Death to Life

Friday, April 29, 2016, 5:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Fully Ready.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 6 (ESV).

By No Means! (vv. 1-4)

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). Paul said that Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He also said that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but who live our lives according to the Spirit (See: Ro. 8:1-14). Jesus DIDN’T DIE just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die! God’s grace is NOT a free license for us to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. May it never be! God’s grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). Death to sin, and living to righteousness is the essence of what the gospel of our salvation is all about. This is true grace, which frees us from sin!

Crucified with Him (vv. 5-11)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). The old has gone, the new has come. Believing in Jesus does not mean we slightly clean up our old lives, and according to our own choosing and timing. Yet, it also does not mean that we reach instant perfection, or that we never sin again (See: 1 Jn. 2:1). What it does mean is that we choose, by the Spirit, to put to death our old lives of living for sin and self so that we can now walk according to the Spirit in Christ’s righteousness and holiness (See: Eph. 4:17-24). Yet, it is a process of sanctification as daily we die to sin and self and daily we put on the armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil attacks against us (Lu. 9:23-25; Eph. 6:10-20).

So many people today are not teaching this. They are teaching a diluted gospel message which does not put sin to death in the life of the one claiming to believe in Christ. In fact, they are teaching that nothing is required of us – no repentance, no obedience, and no submission to Christ. They completely bypass the crucified life and move from Jesus’ death for our sins on a cross to the promise of heaven when we die, with nothing in between. Belief in Jesus is reduced to an intellectual assent to what Jesus did for us or to some emotional decision one makes based upon a desire to escape hell and/or to end up in heaven when one dies. So, there is no heart transformation of the Spirit of God, and thus they are not really saved, and they do not have the Spirit of God living within them.

I don’t know how anyone can read Romans 6 and Romans 8 and teach anything else that is not in agreement with this teaching. If we continue in sin, i.e. if we continue to live sinful lifestyles, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14). We are not saved just because we said some magic words or just because someone congratulated us and told us we had the hope of heaven. Just as Jesus died to sin once for all, and the life he lives, he lives to God, we also are to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. This means we no longer live our lives to please our own selves, but we live our lives to please and to honor God with our lives.

Do Not Continue! (vv. 12-23)

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Why is it that so many people in America claim to believe in Jesus Christ, but so few are living like this talks about? We need to take these words seriously. A saved life is not a life that merely professes faith in Jesus Christ and thinks it has the hope of heaven, yet can live however it wants. We can’t fill our lives with the junk of this world, and be passionate over everything but Christ, and think we belong to Christ! Does it matter to us at all what Christ thinks of our lifestyles? Do we think he is satisfied with 10 minutes of our time each day and maybe a couple of hours once a week on Sundays? And, that he is ok with us spending the rest of the week just living for our own self-pleasure? May it never be!!

So many who profess the name of Jesus have this Americanized vision of what a Christian should look like, but it isn’t what the Bible teaches at all. And, it isn’t just that they are lazy, apathetic or complacent about their Christian walks, but that so many are excusing away sinful behavior on the basis of God’s grace. Not only that, but they are teaching against repentance, obedience and submission to Christ and his word, while falsely accusing those who teach such things of teaching works-based salvation. What a mockery they make of what Jesus Christ did in dying for our sins, for he didn’t die that horrible death, and he didn’t become sin for us just so we could continue in sin. He died that sin might be eradicated from our lives! He died that we would no longer be slaves to sin, but that we might now become slaves of his righteousness! Amen! THIS IS TRUE FREEDOM!

The wages of sin is death, not just to those who make no profession of Christ as Savior, but also for those who profess Christ but still walk according to the flesh, and not according to the Spirit. If we want to have eternal life with God, and have the hope of heaven when we die, then we must be crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we must be resurrected with Christ in newness of life. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue to conduct our lives in the darkness (sin), then we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6).

Yet, know that if you believe this, and you are radically transformed of the Spirit of God, and you no longer live your life to please your flesh, but you live to please God, and/or if you are proclaiming the truth of what Romans 6 and 8 teach, you will be hated and persecuted, even within the church, or most especially within organized religion and/or the institutional church, and even by its leadership. Already there is a plan in motion globally to silence those of us who preach this gospel message, and there is already much persecution being promoted and practiced against such as those who hold on to these truths of scripture. We are being targeted for extinction, and we are being tagged as intolerant, bigoted, hateful and as extremists who must either be reeducated or done away with. Yet, we should not fear, for God is with us, and he will not leave or forsake us. Amen!

Fully Ready! / An Original Work / June 19, 2013

Based off Acts 20-22, 26; Mt. 28:18-20; Ac. 1:8

Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?
I’m fully ready to suffer for Christ.
If I must die for the sake of His name,
I am convinced it will not be in vain.
Glory to God and to His Son Jesus,
Who has redeemed us; bought with His blood.

