For Christ

Thursday, September 14, 2017, 4:59 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 Philippians 1 (Select vv. ESV).

Gospel Advanced (vv. 12-14)

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

In Jerusalem, Paul had been falsely accused by some Jews, who had stirred up a whole crowd against him. Then, Paul was falsely arrested and he was brought before the Sanhedrin for questioning. The Jews then formed a conspiracy to kill Paul, so Paul was transferred to Caesarea where he stood trial before Governor Felix. He was kept in prison for two years under Felix, and then Paul came under the jurisdiction of Governor Festus, before whom he was also brought for trial. Paul was being encouraged to return to Jerusalem to stand trial, so he appealed to Caesar. Then, Paul was brought before King Agrippa. And then Paul was sent to Rome to stand trial before Caesar, where he lived at least two years in a house under guard (See: Acts 21-28). On each of these occasions, Paul was able to share with them his testimony about Jesus Christ, and concerning the gospel of our salvation.

So, truly, what Satan meant for evil in Paul’s life, God meant for good. Amen! The gospel not only was not hindered from spreading, but the gospel was advanced through Paul’s sufferings, under his imprisonment. All glory to God! And, as a direct result of his imprisonment for Christ, many other believers in Jesus were encouraged and strengthened in the faith and became bolder in speaking the word of God without fear. So, what had the appearance of defeat in the life of Paul was actually in God’s design for the advancement of the gospel. And, so it is often for us, as well.

I can give testimony, myself, that I would not now be doing what I am doing in sharing God’s Word and his gospel of salvation on the internet if it had not been for many instances of rejection and persecution of myself and of God’s gifting and calling in my life, and also from religious leaders within organized and institutionalized Christian religion. It was through these times of rejection and persecution that God placed his call on my life to spread his gospel message on the internet, and so I have been doing that faithfully these past 11 years. All glory to God, for great things HE has done!

To Live is Christ (vv. 18b-26)

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

Not everyone, even within the Christian community, will be supportive and encouraging of us if we are proclaiming the whole counsel of God, as Paul did. One of the reasons for this is that so many of them are listening to humans over and above God and his Word. They are buying into humanistic philosophy and a diluted gospel message intended to tickle itching ears and to appeal to the flesh of humans. Not only that, but they are being taught that if anyone mentions repentance or obedience, in the context of the preaching the gospel, that they are teaching works-based salvation and so their words should be disregarded or challenged as untrue and misleading.

Yet, we should not let this discourage or dishearten us, but we should continue proclaiming the truth of God’s Word and of his gospel, and we should rejoice that we are sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. So, even if we are falsely accused, and even if people who oppose us end up poisoning others against us, in hopes to discourage them from believing the truth of the gospel, we should not be afraid. God is still completely sovereign over all things and all people, and his Word will never return empty, but will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it (Is. 55:11). Amen! We just need to do what is right, and then trust God with the results, even if we are mistreated in return.

We should always have this attitude in us that for us to live is Christ, but to die is gain, because then we get to be with our Lord forever. It is not that we seek death, although we would like to be with Christ, but that we don’t fear death or persecution, rejection, false accusations, etc. We know we were put here on this earth to give glory to God through our lives, and we know that faith in Jesus Christ also means we die to sin and self so that we might live with Christ in newness of life. Also, we know that Jesus bought us back for God with his blood shed on a cross for our sins, so we are no longer our own, to do with our lives what we want, but we are to honor our Lord in all that we do. So, we accept God’s will for our lives, and we praise Him!

Worthy of the Gospel (vv. 27-30)

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

As followers of Jesus Christ, and as ministers of the gospel of our salvation, our manner of life, i.e. the way we live day in and day out, should be for the glory of God, and for his honor and praise. How we conduct our lives should be worthy of (becoming, suitable, fitting) the gospel of Christ. What this means is that, since the gospel teaches us that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, this should be how we live. We should no longer live to gratify our sinful flesh, but we should conduct our lives in a manner fitting (suitable) to one who has been set free from slavery to sin and who is now walking in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, according to the Spirit of God.

