Like Christ

Saturday, July 15, 2017, 8:41 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read several scriptures (ESV) on the subject of Christ-likeness.

Image of Christ (Ro. 8:29; 2 Co. 3:18 NASB)

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

The goal of our faith in Jesus Christ is not merely to be free from the penalty of sin (eternal damnation), and to have the promise of eternal life with God in heaven. God’s purpose in saving us is that we might be conformed to (to be consistent with) the image (likeness, pattern, character) of Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, 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. In fact, His grace, which brings salvation, instructs us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return.

So, what does this look like? What was/is Jesus Christ like? Well, he is God, and he is perfect (sinless), and he is holy and righteous and just. He is also kind, compassionate, loving and forgiving. He is also unselfish, and giving of himself to us to meet our legitimate needs. He doesn’t always give us what we want, but he provides for our needs. Yet, his kindness and compassion is based in his justice, in his righteousness, and in his love for us. In other words, if we are Christ-like, we won’t placate (appease) sin in ourselves or in others, and we won’t lie to others just to make them feel good about themselves while they are engrossed in their sinful practices. But, we will be honest with ourselves and we will speak the truth in love to others, too.

Also, we will walk (conduct our lives) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God, and not walk after the flesh, to please our sinful passions. God, who saved us and who called us to a holy calling, is in the process of transforming us, who have died with Christ to sin, into the image of Christ. Some people refer to this as the process of sanctification. Yet, our salvation is also a process, for we are saved (past), we are being saved (present), and we will be saved when Christ returns (future), and our salvation is complete.

Like Him in Death (Phil. 2:5-8; Phil. 3:10)

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

When Jesus walked the earth, he told those who would come after him that they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said that if they held on to their old lives (of living for sin and self), they would lose their lives. But, if they would lose their lives (die with Christ to sin), they would gain eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25). And, the Apostle Paul reiterated Jesus’ words 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 would live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).

So, becoming Christ-like means that we are becoming humble, unselfish, obedient to Christ and his Word, and that by the Spirit we are putting the deeds of our flesh to death, so that sin does no longer reign in our bodies. It means that “I” am crucified (put to death) with Christ so that “I” no longer live, but that Christ lives in me to his glory and for his purposes. And, now I live by faith in Jesus Christ, meaning I now allow Christ to rule and reign supreme in my life, instead of me still having control over what I do or don’t do. I listen to his Word, I do what it says, and I follow Christ with my life. Yet, this is not saying we will never sin (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but that we should no longer walk in darkness (sin), but we should walk (conduct our lives) in the light (righteousness, truth, the gospel, Jesus Christ).

Imitators of Christ (1 Thess. 1:6-7; 1 Pet. 4:1-3)

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.”

We are to be imitators of Christ, not in the sense of a performance or a mockery of someone, but in the sense of following him, being his disciples, doing the things he did, saying the things he said, and taking on his character, morals, values and attitudes and actions, making them our own. When we do this, people will think us strange, out of touch with reality, crazy, or hyper-religious, because this is not the norm, not even among those who also claim to be followers of Christ, at least not in America.

Some of them will say we are too serious, and we need to lighten up, or we need to chill (relax) and enjoy life the way they do. They may think it odd that we do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they may heap abuse on us (1 Pet. 4:4). Yet, we are not to fear what others think of us.

As imitators of Christ, we should arm ourselves with the same attitude Christ had about sin. He gave his life up for us so that we could go free from slavery to sin, and so we would be free to walk in his righteousness. And, we should lay down our lives by dying with him to sin so that we might live with Christ to his righteousness and holiness. We should no longer live to fulfill the desires of our flesh, but we should live to please God with our lives, and to do his will. Sensuality, adultery, fornication, lust, gossip, gluttony, lying, cheating, stealing, idolatry, perjury, and deceit, etc., should have no place in our lives. We should not think and act like the world. And, we should be set apart (unlike, different) from the world, because we are becoming like Jesus.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

Forgiveness

Sunday, July 9, 2017, 4:15 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Songs in The Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read various scriptures (in the ESV) on the subject of forgiveness of sins.