May I speak to you? Jesus came to me;
Asked of me, “Why do you persecute me?”
He said, “Now get up and stand on your feet.
Go, and you’ll be told all I have for you.
I have appointed you as a servant,
And as a witness; you have been sent.”

“Go into the world and preach the gospel.
Open the blind eyes. They will receive sight.
Turn them from darkness to the light of Christ;
From power of the evil one to God,
So they may receive forgiveness of sins,
And a place among those who’re in heav’n.”

In Which We Stand

Thursday, April 28, 2016, 5:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “I Do Not Seal My Lips.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 5:1-5 (ESV).

Justified by Faith (v. 1)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to be justified by faith? First of all, I believe we need to go back and look at Romans 3:23 where it says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

When God created man (Adam), he placed him in a garden. He gave him so many good things to enjoy, but he told him that he could not eat of a specific tree. Then God created woman (Eve) out of man, because God said it was not good for man to be alone. Then Satan tempted Eve to sin against God by eating fruit from the forbidden tree. And, Eve gave to her husband of this fruit, and he, as well, ate the fruit and thus sinned against God. So, God put a curse on them, and he banished them from the garden (See: Gen. 2-3).

Then, we read here in Romans 5:12 that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” And in v. 19a we read that “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” And, then we read in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

What this is saying is that, because of Adam’s sin against God, sin came into the world, and thus we are all sinners. When we are born, we are born with sin natures, separate from God, without hope, and destined for eternity in hell. We have all sinned, and we all come up short of attaining God’s divine approval. Yet, we cannot be made acceptable to God through our own fleshly works. We cannot earn or deserve our own salvation. We can never be good enough. So, Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us. When he died, our sins died, and they were buried with him. But, when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, Satan, hell and death. Amen!

So, if we want to be justified (made righteous; acceptable to God), and cleared of all charges against us, so that we are no longer under a curse, but we are now free from condemnation, and free from the control of sin over our lives, we need to have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives. So, what does this faith look like? In Romans 6 it states that those who have been made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ have died to sin. Basically, when we trust in Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life (Ro. 6), “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). As well, Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). This “death to life” is the essence of the gospel of our salvation (cf. Ro. 8:1-14; Eph. 4:17-24; Lu. 9:23-25).

The peace we now have with God is not the kind the world talks about. They think of peace as absence of conflict among people where everyone agrees with one another, and where all people of all faiths join hands together in unity. Peace with God, though, means that we are no longer at enmity with God, but through the blood of Jesus Christ shed on a cross for our sins, and through faith in Jesus Christ, we are made right with God, and we are no longer his enemies. We are forgiven of our sins, and we now have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. Yet, peace with God is likely to produce conflict with those who don’t have such peace, for they may now hate us and persecute us for our faith in Jesus Christ.

Access by Faith (v. 2)

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Through faith in Jesus Christ we gain access into God’s grace in which we stand. So, what does that mean? What is grace? It is God’s favor and kindness towards us. In other words, God owes us nothing. We are not deserving of his grace to us. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He didn’t die on a cross for us because of our goodness, but because of his love for us, and his desire to see us free from the control of sin, and free to now come under the control of his righteousness. His grace sent Jesus Christ to die on a cross. His grace offers eternal salvation to all who will believe on him. By his grace we are filled and empowered with his Spirit, too, so that we can live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God.

There are many people today, though, who are teaching God’s grace as though it is merely a “get-out-of-jail-free card,” and a “free ride” into heaven and nothing more. Yet, the Bible teaches us that God’s grace, which brings us salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See: Tit. 2:11-14). You see, his grace to us was not just to pardon our sins, to remove the curse of sin, and to give us eternal life with him. His grace to us is for the purpose of transforming our lives, to turn us from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that we might receive forgiveness of sins, and a place among those who are sanctified (purified) through faith in Jesus Christ (Ac. 26:16-18).

So, if we stand in this grace, it means we remain, endure, persist and continue in his grace. It is not that we use his grace as a free license to continue in sin, but that we remain in Christ and in his word, and we endure suffering and persecution for his name, and we persist and continue in submitting to his Lordship over our lives in living holy lives, pleasing to him, all in the power and working of his Spirit within us.

Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to our flesh, but who walk according to his Spirit, for if we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14). Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self and take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25). Thus, his grace provides the way in which we can die with him to sin and live with him to righteousness. By his stripes we are healed! Amen!!

Rejoicing in Suffering (vv. 3-5)

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

When we truly believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, and we are born anew of the Spirit of God, and we have died with Christ in death to sin, and we have been resurrected with Christ in newness of life, which is not like our old lives, we will be hated and persecuted for our faith in Jesus Christ. And, that persecution may come from those closest to us – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and even church members.