What this means for us is that we should be ones who take God and his Word seriously, to heart, and who walk in obedience to his instructions to us. We daily, by the Spirit, are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, and we are walking in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. We don’t lie to ourselves, and to others, or make a pretension of godliness while willfully living in sin, or make excuses for willful and persistent sin against God. We also don’t make compromises with the world of sin in order to be liked, accepted or to not be persecuted, or in order to hold on to pet sins. Jesus died, not just to forgive us our sins, but to cleanse our lives of all unrighteousness.

Instead of playing it safe, and joining in with those who are making “nice” with the world, we should be ones who are standing on the Word of Truth, who are living what we say we believe, and who willingly lay down our lives in order to see others go free from addiction to sin. We should not shrink back from living for the Lord or from sharing his truths out of fear of persecution, but we should accept the fact that it has been granted to us by God, not only that we should believe on him, but that we should also suffer for him and for the sake of his gospel. So, we should be striving side by side with all followers of Christ for the faith of the gospel, standing firm in one spirit, and not frightened in any way by our opponents, which are many.

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.

 

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All For Him

Thursday, September 7, 2017, 4:59 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Lord, Move Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Colossians 1 (Select vv. ESV).

Jesus, the Sovereign (vv. 15-20)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

When we see or hear about all the evil that is going on in the world, and we experience, or witness, or hear about so much human suffering and heartache, we may be tempted to ask, “Where is God in all of this?” We may find ourselves thinking that God is on vacation, or asleep, or that he isn’t really paying attention to all the misery that is happening all around us. Or, we may, as some do, believe God can’t do anything about it, as though he is impotent (powerless) instead of omnipotent (all-powerful).

Many people reject the belief that our God – Father, Son & Holy Spirit – is completely sovereign over all he has made, because then they would have to come to grips with the knowledge that God could have done something to stop it all, but he didn’t, not yet. Yet, it is not ours to question God, or why he does what he does, or why he allows what he allows. If he were to remove all evil from the world, wouldn’t he have to remove all people? What one of us never ever sins? Although not one of us should still be walking in sin, we still have the propensity to sin, and we are still tempted to sin, at times, and we may still sin in our thinking, attitudes, words or actions sometimes (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), as long as we are still in these flesh bodies.

The thing is, our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, who is completely sovereign (in control) over all that he has made, created an angel in heaven who then wanted to be God, and so he rebelled against God, along with a third of the angels in heaven. God, who is all-knowing, created him, even knowing he would rebel, and that he would take a third of the angels with him, and then that he would tempt humans, and that they would sin against God. In fact, God created humans knowing that we would sin against him, too. So, why did he do this? I believe it is because God wanted people who would love, worship and serve him on their own accord, who would be driven to his breast, who would need and want him, and desire him above all else.

The other thing is, we may never know until we get to heaven why God chose to do things the way he did, and does, but what we can know with certainty is that he is completely sovereign over all that he has made, and he is in control over all authorities and powers, and that nothing can happen in this world without his causing it or allowing it to exist, and but what he has a reason and a purpose for it all. He chose to allow evil to exist, and for us to be born into sin, and thus for us to need him to save us. Even before the creation of the world and humans, God had planned, I believe, that Jesus Christ, God the Son, should be the one to redeem us from our sins.

Now Reconciled (vv. 21-23)

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

The truth of the matter is, since God gave humans a choice to believe in him or to not believe in him, to obey him or to disobey him, and that humans did choose to sin against God, we are all born into sin. All people have sinned against God, and we have all come up short of attaining God’s divine approval, in our own flesh, and so we need Jesus Christ to save us from our sins, and to purify our hearts, and to make us holy. So, Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God. And, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He purchased us back for God with his blood, shed on a cross, so that we could be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so we could love, honor, worship and follow (obey) our Lord in his power.

Yet, not everyone is saved. We have to individually trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives. When we do, 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. Yet, this is not a one-time deal, and then we live however we want, and then one day we go to heaven. We must continue in the faith we profess. It is the one believing (present tense) in Jesus Christ who has the promise of eternal life (Jn. 3:16). If we persist in continuing in (walking in) sin, we do not have the hope of eternal life with God, but a fearful expectation of judgment and eternal damnation (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).

