the person or group has changed and we’re no longer welcome, hurt and insecurity gain momentum. What is wrong with me, we wonder. 

Fortunately for all followers of Christ, we will never be ostracized from the true Church, which is the Body of Christ. Our position is permanent, eternal and secure. Jesus paid the ultimate price for our membership and standing. No matter how difficult life becomes, Christ remains our intercessor, pleading with the Father on our behalf. 

1 Peter 1:3-5   ”All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation,  and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.  And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” 

1 Corinthians 12:12-13  “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”

John 6:39-40  “And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” 

Romans 8:38  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” 

Cindy sat dejected on the bed as Paul packed his suitcase and grabbed arms full of clothes from his closet. He was leaving. He “needed his space to really embrace life to the fullest” he gave as his reason for wanting a divorce.

Four lives changed forever; Cindy, Paul and their two children.

“Paul you promised in our wedding vows to stick it out through sickness and health, richer or poorer,” she reminded him.

As he snapped the suitcase locks and grabbed his overnight bag Paul replied, “I know but things have changed, Cindy. We’re different people now!”

Unlike this scenario which happens far too often, God never changes His mind and will always keep us close to His heart.

Hebrews 13:5  God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.”

The Trumpet Call

“Therefore I will protect you from the time of Great Tribulation” ~Rev 3:10 

“Do you know the next great event on God’s prophetic calendar?” Chris asked his friend, Evan. 

“The tribulation?” 

“Actually this event occurs just before the tribulation.” 

“I guess I’m not sure. I often get the end times stuff mixed up.” 

“The next big prophetic event is the  Rapture!” 

“To tell you the truth, I am a little foggy on how that is supposed to work, Chris. Can you fill me in. Oh, and should I worry about being left behind?” 

“I can give you the ultimate test to see if you will be included in the rapture (if it happens before you die). Answer this question for me and we will know for sure: the Bible says, in Romans 10:13, “For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Evan, have you called upon the name of the Lord to save you?” 

“Yes. I have. I most certainly have.” 

“Then you will not be left behind; plain and simple.” 

“Praise God. That is a relief. So, go ahead, tell me about the Rapture.” 

“Let me quote Mark Hitchcock’s book, 101 Answers To The Most Asked Questions About The End Times 

“The Rapture is that future event when Jesus Christ will descend from heaven and, in a moment of time, resurrect the bodies of departed believers, transform the bodies of living believers immediately into His glorious presence, and then escort them to heaven to live with Him forever. The Rapture is the blessed hope of the church.” 

“When is this supposed to happen?” 

“That is the question for all the ages, Evan. Only God knows the date and time. So we are to look with expectancy— anticipating that at any moment we might hear the mighty shout and trumpet blast calling us home.” 

 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-2  

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 

“We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.

When is all this going to happen? I really don’t need to say anything about that, dear brothers, for you know perfectly well that no one knows. That day of the Lord will come unexpectedly like a thief in the night.” 

 2 Peter 3:8-13 

“But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.”

“Life in these mortal bodies often brings conflict, sadness, sorrow, uncertainty and discouragement, Evan, which is why verse 18 in 1 Thessalonians, above, is so crucial: So comfort and encourage each other with these words! When a friend, a fellow believer, is at rock-bottom, encourage them with these words! We cannot hear them too often and need the life-changing assurance God’s word brings to our souls.” 

Law or Grace?

“We will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” ~Acts:15:11

            Law or grace? Now that we have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, don’t we still have to try living by the Law? Can we simply turn our backs on what God gave His people through Moses? I hear Christians refer to meeting on the Sabbath, meaning Sunday; or for some, Saturday. Which is proper and what does God expect from Christians today?

            Faith in Jesus Christ brings righteousness (apart from the law) to all who believe! ALL!

(Romans 3:19-26)   “The law commands many things. We know that those commands are for those who are under the law. This stops all excuses and brings the whole world under God’s judgment, because no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin.

But God has a way to make people right with him without the law. And God has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about. God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all are the same. 

All people have sinned and are not good enough for God’s glory. People are made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith. And all of this is because of the blood of Jesus’ death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair. God was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And God gave Jesus to show today that God does what is right. God did this so that he could judge rightly and also make right any person who has faith in Jesus.”

                      Realizing how difficult it is for Jews, who have been taught that following The Law is essential, Paul uses strong language to explain that faith in Christ is what justifies everyone…Jew and Gentile.

(Gal. 2:15-16)   “You (Paul) and I are Jews by birth, not sinners like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”

            One of the most powerful explanations of the difference between law and grace is verse twenty-one:

(Gal. 2:21)  “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”

            Beginning chapter three, Paul slaps the Galatians in the face with this powerful point:

(Gal. 3:1-4)  “Foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of His death on the cross. Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”

            Pounding the message home further, Paul’s fervent love and concern for the Galatians continues in verse 5, “I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.”

            A scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Mark 12:28

            (Mark 12:29-31)  Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

            In the Gospel of John, Jesus emphasizes the importance of love as a command:

(John 14:15; 15:9-14, 17)  “If you love me, you will obey what I command…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…This is my command: Love each other.”

“Love each other.” Sounds easy, especially when we are not frustrated with each other; when all is going well; when we are in agreement; when we’re not stuck in traffic in the pouring rain and the gas gauge is hovering over empty! God’s example of love is the innocent Jesus dying on the cross. Love is sacrifice