So, what should be our response to such treatment when it happens? For one, we are not to fear their threats, their rejection, or the persecution they will most certainly heap on us if we are truly walking according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. If we are still living like the world, the world will still love us, and I am talking about the worldly church, too. But, if we come out from the world, and we are separate, as God has called us to be, we are bound to upset some people, even within organized religion. We have to remember here that Jesus’ greatest opponents were the leaders in the temple.

We are also to rejoice in our sufferings, because God has good purposes in mind for us through the things which we suffer. Suffering, thus, though hard and difficult, is for our good. If we respond to our sufferings in the right way, we learn endurance, we develop godly character, we have increased faith, and we grow in maturity. As well, through suffering our faith is tested to see if it is genuine (Jas. 1:2-4). In addition to all that, when we go through suffering, and God encourages us, we are able to comfort and admonish others who are going through similar suffering. Our afflictions, too, teach us to “rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Co. 1:3-11). And, that is a very good thing!

I Do Not Seal My Lips / An Original Work / January 13, 2014

Based off Psalms 37, 40

Do not fear when evil man
Has success in all their plans,
For like grass they’ll wither soon.
They’ll be cut off from the land.

Trust in the Lord and He’ll give you peace.
Find your delight in Him through all stress.
All of your ways commit unto Him.
All your desires from Him He’ll fulfill.

Wait for the Lord; keep His way.
Delight in His Word always.
He’ll be with you to the end;
Life eternal found in Him.

I waited patiently for my Lord.
He turned to me, and He heard my cry.
He set my feet on the Solid Rock.
He gave to me a firm place to stand.

Blessed are we, who trust the Lord,
Who do not turn to false gods.
Our desire’s to do God’s will.
His word is within our hearts.

I will proclaim salvation to man.
You put a new song now in my mouth.
I’ll not withhold your love and your grace.
I’ll speak forevermore of your truth.

Although They Know God

Tuesday, April 26, 2016, 5:40 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 1:18-32 (ESV).

Suppressing the Truth (vv. 18-23)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

So, it isn’t that the people on this earth are not aware of God’s existence, but it is that they deny that existence by how they choose to live their lives. It isn’t that they can’t see God all around them as reflected in all his created works, but it is that they choose not to honor him as the holy God that he is. And, it isn’t that the truth about God, to some extent, has not been made known to them through all that God has made, but it is that they choose to suppress that truth and to go their own way, instead. So, humankind is without excuse.

Yet, the saddest reality of it all, I believe, is that this also describes many who call themselves Christians. They do not revere God. They live ungodly and unholy lives, and yet think they are still going to heaven when they die. They think they don’t have to turn from their sins, and that they don’t have to obey God. And, they call that freedom! Instead of becoming followers of Christ, whom they claim to know, they have become followers of humans, instead. They are not worshipers of God. They are just looking for a free ride.

God Gave Them UP (vv. 24-27)

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Because humans do not honor God or give thanks to him, even though they know he exists, for God has revealed himself to them – and because they suppress the truth by their unrighteous living, and have chosen to worship the created rather than the creator, God has given them over to the desires of their flesh, to do what their evil hearts desire.

He does not force his will upon us, in other words. We are not puppets on a string. He reveals himself to us, but we must choose whether or not to honor him as the holy God he is. We must choose whether or not to believe on him, and to receive his Son, and to accept his eternal salvation. It is our choice how we want to live our lives, whether or not we will honor God with our lives, or whether we will give glory, instead, to our human flesh.

Although there are many ways in which we may choose to give honor to our flesh instead of to honor God with our lives (see next section), these verses here talk about a very specific area of flesh living. Here we are presented with the problem of living in impurity. Although all sin is impure, this is specifically referring, I believe, to sexual impurity. This can come in many different forms.

Included in sexual impurity is lust, which is really where it all begins. Jesus said that if a man looks lustfully at a woman (to whom he is not married), he has committed adultery with her in his heart. And, this applies to women, too, and it applies to sexual lust toward people of the same sex, as well. If we sexually desire someone to whom we are not married, it is the same, in God’s eyes, as if we had already committed the physical act. Yet, I believe this encompasses more than just sexual lust, but also romantic (emotional) desire toward someone to whom we are not married. When we give our hearts and/or minds over to thinking how we would like to be with someone with whom we are not married in either a romantic or sexual situation, or in a close friendship where we are intimate with another, outside of our marriage, then that is the same as committing adultery in God’s eyes.

I believe this can be played out in many ways, too. One situation is that this is all in our minds and it doesn’t go beyond that, but it is still lust, and it is still adultery, even if we never act it out in any way. Another is that we watch romantic movies or read romantic novels, or we watch or read stories with sexual situations in them, especially with regard to people living in sexual impurity, and that we get some kind of “high” or some kind of pleasure out of entering into imaginary situations where other people are romantically or sexually involved with one another. Read verse 32 (below). It is not just the practicing of these sins that is dishonoring to God, but it is it is the giving approval to those who practice them which also dishonors God. For, when we allow ourselves to be entertained by these situations, then we are honoring them in our minds and we are giving approval to them.