Mature in Christ (vv. 24-29)

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

When we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others, so that they can be saved from their sins, and we tell them the truth of what God’s Word says, we put our own lives on the line, for not everyone will accept the message, not even many who call themselves Christians. And, so we will be hated, rejected and persecuted by some, or by many people. Yet, we must not shrink back from proclaiming the whole counsel of God out of fear of what humans might do to us, or say about us. We have to tell people the truth, because that is the only hope they have. If we fill their minds with lies, and thus false hopes, just to make them feel good about themselves, or about us, we may be sending them straight to hell by our “kindnesses.”

The goal of us sharing the gospel, warning against rebellion against God, warning of judgment, and calling for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, or renewed faith in Christ, is not to be superior, self-righteous, know-it-alls who just want to look down our noses on others. Those of us who share God’s Word in all its truth, with sincerity of hearts, do so because we want to see people saved from their sins, set free from bondage to sin, and set free to worship God by their lives in living to his righteousness, and no longer according to the flesh.

We also want to see our brothers and sisters in Christ move to maturity in Christ in their walks of faith, no longer tossed here and there by every wind of teaching by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (See: Eph. 4:11-24). We want to see them loving God, doing what he says, and following him wherever he leads them, no matter the cost. For, this is the reason Jesus died, that we might live for him and not for ourselves.

Lord, Move Me / An Original Work / October 16, 2011

Be my desire, my heart set on fire,
Lord, move me to worship You only, I pray.
Fill with Your Spirit, my heart overflow.
Lord, may I long for You; Your word to know.
Teach me to walk with You, Lord, in Your power,
And may I serve You, Lord, right now in this hour.

Lord, how I want to obey You forever.
Help me to hear You, Lord, so I will not stray.
Teach me to love You; adore You always.
Envelope me, Lord, with Your grace today.
Meet me in my need, and show me Your mercy.
Forgive me for all things, as I humbly pray.

Counsel me, lead me, direct me, and guide me,
So I follow You, Lord, where’er You lead now.
I love to hear You speak Your words to me.
I am so grateful that You set me free.
Wash me, and cleanse me, and make me like You, Lord,
And I will live with You for eternity.

 

He Dwells Within Us

Wednesday, September 6, 2017, 5:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 14 (Select vv. ESV).

Another Helper (vv. 15-17)

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – was celebrating the Feast of the Passover with his disciples when he spoke these words to them. Satan had already put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus, and so Jesus told his disciples that one of them was going to betray him. Then, Jesus told his disciples that he was soon to leave them, and that they could not go with him then, but that they would follow afterward. But, then he comforted them with the knowledge that he was going to prepare a place for them, and that he would come again to take them to be with him. And, that comfort is for all of us who know him.

When Jesus spoke these words to his disciples, the Holy Spirit was present with them, but he was not living in them. The Holy Spirit came to dwell within the followers of Christ after Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross for our sins, buried, resurrected from the dead, and ascended back to heaven to be with the Father. Now, when we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within us, to empower us to live godly and holy lives, and to teach, counsel, guide, correct, reprove, encourage and strengthen us in the faith. Yet, he does not dwell in all who merely profess faith in Jesus Christ, but in those who were crucified with Christ in death to sin, and who have been resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like him in true righteousness and holiness.

If We Love Him (vv. 18-24)

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “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. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

When Jesus left this earth, shortly afterwards he sent his Holy Spirit to indwell all of his followers. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are birthed of the Spirit of God, and the life of God now dwells within us and gives us new life in Him. Because the Spirit of God and Jesus Christ and the Father are one God, it is God living within us; it is Jesus Christ, in the person of his Spirit, living within us, and we, as Christ’s followers, are his body. He now lives out his life through us on this earth. And, we are his representatives. Because Jesus Christ lives, we now live and walk in the Spirit of God.

