For Our Transgressions

Tuesday, August 8, 2017, 3:34 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Tell Me the Story of Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 53 (Select vv. ESV).

Who Has Believed? (vv. 1-3; cf. Rom. 10:16)

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.

Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of Israel, our God and Lord, came to earth and took on human form, begotten of God the Father, and born as a baby to a human mother. He suffered as we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. There was nothing about his physical appearance that anyone should be attracted to him. He did have some true followers (disciples), though. And, crowds did follow him, for he healed many, he drove out evil spirits, he performed many miracles, and he fed the hungry. But, when he spoke of the cost of following him, many who had been following him deserted him, never to return.

Many of the religious leaders within the Jewish temple did not like Jesus, and they made it their mission to destroy him. They hated him because he dared to be different, because he did not follow their human rules and traditions, because he healed people on the Sabbath, and he claimed to be God; and because he confronted sinful humans with their sinful conditions, warned of divine judgment and called for repentance and faith in himself. They were jealous of him because of his temporary and short-lived popularity among the people, and because they felt their own positions of power were being threatened by him. So, they plotted his death, and he was crucified on a cross for our sins (See: Jn. 1:1-34; Jn. 6:35-66; Phil. 2:1-11; 1 Co. 5:21).

We Are Healed (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 Jesus died on that cross, he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us. In his death, he put sin to death, and when he was resurrected from the grave, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death for our sake. By God’s grace, through faith in him, via death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ, we can be forgiven our sins, released from the ultimate punishment of sin (eternal damnation), delivered out of slavery to sin, and released to walk in the Spirit and in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, and be given eternal life with God.

When we are born into this world, we are born with sin natures, separate from God and unable to attain God’s divine approval through human effort. So, that is why Jesus gave his life up for us, that we might be saved from our sins, walk in the Spirit, and have eternal life with God. Because he died, we are able to die to sin, and because he lives, we can live with him and for him for eternity. Yet, he did not come to earth, take on human flesh, and suffer for our sake just so we can escape hell and have the promise of heaven when we die. He died that we might live for him, and he suffered that he might be our compassionate and merciful high priest in taking our sorrows upon himself that he might also comfort us in our sorrows.

The Will of God (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.

It was God the Father’s will that his Son should suffer and die for our sins. This was planned for us even before the creation of the world, and that many of us would believe on him as our Savior and would become children of God, and followers of Christ. Through faith in Jesus Christ we are not only made righteous in God’s sight, but we are able to live righteously for Him and for his will for our lives, for this is why he died. Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:14).

So, we must walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit of God, and no longer according to our sinful flesh. For, if we walk according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, even if we have made a profession of faith in Christ Jesus. If we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin), for His sake, we will gain eternal life with God (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14). If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we still walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6). The true story of Jesus (the gospel) is not just that Jesus died to forgive us our sins, but he died to deliver us out of slavery to sin, and to give us new lives in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23; Gal. 2:20). Amen!

Tell Me the Story of Jesus
Fanny J. Crosby / John R. Sweney

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus,
Sang as they welcomed His birth,
“Glory to God in the highest!
Peace and good tidings to earth.”

Fasting alone in the desert,
Tell of the days that are past,
How for our sins He was tempted,
Yet was triumphant at last.
Tell of the years of His labor,
Tell of the sorrow He bore;
He was despised and afflicted,
Homeless, rejected and poor.

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,
Writhing in anguish and pain;
Tell of the grave where they laid Him,
Tell how He liveth again.
Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see;
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
“Love paid the ransom for me.”

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.

Dead or Genuine?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 8:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 2:14-26 (ESV).

Dead Faith (vv. 14-17)

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

I believe there are two types of faith. One is human faith, and another is God-given faith. God-given faith, which is the kind necessary for salvation, is divinely persuaded as to God’s will for our lives, and if persuaded, and originating in God, it then conforms to God’s holiness and righteousness, because it is supernatural (of God), not natural (of human origin).

Many people today are presenting the gospel of salvation in such a way that the faith they describe as necessary for salvation is human faith, not God-given faith, because they teach that God requires no repentance, no obedience, and no submission to Christ and his cross. They are being taught that all they have to do is believe that Jesus took their place on a cross, that he died for their sins, and that he took their punishment for sin so that they could escape hell and have the promise of heaven when they die. But, they are not being taught that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. The prayer they pray for salvation is more like just a thank you to Jesus for what he did, but without confession or repentance of sin, and without turning to God to walk in obedience to Christ and his Word.

