His Own Purpose

Monday, September 4, 2017, 3:44 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Jesus, Name I Love.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Timothy 1:8-14 (NASB).

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.

Not Ashamed

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mk. 8:34-38

If we truly believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, and we sincerely love him, worship him, and revere him, we should never be ashamed of him and his Words to us. It should not even enter our minds to shy away from speaking of him. So, why do so many Christians (or professing Christians) feel uncomfortable talking about Jesus and his Words, even among themselves? And, yet, they have no problems at all talking about major sports figures, sports teams, movies and movie stars, TV shows, or political heroes? I believe a lot of it comes down to rejection or acceptance by others, and our culture, including church culture, but some of it has to do with lack of true, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Yet, if we look at these words here in Mark 8 (cf. Lu. 9:23-25), we see that coming to faith in Jesus Christ means denial of self, death to sin, and following our Lord in obedience and in surrender to his will. Our lives are no longer our own to live how we want, and to please ourselves, for we were bought back for God with the blood of Christ shed on a cross for our sins, therefore we are to honor God with our lives, not try to save our lives for our own selves. For, if we hold on to living our lives to please ourselves, and to preserve them for this world, so that we will be liked and accepted by other humans, then we will lose our lives for eternity. But, if we die with Christ to sin and self, we will gain eternal life in him.

It saddens me to get together with other Christians, and to find they are not comfortable talking about Jesus or their relationships with him, or his Word, but they are perfectly fine talking about everything this world has to offer. They may even call their gatherings “Christian fellowship,” and they may even pray to God to “bless” their times of “fellowship” together, but other than that, Jesus’ name is not even mentioned, and if you try to begin a conversation about Jesus, it is real obvious that is not a subject many Christians (or professing Christians) want to talk about. Yet, Jesus said that if we are ashamed of him and his Words, he will be ashamed of us when he returns for us. And, not only that, but many people are dying in their sins, and they need someone to tell them about Jesus and his salvation, but if we don’t tell them, who will? We need not be ashamed of Christ and his Words!

Suffering for the Gospel

Instead of shying away from talking about Jesus and his Words with other humans out of fear of being hated, rejected or mistreated for our faith and testimonies, we need to be bold in our witness, and not fear what other humans might do to us or think or say about us to others. We are to share with Christ in the fellowship of his sufferings, first in his death to sin, and in his resurrection to new life in Christ, and then in suffering persecution for our testimonies for him and his gospel of salvation. For, we are not here on this earth to please ourselves, or to have people like us, but we are here to reflect Christ in all that we do, say and are, and to be lights for him and his gospel to a world lost in sin, so that they, too, can believe in Jesus and have eternal life with God.

A Holy Calling

For, our Lord did not die on a cross for our sins just so we could be forgiven our sins, escape hell, and have the promise of heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He saved us and called us to himself with a holy calling. And, to be holy means to be separate (unlike, different) from this sinful world, because we are being conformed into the likeness of Christ. He called us according to His own purpose for us, which is that we might live holy lives pleasing to him, no longer conformed to the ways (patterns, behaviors) of this sinful world, but transformed of the Spirit of God in the renewing of our minds to make us more like Jesus. His grace to us is not free license to continue in sin, but it instructs us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts) and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age while we wait for Christ’s return.

Retain the Standard

God has given us a standard by which we are to live. We have it recorded for us in his written Word, but his Word is also living within those of us who are his by faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son (and God). We are to hang on to or to keep a hold of that standard, and preserve it, not just intellectually, but by how we live our lives day in and day out. It is not enough to just know the Word of God, but we need to DO what it says. We need to live it! And, we need to do it, not just because God commands that we do, but because we love him, and we want to please him in all that we do, think, say and are.

So, if we are doing this, and we are living holy lives, pleasing to God, and we are not ashamed of Christ and his gospel, and we are suffering for the sake of his name and for our testimonies for him, what should that look like? Well, for one, we should not be one (united) with the world in their thinking, culture, philosophies, attitudes, values and beliefs. We should not adopt their ways and thinking and make them our own, so that it is barely distinguishable between the church and the world anymore. So, that means that we should also not be choosing each day to saturate our minds with all that the world is offering us, nor should we be engaging ourselves in being entertained daily by their sinful attitudes and behaviors. But, we should come out from them and be separate (unlike, different) from them.