Yet, it is not enough to merely profess faith in Christ, or to pray a prayer to receive Christ, or to acknowledge Jesus’ existence or what he did for us in dying on a cross for our sins. We must walk (in lifestyle) in obedience to our Lord, not in absolute sinless perfection (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but according to the Spirit of God and no longer in accord with our sinful flesh. This is love for God, to keep his commands. If we say we love him, or that we believe in him, but we do not do what he says, we are liars. If we are persisting in living sinful lifestyles (in practicing sin), we do not know God, and we do not have the hope of eternal life with God or of Jesus taking us to be with him when he does come back one day (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:6).

Peace from God (vv. 25-31)

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.”

If we are genuinely in Christ Jesus, through faith in him, we have God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, now living within us, teaching us all things, and empowering us to live godly and holy lives. So, if we continue living in rebellion against God in addiction to sin, we do so because we are choosing to disobey God and to go our own way, for he has made the way for us to come out from under slavery to sin, if we will just take what he has given us and apply it to our lives. God makes no provision for sin, nor does he allow excuses for sin against him. He is merciful, and he will forgive us our sins, if we are repentant, but if we continue on a sinful course, and yet claim to have fellowship with him, or to love him, or to know him, then we are mistaken and misguided (See: Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6; Ro. 8:1-17).

When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we have peace with God, but not peace as the world gives. The world is looking for absence of conflict among all people via compromise of faith and conviction and acceptance of all religions as viable and tolerance of sinful lifestyles. But, Jesus said he didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword, and to turn even family members against one another. What he meant by that is that he didn’t come to bring peace as the world defines peace, for if we follow him in obedience and surrender to his will, we will be in conflict with the world of sin, and the world will hate us because we have come out from the world.

The peace Jesus gives us is peace with God in that we are no longer in enmity towards God when we submit to his Lordship over our lives and trust him to deliver us out of slavery (addiction) to sin, because of what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins. For, Jesus 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. He as crucified on a cross in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk no longer after the flesh, but according to the Spirit. And, He “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; 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24).

Jesus told his disciples that the “ruler of this world is coming,” but that he had no claim on Jesus, for Jesus did as the Father had commanded him. And, that is why Satan (the ruler of this world) hated him, because he obeyed the Father, and that is why he hates us too, when we do the Father’s will, who is in heaven. And, Satan did come after Jesus, to have him arrested and then hung on a cross to die. But, it was God’s will that Jesus should suffer and die for our sins, and then to be resurrected back to life, so that we might be delivered out of Satan’s stronghold, and no longer be under his control. So, Satan was not the victor in this, for he was conquered through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and on our behalf, so that we might be free from slavery to sin and be bondservants of Christ and of his righteousness, and all for the glory and praise of our God. Amen!

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

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

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

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

In mansions of glory and endless delight;
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

His Own Purpose

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

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

Not Ashamed

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

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

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

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

Suffering for the Gospel

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

A Holy Calling

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

Retain the Standard

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

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

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

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

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

Something New

Thursday, August 31, 2017, 9:42 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 43 (quoting select vv. NASB).

Do Not Fear (vv. 1-4)

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
“For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I have given Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your place.
“Since you are precious in My sight,
Since you are honored and I love you,
I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, and his Holy Spirit comes to live within us, we come into a personal intimate relationship with God Almighty. 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 no longer walk (live our lives) according to the sinful passions of our flesh, but we now walk (in lifestyle) in accord (agreement) with the Spirit of God.

By the Spirit we are now putting to death the deeds of the flesh so that we can now live to Christ and to his righteousness. We who are now being led by the Spirit are the children of God, fellow heirs with Jesus Christ, and bondservants of our Lord Jesus. And, he is our Lord (owner-master), for we were bought back for God with his blood shed on a cross for our sins, so we might be free from slavery to sin.

The waters and the fire are figurative for troubles, hardships, persecutions, danger and sword, threats from the enemy of our souls, and/or judgment. Whatever we go through in this life, if we are in Christ Jesus, by faith in him, our Lord is with us, and he will carry us through. So, we are never to fear what humans may do to us, or our circumstances, or hardships or dangers. If our trust is in the Lord, we will not be overcome by all these things, but we will remain steadfast in our faith, sure of His promises to us, and hopeful of what we know is our future inheritance.

