Despised and Rejected

Friday, March 31, 2017, 2:53 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 53 (ESV).

A Man of Sorrows (vv. 1-3)

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

A lot of people today picture Jesus as someone everybody loved, so if we are like Jesus, people should love us, too. They focus on the fact that he healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowful, fed the hungry, and encouraged the timid. Yet, they often neglect to mention that he confronted people with their sins, and that he warned of divine judgment, and of sins’ consequences. He called, too, for repentance, obedience, self-denial and death to sin, as well as he promised hope and healing for the penitent. So, if we are like Jesus, shouldn’t we be doing these things, too? Yet, if we are, we, as well, will be despised and rejected of men. And, people will hide their faces from us, too, and will have nothing to do with us.

Our Griefs and Sorrows (vv. 4-6)

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

When we are born into this world, we are born with sin natures, in the image (likeness) of Adam, separate from God, and without hope (Ro. 5:12-19; 1 Co. 15:21-22, 42-49). Because of our sin, we cannot attain, by human effort, God’s divine approval. We will always come up short (Ro. 3:23). So, God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ (God, the Son) to the earth to take on human form, to suffer as we suffer, and to be tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He sent him, too, to die on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). When Jesus died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him. When the Father resurrected him from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, Satan, hell and death, on our behalf.

Jesus’ purpose in dying on a cross for our sins was 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. He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who walk (in lifestyle) no longer according to the flesh, but according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God. When we put our trust in Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord (owner-master) of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Ro. 8:1-14; 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).

Both in his life and in his death Jesus bore our griefs and our sorrows. Because he took on human flesh, he experienced what we experience, so he is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. He had to do this in order that he might become “a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17; 4:15). So, when we go through difficult times on this earth, and when we are hated and rejected of humans, and when we experience much sorrow and pain, we have a Lord who has been through that, so he feels what we feel. Not only does he feel our pain, but he is also our comforter, our strength and our healer. He will give us all we need to endure and to remain faithful to him.

Oppressed and Afflicted (vv. 7-9)

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Now, Jesus was not always silent in the face of much opposition. Even at his arrest and trial he was not completely silent. He was still bold in some of the things which he said (See: Jn. 18:1-19:11). Yet, in some instances he was silent, and he did not say anything (See: Matt. 26:63; 27:12-14). He certainly had the wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep silent, and we would all do well to learn from him such wisdom and discernment.

Yet, I take his silence to mean much more than merely lack of words or refusal to speak, but rather as an attitude of submission to the Father, and to the cross, and to the task which was before him, which was to die for our sins. He did not resist this, or fight against it, although, in the flesh, he definitely struggled with it (See: Matt. 26:36-46).

And, we should respond in like manner when we are also mistreated, judged unfairly, and falsely accused. It is ok to cry out to God in our pain, and even to pray for deliverance. It is ok to hurt. And, there are times when it is appropriate to defend ourselves against what is false and what is abusive, i.e. to speak the truth in love. Yet, daily we must surrender ourselves to the cross of Christ, and be willing to suffer injustice, if need be, for the sake of Christ and for his gospel message, and for the salvation of human lives.

Numbered with Transgressors (vv. 10-12)

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Is it God’s will that we should suffer? Sometimes, yes, but he also gives relief from suffering. Is it even God’s will that we should be persecuted, hated and rejected because of our faith, and because of our testimonies for Jesus Christ and for this gospel? Yes! [See: Ro. 5:3-5; Phil. 3:7-11; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:12-17; Jas. 1:2-4; Matt. 5:10-12; 2 Co. 1:3-11; Heb. 12:3-12.]

Just as Jesus had to go through all of that suffering, pain and anguish, so that you and I could be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so we could be given new lives in Christ Jesus, to be lived to his righteousness, we, as well, must go through difficult times. Sometimes it is for our own purification, maturity, and humility, that we might learn patience and perseverance, and to teach us to rely on God, and not on ourselves. Other times, or even at the same time, it is for the benefit of others that we must suffer, because then God is able to mold us into the people he wants us to be, to be used of him as his servants and witnesses in taking the love of Christ and the truth of his gospel to those to whom he would have us minister his love and his grace.

One of the most difficult of sufferings we will be called upon to bear is to be falsely accused of things we did not do, and to be considered as evil when we have done nothing to wrong anyone. Imagine, then, a holy God being treated as though he is a common criminal when he was sinless, instead. We are not sinless, although our sins are forgiven, if we have trusted in Jesus to be our Savior and Lord. Yet, part of persecution is to be falsely accused, and to have people think evil of us when we are not guilty of evil acts against others. So, we should not be too quick to judge others on the testimony of someone other than the person himself (or herself), because many people’s reputations are ruined by the gossip of hateful and spiteful people.

Yet, if in our suffering, it produces a harvest of righteousness both in our own lives and in the lives of others, we are blessed. Jesus had to die, but his death resulted in our salvation from sin. Sometimes we will be called upon to suffer injustice for the sake of Christ and his gospel, yet it may well produce not only holiness in our own lives, but also in the lives of others, so that is a good thing. If, through our suffering, we are able to impart to others the love, grace, mercy, kindness, righteousness and justice of our God, and others are then able to turn their hearts to the Lord, to follow him in his ways, is it not worth it to suffer for righteousness’ sake? I think it is.

