Prepare for Action

Thursday, June 15, 2017, 9:34 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Only to Be What He Wants Me to Be.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Peter 1 (Select vv. NASB).

Born Again (vv. 3-5)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

What does it mean to be born again? First, we are born physically of a mother, and then, because of God’s grace to us, and by faith in Jesus Christ, we are born of the Spirit of God to new lives in Christ Jesus, our Lord. One is a physical birth. The other is a spiritual birth. So, how are we born again?

Well, first of all Jesus Christ, the Son of God (and God) had to die on a cross. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). He put our sins to death on that cross. And, when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. So, when we believe in him, we are crucified with him in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. The old has gone. The new has come. We are born again of the Spirit of God, and Christ now lives in us.

Various Trials (vv. 6-9)

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

So, we rejoice in our salvation and in the hope of eternal life with God. Yet, our hope is not just that one day we will be with our Lord forever, but our hope is in the freedom he has given us to walk (conduct our lives) not after the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Our hope is that we have a Savior, who is our Lord, but who is also our friend, confidant, counselor, guide, helper, strength, healer, comforter, encourager, and teacher, etc. Our hope is that we are in a personal and intimate relationship with our God, which gives us not only future hope, but present and living hope day by day, which is what keeps us going when times get tough.

Our hope, too, is that God created us for a purpose, and he has given meaning to our lives, and purpose and direction, and that even our trials are part of his plan for our lives in order to purify us, to make us holy, and to prepare us for his service. Also, our trials are for the purpose to test our faith, to make it stronger and more resilient. When we suffer, it is for our good, to make us more like Jesus, and to teach us to rely on God and not on ourselves. We, too, learn patience and perseverance through difficult times. And, we grow closer to our Lord, mature in our faith, and increase in our seriousness of our walk of faith, when we respond to our trials with grace, with trust in our Lord, and with submission to his perfect will for our lives.

Prepare Minds (vv. 13-16)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

In our minds we store memories, good and bad. In our minds we think, we believe, we discern, make decisions, and react to our circumstances. In our minds we entertain sinful thoughts or we dwell on heavenly things. Part of God’s saving grace to us is in the renewing of our minds, in the healing of past hurts, and in transforming how we believe and perceive things. Yet, we have a responsibility regarding our minds, in the renewing process, and that is in the putting off of the old, and the putting on of the new; in thinking about things which are pure, right, true, and beneficial, rather than thinking hateful thoughts or impure thoughts.

We also have a responsibility for what we take into our minds, to make sure that we are not feeding our minds with what is garbage, or what is immoral, wicked, and ungodly, etc. If we take garbage into our minds, that is what is going to come out in our words and actions and attitudes. If we entertain our minds with the sinful acts of others, this is what our minds will dwell on, and often our actions and words will follow suit. So, if we are going to prepare our minds for action, we need to keep our minds pure and focused on Jesus Christ and on the truths of his Word. And, we need to take God’s Word seriously and apply its truths to our daily lives.

Conduct Yourselves (vv. 17-19)

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

What does it mean to conduct ourselves in fear? I believe this is speaking here of the fear of the Lord, which is reverence, respect, honor, value, esteem, adoration, worship, obedience and submission to our Lord. Our conduct is the way in which we live, i.e. our daily practice. This is how we should live, day in and day out. Conducting ourselves in fear is also living on this earth as though we truly do not belong here, as though this world and all its stuff is really not our home, but with an eternal focus in mind. We are not here to build kingdoms on this earth, but to help, to work to advance God’s heavenly kingdom while we still live here. We are not here, in other words, to live to please and entertain ourselves, but we are here to give glory to God in all that we do and say and think and are.

It also means that we live holy lives, pleasing to God. Being holy means we are separate (set apart, unlike, different) from the world, because we are being made to be like Jesus. We should no longer be conformed to the ways (patterns, attitudes, values) of this world, but we are to be transformed of the Spirit of God in the renewing of our minds. Our new lives should not look like our old lives, and only slightly cleaned up to be more presentable. Our new lives should be radically different from our old lives, because we died with Christ to sin, and we were resurrected with him to newness of life, to be lived to him and to his righteousness.

Only to Be What He Wants Me to Be
Norman J. Clayton

Only to be what He wants me to be,
Every moment of every day,
Yielded completely to Jesus alone
Every step of this pilgrim way…

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.

Pleasing God or Humans?

Sunday, January 15, 2017, 8:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Sheep.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Galatians 1 (Select vv. NASB).

From this Present Evil Age (vv. 1-5)

Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.

Paul did not go into the ministry because he had a Bible college or seminary degree from a particular church denomination’s institution of higher learning. He also did not become a preacher of the Word of Christ because he went through the process of ordination, and was, thus, ordained by a particular church denomination, after having been examined thoroughly by a group of people assigned to the task of examining him. In fact, he most likely would not have been approved because he had been a persecutor and a murderer of the saints of God and a strong opponent of the gospel of our salvation. The only reason he became an apostle and a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ was because God called him, by his grace, setting him apart even from his mother’s womb (v. 15). Thus, he who once persecuted the church was now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy (v. 23). Amen.