One day our enemies will be no more, though we should pray for their salvation, and hope that God will transform their hearts and lives as he has done with us. We should pray that they may know Jesus Christ, too, who gave his life up for us on that cross so that we might die to sin and live to him and to his righteousness.

A Summons (vv. 8-13)

Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes,
And the deaf, even though they have ears.
All the nations have gathered together
So that the peoples may be assembled.
Who among them can declare this
And proclaim to us the former things?
Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified,
Or let them hear and say, “It is true.”
“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.
“I, even I, am the Lord,
And there is no savior besides Me.
“It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed,
And there was no strange god among you;
So you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And I am God.
“Even from eternity I am He,
And there is none who can deliver out of My hand;
I act and who can reverse it?”

This is a summons by God Almighty to all the people of the world, including to his children who are living in idolatry and spiritual adultery against him, i.e. who have ears and eyes to hear and to see, but who are not listening to God, but who are closing their ears to his Words. They know the truth, but they are not walking in the truth. Even the ungodly people of this world have the knowledge of God within them, because God has revealed himself to them through his created works, so that they, too, are without excuse (See: Ro. 1:18-32). It isn’t that they lack knowledge, but that they choose to reject what they know and to make their own way, and to create their own gods and religions which allow them to continue to live sinful lifestyles.

But, none of their gods, idols, beliefs, religions or chosen lifestyles are able to help them, or to bring them salvation from sin and peace with God. They cannot hear God or know his will for their lives, because they are not listening, and they are not obeying his commands. They lack sensitivity to God’s Holy Spirit speaking to their hearts, so they are totally unaware of the times in which we live, and of the dangers lurking around the corner, and so they continue on as though God will do nothing, and that life will continue as it always has, not realizing or not willing to recognize the truths in God’s Word concerning sin, judgment and our eternal destiny.

So, the summons here is to open their eyes and ears to see and to hear that God Almighty and Jesus Christ, God the Son, maker of heaven and earth, is the ONLY true God, and the ONLY savior of mankind, and in no one else will they ever find freedom, peace, joy, salvation, eternal life and heaven as their eternal destiny. Their idols may be able to bring them some temporary satisfaction in this life, but they are no good for promising them eternal life with God or true heavenly peace and joy. Only through faith in Jesus Christ, in death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ, of the Spirit of God, can we be in relationship with God and have the hope of eternal life with God.

In the Wilderness (vv. 16-21)

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

God does not promise any of us, saved or unsaved, that we will never have troubles, hardships, sorrow or pain. In fact, he promised his followers that they would be hated, persecuted and even put to death for his sake, and for the sake of his gospel of salvation, and because of their testimonies for Christ. He also does not promise us that, if we follow him wherever he leads us, that all will go smoothly and that we won’t face roadblocks along the way. But, he does promise us that he will go before us, that he will prepare the way, and that he will make a way for us through these difficult times.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, and we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, we leave our old lives of sin behind us, and we move ahead (forward) in the direction our Lord now has for our lives. We are not to look back and yearn for the lives we had before, or to continue to dabble in sinful pleasures, but our desire should now be for our Lord, to please him in every way. We should understand that faith in Jesus is not a religion, but a relationship. It is not merely an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die, but it is a life given over to God to be lived for him and for him alone. Jesus doesn’t just slightly clean up our old lives, but he radically transforms our lives and he makes us new in him. Praise God!

Well, when God calls us to go with him somewhere, and he asks us to leave behind houses, lands, family members, friends, possessions, etc., we should also not look back and yearn for what we had before, but we must see that he is making things new for us, and that what he has for us now is not like what we had before, but it is actually better. Although we may not yet see it, we should trust him, believe him, and follow him, and rest in him and in his perfect timing. He can make a way where there seems to be no way.

Lastly, I believe this passage is a picture of revival and of the salvation of human lives out from the darkness, who are being brought into God’s wonderful light. God will often allow difficulties in our lives as a way to get us to see him for who he is and to get us to follow him wherever he leads us, and to remove us from all which is drawing us away from him and our pure devotion to him. Yet, we are not to fear these times, because God has good he intends for us, to make us holy, to purify and prune us, and to mature us in him. All that he allows into our lives is under his control, and he has a plan and a purpose, to bring glory to his name, and for us to give him all the praise, worship and devotion he has for us to give to him.