Near the Cross / Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane

Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

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Gladness and Joy

Thursday, March 30, 2017, 7:48 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “The King is Coming.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 51:1-11 (NASB).

Look to the Rock (vv. 1-3)

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
Who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn
And to the quarry from which you were dug.
“Look to Abraham your father
And to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain;
When he was but one I called him,
Then I blessed him and multiplied him.”
Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion;
He will comfort all her waste places.
And her wilderness He will make like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the Lord;
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
Thanksgiving and sound of a melody.”

Jesus Christ, our Messiah and Lord, is the promised seed of Abraham: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.” “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” “And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.” “It is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (See: Gal. 3:16, 29; 4:22-31; Ro. 9:8). So, we who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives are Abraham’s offspring. We are the children of promise, of the free woman, not of the slave woman. We are the Jerusalem that is from above, not of the earth.

Through the promised seed of Abraham, who is Jesus Christ, ALL nations on the earth are blessed (See: Gen. 22:18). When Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, he died for the sins of the whole world. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (Gal. 5:21). When he died, Jesus redeemed us, i.e. he bought us back for God with his blood. Through faith in Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the law of sin and death. Amen!

One of the things Jesus accomplished through his death is that he destroyed the barrier that stood between Jew and Gentile. Jesus’ “purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility… For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Eph. 2:14-18). What this means is that the Jewish nation is no longer the children of promise. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can we be heirs of the promise. The division is no longer Jew and Gentile, but it is Christian (saved) and non-Christian (lost). The Jewish nation is now no different from Arab nations in that they are both of Hagar (Gal. 4:25).

So, our Rock from which we were hewn (fashioned) is Jesus Christ, the promised seed of Abraham. If we seek after God, we are to look to Jesus and to his righteousness for our consolation. He is our only hope of salvation. Only through his death and resurrection, and through God-given faith in him, can we be delivered out of slavery to sin and enter into God’s eternal kingdom. We who believe in Jesus Christ are Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, his temple. He will comfort us with his mercy and grace. Whereas we were once dead in our sins without hope, God made us alive in Christ. He forgave us our sins, and gave us new birth unto a living hope. Through faith in him we now are filled with inexpressible joy.

Pay Attention (vv. 4-8)

“Pay attention to Me, O My people,
And give ear to Me, O My nation;
For a law will go forth from Me,
And I will set My justice for a light of the peoples.
“My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth,
And My arms will judge the peoples;
The coastlands will wait for Me,
And for My arm they will wait expectantly.
“Lift up your eyes to the sky,
Then look to the earth beneath;
For the sky will vanish like smoke,
And the earth will wear out like a garment
And its inhabitants will die in like manner;
But My salvation will be forever,
And My righteousness will not wane.
“Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
A people in whose heart is My law;
Do not fear the reproach of man,
Nor be dismayed at their revilings.
“For the moth will eat them like a garment,
And the grub will eat them like wool.
But My righteousness will be forever,
And My salvation to all generations.”

God’s people now are those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, whether Jew or Gentile by physical birth. We are his nation: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9). We who believe in Jesus with God-given faith – which is persuaded as to God’s will for our lives – have been given the gift of salvation from sins. Yet, our salvation is not complete until Jesus Christ returns for us and he takes us to be with him forever.

While we live on this earth we will see much wickedness and we will experience much sorrow. We who follow Jesus Christ with our lives and who bear witness to his gospel of salvation, as taught by him and his NT apostles, will be hated, persecuted, ill-treated, falsely accused, rejected, despised and even killed for our faith in Jesus Christ and his gospel. Although it is our joy to serve our Lord as his ministers on this earth, our time here will have many trials and tribulations, and we will often long for our heavenly home, and for the time of our Lord’s return.

So, this is an encouragement to be faithful, and to be steadfast in faith and in hope, knowing that the time when our salvation will be complete is not that far off. There is a time coming when God will judge this earth, and he will put an end to sin and to suffering. What we are going through now is temporary. Also, we must understand that our Lord is absolutely sovereign and completely in control over all things. So, we should never fear humans or what they may do to us. They can kill the body, but they can’t kill the soul. And, one day God will put an end to their injustices and their rebellion against him. Yet, our Lord, His Word and His Salvation will be forever!

Arm of the Lord (vv. 9-11)

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord;
Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago.
Was it not You who cut Rahab in pieces,
Who pierced the dragon?
Was it not You who dried up the sea,
The waters of the great deep;
Who made the depths of the sea a pathway
For the redeemed to cross over?
So the ransomed of the Lord will return
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
And everlasting joy will be on their heads.
They will obtain gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

This is a call to the Lord to fulfill his promises, and to deliver his people out of this sin-sick world and to take us home to be with him. Yet, it is also a call for him to work miracles in our lives while we still live on the face of this earth. The call acknowledges that our God is the Almighty God, our creator, who is all powerful. It calls to remembrance all the many ways in which he delivered his people in times past, which includes all the many ways in which we, individually, have seen him work miracles of grace in our lives, too.