Another situation which exists today, and which has broken up many marriages, are romantic or sexual (or sensual) affairs which begin seemingly innocent enough, but because people are not wise, discerning and guarded against such things, they easily fall into the trap of the devil and they fall into sin. This can take place in working relationships with other people or on social media sites where people reunite with old friendships, or where they form new relationships with people, and it can happen, as well, on Christian discussion sites or even in the church in certain areas of ministry where people work closely together. We have to be so careful. I don’t believe married people should go out to lunch with people of the opposite sex, or even of the same sex if they have any kind of weakness in that area, because they set themselves up for a fall. Private emails, texts and chats can be a danger, as well. At work, they should guard against having intimate and personal conversations with co-workers, but should keep conversations professional and above board always.

And, then there is the issue of pornography, which is HUGE these days with the ease at which even children can gain access to pornographic sites with the touch of a finger on a laptop, a tablet (I Pad) or on a smart phone. And, there is sex-texting that goes on or sex-chatting on social media or other chat sites on the internet or even on unsmart phones, which are “call and text” only, but also allow for sharing pictures. PARENTS, don’t be stupid! Guard your children against such things. Don’t just hand them these devices thinking your kids won’t go to such places, or that they don’t know how. They are smarter than we are when it comes to such things, and they can work their way around net nannies, too.

And, then there is the whole homosexual issue, as well. Especially in today’s world here in America, homosexuality is being strongly promoted as normal behavior, but if you read these verses here, it is clear that God does not see it that way. He created man, and then woman to be man’s helper. He said that the two will become one flesh in marriage. He is against homosexual unions. He calls them “shameless acts.” These are not my words, they are his. I love all people regardless of the sins they commit, but because I love them, I will tell them the truth, even if it gets me hated and falsely accused in return.

Not Only Do They (vv. 28-32)

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Yet, lest we begin to see ourselves as superior, or we begin to think we are somehow better than those who commit these “shameless acts,” we need to be reminded that these are not the only sins God regards as evil in his sight. Included in the list are envy, strife, deceit, gossip, boastfulness, disobedience, and faithlessness, etc. I see so many who call themselves Christians making a huge fuss over homosexuality while they ignore such obvious sins in their own lives. Jesus counseled that we should get rid of the log in our own eyes before we can see clearly to take a speck out of another’s eye. It doesn’t say we can’t judge sin in another, but that we need to not judge hypocritically. So, before we judge another, we need to examine our own hearts before God, asking him to reveal to us our own sins, and then we need to turn from those sins and obey God with our own lives. Then, we need to correct lovingly, always with a goal of restoration, and not treat others unkindly.

Again, let me remind all of us here that if we allow ourselves to be entertained by others’ sins, or if we accommodate others’ sins in any way, we are guilty of giving approval to them, and so we share in their guilt, because we took pleasure in their sin, or we made allowance for their sin in some way. So, we need to guard against viewing or listening to TV shows, movies, music or music videos, video games, social media posts, and photos, etc. which glorify and give honor to the above listed sins. And, instead, we need to walk in the Spirit, and not according to the flesh, and we need to choose daily to honor God in all that we do, and are, and say. So, repent of your sins today, and follow Jesus in obedience.

Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee / Henry Van Dyke / Beethoven / MacMillan

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.

The Words of Life

Monday, April 25, 2016, 1:21 a.m.

Last night, after I went to bed, and again this morning I had the song “Here I Go Again” running through my mind. So, I looked up the lyrics. Basically, the message of the song is from the perspective of someone who is afraid to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with a friend. He talks about everything with his friend other than about Jesus Christ. His conversations with his friend center on what has no eternal value whatsoever, while he avoids telling his friend the truth about his eternity and about Jesus Christ.

What he realizes is that time is not his friend, and that this may be the last chance he has to tell his friend that Jesus loves him. And, so he prays to God, asking him for the words to speak to his friend. He knows that his friend’s only hope of salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone, and that the only way his friend will know this hope is if he has the courage to tell him the truth, and to live the truth before him, reflecting Jesus Christ by his life. And, then he says this:

Here I Go Again / Mark Hall

So maybe this time
I’ll speak the words of life
With Your fire in my eyes
But that old familiar fear
is tearin’ at my words
What am I so afraid of?

I was convinced the Lord Jesus had put these lyrics in my mind for a reason, so I inquired of him as to what he wanted me to do. I do believe we are nearing the Lord’s return and that time is running out, so time is not our friend. Every day we talk with people, and every one of those times could be our last chance to tell them about Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation. So now, more than ever before, I sense an urgency to get the message of the gospel out to as many as possible before Jesus Christ returns. We don’t have time to waste talking about a lot of nothing while people are dying in their sins, and while the church at large is growing more and more apathetic, complacent and distant from their God and Lord.