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
Louisa M.R. Stead / William J. Kirkpatrick

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise, just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

O how sweet to trust in Jesus, just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me ’neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus, just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking life, and rest, and joy, and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee, precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me, will be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Thee! How I’ve proved Thee o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Thee more!

Above all gods

Thursday, August 31, 2017, 2:17 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Jesus, Name I Love.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3 (Select vv. NASB).

A Great King (Ps. 95:1-7a)

O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.

Jesus Christ, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is the Rock of our salvation. He is our Lord (owner-master). He is our great King above all other gods. And, he is our creator, who made the heavens and the earth and all living creatures on the earth. We are his sheep, and he is our Shepherd, if we have trusted in him to be Lord and Savior of our lives via death to sin and resurrection to new lives in Christ.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God (and God) left his throne in heaven, came to earth, was born as a baby, took on human flesh, suffered as we suffer, and was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, cast out demons, fed the hungry, comforted the downcast, and he preached repentance for salvation and for forgiveness of sins. He performed many miracles, too. Many people followed him, at least for a time, though many also deserted him when he told them the cost of following him. They thought his teaching was too hard.

He was despised, rejected and mistreated by certain leaders within the Jewish temple who were jealous of him, and who did not like what he stood for and what he taught and did. So, they had him hung on a cross to die, as though he was a common criminal. Yet, it was God’s will that he should suffer thus, for it was the will of God from before the creation of the world that Jesus would be our sacrificial Lamb to take away the sins of the world. When he died on that cross, he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. So, when he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him, and when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death, on our behalf.

When Jesus died on that cross, he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He gave himself up for us “to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Tit. 2:14). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. When we believe in Jesus Christ, and we trust him to save us from our sins, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Our lives are no longer our own, to be lived how we want, for we were bought back for God with the blood of Jesus Christ, so we are to honor God in all that we do, say and are.

Jesus said that his sheep listen to him, he knows them, and they follow (obey) him. He said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self, take up our cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. Because of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, and through being resurrected back to life, we ought to live holy lives, pleasing to him. We ought to honor him as our King above all other gods, i.e. above all else that we might honor, praise or give glory to. He alone should be who or what we worship and give our allegiance and absolute devotion and passion. Our praise to him should not be just with our lips, but it should be with our very lives given over to him in obedience, and for his praise, honor and glory.

If You Hear Him (Ps. 95:7b-11)

Today, if you would hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
“When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
“For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
“Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.”

Many of God’s people of old, when he led them out of slavery in Egypt, and he led them toward the Promised Land, via the desert, rebelled against him, worshiped false gods, complained against him and his servant Moses incessantly, and did what was evil in God’s sight. So, they were not able to enter into God’s eternal rest because of unbelief. And, their lives serve as a warning to us to not be like them, to not rebel against God, and to not harden our hearts against the Spirit’s voice (See: Hebrews 3). For, if we continue in willful sin against God, by our lifestyles, we don’t have the promise of eternal life with God, but a fearful expectation of judgment and of hell’s fury (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Gal. 5:19-21).

For, Jesus did not die that horrible death on a cross just to forgive us our sins, but to deliver us out of slavery (addiction) to sin, and to set us free to now walk (in lifestyle) according to his righteousness and holiness, by his Spirit. His grace to us is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, instructs (commands) us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts) and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s soon return. His grace, thus, is not leniency, but it is liberty in Christ from bondage to sin, and to the control of righteousness (See: Ro. 6:1-23).

Encourage One Another (Heb. 3:12-14)

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.

Not everyone who says he is saved from his sins truly is. Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” has truly submitted to the Lordship of Christ. Not everyone who seems to begin well with Jesus ends well. Just because you are a member of a local institutional church does not mean you are part of the body of Christ. You can be a Baptist, Methodist or Presbyterian, etc., and not know Jesus Christ at all. You may go through all the motions of being a Christian but be living like the devil when you think no one else is looking. We are not saved from our sins merely because of some words we repeated after someone in a prayer, or because we were brought up in organized religion.