On the basis of what we know of God, and of his history with humankind, and on the basis of his promises given to us in His Word, we can pray for what we know is according to his will and his purposes for our lives. We can believe him for daily deliverance from the evil one, from giving into temptation to sin, and from the fear of opposition from sinful humans. And, we can trust him to be with us, to not forsake us, and to lead us through troubled waters while still filling us with his perfect peace and joy.

And, we can rely on the strength of the Lord and the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit within us, as well as his guidance, to lead us through every difficult circumstance and to make a way for us where there often seems to be no way. Nothing can touch us but what God allows it, and that he has a purpose for it, and that he will bring good out of it. We have to keep remembering that. We have to keep trusting, and not be afraid. One day he is going to return for us, and all the hardships we have gone through in this life will fade away, and will become no more. And, we will live in peace and safety with our Lord forever, and he will wipe every tear from our eyes.

The King is Coming
(Bill Gaither)

The King is coming, the King is coming
I just heard the trumpet sounding and soon His face I’ll see
The King is coming, the King is coming
Praise God, He’s coming for me

I can hear the chariot’s rumble, I can see the marching throng
And the fury of God’s trumpet spells the end of sin and wrong
Regal rolls are now unfolded, heaven’s grandstands all in place
Heaven’s choir is now assembled, start to sing “Amazing Grace”…

Words to Encourage

Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 9:32 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 44 (Select vv. NASB).

Water on Thirsty Land (vv. 1-4)

“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant,
And Israel, whom I have chosen:
Thus says the Lord who made you
And formed you from the womb, who will help you,
‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant;
And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
And My blessing on your descendants;
And they will spring up among the grass
Like poplars by streams of water.’

In case you are not familiar at all with the book of Isaiah, although it is Old Testament, nearly one third to half of it, perhaps, is given over to prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, our Messiah, and the messianic age and kingdom. Some prophecies are clearly last days (messianic) while others seem to combine both a more current (of that time) fulfillment, as well as a future fulfillment in the end of the age (messianic era). A common theme among these prophecies is that of a last days revival of the church.

Much of the church at the end of time is complacent, rebellious, idolatrous and spiritually adulterous. Thus, God is calling out to his adulterous people, he is confronting them with their sins, warning of divine judgment, calling for repentance and obedience, and he is promising a time of spiritual refreshing, renewal, revival, restoration and healing for the repentant. Where things right now look pretty bleak (the dry ground), at least for the church here in America, because of all the idolatry, complacency and spiritual adultery, there is a promise of hope that one day God’s people, his church, will return to him as their only God and Lord (owner-master).

Yet, this is also a prophecy concerning the coming of their (our) Messiah, of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, and of our redemption: By God’s grace, through God-given faith in Christ, we have new birth in Christ. And, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to indwell and to empower the lives of those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Still, I see this, also, as the pouring out of God’s Spirit in revival on the church in these last days. It is very hopeful!

Who is Like God? (vv. 6-8)

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:

‘I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me.
‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it;
Yes, let him recount it to Me in order,
From the time that I established the ancient nation.
And let them declare to them the things that are coming
And the events that are going to take place.
‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid;
Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?
And you are My witnesses.
Is there any God besides Me,
Or is there any other Rock?
I know of none.’”

The main problem with much of today’s church is that they have lost the awe (honor, respect, fear, esteem) of God, for they have reduced God down to human level, and have made him out to be not much different from us. God is often pictured as a doting grandfather in the sky there to grant our every request while requiring nothing of us in return. They picture Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins as nothing more than him paying the price so we can go free of the penalty of sin, and so we can have the hope of heaven when we die (or when we leave this earth). And, they picture our faith in Jesus Christ as a mere acceptance of what Jesus did for us in taking our place so we are not punished for our sin, while they ignore the fact that he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24; Ro. 6:1-23).

Because the church has lost the fear of God, they have no problem, on a large scale, with diluting the gospel message of salvation, too, to bring it down to an acceptable level for human consumption. So, instead of teaching the gospel, as Jesus and his NT apostles taught it, they pull scriptures out of context to make them say what their itching ears want to hear, while they ignore the verses which make them uncomfortable, or which don’t fit with their theology or with their chosen lifestyles. And, this, too, is why they have no issues with idolatry, because they have lost the fear of God.

They think that all they have to do is repeat some words after someone in a prayer and they have their salvation and eternity secured, but that they can continue living sinful lifestyles, because they are taught that God does not require repentance or obedience and that he is pleased with them no matter what they do. But, that is NOT at all what God’s Word teaches us.

Idols of Humans (vv. 9-11, 18, 20)

Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame… They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend… He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

In today’s world, at least here in America, I don’t know of many people who physically carve for themselves, with a knife, what is clearly an idol (a god) to be worshiped. At least, I don’t think that they think of it in those terms. Yet, America is full of idols, and the church is full of idolatry. And, it is so because people are deceived, and their eyes are blinded to the truth, and their hearts are so filled with their chains of idolatry that they cannot deliver themselves, nor are they willing to submit to the one who died for them that they might be delivered from their chains (bondage; addiction). And, this is largely why the gospel has been diluted, in order to soothe their guilty consciences, and to give them license to continue in sin without remorse.