This also means that we are now living for our Lord, living holy lives pleasing to him, and that we are walking in his ways, and in his truth, with undivided hearts, in order to bring honor, glory and praise to his holy name. We are not ashamed of him and his Words, and in the power of the Spirit within us, we are bold in our witness for him, in saying what he wants us to say, despite how other humans may respond to us. And, we are being hated, rejected and persecuted because people, including many of those who call themselves Christians, will be offended by us and our stand on God’s Word, because it won’t mix with their sinful, ungodly, lackadaisical lifestyles. And, although we may not live in absolute sinless perfection, we are conducting our lives (in lifestyle) according to God’s Holy Spirit, and no longer according to our sinful flesh, to do what our flesh desires, but our desire is for our Lord, to please him in every way.

Jesus, Name I Love
Or, Like the Strain of Sweetest Music
William M. Runyan

Jesus, Jesus, name I love,
Sinful needy hearts to move.
Name, all other names above,
Jesus, name I love.

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Save It, or Lose It?

Friday, June 16, 2017, 5:55 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 9 (Select vv. NASB).

Take Up Your Cross (vv. 22-25)

Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”

Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God (and God) was rejected by the elders, the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees. They hated him, and they were jealous of him, and they were threatened by his popularity among the people, for they feared losing their own positions of power and control.

So, they harassed him at every turn, continuously questioned his authority and his actions, and made numerous attempts to try to discredit him. They didn’t like it that he didn’t follow all their ceremonial laws and customs, which were handed down to them by the elders. They despised the fact that he healed people on the Sabbath. They resented his accusations against some of them, that they were hypocrites who tried to look good on the outside while inside they were full of wickedness. And, they definitely hated him when he intimated that he was equal with God. So, eventually they killed him by having him crucified on a cross, as though he was a criminal.

Yet, it was God’s will that Jesus should die, because in his death he put our sins to death, and in his resurrection, he conquered sin and the grave, that we might live. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. And, Jesus told his followers that they, too, would be hated, rejected, persecuted and even killed for their faith in him, and for their testimonies of God’s saving grace, and for the sake of the gospel of our salvation. In fact, coming to faith in Jesus Christ means that we are crucified with him in death to sin, and that we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).

“Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Ro. 6:6-7).

So, if we want to believe in Jesus to be Lord and Savior of our lives, so that we might have eternal life with him, and so that he might save us from our sins, then we must die with him to our old lives of living for sin and self (daily). Paul said that if we walk (conduct our lives) according to our 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: Ro. 8:1-14). And, Jesus said that if we want to save our lives, i.e. if we want to hold on to our old lives, we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives for His sake, i.e. if we die with Christ to sin, we will save our lives, i.e. we will have eternal life with God.

So many people today are telling people that faith in Jesus Christ requires nothing of them – no repentance, no obedience and no submission to Christ and to his cross, but they are lying to you, and their lies will send you straight to hell if you believe them. Believing in Jesus is not just some intellectual assent to who Jesus is (or was) or some emotional decision we make because we don’t want to end up in hell, or because we want to have heaven guaranteed to us when we leave this earth. Faith in Jesus is not just some mere acceptance of his forgiveness of our sins, either, while we continue living for sin and self. John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we are liars. He also said that if we say we know God, but we don’t obey him, we are liars.

Basically, if we think salvation and eternal life means we do nothing, then we have it all wrong. Yes, we are saved by God’s grace, through faith – and not of ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. But, we are saved TO good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (See: Eph. 2:8-10). Jesus gave his life up for us that we might become the righteousness of God. He 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. He died, too, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (2 Co. 5:15, 21; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Pet. 2:24).

God’s grace is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God. 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 soon return (Tit. 2:11-14). If we continue in sinful lifestyles, in practicing what our flesh desires, we will die in our sins. Count on it!