So, I believe that we who claim to be followers of Christ need to examine our own hearts before God, and we need to listen to our own conversations with people and see how much of them are about things that won’t live past today. I believe we also need to ask ourselves how much we avoid telling people about Jesus Christ, perhaps out of fear that they won’t like us. Many people make excuses for not sharing the gospel, convincing themselves that all we have to do is “love” people, but isn’t true love laying down our lives for our friends? Isn’t true love giving our friends what they truly need? – Throwing them a lifeline? Which one of us, if we saw one of our friends drowning in a pool or a lake, would just stand there and watch him or her drown, with no effort on our part to save them at all? Real friends tell each other the truth, and they care enough to tell the truth even if they get hated in return.

The Gospel Message (Romans 1:16-17 ESV)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

So, what is this gospel message? Well, first of all it is that God the Son, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – left his throne in heaven, came to earth, was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and was born as a baby to a young woman named Mary. When he walked the face of this earth, he was fully God yet fully man. He suffered like we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin.

He went about doing good – healing the sick and afflicted, comforting the sorrowful, raising the dead, delivering from demons, and preaching repentance for forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God. He taught that if we want to come after him we must deny self, die daily to sin and self, and follow him in obedience to his will for our lives. He said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (if we are crucified with Christ in death to sin), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25; cf. Eph. 4:17-24).

The main reason Jesus Christ came to the earth and took on human form was that he might become our sacrificial Lamb to take away the sins of the world. Most of his own people, of his own race and belief in God, rejected him, persecuted him and finally put him to death on a cross, although he had done no wrong. The religious leaders in the temple of God were his strongest opponents, heaping abuse upon him on a regular basis, and/or they tried continually to trip him up so that they could discredit him. When that didn’t work, they arranged to have him killed, hoping that would put an end to his influence over the people.

When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he who knew no sin became sin for us. So, when he died, our sins died with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death. By his grace, through faith in him, we can be delivered out of the penalty of sin (eternal damnation), be set free from slavery to sin, be given the freedom to now become servants of righteousness, receive the gift of eternal life with God, and have the hope of heaven and eternity with God when we leave this earth.

So, what does this faith look like? It is not an emotional decision we make at an altar, nor is it merely an intellectual assent to what Jesus Christ did in dying on the cross for our sins. It is also not words we repeat after someone, after which we are congratulated and told we now have the hope of heaven when we die. If we truly believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, we are thus crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life (See: Romans 6), “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). The old has gone. The new has come. We forsake our former lives of living for sin and self, and we turn to walking in obedience to our Lord and God. Our lives are no longer our own, for we were bought with a price – the blood of Jesus Christ.

The Bible says that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24); that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to our sinful flesh, but according to (in agreement with) the Spirit. If we walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14). God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).

Basically, Jesus did not die just so we could escape hell and have the hope of heaven when we die. He died so that we could die to sin and live to righteousness. He came to transform us; to make us new creations in Christ Jesus. So, when we share the gospel message, we, like Paul, are to open blinded eyes, turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ. We are to tell them the truth about salvation, that we are not just saved from the penalty of sin, but Jesus came to deliver us out of bondage to sin and to enslave us to his righteousness. This is true hope! This is true freedom! To no longer walk according to the flesh, but to conduct our lives according to the Spirit, in the power and working of the Spirit within us, as we yield to the Spirit’s control in our lives.

Seeing, but Never Perceiving

Sunday, April 24, 2016, 4:24 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “All Through the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 28:17-28 (ESV).

It is Spoken Against (vv. 17-22)

After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”

Under the Old Covenant, the Jews were God’s chosen people. Paul was a Jew and had been a Pharisee. The Jews were given a promise of a Messiah to come, but when Jesus came, many did not believe in him, though some did. Paul, formerly called Saul, previously did not believe and, in fact, had been a staunch and passionate persecutor of Christians, as well as he had given his approval to many of their deaths. But, God called Paul to turn to faith in Jesus Christ and to be a minister of this gospel of salvation which he once opposed. Now he was among the persecuted, instead of being a persecutor. And, it was because of his faith in Jesus Christ, and because of his testimony to God’s saving grace through faith in Christ that he was persecuted, and that he was placed under arrest, and that he was kept in prison as long as he was.

Everywhere that Paul went, even when he was in chains for the gospel, as much as he had opportunity to do so, he told people about Jesus Christ, and that he was the fulfillment of the prophecies of scripture regarding the Promised One, “the hope of Israel.” But a large majority of the Jews were against this teaching, for they would not accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah. They wanted to hold on to what they had always known, even though they knew the prophecies concerning the Messiah to come. Yet, many of them were not content with just disbelieving in Jesus, but they spoke openly against faith in Jesus Christ.