Yet, no idols of human making will ever profit us anything. They may bring some temporary sense of security, peace, comfort and/or pleasure, but it is temporary, and it does not bring true peace, but frequently only more guilt, and often negative consequences, too. No sports’ hero, no political hero, nor even religious personalities will ever heal our sin-sick souls. No wide-screen TV, or smart phone, tablet or personal computer will ever satisfy the hunger and thirst God has planted within each one of us for Himself alone, either. As well, no career, no ministry, and no possessions, houses, cars, and money, etc. will deliver us from ourselves and from our selfishness, pride, envy, and lust for what is evil. Not one of these will ever give us true hope or healing.

Shout Joyfully (vv. 21-23)

“Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
“I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it!
Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth;
Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it;
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob
And in Israel He shows forth His glory.

Our only hope is Jesus Christ and him crucified on a cross for our sins, and him resurrected from the dead so that we might be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so we might be born anew of the Spirit of God to new lives in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Our God created each and every one of us for his glory and for his purposes. He has a plan for each one of our lives. His plan is that none of us should perish (die in our sins), but that we should all come to repentance and have eternal life with God. And, repentance means leaving our lives of sin behind us, and turning to faith in Jesus Christ, and walking now in the Spirit in obedience to our Lord, and in submission to his will for our lives (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; Eph. 4:17-24; Acts 26:16-18; Gal. 2:20; Lu. 9:23-25).

Since Jesus died for us, that he might put sin to death in our lives, and that he might give us new lives in Him to be lived to his righteousness, he is grieved when his children turn away from him to follow after their idols (gods of human making) and their own fleshly desires. So, he is appealing to his wayward people on the basis of his sacrifice for our sins, and on the basis of his grace to us in delivering us out of our sins, and he is calling them to return to him as their only God. Not only is there rejoicing when a lost sinner is saved from sin by God’s grace, but there are also shouts of joy in heaven when wandering saints return to the Lord and make him their ONLY LORD!

Seek the Lord / An Original Work / July 20, 2012

Based off Isaiah 55

“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.

“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”

Heart Change

Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 6:01 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Change My Heart, Oh God.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 43 (Select vv. NASB).

His Servant (vv. 10-13)

“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.
“I, even I, am the Lord,
And there is no savior besides Me.
“It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed,
And there was no strange god among you;
So you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And I am God.
“Even from eternity I am He,
And there is none who can deliver out of My hand;
I act and who can reverse it?”

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are his servants and witnesses; “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,” so that we “may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called” us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

As his servants, we do his bidding. We serve him according to his direction, not according to what we are willing to do “for” him, nor according to what we think is best. If he is our Lord, then he is our owner-master, and we are his bond-slaves. We don’t serve ourselves, and we are not in it for the fame or the fortune. And, we don’t serve for the glory of man or human approval, either, but for the glory of God. Thus, we give God all the honor and glory and praise for what he is doing through us, and we take no credit for ourselves, because we realize that every gift we have comes from him.

As servants and laborers for Christ and for his gospel, it is our responsibility to teach the God of the Bible and Jesus Christ, as he was presented in scripture, and the truth of the gospel according to Jesus and his NT apostles. Yet, in order to do that, we have to really know God through intimate relationship with him via God-given faith in Jesus Christ. We have to spend time with him in his Word, drinking it in, listening to the Lord speak his truths to our hearts, and then we need to obey what he shows us. We must walk in holiness and righteousness in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us, too, so that we not only teach rightly, but that we live rightly.

As his servants and witnesses, i.e. as laborers for the gospel of Jesus Christ, we should serve the Lord in humility. We should care for the legitimate needs of others, and we ought to do and say what is in their best interest, according to their needs, not according to their wants. This means that we will speak the truth in love, we will confront sin within the church, and we will warn of divine discipline (judgment, correction), and of false teaching. We will expose lies, and we will counter them with what is truth. We will call for repentance and obedience, and we will encourage and urge fellow believers to live lives of purity, honesty, integrity, faithfulness, and holiness in the power and strength of God’s Spirit now living within them. And, we will do this wherever our Lord opens doors for us to proclaim his Word.

Declare His Praise (vv. 15-21)

“I am the Lord, your Holy One,
The Creator of Israel, your King.”
Thus says the Lord,
Who makes a way through the sea
And a path through the mighty waters,
Who brings forth the chariot and the horse,
The army and the mighty man
(They will lie down together and not rise again;
They have been quenched and extinguished like a wick):
“Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
“Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.
“The beasts of the field will glorify Me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.
“The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare My praise.

When we are serving the Lord by sharing with people the truths of God’s Word, we will face opposition from sinful humans, much like the children of Israel faced from Pharaoh and his armies who pursued them after they had been delivered from slavery out of Egypt. Pharaoh was a type of Satan, for that is how Satan works, too, i.e. he is not willing to let us go, and then when God does deliver us from slavery to sin, Satan goes after us with his armies to try to get us back, i.e. to attempt to defeat us in battle.

One of his biggest weapons against us is his lies, and the fears which he tries to instill in our hearts in order to get us to doubt God and his many promises to us. He will try to get us to be afraid, to get discouraged, disheartened and to doubt God’s sovereignty over our lives. He will try to get us to fear opposition and roadblocks and circumstances, hoping that we will give up on our mission and turn back in dismay.