Repentance for Forgiveness (Luke 24:44-47)

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

What is repentance? Literally it means to have “a change of mind, change in the inner man” (1). It is used almost exclusively in scripture to signify a turning away from sin and a turning to walk in obedience to God. It is a lot like making a U-turn, i.e. you were going left, and now you are going right. Only this is talking about a complete change of direction spiritually in one’s life. And, although this is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in transforming us from darkness to light, our faith in Jesus Christ involves us willingly cooperating with that work of grace in our lives.

This repentance, i.e. this forsaking of our former way of living for sin and self, and turning to God to follow him in his ways, and in his truth, is required by God for us to be forgiven of our sins, and to have eternal life with God in heaven (Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 6:1-23; 8:1-14; Eph. 4:17-24).

Turned from Darkness (Acts 26:16-18; Col. 1:13-14)

“But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Paul met Jesus Christ on his way to Damascus where he intended to persecute believers in Jesus Christ. Jesus, who transformed his heart and mind, appointed him to be a minister of the gospel of our salvation. Paul’s calling also summarizes for us the gospel message, the purpose of which is to open eyes which are spiritually blinded by sin, and to turn them from sin to Christ and to his righteousness, and from the dominion of Satan over their lives to now walk in obedience to their Lord. The result is that they receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (purified, cleansed) by faith in Jesus Christ. So, again we have here the prerequisite of repentance prior to the forgiveness of sins.

Holy and Blameless (Ephesians 1:3-10)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Those of us who have trusted in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, who have been redeemed with his blood, and forgiven our sins, were chosen by God even before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless before him. To be holy means to be separate (unlike, different) from the world, because we are being made to be like Jesus. Blameless means “unblemished from the marring effects of sin” (2). Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). When we believe in him, his righteousness is credited to our account so that we are no longer charged as “guilty,” but we are set free from the condemnation of sin. Yet, we must also live righteously. We must walk in the Spirit, and no longer according to the flesh, if we want to have the hope of eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-23; Ro. 8:1-14).

We were also chosen according to the purpose of God’s will, to the praise of his grace. And, he made known to us his will, according to his plan and purpose for our lives. In fact, faith in Christ means to be persuaded of God as to his will for our lives. And, if persuaded (convinced), we will want to do his will. And, what is his will? It is that we should be sanctified and made holy, that we should forsake our sins and follow him in obedience, and that we should live holy and godly lives pleasing to him.

The reality of his grace to us is not just that we have escaped hell and that we have the promise of heaven when we die, but that he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). His grace, which brings salvation, instructs (commands) us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). So, if we are chosen according to the purpose of God’s will, to the praise of his grace, then our lives should reflect both his purpose for our lives, and his grace, which instructs us to say “No” to sin and “Yes” to his righteousness and holiness being lived out in our lives.

Circumcised in Heart (Col. 2:11-15; cf. Ro. 6:1-23)

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

While physical circumcision is a cutting away of physical flesh, the circumcision made without hands, which is also called “circumcision of the heart,” is a spiritual cutting away of our sinful flesh (sin nature, worldliness, wickedness). This is what takes place when we genuinely trust in Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord (owner-master) of our lives. We die with Christ to sin that we might live with Christ to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. The old is gone. The new has come. We are given completely new lives in Christ Jesus which are created to be like him in true righteousness and holiness. We were once dead in our sins, but God made us alive in Christ Jesus! He cancelled the debt that stood against us, and he forgave our sins. Amen!

But, forgiveness alone is not the end result of our faith in Jesus Christ, for we were set free from slavery to sin, as well, so that we would no longer walk according to our sinful flesh, but so we would now walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit. If we walk (conduct our lives) according to our sinful flesh (if we keep on practicing sin), 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; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6). So, not only must we be forgiven our sins, but we must no longer continue in willful sin against God if we want to have the hope of eternal life with God.

Songs in the Night / An Original Work / December 18, 2013

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,
And the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 NIV ‘84

Lord, I praise You forevermore.
You, my Savior, I now adore.
Hope in heaven awaiting me,
Because You died at Calvary.

I have been forgiven,
And I’m bound for heaven.
Jesus set me free from
All my sin, I say.
I will praise Him always!

Lord, I love You for all You’ve done:
Overcame death, my vict’ry won!
Jesus saved me, and now I’m free!
I rejoice in His love for me.

I will walk in vict’ry!
My sin is but hist’ry!
I am free to please Him
With my life today.
I will love Him always!