Don’t Be Ashamed (v. 26)

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Part of our death to sin and self, and living to Christ and to his righteousness, means we consider the will of God for our lives above and in place of our own selfish will and desires. Instead of living our lives so that others will like us and think we are wonderful, we live our lives for God and for his purposes, and for his glory. We realize that “Lord” is not just a title given to Jesus, but it means he is now owner-master of our lives, and that we are his bond-servants, here to do his will. We also realize that the earth is not our home, but heaven is, and so we are not here to build earthly kingdoms, but we are here to advance God’s heavenly kingdom. Jesus did not put us on this earth, in other words, for us to live selfish lives for our own pleasure. We are not here to entertain or to be entertained continuously. We are here on this earth to serve God, and to live holy lives pleasing to him, and to tell others about him.

Too many people these days are describing “the gospel” as though it means nothing more than being “good deed doers,” which gets us liked by people, not hated. But, anyone can be a good deed doer. Now, good deeds are certainly a part of what we do, as followers of Christ, but they are what God has called us to do, and they are the deeds he prepared in advance for us to do, which includes sharing his gospel message of death to sin and living to righteousness. And, yes, that means we will be rejected and hated by some when we tell others about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. But, if we are ashamed of Jesus and his gospel in this life, he will be ashamed of us when he comes again one day.

Don’t Look Back (vv. 57-62)

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Yes, our salvation is a free gift, and we do nothing to earn or to deserve it, but that gift, if understood correctly, is NOT just an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die. Jesus didn’t die that horrible death on a cross, and take upon himself the sins of the entire world, just so we could be forgiven our sins and have the hope of heaven when we die. Salvation is not mere forgiveness of sins, but it is DELIVERANCE from BONDAGE to sin. It is death to sin and living to righteousness. It is death to self, and it is living to God and doing what pleases him. We are born again of the Spirit of God, created to be like God IN TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HOLINESS. And, holiness means to be separate (set apart, unlike, different) from the world, because we are becoming LIKE CHRIST.

Jesus made it clear that following him is no picnic. It isn’t about us and our comfort and enjoyment (pleasure). It isn’t about what we want to do, or what we think will please God, but it is total surrender to God and to his will and to his purposes for our lives. It is going where he sends us, saying what he wants us to say, doing what he says, and being who he has called us to be. It means leaving homes, families, friends, and worldly comforts in order to go with God to the regions beyond with the gospel of our salvation. If we want to be Jesus’ followers, it means total abandonment to God, i.e. we must forsake all to follow him, and we must yield ourselves fully to his will and to his ways. We can’t hold on to our old lives and follow Jesus, too. We have to let go, and let God have his sway in our lives. And, then we will be fit for the kingdom of God (See also: John 6:35-66; 10:27-30).

My Jesus, I Love Thee
William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.

Called as Saints

Sunday, April 16, 2017, 6:38 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Broken and Contrite.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 1:1-17 (NASB).

Obedience of Faith (vv. 1-7)

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We, who are believers in Jesus Christ, are called of God as saints. So, what does it mean to be a saint? It means we are set apart from (different, unlike) the world of sin because we are being conformed to the image of Christ. It means “likeness of nature with the Lord” because “different from the world” (biblehub.com). We are sanctified (made holy, purified) by God’s grace through God-given faith in Jesus Christ. We are not like the world. We are not conformed to the patterns (ways) of this sinful world, but we are transformed of the Spirit of God in the renewing of our minds. Not only are we set apart from the world, but we are set apart to God and to his service. We are called to the obedience of faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Yet, this is not what is being taught in many of our churches here in America. The vast majority of the church here apparently is preaching a gospel of salvation different from the one Jesus and his NT apostles taught. These masqueraders of truth are telling people only half the truth, which is a lie, because many of them willfully leave out the other half.

Yet, many are telling the people that Jesus died on a cross for our sins, and that he was resurrected from the dead, and that he ascended to heaven, and that he sent his Holy Spirit to indwell the lives of his followers. And, they are teaching them that it is by grace 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 (Eph. 2:8-9). This is obviously true, but they leave out the next verse which says “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).