Yet, this is a reminder to us of God’s absolute power and sovereignty and control over all things, and of how nothing in this world and no enemy forged against us can prevail. They cannot thwart God’s purposes. What may appear like setbacks are really God’s delays, because it isn’t his timing yet for something to happen. Just because something promised hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen, though that is what Satan would like for us to believe. We just have to wait on God for his timing, and keep trusting him to do what he says he will do.

God is able to do what humans are incapable of doing. If he wants us to go a particular direction, he can remove all the obstacles, and he can make a way for us on dry ground while there are walls of water standing tall on either side of us. He has no limitations other than he can’t do what is evil. Even if things didn’t turn out the way we thought they would before, he can make them happen in the future or even in the present. We should not let our pasts define our present or our future, in other words. God can make all things new! He can change our hearts, and he can change the hearts of others to conform to his purposes, and he can do what he said he would do even if humanly it doesn’t seem possible.

Not Honored God (vv. 22-24)

“Yet you have not called on Me, O Jacob;
But you have become weary of Me, O Israel.
“You have not brought to Me the sheep of your burnt offerings,
Nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with offerings,
Nor wearied you with incense.
“You have bought Me not sweet cane with money,
Nor have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices;
Rather you have burdened Me with your sins,
You have wearied Me with your iniquities.

Even though God promises all these wonderful things for his children, that they will take place, it doesn’t mean that, for everyone, it is a present reality in their lives. Although there are certainly some who are truly walking in righteousness and holiness, and who are serving the Lord faithfully in being his servants and witnesses, there are many today who are not living like Jesus truly set them free from sin. They are not honoring God with their lives, nor are they serving him as he requires and desires.

God is not first place in their lives. He may not even be on their radar much at all, for they are busying themselves with all the things which give them pleasure, and which satisfy the desires of their sinful flesh. Many of them are not even calling on God, or if they are, it is not in truth, or it is being faked for the purpose of deception, to make others think they are living righteously when they are not. So, they just use God and his grace as a cover-up for evil, but their hearts are far from him.

They may give token sacrifices to God, but their hearts are not surrendered to Him. Their service to him is minimal. They are not fully devoted followers of Christ and he is really not their Lord (owner-master), nor are they truly his bond-slaves (servants), although they are called as such, and they are intended to be. They should be filled with the fruit of his righteousness and they should be scattering the seeds of truth and love so that it can multiply in people’s lives, but instead they are self-consumed. And, it isn’t that they don’t have the time or the opportunities to do so, but it is that they don’t take advantage of the opportunities given to them.

So, God is calling out to his wayward children, and he is confronting them with their sins of idolatry and spiritual adultery. He is warning of divine correction (judgment, discipline), and is calling for repentance and walks of faithful obedience to him. As well, he promises hope, healing and restoration for the repentant. If they do not repent, he will make a way for them to repent, but it will be painful. So, turn from your sins today, ask God to change your heart and to make you like him in holiness and righteousness.

Change My Heart, Oh God
Eddie Espinosa

Change my heart, oh God
Make it ever true
Change my heart, oh God
May I be like You …

Don’t Mess Around!

Monday, March 27, 2017, 9:55 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Give Ear to Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 42 (Select vv. NASB).

The Chosen One (vv. 1-4)

“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
“He will not cry out or raise His voice,
Nor make His voice heard in the street.
“A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
“He will not be disheartened or crushed
Until He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”

Jesus Christ, our Messiah, is this chosen servant of God, yet he is also God, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God the Father sent his Son Jesus to the earth to be born of a virgin, conceived of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus walked the face of this earth, he was fully God yet fully human. While in a flesh body, Jesus suffered like we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. Although he was God, yet he was also man, so God the Father put his Spirit on Jesus, so that he was also filled with the Spirit of God.

So, how did Jesus or how will Jesus bring forth justice to the nations? Another word for justice is righteousness. Well, first of all he taught the righteousness of God when he was on the earth. He confronted sin in sinful humans, warned of divine judgment, called for repentance, and promised the hope of eternal life with God for the repentant sinner. He also promised the blessings of God for the humble of heart, for those who have grieved over their sins, for those who show his mercy to others, and for the many who yearn after God’s holiness, purity, and uprightness in their lives.

Yet, not only did he teach it, and not only did he live righteously, but he provided the way in which we, also, can be righteous before God. Although Jesus knew no sin, yet he became sin for us when he was crucified on a cross (2 Co. 5:21). So, when he died, our sins died with him and were buried with him. When God the Father resurrected him from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death on our behalf. Thus, by God’s grace, through God-given faith in Jesus Christ, we can be delivered out of bondage (addiction) to sin, be forgiven our sins, relieved (set free) of eternal punishment, and be given the hope of eternal life with God. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).

Sometime after Jesus was resurrected from the dead, he ascended back to heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father. He then sent his Holy Spirit to indwell the hearts and lives of his followers. When we believe in Jesus, and we are crucified with him in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life (born again), the Spirit of God comes to live within us to teach, guide, comfort, encourage, train, convict, counsel, strengthen and empower us to walk godly and holy lives, pleasing to God. And, one day Jesus is going to return to the earth to judge all humankind and to take his followers (his saints, his bride) to be with him forever.