Lord, I thank You for giving me
A new life bought at Calvary.
Loving Jesus, I meet with Him.
Tender mercies now flow within.

Lord, I am so thankful;
Through my Lord, I’m able
To sit at His table;
Fellowship with Him.
I will thank Him always!

(1) http://biblehub.com/greek/3341.htm

(2) http://biblehub.com/greek/299.htm

The Faith We Profess

Monday, June 5, 2017, 7:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Blessed Assurance.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Colossians 1 (Select vv. NASB).

Our Faith (vv. 3-8)

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, what should that faith look like? Well, first of all, where does this faith come from? And, do we generate this faith ourselves?

In the Bible we read, first of all, that no one can even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless the Father first draws him (Jn. 6:44). Generally, this is done through the preaching of the gospel of our salvation (Ro. 10:14-15). Yet, God is certainly not limited to depending on humans to tell people about himself; about Jesus Christ (Ro. 1:18-20; Ps. 19:1-6; Lu. 19:40; Rev. 14:6). Then, once the Father draws us to Christ, then he also gives us the faith to believe in him (Eph. 2:8-10). This faith is not the kind we might muster up ourselves out of our own human flesh, though. This faith is divinely persuaded as to God’s perfect will for our lives. It submits to God’s will, because it comes from God, and it is of God (of his divine character).

So, what is this gospel of grace? Where do we learn about it? We learn about it in the “Word of Truth.” And, it is “the grace of God in truth.” We learn about it, not just in the New Testament books of the Bible, though, for there are many prophecies of scripture concerning this gospel of grace in the Old Testament, too. And, it is the Holy Spirit of God who reveals it to us, who convicts our hearts of sin, and who convinces us of our need of the Savior.

What is this gospel? It is first of all that humans are born into sin, and thus they come up short of attaining God’s divine approval. They are bound for eternity in hell, without God, and without hope (Ro. 3:23; Ro. 6:23). And, there is nothing we can do in our flesh to earn or to deserve our own salvation. So, it is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – left his throne in heaven, came to earth, became flesh, and dwelt among us. He suffered like we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. And, he was hung on a cross to die, although he had done no wrong, but in his death he took upon himself our sins so that we could die to sin and live to righteousness (Jn. 1; Phil. 2; 2 Co. 5:21; Is. 53).

And, what should it look like when we believe in Jesus, and in his gospel? It should radically transform 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 (Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24). And, holiness means to be set apart (unlike, different) from the world of sin because we are being conformed to the image (likeness) of Christ Jesus, our Lord. We are turned from darkness (sin) to light (Jesus Christ, truth, righteousness), and from the power of Satan to God, so we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those sanctified (purified, made holy) by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:16-18). The old has gone, the new has come.

God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. If you believe that you can have faith in Jesus Christ, and that God requires nothing of you – no repentance, no submission and no obedience to Christ, then you are sadly mistaken. That is human faith, not God-given faith. We have to remember here that James said that even the demons believe, and they shudder. Sadly, many who call themselves Christians don’t even shudder, i.e. they have no fear (honor, respect) of God. Yet, God’s grace, which brings salvation, is not just about freeing us from hell’s fires and promising us heaven when we die. His grace teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).

So, what should this faith look like? It should be surrendered to God, in death to sin and living to his righteousness. And, it should be bearing fruit and increasing, and not be stagnant and complacent. In other words, we should be growing in our faith, and we should be maturing in our spiritual walks. We should be denying the flesh, and by the Spirit we ought to be putting to death the deeds of the flesh. We should be walking in the Spirit and no longer living to gratify the desires of the sinful flesh (Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25; 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; 1 Jn. 1:6). And, we must have love for others, especially for other followers of Christ, for if we hate and devour one another, how, then, can the love of God be in us? (1 Jn. 2:11; 1 Jn. 4:20).

Worthy of the Lord (vv. 9-14)

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

First, we must have the correct foundation. If our faith is based in human flesh, and it is not God-given faith, then what follows will not take place, because we have a faulty base. If a house is built on a faulty foundation, it won’t last. When the storms of life come crashing in, it will fall. If we believe that all we have to do is acknowledge Jesus’ existence, and accept his forgiveness of our sins, but that nothing is required of us, then that is the wrong foundation, and our house will fall. But, if we believe the words of Jesus and those of the NT apostles, that coming to Christ means we die with Christ to sin so that we don’t live in sin any longer, and that repentance and obedience are required as part of believing faith (God-given faith), then by God’s grace, we can walk (in lifestyle) in a manner worthy of our Lord.