I find this to also be true of many who call themselves Christians today, that they want to hold on to what they have always known, or to what they had been taught previously, even if the Word of God says otherwise. Many who call themselves followers of Christ are actually followers of humankind, or they are followers of religion, but they don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Although some of these do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, they also have blinded their minds and hearts to much of the truth because it goes against their traditional beliefs and practices. Even if you show them the truth from the Word of God, still they will not listen. They are set in their ways and will not budge. And, some among these who remain headstrong in their humanistic or traditional teachings, who oppose the teachings of Christ, will also turn to persecuting those who stand on the Word of Truth.

Hearing, But Never Understanding (vv. 23-28)

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

“‘Go to this people, and say,
“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

For many people, even among those who profess to believe in Jesus Christ, it is not that they don’t know the truth, but it is that they refuse to believe the truth, or that they just ignore what doesn’t fit with their lifestyles. They like to hold on to what fits with their comfort zone. So, even though they hear the truth, and they have been shown the truth, they still go their own way as though what has been revealed to them does not exist. And, this is true even among those who call themselves ministers of the gospel. They have been so inundated with humanistic philosophy that they oftentimes accept the teachings of humans over and above or in place of the teachings of Christ.

For example, the Bible clearly teaches that faith in Jesus Christ involves death to sin and living to righteousness, all in the power and working of the Spirit in our lives, as we cooperate fully with that work. Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). Paul said that if we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14). John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue to conduct our lives in darkness (in our sinful flesh), we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6).

As well, Jesus said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self, take up our cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25).

Yet, why do so many teach that God requires nothing of us – no repentance, no obedience, and no death to sin and living to righteousness?

They have reduced faith in Jesus Christ to the acceptance of a religion or of certain religious practices, but they have deleted the necessary heart transformation of the Spirit of God in which we are crucified with Christ in death to sin and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). They have also made salvation out to be merely an escape from hell (if hell is even mentioned) and the promise of heaven when we die, but they forget that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). They forget that God’s grace is not liberty to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse, but his grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for his return (Tit. 2:11-14).

They forget conveniently, because they don’t want to remember, because they don’t want to forsake their sins, and they don’t want to follow Christ in obedience, but they want to just have a religion, because it eases or it masks the guilt they might feel over their sinful lifestyles. They can then convince themselves that they are followers of God and doers of what is right even though they know in their hearts that much of their life choices are contrary to God’s word and to the teachings of Christ. Because they attend church services on Sunday and they serve in the community, and they give money to the church, too, they think that makes them good in God’s sight.

And, so these words apply to them, as well, that they are ever hearing but never comprehending, and they are ever seeing, but never perceiving, because they have closed their minds and hearts off to whatever truths make them feel uncomfortable. And, thus they don’t turn from their sins, and they don’t turn to follow Jesus with their lives, and they are not healed spiritually.

If we point these things out to them, and we show them the truth, but they refuse to believe the truth, they may turn on us, and they may hate and reject us, and even put us out of their church fellowships. Yet, we are blessed that we are counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ and his gospel. Yet, we are not to be afraid of what humans may do to us, for God is with us, and he will not leave us. In return for their mistreatment of us we are to love them, pray for them, do good to them, and forgive them, and we are to trust our lives and their lives into God’s hands, believing our Lord for the salvation of human lives.

All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013

Based off Various Scriptures

Blessed are you when you’re persecuted
Because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you when people insult you,
And falsely say what leads folks to doubt.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
Great in the heavens. You’re not alone.

When you are persecuted in one place,
Flee to another. God will be there.
You will be hated by all the nations
Because you testify of God’s grace.
Many will seize you and persecute you,
And put to death the foll’wers of Christ.

Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you,
For I’m with you all through the night.
I tell you, love your enemies with my love,
And forgive as I forgave you.
Pray for those who do evil against you.
Rest in my love and grace from above.

Testifying to God’s Grace

Friday, April 22, 2016, 4:44 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Courageous!” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 26 (Select vv. ESV).

Summary (Acts 21:27-26:11)

Paul was in Jerusalem. Some Jews from the province of Asia stirred up a crowd against him. A mob of people tried to kill him, yet when the commander of the Roman troops showed up, they stopped. The commander arrested Paul. The next day he brought him before the Sanhedrin. Paul brought up the subject of the resurrection of the dead, over which the Pharisees and Sadducees were divided. A dispute broke out that was so violent, the commander had to remove Paul for his own safety, and so he took him to the barracks. The Lord then encouraged Paul to “Take courage.” God was not finished with him yet.