And, this is what James is addressing here, I believe. If we say we have faith in Jesus Christ (in God), but our lifestyles speak the opposite, then do we truly have God-given faith? Or, is it human faith, which acknowledges only what Jesus did for us, but does not bow to Christ, nor does it feel it has to? If we say we believe in Jesus, and in his sacrificial death on a cross for our sins, then it should make a difference in our lives, shouldn’t it? If it doesn’t, then what good is the faith? James gives the illustration here of seeing someone truly in need and yet not lifting a finger to help. If all we do is tell them to go in peace, but we do nothing to help, what good is that? He says, then, that in the same way if our faith is not followed (accompanied) by works (not of the flesh, but of the Spirit), it is thus dead (useless) faith.

Genuine Faith (vv. 18-26)

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Hebrews 11 is considered the “faith” chapter of the Bible. In nearly every account in that chapter it describes someone’s faith much like this: By faith he (fill in the name) did (something). Abel offered a sacrifice acceptable to God, and Noah, in reverent fear, constructed an ark for the saving of his household, as God had commanded him to do. Abraham obeyed when he was called of God to go to a place he was to receive as an inheritance, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt; by faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, etc. And, by faith the people crossed the Red Sea on dry land, and the list goes on (See: Heb. 11).

And, by faith in Jesus Christ, and in what he did for us in dying on a cross for our sins, so that we could escape hell, be delivered from slavery to sin and have eternal life with God, we willingly die with Christ to sin. 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. We leave our old lives of sin behind us, and we turn to follow Jesus Christ with our lives in obedience to him and to his Word. If we say we have fellowship with God, though, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we lie, and we do not live by the truth (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Jn. 6:35-66; Acts 26:16-18; Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:6).

So, God-given faith is inseparable from corresponding action (works of the Spirit). It is not enough to just believe with human or with intellectual or even with emotional faith generated in oneself. James said that even the demons believe in the existence of the ONE true God, and that they even shudder. And, that is because they know God exists because he created them, and because they used to be angels in heaven. But, that belief was not enough, because they still rebelled against God and became demons.

It is true that we can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation, and it is only by God’s grace that we are saved, through faith, and this not of ourselves for it is a gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:8-9). Yet, we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (v. 10). 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 (Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Lu. 9:23-25). So, faith is active along with works (of the Spirit), and faith is completed by such works. So, as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord
Adelaide A. Pollard / George C. Stebbins

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Dear Church Member

Thursday, May 11, 2017, 9:19 a.m.

Dear Church Member,

The reason I am writing you today is to ask you a few simple questions. Do you know what your church believes? Have you read their statement of faith, and their purpose and vision statements? Have you also checked these out against the Word of God to see if they are entirely biblical, in context? What I mean is, do these statements teach the gospel of our salvation in the context of scripture, as a whole, or do they pull scriptures out of context and build their doctrine around only a few select scriptures, while ignoring the rest? And, do you know what your preachers preach with regard to the gospel, which may differ from their official statements of faith? And, have you checked out what your preachers teach against the Word of God?

The reason I am asking these questions is that I am finding more and more churches across America who have diluted the gospel of Jesus Christ and who have reduced the message of salvation to a broad road that many can travel, rather than the narrow road that only a few travel (Matt. 7:13-14). They do this by building their doctrine of salvation around just a few select scriptures, the primary one being Romans 10:9-10, which says:

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

Now, to the Jew of that time this meant one thing, while to the average American today, this might mean something entirely different. For instance, if a Jew of that time acknowledged publicly that Jesus Christ is Lord, the promised Messiah of Israel, the Christ, the Son of the living God, it would most certainly mean persecution, rejection, and possibly death, much like it might mean for a Muslim today. The same was true if he believed, in his heart of hearts, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins, and that God, the Father, resurrected him from the dead. For to believe something in our hearts is to believe it with the center of our entire being, and to believe this, for a Jew, would mean a transformation of heart, mind and lifestyle, for he would have crossed over to the other side, basically.

Yet, in America, the term “Lord” appears to be mainly just a title given to Jesus, much like Christ, or Son of God, but it doesn’t actually mean that he is the person’s owner-master, for that is clear by what is often prayed to receive Christ, and is even more clear by the lifestyles and the beliefs which follow a large percentage of these confessions, from all appearances. And, making a verbal confession of him appears to be a mere formality, and not an actual heart confession that Jesus Christ is now owner-master of their lives. As well, if we believe in Jesus in our hearts, i.e. in the core of our being, it should transform us in lifestyle, thought, word and deed, and not give us an excuse to continue sinning against God without guilt or remorse.