Open Blinded Eyes (vv. 5-9)

Thus says God the Lord,

Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread out the earth and its offspring,
Who gives breath to the people on it
And spirit to those who walk in it,
“I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations,
To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.
“I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.
“Behold, the former things have come to pass,
Now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.”

Jesus Christ is not only the Son of God, but he is God, and he is our creator (See: John 1). He is the giver of life. Not only did he provide the way for us to be made righteous before God, restored to fellowship with HIM, but he called us in righteousness to live righteously (godly, holy, and uprightly in purity and integrity). He, as well, was called of the Father in righteousness. So, although this is primarily speaking of Jesus, our Messiah, yet as his followers, this speaks of us, as well, for we are his body; his temple.

Where he was called to live righteously, so are we. Where he was called to be a light to the nations, so we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth, and we are to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. Where he was called to open blinded eyes and to deliver the captives out from their prisons, so we are called to rescue people out of darkness, and to snatch them from the fire and to save them. This is what it means to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people. We tell them that Jesus died to set them free from slavery to sin so that they can now live for Christ and walk (in lifestyle) in his holiness.

When we believe in Jesus Christ with God-given faith, which divinely persuades us as to God’s will for our lives, we are turned away from living for sin and self, and we are turned to Christ to live godly and holy lives pleasing unto him, empowered and strengthened by the Spirit of God now living within us. Our old lives of living to please self are done away with because Jesus put sin to death on a cross. And, we are born anew of the Spirit of God to new lives in Christ now under the direction and influence of the Spirit of God. The old has gone. The new has come. Jesus doesn’t slightly clean up our old lives, but he gives us completely new lives!

Give Ear to This (vv. 17-23)

They will be turned back and be utterly put to shame,
Who trust in idols,
Who say to molten images,
“You are our gods.”
Hear, you deaf!
And look, you blind, that you may see.
Who is blind but My servant,
Or so deaf as My messenger whom I send?
Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me,
Or so blind as the servant of the Lord?
You have seen many things, but you do not observe them;
Your ears are open, but none hears.
The Lord was pleased for His righteousness’ sake
To make the law great and glorious.
But this is a people plundered and despoiled;
All of them are trapped in caves,
Or are hidden away in prisons;
They have become a prey with none to deliver them,
And a spoil, with none to say, “Give them back!”
Who among you will give ear to this?
Who will give heed and listen hereafter?

Here, the servant being spoken of is not Jesus, but it is the people of God, i.e. now it is the church. Although coming to Christ means death to sin and living to righteousness, it is possible that believers in Jesus can be led astray from their pure devotion to Christ, and they can get entangled in sin once again (See: Rev. 2-3, for example). There can be a spiritual decline take place within the church when sin is left unchecked and undealt with, and when worldliness begins to take a foothold within the gatherings of the church. And, this is where we are in America.

So, God is now calling out to his church, i.e. to those who are living spiritually adulterated lives in one way or another, and he is, once again, confronting the sins in the church, calling for repentance, warning of judgment, but promising hope, healing and restoration to the repentant. He is pointing out such sins as idolatry, stubborn hearts, willful closing of eyes and ears to the truth, and disobedience to his Word. Although Jesus set us free from slavery to sin, many have allowed themselves to come back under a yoke of slavery (addiction, bondage). And, they have closed their minds to the truth, and have gathered around themselves preachers who will say what their itching ears want to hear, i.e. feel-good messages which do not convict of sin, but which allow them to remain in their sins guilt-free.

So, the Lord is calling his church to listen to him, and to heed what he tells them. God is not pleased with us no matter what we do, no matter who tells you that. He has standards for us. His Word is his standard for our lives, which we must follow. We are not bound by Old Testament laws and regulations, but we are still commanded to obey the Word of Christ, i.e. his instructions to us. He says that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (die in our sins). But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life. Paul reiterated this message when he said that if we walk (in lifestyle) according to the flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14).

So, don’t mess around. Don’t take God/Jesus or his grace for granted. God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin. 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). If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).

Give Ear to Jesus / An Original Work
Based off Isaiah 55 / February 16, 2016

Call on your Savior.
Seek the Lord while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way;
Turn to the Lord.
God will have mercy.
He’ll forgive you of your sin.
He will freely pardon you
And give peace within.
Turn from your sin, follow Jesus,
Be cleansed from sin.

Give ear to Jesus.
Come to Him. Your soul will live.
Listen to Him speaking to you:
“Eat what is good.”
If you are thirsty,
Come to Jesus, drink from Him.
Drink His Spirit given to you.
Be born again.
Listen to Him. Do what He says.
Rejoice in Him.

God’s Word, eternal,
Will achieve what He desires.
He is willing none should perish,
Saved by His blood.
Share now the gospel.
Jesus died so we’d go free.
Walk in vict’ry,
Free from your sin, eternally.
Die to sin, and live to Jesus.
In Him believe.

While We Wait

Sunday, March 26, 2017, 10:23 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 40:18-31 (NASB).

Who is God like? (vv. 18-20)

To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare with Him?
As for the idol, a craftsman casts it,
A goldsmith plates it with gold,
And a silversmith fashions chains of silver.
He who is too impoverished for such an offering
Selects a tree that does not rot;
He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman
To prepare an idol that will not totter.