After this, a group of Jews formed a conspiracy against Paul and plotted how they might take his life. His nephew learned of the plot, so Paul sent him to the commander. Then, Paul was transferred to Caesarea. False charges were brought against him before Governor Felix. Yet, Paul was permitted to make a defense for himself. He also spoke with Felix about faith in Jesus Christ. Paul was kept by Felix in prison for 2 years, but he sent for him frequently and talked with him. Then Felix was succeeded by Festus. Festus tried to encourage Paul to return to Jerusalem to face charges there, but Paul appealed to Caesar.

King Agrippa then came to town. Festus discussed Paul’s case with him. The king asked to hear Paul, so Paul appeared before King Agrippa and his entourage. The king gave Paul permission to speak for himself. So, Paul shared his testimony with the king – of his previous life as a Pharisee, and how he had opposed Jesus Christ and had persecuted his followers. Then, he told of his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.

A Light from Heaven (vv. 12-18)

“In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”

Although Paul was working vehemently against Jesus Christ, and he was guilty of persecuting the Lord’s followers, and of approving of their deaths, still God had a plan for his life. Not only did God plan to save Paul, though, and to give him eternal life, but he purposed in his heart that Paul would lead many to faith in Jesus Christ and that he would become an apostle of Christ. As well, Paul was a planter of churches, a major authority figure within the church as a whole, and he was used of God to write, under the authority and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, much of what has become our New Testament. What a picture of being turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God! Amen!

No matter where we have been, or what horrible things we may have done in our past life, if God has saved us by his grace, and he has called us to live holy lives, pleasing to him, then he can empower us to do great things for the advancement of his kingdom. After all, we are not saved by our own righteousness or by our own good works. When we believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, it is the Holy Spirit who transforms us from death to life, from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, but only as we submit to God’s work of grace in our lives. When we believe, we are crucified with Christ, of the Spirit, in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). We cannot affect our own salvation. It is the working of the Holy Spirit, but we must willingly submit to and cooperate with God in that life transformation process. And, that is what it means to believe.

Not Disobedient (vv. 19-23)

“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Being a follower of Jesus Christ means that we obey him, and we do what he says. We don’t obey to get saved, i.e. we can’t earn our own salvation, but believing in Jesus Christ means following him in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them, but if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25). Paul taught the same. He said that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. He said that if we conduct our lives according to our sinful flesh, we will die. But, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (Ro. 8:1-14). And, Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).

As well, repentance is part of believing faith. To repent literally means to have a change of mind, yet it is used in scripture almost exclusively in reference to forsaking our lives of sin and of living to self, and of discarding our idols in order to follow Jesus with our lives, in surrender to his will for our lives. This is the essence of the gospel of our salvation, that we are turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that we can receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (cleansed, made holy) by faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, God’s grace to us is not freedom to continue sinning without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).

When we testify to this gospel of salvation, as described above, which is the only true gospel, like Paul we will be hated and persecuted, and we may be falsely accused, too. We will be called hateful, bigoted, fear-mongers, intolerant, and extremists who must be silenced. Presently there is a global plot under way to silence us, and to bring the whole world under a one-world government and one-world religion, in which we all join hands together and agree to not try to persuade others to turn their lives over to Jesus Christ.

Do You Believe? (vv. 24-29)

And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.”

God has called us to be his witnesses, but he doesn’t promise that everyone will like us or that they will all receive the message with joy. Some will, but many will not. We may even be called “crazy” because of our testimonies for Jesus Christ and for his gospel, and because we don’t “go with the flow.” We think “outside the box” instead of following the lead of everyone else. We don’t compromise our faith and message to “make nice” with the world, either. But, the church, at least here in America, has largely compromised with the world of sin in order to attract the world to its gatherings, and thus they have also diluted the gospel in order to make it more palatable and acceptable to the world. And, so the world loves them. But, the world is not supposed to love us, because we are not of this world, for God has called us out of the world to live holy lives, pleasing unto him. So, we need to be strong and courageous in sharing the truth of the gospel, even in the face of great opposition.

Courageous! / An Original Work / December 24, 2013
Based off Various Scriptures

The Word of God throughout taught.
Some people heard, but did doubt.
Still others had faith in Christ.
By grace He purified them.

They turned from sin
And they obeyed Christ.
He opened up their blinded eyesight;
Turned them from darkness
To the true Light;
Forgave their sin by His might.

He strengthened them in their faith.
He said, “Remain my faithful.”
He called them to obedience.
By faith, they were so grateful.

By faith, they were to follow Jesus;
To daily sit and listen to Him;
To have such faith
That mountains could move;
To love those whom He gave them.

Be on your guard; courageous.
Stand firm in faith. Be thankful.
Take up the shield of your faith;
Protect against all evil.

Do not move from
The hope that you have.
Your faith in Jesus let it endure.
Hold to the truth;
Your conscience be clear.
Endure with perseverance.

A Changed Life

Wednesday, April 20, 2016, 4:46 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “You are Loving and Forgiving.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 22 (Select vv. ESV).