So, they only tell them the half about Jesus dying for us, but they don’t tell them the half of what it means to truly believe in Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord (owner-master) of our lives. They tell them that he died that we might be free from eternal damnation and have the hope of heaven when we leave this earth, but they don’t tell them that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. They reduce faith to something of human origin, but the kind of faith which saves us is God-given. Since it is given to us by God, it is conformed to God’s holiness and righteousness. This God-given faith means that we are divinely persuaded by God as to his perfect will for our lives. If we are persuaded, then we submit ourselves to the cross of Christ, to our Lord, to the obedience of faith, to his holiness, and we surrender our all to Jesus. He is now our Lord and we are his bond-slaves.

Encourage One Another (vv. 8-15)

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

So, how about us? If our faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world, what do you suppose people would be saying about us? How would they describe our faith? And I am including myself here, because I am still growing in faith. We all should be. As well, if we are to encourage one another, each of us by the other’s faith, what would that look like, as well? And, do we do this? If so, what words would we be saying to each other to encourage each other by our own faith? Do we even have a concept of what that might look like? And, is this something we have ever experienced?

From my own experience, I would have to say that up until maybe 1986 I had people in my life who did this with me, and me with them regularly. Since then it has been hit and miss to find people who even have a desire to do this, or who even have some idea of what this entails, except for maybe some people on the internet, or occasionally with some people in person. And, I miss this kind of Christian fellowship which I experienced in years gone by. I find, often, that Christians today are uncomfortable talking about spiritual things unless it is in an organized gathering of the church where they are talking about what the Bible teaches on a particular subject. There are people who do talk about the Lord as part of their daily conversation, but it doesn’t seem to be many who do, at least not where I live or have lived.

So, why is this? Why do Christians have no problem talking about everything but the Lord? Why do we get this idea that “religious” conversations are to be in the setting of church gatherings, but not part of our everyday lives? Or, that we should keep the topics of conversation light and fluffy, so as not to offend anyone? Why are we afraid of what people will think of us? Why is it ok to talk about TV, movies, Facebook, sports, hobbies, and the like, but not talk with each other about our personal walks of faith in Christ in order to encourage one another to also walk in holiness? Has the church gotten so worldly that they have lost sight of what it means to be a follower of Christ?

I’m Not Ashamed (vv. 16-17)

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 to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

We should not be ashamed to talk with one another about Jesus Christ, his gospel, and our faith in him. This should be as natural to us as anything else we do, and even more so. And, we should not feel uncomfortable when others attempt to share their faith in Jesus with us, to encourage us in our walks of faith. Back in the day, my friends and I would call each other on the phone and we would share with each other something from our devotions from that day, or something God had laid on our hearts, or something we felt God was leading us to share with them specifically, like a song or a scripture. I still do this with other believers, but I don’t find that many people are receptive to it, or that they are responsive to it, even though scripture says we are to do this, and we need to do this with each other.

We should also not be ashamed to talk with unbelievers or with people we don’t know about Jesus Christ, or even with friends and family members. Time is short, and there are many people who need to believe in Jesus. So, we need the courage of the Holy Spirit, and the wisdom of God, and we need to follow the example of Jesus Christ in his daily walk, and we need to share Jesus with those who don’t know him, and we need to share our faith with one another, because we need to be encouraged and strengthened in our faith, especially in the times in which we now live. May God direct us in this.

Broken and Contrite / An Original Work / May 13, 2012

I come before You, Lord, my Savior,
With humble heart and crushed in spirit.
I bow before You, I implore You,
Heal my broken heart, I pray.
Love You, Jesus, Lord, my master,
You are the King of my heart.
Lord, purify my heart within me;
Sanctify me, whole within.

Oh, Lord, I long to obey fully
The words You’ve spoken through Your Spirit.
I pray You give me grace and mercy,
Strength and wisdom to obey.
Father God, my heart’s desire,
Won’t You set my heart on fire?
Lord, cleanse my heart of all that hinders
My walk with You, now I pray.

Oh, Jesus, Savior, full of mercy,
My heart cries out for understanding.
I want to follow You in all ways,
Never straying from Your truth.
Holy Spirit, come in power,
Fill me with Your love today.
Lord, mold and make me;
Your hands formed me;
Live Your life through me, I pray.