In Context

So, what is the context of Romans 10:9-10? Well, chapter 10 begins with these words:

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.”

So, who is he talking about? He is talking about the Jews. They were seeking to establish their own righteousness by keeping the law, which they could not do with absolute perfection, anyway, which is why Jesus had to die for our sins. They had zeal for God, but it was not according to truth. But, notice what it says here. The problem was not only that they were trying to be righteous through human effort, but they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. So, what does that mean? If we are subject to someone or something, we are placed under the authority and control of whatever it is we are subject to. As well, God’s righteousness is his divine (judicial) approval, i.e. it refers to what is deemed right by the Lord (after His examination), i.e. what is approved in His eyes (biblehub.com).

Now, I understand here that we are only approved by God because of what Jesus did for us on a cross in dying for our sins, and via God-given faith in him, and that we cannot attain this righteousness by our own human effort. Yet, God-given faith is divinely persuaded of God as to his will for our lives, and if God-given, indeed, then it is in line (in agreement) with his holiness, and his righteousness, i.e. what meets God’s approval, i.e. what is right in his eyes, such as holiness, godliness, truth, uprightness, purity, etc. So, if we subject ourselves to his righteousness, this means that his godliness, holiness, truth, purity, and righteousness are in authority and in control over our lives, i.e. Jesus is truly Lord (owner-master) of our lives, and we are his bond-slaves, and no longer are we living to please our sinful flesh. For, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).

Going Back Further

Ok, so what actually takes place in the life of someone who believes in Jesus with God-given faith? We read in Romans 6 that we died to sin, so how can we still live in it any longer? It goes on to say, basically, that we died with Christ to sin, and that we were buried with him through baptism (immersion) into death, i.e. through participating with him in death to sin, so that we might walk (in lifestyle) in newness of life (spiritual rebirth). “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” (vv. 6-7). So, believing in Jesus is not just escaping punishment in hell and having the promise of heaven when we die. When we believe with God-given faith, we die to our old lives of living for sin and self, so that we can now conduct our lives in newness of life, no longer enslaved to sin, but now as bond-servants of his righteousness.

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 20-23).

God, through sending Jesus to die on a cross as our offering for sin, “condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3b-4). So, what is the requirement of the law? It demands full obedience to God’s moral laws, which no one could do, which is why Jesus died. Yet, it is not fulfilled in us who merely confess faith in Jesus Christ. It is fulfilled in us who conduct our lives, not according to our sinful flesh, but according to (in agreement with and empowered by) the Holy Spirit of God.

In other words, God-given faith in Jesus Christ results in lives transformed of the Spirit of God, which then results in us now living our lives under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and not under the control of the flesh. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (v. 14). So, “we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (vv. 12-13). Do you see what this is saying? A mere prayer is not enough to save us from our sins. If we are living (in lifestyle) by our flesh, we will die in our sins, yet if by the Spirit we are putting to death the acts of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity. A saved life is a changed life.

And, this is the context leading up to Romans 10:9-10. If we believe in our hearts concerning what Jesus did for us in his death and resurrection, it means we die to sin that we might live to righteousness. It means we no longer live (walk in lifestyle) in sin. We don’t make a practice of sin, thinking God’s grace covers it all. Instead, by the Spirit we are putting sin to death in our lives daily. And, if we confess that Jesus is Lord of our lives, it means he is owner-master, and we are his bond-slaves, and that his righteousness and holiness now rule in our lives and we are under his and their control.

Zeal for Your House
An Original Work / August 1, 2016

Based off Jn. 2:17; Ps. 69:9

Zeal for Your house, it consumes me.
Lord, I love my times with You.
I love to worship You and sing Your praises.
Time in Your Word brings me closer to You,
List’ning to You speaking to me,
Gently guiding me in truth.

Lord, You are my life’s example,
Showing me how I should live.
I love to walk with You where’er You lead me.
No greater joy have I when serving You.
Loving, giving, resting in Your strength,
I’m yielding to Your will.

Zeal for Your house, it consumes me.
See the church turned upside down:
Marketing ventures taking place of worship,
Men of the gospel turning into clowns.
Gospel message made appealing,
So the world will feel at home.

Lord, we need a great revival.
Turn their hearts, Lord, back to You.
Open the blind eyes, turn them all from darkness,
Lord, to the light. May they return to You,
Turn from their sin, forsake idols,
Be restored to God again.

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.

Faith and Works

Saturday, February 18, 2017, 8:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Saved, Saved.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 2:14-26 (ESV).