Then, we can be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, because we don’t have an attitude that we don’t have to obey him. Why would he fill us with the knowledge of his will if we are predisposed to ignore that knowledge, and to go our own way? Why would he show us anything if we feel we now have our ticket into heaven, that nothing can take it away, so it doesn’t matter if we still play around with sin, or if we make it our practice to excuse away willful sin as all covered by God’s grace. What he will show us is that we have the wrong foundation, and he will show us the correct way to him and to salvation. And, when we have responded to him with God-given faith, then he will increase our knowledge and understanding so that we can bear fruit in every good work.

Again, coming to faith in Jesus Christ means he rescues us from the domain of darkness (sin, wickedness, the power of Satan), and he transfers us to his eternal kingdom, to live to his righteousness and to his holiness.

Beyond Reproach (vv. 21-23)

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

Here again we have the point of our salvation, which is to deliver us out of slavery to sin. “For we know that 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” (Ro. 6:6-7). And, it is that we may live a new life – not like the old life. It is that he may present us before himself (God) holy and blameless and beyond reproach, not just positionally, but experientially. In other words, it is not just that Jesus’ righteousness is credited to our accounts, but it is that we live righteously in the power and working of his Spirit now living within us (Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; Ro. 12:1-2; Lu. 9:23-25; 2 Co. 5:15; 1 Pet. 2:24).

But, this is all conditional. We have to continue in the faith we have been given, firmly established and steadfast, not moved away from the hope of the gospel. And, this doesn’t mean we hold out hope that we will go to heaven when we die while we largely or even partially ignore God’s commands and do as we please in the meanwhile. This is not continuing in the faith of the gospel as was taught us by Jesus and by his NT apostles. This is continuing in human faith which promises a false hope of heaven, based in a lie, which is being preached to us by those who are false shepherds and wolves in sheep’s clothing, who are out to kill, to steal and to destroy the church. So, we have to continue in God-given faith, which produces love, obedience, submission, repentance and holy and godly living.

Blessed Assurance / Fanny Crosby

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

His Ways, His Truth

Monday, May 29, 2017, 8:08 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Draw Me Close.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 25 (Select vv. ESV).

His Ways (vv. 4-5)

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.

We who profess faith in Jesus Christ need to know His ways, His truth and His paths. The primary way in which we know these is through the study of God’s Word, the Bible, in particular in the New Testament, although all scripture (Genesis-Revelation) is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Yet, we must be diligent to present ourselves to God as those approved, workers who have no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Thus, we must be careful to read scriptures in context, and to compare scripture with scripture, if we want to rightly handle the Word. And, we must interpret what we read in light of the gospel of Christ.

Also, as believers in Jesus Christ – we who have died with Christ to sin, and who have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life – we have the Holy Spirit of God living within us, teaching us the ways of our Lord, and guiding us into all truth. So, when we study God’s Word, we must do so under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who will give us spiritual understanding into its truths. He is the one, as well, who makes practical application of God’s Word to our lives. So, when we study God’s Word, we should pray for the Spirit of God to open God’s Words to our hearts and to teach us what we need to learn, and for him to apply its truths to our hearts and lives. And, then we must listen to the Holy Spirit, and obey our Lord, and do what he says.

His Instructions (vv. 8-10)

Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

Our God is holy, righteous, good, merciful, gracious, compassionate and just. His goal in saving us from our sins is not just to give us an escape from hell or to promise us heaven as our eternal destiny. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. 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 (1 Pet. 2:24; Tit. 2:11-14). His grace is not carte blanche (free rein) to continue in willful sin against God. When God saves us from our sins, he gives us the faith to believe in Jesus Christ, thus the faith to believe in Jesus is in accord with God’s holiness and righteousness, so it submits to Christ and His Word.