Paul was now in Jerusalem. When he arrived, he was greeted warmly by his brothers in Christ. Nonetheless, some Jews from the province of Asia stirred up the crowd against Paul, and they brought false accusations against him. The crowds seized him and tried to kill him, but when the commander of the Roman troops came on the scene, they stopped. Then, the commander arrested Paul and ordered that he be taken to the barracks. Paul then asked the commander if he could speak to the people. He was granted permission, and so he began to speak (See: chapter 21).

His Past Life (vv. 1-5)

“Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.”

We all have a past life. We have experiences we have encountered, things we have done for good or for bad, and accomplishments we have fulfilled, etc. For some people, their past life is not much different from their present life, because nothing has really changed in their lives. For others, there has been a change (a transformation) of heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and their present life no longer reflects their past life. This does not mean they have reached sinless perfection, or that they will never sin again, but it does mean that they no longer conduct their lives on a daily basis the way they did before. They now walk in the Spirit, and no longer according to their sinful flesh, to fulfill its evil desires. If they do sin, they confess it, turn from it, and they continue walking in the ways of the Lord.

No matter how bad our past life was, or still is, God’s grace is sufficient to forgive us of our sins, to transform our lives, and to give us new lives in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Unless you are a robot of some kind, if God created you, then he can save you from your sins, and he can set you free to now walk in his holiness and righteousness. Yet, we are not saved by our own efforts, or because of our own goodness. It was while we were yet sinners that Jesus Christ died on a cross to take away our sins. We are only saved by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ and in what he did for us in dying on a cross so that we could be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so we could be set free to now become servants of his righteousness.

His Testimony (vv. 6-16)

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

“And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’”

The Bible says that no one can come to Jesus Christ unless the Father draws him or her. God drew Paul to faith in Jesus Christ. Paul was not only not pursuing Jesus, but he was working against him and his servants when the Lord visited him on the road to Damascus. Not only did God the Father send his Son Jesus Christ to become a sin offering for us so that we could be saved out of our sins, but he lovingly pursues us, and he invites us to faith in Jesus Christ. Remember what it teaches in Ephesians 2:8-10. It is by God’s grace that we are saved, through faith – and this not from ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast that he accomplished his own salvation. Even the faith to believe is a gift from God, I believe. So, God gets all the glory for our transformed lives!

When God calls us to himself, he will confront us with our sin, and he will ask that we turn from that sin, and that we trust him with our lives. When we believe in him to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, which is to be lived according to the Spirit and no longer according to our sinful flesh – all in the power and working of the Holy Spirit now living within us, as we cooperate fully with God’s work of grace in our lives. God does not save us just so we can escape hell, and just so we can go to heaven when we die. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15).

When God calls us to himself, he does so for a purpose beyond just saving us from our sins, though. He created each and every one of us for a reason. He has a design for our lives. And, he wants us to know his will. His general will for all of us is written about in his Word, the Bible, and more specifically in the New Testament. Yet, he has a very specific will for each individual person, too. He didn’t make us all the same, and he will not use us all in the same way. We have different personalities, talents, abilities and spiritual gifts, which are to be used for the glory of God, for the salvation of souls, for the encouragement of the body of Christ, and for the advancement of the kingdom of heaven. So, we need to have ears to hear what the Spirit has to say to us with regard to our specific calling, and then we need to obey what God shows us, and do what he says.

His Mission (vv. 17-21)

“When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

For some of us, God may keep us right where we are, doing what we are doing, and that is where he may use us. For others of us, he may now be saying to us to “Go” wherever it is he wants to send us, so we must listen to what he says, and we must answer, “Yes” to his call. If we want to know his will, we need to be doing what we already know. We also need to be in tune with his voice, so we will recognize his voice when he does speak to us. Then, we must have willing hearts to obey, and we must step out in faith and go when and where he says, when he says “Go!” Then, we must trust him to work out all the details, and to lead and direct our path each step of the way. Lord, lead me today in your righteousness.

You are Loving and Forgiving / An Original Work / February 19, 2012

Based off Psalm 86

You are loving and forgiving,
Jesus, Savior, King of kings.
You provided our redemption.
By Your blood You set us free.
You are gracious; full of mercy.
No deeds can compare with Yours.
Great are You; there is none like You.
Glory be to Your name.

Teach me Your way, and I’ll walk in it.
O Lord, I will walk in Your truth.
May I not have a heart divided,
That Your name I give honor to.
I will praise You, O Lord, my Savior,
For great is Your love toward me.
You have delivered me from my sins.
Your grace has pardoned me.

You, O Lord, are full of compassion,
Slow to anger, bounteous in love;
Faithful to fulfill all You promise;
Glory be to Your name above.
Hear, O Lord, and answer Your servant.
You are my God. I trust in You.
Turn to me and grant Your strength to me.
You are my comforter.