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Some people have accused James of teaching works-based salvation. Yet, if we believe the Bible (Genesis-Revelation) is God-breathed, we must accept that these are God’s words to us. And, they are consistent with the writings of Paul, too, though some people would have you believe not.

So, what is James saying here? He is saying that it is not enough to just believe on Jesus in our hearts, but that our actions must accompany our profession of faith, or else our faith is dead (useless, of no value). Interestingly enough, we call Hebrews 11 the “faith” chapter of the Bible. Have you ever noticed how, in most cases, these people’s faith was described? They believed God, but then they did something in obedience to the Lord. For instance, Noah, if he had merely believed in his heart that a flood was coming and that God wanted him to build an ark, but he did not act on that faith, then what good was his faith? Just like love is action, so faith is also action. A true understanding of the word “faith” tells us that faith is not only a gift from God, but it is God’s divine persuasion (convincing) of his will, i.e. it is God moving us to a course of action.

So, what did Paul teach along these lines? How did he describe the salvation we receive by faith? He said we died with Christ to sin so that we might live with Christ to righteousness. When we believed in Jesus, if we had God-given faith, “our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” So, we are to count ourselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (See: Ro. 6:1-23).

He went on to say that God, by sending his Son Jesus to be a sin offering for us, “condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” He said “we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (See: Ro. 8:1-14). If we continue living sinful lifestyles after we profess faith in Jesus Christ, we will die in our sins. If, by the Spirit, we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live.

So, what is it that Paul said here? Genuine faith is proved genuine by its actions. John said something similar when he said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin, wickedness), we are liars, and we don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6). He also said: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (1 Jn. 2:3-5a). Jesus said something similar when he said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (Jn. 14:23-24a). To love God means to obey him and his Word. To know God is to love God and to keep (obey) his commandments.

Yet, many people today are teaching that all we have to do is believe in our hearts that Jesus died to take the punishment of our sin, and then to say out loud, “Jesus is Lord,” and then we are saved from judgment and heaven is guaranteed. They cheapen God’s grace and majorly dilute the gospel message. Jesus didn’t die on a cross for our sins just so we could escape hell and have heaven guaranteed to us when we die! He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. And, he died that we might no longer live our lives according to the flesh, but that we might walk (in lifestyle) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God. They forget that James said that “even the demons believe and they shudder.”

God’s grace is not a mere get-out-of-jail-free card. His grace does not give us carte blanche (free rein) to live however we want and to still have the promise of heaven when we die. There are many scriptures in the Bible that teach that our salvation is conditional. They teach that God has reconciled us to himself, by Christ’s blood shed for us on the cross for our sins, IF we continue in our faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. They instruct us that we have come to share in Christ IF we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. And, “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life” (Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 3:6, 14; I Jn. 2:24-25, etc.).

So, what is God’s grace then? God’s 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. Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (See: Tit. 2:11-14). God’s grace to us delivers us out of slavery to sin and it sets us free to now walk in victory over sin and in Christ’s righteousness. If all grace does is give us an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die, but it does not deliver us out of bondage to (the control of) sin over our lives while we live on this earth, then that is not grace, but a lie from Satan, because it leaves us still dead in our sins and condemned to die.

The wonderful truth about God’s grace is that we can be free from the control of Satan and sin over our lives. No Christian should ever be still under bondage to sin, because Jesus set us free! We should not have sin addictions, because “addiction,” by definition, has to do with something which controls us, i.e. we are “hooked, dependent, obsessed and captivated” by sin. Addiction comes from Satan, so if we are being controlled by sin, we are being controlled by Satan, not by the Spirit of God, at least this is certainly true in the areas of our sin addictions, if we still have them.

Yet, with this “false grace” teaching that dilutes the gospel to merely an escape from judgment and the promise of heaven when we die, comes this idea that we can still live in “addiction” and still have eternal life with God, and that God is still pleased with us. Yet, the Bible teaches that “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” (Heb. 10:26-27). So, know God’s true grace today, i.e. the grace that sets you free from bondage to sin so that you can live in Christ and to his righteousness!

Saved, Saved / Jack P. Scholfield

I’ve found a Friend, who is all to me,
His love is ever true;
I love to tell how He lifted me
And what His grace can do for you.

He saves me from every sin and harm,
Secures my soul each day;
I’m leaning strong on His mighty arm;
I know He’ll guide me all the way.

When poor and needy and all alone,
In love He said to me,
“Come unto Me and I’ll lead you home,
To live with Me eternally.”

Saved by His pow’r divine,
Saved to new life sublime!
Life now is sweet and my joy is complete,
For I’m saved, saved, saved!