We are saved from our sins when, by God’s grace, through faith in him, we die with Christ to sin and we are reborn of the Spirit of God to now walk in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, and we continue in him, and in his word, and we walk in obedience and no longer live our lives to gratify the sinful cravings of our flesh. If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).

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

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

Fullness of Joy

Friday, August 25, 2017, 9:15 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “I Just Want to Be Where You Are.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 16 (ESV).

Apart from You (vv. 1-4)

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, and he becomes our Lord, we yield to his will for our lives, and we rest in him to accomplish his purposes in our lives. We should no longer regard our lives as our own, to do with them what we desire, but we should consider that we now belong to Christ, for we were bought back for God with his blood shed on a cross for our sins. We ought to be grateful for his grace to us, and we should desire him above all else in this life. He should be the love of our lives, and we ought to want to be with him always, doing what he says, and following him wherever he leads us.

When we trust in Jesus Christ, his Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. As his followers, we now become the body of Christ, God’s temple, for God now lives within us in the person of his Holy Spirit. Collectively, we who believe in Jesus Christ are his church. And, the church is comprised of the saints of God (believers in Jesus). Thus, we should love them and want to enjoy sweet Christian fellowship with them, and to worship God with them and to minister to one another. And, the Holy Spirit will gift us with spiritual gifts which are to be used within the body of Christ to encourage, strengthen, counsel, nurture, urge, heal, and help one another to grow in our faith.

When we have faith in Jesus Christ, we should love what he loves and hate what he hates. We must leave our old lives of living for sin and self behind us, and we must follow Jesus Christ in obedience to his will for our lives. We should no longer run after the cravings of this sinful world, but now our desire should be for our Lord, to please him in every way.

My Chosen Portion (vv. 5-8)

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Faith in Jesus Christ is not just about escaping hell and having the promise of heaven when we die. It isn’t just about being forgiven our sins so that we are no longer under condemnation, either. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He saved us, not just to secure a place for us with him in eternity, but he saved us to deliver us from bondage to sin while we still live on this earth. He died, not just to forgive us, but to transform us. He has given us spiritual birth in himself, for when we believe in him, we die with him to our old lives, and we are resurrected with him to new lives in Christ Jesus, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Faith in Jesus Christ is also not just a religion, but it is a relationship with our living God. Because of what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins, we love him, and we want to be in fellowship with him, and we want to serve him with our lives. So, we spend time with him each day in prayer and in his word because we want to hear from him, and to talk with him, and to have communion with him. And, he counsels us and instructs us in the way he would have us go. Sometimes he corrects or rebukes us, and other times he encourages and comforts us. He is always with us, and we can talk with him any time. Yet, the beauty of the relationship is not just in the talking and listening, but it is in the doing. We must do what he tells us, too.

The Path of Life (vv. 9-11)

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Spending time with our Lord in prayer, in his word, in listening to him speak his words to our hearts, and then in doing what he instructs us to do should not be just ritual or obligation or brief. We should consider the fact that God now lives within us, so he is always with us, no matter where we are or what we are doing, so he can talk with us and us with him 24/7. We ought to always be in an attitude of prayer and have receptive ears to hear him speaking to us anytime and anyplace, and then to quickly respond to what he says. It should be a lot like a young married (or engaged) couple who want to be with each other all the time and who can’t wait to see each other and to tell each other about their day or to share experiences together.

We should love our times together with our Lord, and to desire to know and to do his will, no matter where that sends us or what it requires that we do. And, he will make known to us the path of life chosen for us that we must follow. And, then he will go before us and prepare the way, and he will lead us in the way we should go, and he will direct our steps. We may not know exactly what lies ahead, or God’s exact timing for everything, but we step out in faith one day and one step at a time as he reveals his will to us each step of the way, and in his perfect timing. Sometimes we wait on him, and then when he opens the way for us to go, we then walk in it, but not in our own strength, but in the strength and power of God’s Spirit within us.

I Just Want to Be Where You Are
Don Moen

I want to be where you are
Dwelling in your presence
Feasting at your table
Surrounded by your glory
In your presence
That’s where I always want to be
I just want to be,
I just want to be with you…