So, what was the gospel that Paul then taught if he was not trained by humans in how to preach and in what to preach? He taught Jesus Christ – God incarnate – crucified, buried, risen from the dead, ascended to heaven and coming again. He taught what was in total agreement with the prophets of old when they prophesied concerning the coming of the Messiah. And, he taught the gospel message in the power of the Holy Spirit, who was the one who then taught him what to say. Thus, what he taught were the words of God. So, they are truth. And, the truth is that Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell, be forgiven of our sins, and have the hope of heaven when we die. Jesus gave himself up for us to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father in heaven.

So, what does it mean to be rescued from this present evil age? Let’s look at some parallel scriptures. We read in scripture that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, and that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15). He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Ro. 8:1-14). He died that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). Jesus also died that we might die with him to sin and be resurrected with him to newness of life (be born again), “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23; Gal. 2:20). And, He “gave Himself 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).

A Different Gospel (vv. 6-9)

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

So, what is this “different gospel” of which Paul spoke? It was a man-made gospel, i.e. created in the minds and hearts of humans, not in the mind of God. So, it can apply to any human-created gospel teaching. Yet, he was specifically referring to a teaching that taught that we could gain merit with God via human effort. More specifically he was referring to a false teaching which was convincing many believers in Jesus that they had to still follow Jewish ceremonies, traditions, celebrations, and/or laws in order to be saved. Today we call this legalism, i.e. when rules of men are added on to the grace of God as requirements for being in right standing with God. Yet, if it is not taught in the Word of God, we don’t have to obey it.

Nonetheless, the Spirit of God will call us to specific areas of ministry or will lead us to go places, or to speak to certain people, and we must obey, but we must make certain the voice we are hearing is God’s voice, and that what we believe we are being called to do is in line with the teachings of scripture.

Ok, so on the flip side of legalism is libertinism. Both of them are human-created, and both of them are opposed to the true gospel of our salvation. One adds human rules to God’s grace, and another subtracts Christ’s commands from the gospel and distorts the truth of God’s grace. God’s grace is not given to us just so our sins are forgiven, but so they are eradicated (cleansed, purified) from our daily lives. Jesus didn’t die just to forgive us our sins, but he died to deliver us out of slavery to sin so that we would now become servants of his righteousness (Ro. 6:1-23). God’s grace, which brings salvation, is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt or remorse. No, 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 his return (Tit. 2:11-14).

If we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self, we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin and self), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). Paul put it this way: If we walk according to our sinful flesh, to fulfill its lustful desires, we will die still in our sin, without Christ, and without hope. But, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity (Ro. 6:1-23; 8:1-14). John said that if we walk in darkness (in sin), and yet we claim to have fellowship with God, that we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6). He also said:

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 Jn. 2:3-6).

In other words, we are not saved by our own human effort, or by doing good deeds, or by following a set of man-made rules. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. We can’t even come to Christ unless the Father first draws us to him, and even the faith to believe in Jesus Christ is a gift from God, as is the ability to repent of our sins and to obey Christ and his commandments. Yet, we must act on that gift from God and apply it to our daily lives in the power of the Spirit within us. In other words, faith is not a mere confession of Christ as Savior, but it is the reality of his Lordship in our lives. True salvation results in transformed lives of the Spirit of God, being turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that we can receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (made holy) by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:16-18).

Again, if we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin, wickedness), but we claim to be in fellowship with God, we are liars. If we walk (conduct our lives) according to the flesh, we will die in our sin, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity.

A Bond-servant of Christ (v. 10)

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

So, it all comes down to this: Who am I living to please? – The flesh of humans, including my own, or the Spirit of God? Am I more concerned with what humans will think of me, or is my concern with pleasing God? Do I conform my life to the ways of this sinful world in order to be accepted and included by humans? Or, do I conform my life to God’s ways, to follow in his truth, even if I am hated, rejected, persecuted and ill-treated by humans, in return? If I live my life to please my own flesh or the flesh of others, I am not a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. But, if I live my life to please God, though not perfectly, but I daily walk in his steps, putting to death the deeds of the flesh, by the Spirit, then I am a vessel useful to his service. I am in Christ, and he is in me. I listen to his voice, and I follow (obey) him.

My Sheep / An Original Work / June 24, 2012
Based off John 10:1-18 NIV

My sheep hear me. They know me.
They listen to my voice and obey.
I call them and lead them.
They know my voice, so they follow me.
They will never follow strangers.
They will run away from them.
The voice of a stranger they know not;
They do not follow him.

So, I tell you the truth that
I am the gate, so you enter in.
Whoever does enter
Will find forgiveness and will be saved.
Nonetheless whoever enters
Not by the gate; other way,
He is the thief and a robber.
Listen not, the sheep to him.

Oh, I am the Good Shepherd,
Who laid his own life down for the sheep.
I know them. They know me.
They will live with me eternally.
The thief only comes to steal and
Kill and to destroy the church.
I have come to give you life that
You may have it to the full…

They know my voice, so they follow me.