When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, we humbly come to God in godly sorrow over our sin, we repent of our sins, we turn away from them, and we turn to God to follow Him in his ways. And, he leads us in what is right. He is not going to lead someone who won’t be led, who thinks faith in Jesus merely means Jesus forgives us our sins, but who rejects the teachings of scripture with regard to repentance and obedience to Christ. So, if we desire to know and to follow his ways, we must humble ourselves before him, we must turn from our sins, and we must walk in obedience to him, according to the Holy Spirit of God (Ro. 8:1-14). For, the ways of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness. Amen!

Fear Him (vv. 11-15)

For your name’s sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who is the man who fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

I think sometimes we get the idea that God’s forgiveness of our sins is solely for us, the sinners. Yet, it is for the honor of His Name that he pardons us, as well. Like for instance, a man was born blind, and the reason was that, when Jesus healed him, “the works of God might be displayed in him” (Jn. 9:3). When God saves us, his glory is revealed in us. His divine character is, thus, shown, so that all may see that he is loving, gracious, merciful and all powerful, in that he can transform human lives. By his grace and his power, we can be translated from death to live, and be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ.

If we want to be instructed in the ways of the Lord, and in his truth, we must fear the Lord. We must revere, honor, value, esteem, respect, obey and worship him. We do this, not just with our lips, though, but with our lives (by our lifestyles). We live holy lives, pleasing to him, which is our reasonable and acceptable worship of him – no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but transformed in the renewing of our minds, so that we might prove what is the perfect, good and acceptable will of God. We no longer walk (in lifestyle) according to our sinful flesh, but we now walk (conduct our lives) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God.

His Grace (vv. 16-18)

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.

If we want God to turn to us, and to be gracious to us, when we are in trouble, in distress, in loneliness or in affliction, we must honor him with our lives. For, it is not the one who merely professes Christ as Savior who is saved from his sins, but it is the one who is walking in the Spirit, who is being led by the Spirit, and whose mind and lifestyle is no longer controlled by the sinful nature. He is a child of God, and an heir of the promise (See: Rom. 8, the whole chapter, in context). For those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose, all things work together for good. And, how do we know if we love God? Our obedience bears testimony.

Draw Me Close To You / Donnie McClurkin

Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again
To hear You say that I’m Your friend

You are my desire
And no one else will do
‘Cause nothing else can take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace…

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.

Becoming Like Jesus

Sunday, December 18, 2016, 7:01 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 12:1-2 (ESV).

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

What is a living sacrifice?

Well, a sacrifice is something you surrender, that you give up or you let go of. It is living, because we are living, and we are the sacrifice. So, if we present our lives to God as living sacrifices, then basically we are giving up ownership of our own lives, and we are surrendering them to God to be used for his purposes and for his glory. This is basically what takes place when we accept God’s invitation to his great salvation, and the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us. 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 (See: Eph. 4:20-24; Ro. 6:1-23).

The problem, though, is that we still live in these flesh bodies, and so we still have a propensity to sin, and a tendency to want to take back ownership of our own lives. Since we are a living sacrifice, it is possible to take ourselves back off that altar, too. So, that is why Jesus said that if we want to come after him that we must deny self, take up our cross DAILY (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him (Lu. 9:23-25). And, it is why Paul said that if we walk in 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: Ro. 8:1-14). DAILY we must offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to him. DAILY we must surrender our lives to our Lord.

So, why is it important that we offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices? It is because of Jesus’ mercy to us in dying on a cross to save us from our sins. Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died to radically transform our lives away from living for sin and self to living for God and for his purposes. Jesus came to the earth to turn us from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (made holy) by faith in Jesus Christ (See: Ac. 26:16-18). 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).

What does it mean to be holy and acceptable to God?

To be holy means to be set apart (unlike, different) from the world because we are becoming like Jesus. Although we must live in the world, we are not supposed to live in the same manner as the world does. We should not take on the world’s character, mind, behaviors, attitudes, values and actions, though many Christians do. So, why do they, or why did I? Well, for one we still live in flesh bodies, and we are still drawn to sin, although Jesus died to free us from slavery to sin, so it should no longer be our master. But the other big factor, I believe, is that so many Christians are daily consuming the world’s character, etc. via TV, movies, music, games, etc.