Depending upon to whom it is we are listening, we may get differing images of God in our minds. Even our childhoods, our upbringings, and/or our church histories help to shape our images of God in our minds. People throughout our lives influence our concepts of God and who he is and how he works. Also, our life’s circumstances often play a considerable role in how we view God, as do our education systems, family life, friends, neighbors, co-workers, TV, the internet, technology, and the culture of today’s world. In fact, we may even create our own god in our minds in the image of humans so that we can live life however we want without God’s interference.

Don’t You Know? (vv. 21-26)

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And the storm carries them away like stubble.
“To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.

So, sometimes we have to unlearn what we learned wrong about God. For instance, I was abused as a child by my father. Yet, I grew up attending church gatherings. I believed in Jesus as my Savior when I was about 7 years old. I knew he loved me. I knew he cared about me, and that he was there to comfort me and heal me. Yet, even though I was taught the sovereignty of God, I had this idea down deep inside of me that said God couldn’t do anything about my circumstances. I really felt as though man had power over me over which God had no power or control. In my conscious mind I did not believe this, but my actions proved otherwise.

I carried this belief into my adult life. I can remember one time emphatically saying to God, “But God, you don’t understand!” And, I really believed that, too. It was then, I think, that I began to learn about the sovereignty of God, but when things got tough in my life, which they frequently did, I sometimes reverted back to what I believed about God from early on in my life, though not always was I consciously aware that I was doing this. Old habits (beliefs) sometimes die hard. I think this was a battle for me much of my life.

Then, one day I was praying to my Lord, and I asked him if there was anyone I had not forgiven. The only name he gave me was “Jesus.” It isn’t that Jesus did anything wrong, but along the way I had decided in the recesses of my thinking that God had somehow deserted me because he was powerless to do anything about the difficulties that had come into my life. I had blamed him for not protecting me, and sometimes my responses to my circumstances revealed the belief that I had been abandoned and/or that God had no power to deliver me. I felt helpless, too, to fight off Satan’s evil attacks against me, at times, because I was fighting him much like I fought off the advances of my father, with my arms crossed in front of my face, hoping that I would not get hit, but knowing I probably would.

Anyway, when the Lord showed me that I needed to forgive Jesus, I did, and a HUGE weight was lifted from me! Not only that, but I realized that I needed to accept God’s sovereignty over my life, and that I needed to believe that he was all powerful and completely in control over all things, and that he would work out all the circumstances for my life for my good. I also realized then that I had been fighting off Satan’s attacks against me as though I thought there was the chance that Satan still had power over me and that he might win this battle. And, so I came to understand that Jesus already won this battle for me, and that he has given me the spiritual armor with which to fight off Satan (to resist him), but that I just have to live like I believe that, and I have to use that armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20).

And, all this radically changed my life and altered my thinking to where I learned how to use the armor of God, and I learned to trust in God’s sovereignty over my life. I’d like to say that since that time this has never been a struggle for me, but it has, at times, yet the recognition comes much quicker now, and the trust in my Lord is much easier and more natural, and I more readily rest in him and wait for him. But, there are times when I still have to work the emotions through in prayer, and with tears, and to cry the pain out to God, and then yield to his sovereignty. Sometimes I use the armor of God to fight off natural (human) fears, as I know Satan is trying to get me to be afraid, and to doubt God, but I pray them and I sing them through to victory. And, then the healing comes, as does the peace, too.

Wait for the Lord (vv. 27-31)

Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

I think that, as humans, especially in this present generation, we have difficulty with the word “wait.” We get things in our minds and we want to act on them immediately. After all, we have instant everything now, it would seem, and fast food restaurants, and quick internet service (sometimes), and so we expect everything to be fast and immediate. When it isn’t fast, we may easily grow impatient, for society has taught us to do that.

Yet, we need to be careful that we don’t go ahead of God or that we don’t lag behind him, either. When he says “go” we should go, but if he says “wait,” even though we know he has a “going” prepared for us, we need to wait, because he has it all planned out in ways we can’t see. He is always working behind the scenes, whereas all we see is what is right in front of our faces. His timing is always perfect. If we grow impatient, and we take matters into our own hands, it often blows up in our faces, does it not? If we don’t have a peace from God to move in a direction, we should wait until he gives us the go-ahead. Even if he has placed something on our hearts, it may not be his timing yet, so we need to wait on him for when he says “go.”

If we are going through some times of trial and testing, we may wonder if God is really paying attention, or why he doesn’t act on our behalf, yet he is always working. We just can’t always see it. He sees (knows, plans) the BIG picture, whereas we only see a very miniscule part of it. We are sometimes completely focused on our little part, while he is busy working on the whole (all the parts), and they all have to fit together the way he has designed. Everything is not about us and about what we are going through, you know. His plan and purposes for everything in our lives is WAY beyond what we could possibly think or imagine. So, we need to believe that he is the God that he is, and we need to wait for him, and we need to let him strengthen us and give us the courage we need to endure while we wait.

Near the Cross / Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane

Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Is It Good News?

Sunday, March 26, 2017, 2:34 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “When in the Stillness.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 40:1-11 (NASB).