You have probably heard the saying, “Garbage in. Garbage out.” If daily we digest the world’s values and mindset via TV, the internet, social media, games, secular music, and sports, etc., not to mention TV commercials, it is what is going to direct our lives instead of the Lord Jesus directing our lives, especially if we spend 2 hours or more a day digesting the world while we spend little time each day, if any, in God’s word and in prayer. If we give our lives to the junk of this world, but we give Jesus only a passing nod, the world is going to be what wins out, “hands down,” as the saying goes. So, if we want to live holy lives, pleasing to God, then we need to reevaluate how we are spending our time each day, and what kinds of things we are daily taking into our minds, eyes and hearts. And, we need to yield to Jesus.

To be acceptable (pleasing) to God in our daily lives, we need to then find out what pleases him, and then do it. Many people today are saying that God is pleased with us no matter what we do, and that he delights in us even when we are steeped in sin. Wrong! That is not what scripture teaches. In fact, it teaches just the opposite. It has much to say on living holy lives pleasing (or acceptable) to God. Some of what pleases God should be quite obvious to us, like we should cease from living daily for sin and self, and we should, instead, set our minds to live to God to do his will, his way. Then, we should spend more time with him in prayer and in his Word, listening to him speak to our hearts, so that we know his will, and so we can do what he says, and then we need to do it – in the power and working of the Holy Spirit, who now lives within us.

What is spiritual worship?

Today’s modern institutional church has often given Christians the wrong concept of worship of God. They present “worship” as collectively singing songs of praise and worship to God during a song service in a building called “church.” Now, certainly singing songs of praise and adoration to our Lord is part of our worship of him, but there is a sequence of events which must first take place for true worship to also take place.

First of all, since much of the “church” regularly invites into their meetings the people of the world, and they also regularly conform their “worship services” to do what is pleasing to the world, so that the world will want to come back to their meetings, then these times of “worship” are often more geared to the world than they are to be pleasing to God. God is not in first place in many of these “worship” services. So, for true worship of God to take place, the worship itself must be as God designed it to be, according to what is pleasing to him, not according to what is pleasing to the world.

Also, we can’t worship God if we don’t know him, or if we are not living for him. So, we must first of all come into genuine relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, via repentance and obedience (submission and surrender to God). We must die with Christ to sin, and we must be born anew of the Spirit of God to living now to God and to his righteousness. And, we must give our lives over to God as living sacrifices and make Jesus truly Lord (owner-master) of our lives, living holy lives pleasing to God. This is true worship of God! We can sing songs and raise or clap our hands, but if we are still living for the flesh, and we are doing what pleases us, instead of what pleases God, then we are not truly worshiping God.

How are we transformed in the renewing of our minds?

So, instead of living to please ourselves, doing things our way, or living our lives in accordance with the ways of this sinful world, we are to be transformed in the renewing of our minds. So, how do we do that? We do that through submission and surrender to our Lord, to follow him in obedience to his will and to his ways. We are not just hearers of the Word who walk away and forget what we look like, but we are doers of the Word, not in legalistic and ritualistic adherence to a set of rules, but in humble and contrite obedience to our Lord whenever he speaks conviction to our hearts. And, we do this in the power and working of God’s Holy Spirit within us, as we cooperate fully with that work of grace in our lives.

We also do this via put offs and put ons (See: Ephesians 4-5). For instance, my husband and I used to watch a lot of movies. We went back and forth on this issue for many years, and then one day we examined all that we were watching against Philippians 4:8. We found that most of what we were watching, even things we thought were pretty innocent, didn’t pass the test. And, so we threw out most all our movies, and eventually all of them, as well as we chose to get rid of our TV. That was 8 years ago. I don’t miss them at all! And, I found I had a lot more time for God, and for his Word, and I didn’t have all that junk from the world fighting against what God was doing in filling my mind with himself and with his righteousness.

So, for our minds to be transformed and renewed, we have to cooperate with God, and with his Word, and with his Work in our lives by removing from our lives and our minds what is junk, and what is contrary to his teachings, so that we can fill our minds and lives with what is holy, righteous and pleasing to our Lord. Then, we are able to discern what the will of God is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. For, it is really hard to discern his will when we are filling our minds with the junk of this world. So, I would encourage anyone reading this today to prayerfully examine all that you are doing, and all that you are taking into your mind and life, to see if it is pleasing to God. If it is not, then I pray that you would remove all from your life which does not bring glory to God, and that you will begin to fill your life and mind with God, with His Word, and with doing his will, his way.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.