Speak Tenderly (vv. 1-2)

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

God’s grace to us is amazing! Jesus Christ, the Son of God (and God), left his throne in heaven, humbled himself, came to earth, took on human flesh and died on a cross for our sins. When he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him, and when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death on our behalf. By God’s grace, through God-given faith in Jesus Christ, we can be delivered out of slavery (addiction) to sin, and be given new lives in Christ Jesus, born again of the Spirit of God, to be lived to God and to his holiness and righteousness.

A Voice Cries (vv. 3-5)

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

So, what does it mean to have God-given faith in Jesus Christ? Well, it means that we are divinely persuaded as to God’s will for our lives. And, what is God’s will? Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). This is the essence of the gospel of our salvation. Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). 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). Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us on that cross so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21).

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). In other words, we are not saved from our sins merely to escape hell and to have the promise of heaven when we die. Jesus died on that cross so that we could be radically transformed of the Spirit of God away from living our lives to sin and self, to walking with God in his holiness and righteousness. To be holy means to be set apart (unlike, different) from this world, because we are being made into the likeness of Christ. As well, righteousness is to be equated with morality, uprightness, honesty, and purity, which God has imputed to us who believe in Jesus.

So, having faith in Jesus Christ is not repeating some words after someone else in a prayer after which we are congratulated that we are now part of the family of God and that our eternal salvation and heaven are guaranteed us. Jesus said that his sheep listen to him, they know his voice, and they follow (obey) him. He 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 that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them (die in our sins). But, if we lose our lives for Christ and for his gospel (die with him to sin), we will have eternal life with God. And, Paul reiterated this when he said that if we walk according to the flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity (Jn. 10:27-30; Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14).

Will Stand Forever (vv. 6-8)

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

So, what is this saying? It is saying that what is of this world, i.e. what is fleshly and worldly, is temporary, and like grass, it will wither. It has no eternal value. We, as humans, without Christ, are destined to perish in our sins. So, if we hold on to the things and the sinful pleasures of this life, we will perish with them. If we think we can continue in our sins and still have the hope of heaven when we leave this earth, then we need to think again. That is not what the word of God teaches, but it is what fleshly humans would like us to believe. All that is of this world will one day pass away. So, we shouldn’t be “hanging our hats” on the things of this life. John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin, wickedness), we don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).

So, what can we count on? We can count on God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – to do what he says he will do. We can depend on his Word, which will never fail us, and which will stand forever. So, we need to stop listening to humans, unless they are telling us the truth, and we need to listen to what God’s word teaches us, because our eternity depends on it. If we say we love God or that we know God, but we don’t do what he says, we don’t know him, and we don’t have the hope of eternal life with him (1 Jn. 2:3-6). If we continue in HIS word, then we are truly disciples of HIS (Jn. 8:31-32). And, we have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first (Heb. 3:14-15).

Good News (vv. 9-11)

Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”
Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

So, what is this “good news”? The “good news” of the gospel of our salvation is that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Paul was given a commission by Jesus Christ to spread this good news. He told him that he was sending him to open blinded eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (made holy, purified) by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:16-18). The good news here is that Jesus died to turn us away from lifestyles of sin, and away from the power that Satan had (or has) over our lives. And, he died to turn us to God and to his truth and his righteousness, and to his power in our lives to deliver us out of slavery to sin and to bring us to wholeness in him.

If the “good news” to us is merely that we have been delivered from the punishment of our sin so that we can go to heaven when we leave this earth, but we are still left in slavery to sin, that that really isn’t good news, is it? Why? Because that means we have believed a lie, because if we are not delivered out of slavery to sin, that means we are still dead in our sins, and thus we don’t have the promise of heaven or the escape from eternal punishment. For, if we deliberately keep on sinning, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26-27).

The “good news” is not only that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, but that we don’t do this in our own strength or willpower. We can’t even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless the Father first draws us to him. Even the faith to believe in Jesus is a gift from God. He even grants us repentance, and he gives us the ability to obey him. This is a spiritual work of God’s grace in our lives from beginning to end, and yet we must cooperate with that work of grace by submitting to our Lord and Savior, and by following his lead, and doing what he says, yet all in the power and working of his Spirit within us who gives us all we need in Christ to live godly and holy lives unto him. So, we need to yield the control of our lives over to our Lord, and allow him to do his work in our lives, in making us like Jesus.

When in The Stillness / An Original Work / September 26, 2011

When in the stillness of this moment,
Speak to me, Lord, I humbly pray.
Be my desire, set me on fire,
Teach me to love always.
Help me to walk in fellowship with You,
Listening to You; sit at Your feet.
Whisper Your words to me,
Oh, how gently, guiding me in Your truth.

While we are waiting for Your blessing,
Lord, in our hearts be King today.
Help us to live for you ev’ry moment,
List’ning to what You say.
May we not stray from your word within us,
Help us obey You, Lord, in all things,
Walking each moment, Lord, in Your presence,
Our offerings to You bring.

Help us to love You, Lord, our master;
Be an example of Your love,
Helping the hurting, lift up the fallen,
Showing them Your great love.
Teach them to love You, follow You always,
Bearing their cross and turning from sin;
Walking in daily fellowship with You,
Making You Lord and King.