Cry for Help

Sunday, August 6, 2017, 3:34 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “All Through the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 34 (Select vv. ESV).

All My Fears (vv. 4-7)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

This passage of scripture has a special place in my heart. I was abused as a child. My father was a big bully who picked on those weaker than him. He was mean and hateful, and physically and emotionally abusive. I was very much afraid of my dad, and I avoided him as much as was possible. And, in those days they did not have child protective services like they do today. And, no one counseled us in how to deal with the abuse or the pain we were feeling deep inside, and so all those emotions got stuffed. Yet, I prayed often to the Lord, and I did experience his comfort, yet I did not know that, by stuffing those emotions, I had built a wall of fear around myself.

Then, one day it all came to a head, but to make a long story short, I went to my best friend to ask for help. She didn’t know how to help me, either, but she did not give up, and I didn’t either, and then it was as though a light bulb turned on inside her head and she said she knew what my problem was. She said it was a spirit of fear. I asked if God could deliver me, and she said “Yes.” I asked if we could pray, and she said “Yes.” And, when we prayed I physically felt the weight leave my shoulders, and my countenance did change, and I had a smile on my face, and my face was radiant and no longer covered with fear (shame). Praise God!

I wish I could say that I never struggled with fear ever again, but that would be a lie. God had delivered me out of my troubles, but throughout much of my life Satan would try as best as he knew how to try to get me to be afraid again, and sometimes he was successful, when I caved to my circumstances rather than me trusting the Lord. But, God has been faithful, as he always is, and he has delivered me time and time again as I have faced many “giants” in my life, and he has safely brought me through to victory. Amen!

Fear the Lord (vv. 8-14)

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

This word translated as “fear” in English can have at least two meanings. One is to be afraid, such as what I described in the section above, but the other is to show respect, honor, esteem, value, and reverence. We are not to fear people or our circumstances, in the sense of lacking faith in God and being afraid of what will happen. But, we are to fear God, yet in the sense of showing him honor, respect and reverence by following him and obeying him despite our circumstances or how other humans may treat us.

When we walk in the fear of the Lord, we honor him with our lives by submitting to his Lordship over our lives and by following him wherever he leads us, but not just physically, but with our whole being – with our attitudes, actions, words, thoughts and behaviors. We are committed to him and to his service, and we take him and his Word very seriously, and to heart, to follow him in obedience. He is truly our owner-master and we are his bondservants, and our lives belong to him, and are no longer our own to do with what we want. He is the one who now directs our steps, and our desire and passion are for him, and not for the things of this world.

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, 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: Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24). Yet, it doesn’t end there. We are delivered out of slavery to sin so that we can now become slaves of his righteousness. Now we no longer walk (conduct our lives) according to our sinful flesh, but now according to the Spirit of God. We are not only made righteous, but now we live righteously.

The Righteous Cry (vv. 15-18)

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

When we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, and we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we now live to his righteousness, and we walk in the fear of the Lord, other humans will hate us, reject us, and will persecute us for our faith and commitments to Christ. Yet, we are not to fear what other humans may do to us, or what difficult circumstances we may yet encounter. But, we are to trust the Lord in all things, believing that he is completely sovereign (in control) over all that he has made, and that he has a plan and a purpose for everything he allows into our lives. He will carry us through it all, and he will give us all we need to endure, to persevere, and to keep following him in obedience and in sharing his truth with all who will listen.

When we go through life’s difficulties, which we will, we are to cry out to God in our pain and suffering, and trust him to heal, to comfort, to encourage and to strengthen us. I believe we should also ask him to teach us what he would have us to learn through our suffering, and to use us for his glory in other people’s lives. He will hear our cries, and he will answer. He may not always answer in the way we would hope, or in our timing, but he will provide us with all that we need to remain faithful to him, and to be his representatives to others who are also in need of his love, comfort, mercy and grace.

When the Lord delivers us out of our troubles, it is not always physical deliverance, though sometimes it is. It isn’t that we always need to be taken out of troubling situations, but that we need to learn to lean on his grace through our difficulties. It is in these times that we grow in maturity in our walks of faith, that we draw closer to our Lord, and that our love for others grows, too. Sometimes what needs to be changed is our hearts, our minds, our attitudes and our actions, not our circumstances, and so God allows us to go through tough times to purify us, to prune us and to make us more like him. He knows what we really need, and he will always do what is truly best for us, and what will bring glory to his name. So, cry it out to him!

All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013

Based off Various Scriptures

Blessed are you when you’re persecuted
Because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you when people insult you,
And falsely say what leads folks to doubt.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
Great in the heavens. You’re not alone.

When you are persecuted in one place,
Flee to another. God will be there.
You will be hated by all the nations
Because you testify of God’s grace.
Many will seize you and persecute you,
And put to death the foll’wers of Christ.

Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you,
For I’m with you all through the night.
I tell you, love your enemies with my love,
And forgive as I forgave you.
Pray for those who do evil against you.
Rest in my love and grace from above.

Arise and Shine

This is a call to arise (get up; stand up), be steadfast and persistent, and to let our lights (Jesus Christ; our salvation; the gospel; purity; and truth) shine forth from us, so that those outside of faith in Jesus Christ may come to him, to know his saving grace.

We may need this call because we have recently failed in our relationships with God and/or with others. Although we have repented, we may feel unworthy to be his servants and witnesses again. Also, we may require this exhortation because we are complacent about the fact that so many are dying without Christ and are going to hell, and/or because we are unconcerned for the spiritual condition of God’s people. So, God is saying “Wake up!”

Or, this gentle encouragement may be necessary because we are disheartened over seeing so many lost without Christ, and upon witnessing the church in such a serious state of spiritual adultery and idolatry with no apparent end in sight. Or, it could be because we have suffered much persecution, rejection and abandonment for our testimonies for Jesus Christ. Thus, sometimes, it is just hard to stand when you feel as though you are often standing alone against the giants of doubt and fear, oppression and strong opposition.

Yet, this is to encourage our hearts that God has all things under his control, that he will not abandon us, and that he has a plan and a purpose for our lives. For all we are going through, he will work it all out for the salvation of human lives and for the revival of his church, and we should thus rest in his promises, in his love, and in his sovereignty.

Arise and Shine / An Original Work
March 6, 2014 / Based off Isaiah 60

Arise and shine; your Lord has come.
Allow His light to flow through you,
For many walk in wickedness.
Show them the way to life anew.
Arise and shine. Your Lord loves you.

Lift up your eyes, and look about.
Some do believe, while others doubt.
Believe in all God’s promises.
The many will, In Christ, find rest.
Lift up your eyes, and you’ll be blessed.

Arise and shine; salvation comes
To all who trust in Christ, God’s Son.
Forgiven of their sins, they’ll be,
When they repent on bended knee.
Arise and shine, so all will see.

Lift up your eyes, and see your Lord.
He will revive his church, forlorn.
Though humans have forsaken you,
They will find Christ, and walk in truth.
Lift up your eyes; God honors you.

Led to Repentance

Sunday, July 23, 2017, 3:13 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read various scriptures (in the ESV) on the subject of repentance.

From Darkness to Light (Acts 26:15-20)

And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 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.’

“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Many preachers today are teaching that God does not require us to repent of our sins, or else they are just deleting (or omitting) repentance from the gospel message, or else they are teaching that repentance is simply having a change of mind in the sense of deciding to believe in Jesus Christ. Yet, is repentance required by God for salvation, and, if so, what all does repentance entail? What is this “change of mind” we are supposed to have? Is it merely to decide to believe in Jesus, or is there more to it?

Well, to repent certainly means to have a change of mind, but it is also a change of the inner man (of our inmost being, our hearts). This change is an indication of our acceptance of the will of God, too, after which we should think, believe and act differently than we did before. In the context of most biblical references to repentance, the indication is that one leaves his former life of sin behind him, casting aside his idols, and his rebellion against God, in order to turn to God/Jesus to follow (obey) him in all his ways.

And, this is made clear for us here in this passage in Acts 26 where Jesus called Paul to open spiritually blinded eyes, turning them from darkness (sin) to the light (Jesus Christ, truth, righteousness), and from the power Satan had over them to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (made holy, purified) by faith in Jesus Christ.

So, Paul obeyed what Jesus told him to do (vv. 16-18) by telling the people that they must repent of their sins and turn to God, and that their actions from that point forward should, thus, reflect (reveal) their repentance.

Obey the Truth (Rom. 2:3-11)

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

God’s kindness is his grace to us in sending his Son Jesus Christ to the cross to die for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us on that cross in order that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus died on that cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; so that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. When he died he put our sins to death with him so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. In fact, 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 (2 Co. 5:15, 21; 1 Pet. 2:24; Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14).

So, the purpose of his grace to us is not just so we can escape hell and have forgiveness of sins and the promise of heaven when we die. His grace to us is to lead us to repentance. In fact, 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. God’s grace is NOT carte blanche (free rein) to continue in willful sin against God without guilt and remorse. For, if we walk in sin, according to the flesh, we will die in our sins (1 Jn. 1:5-9; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

Thus, God’s grace should lead us to repentance, and that repentance should produce a change of heart and mind away from living for sin and self to faith in God/Jesus Christ, to follow him (obey him) in all our ways. Yet, if we continue living (practicing) sin, we should expect God’s wrath and fury, not his warm acceptance with open arms into his heaven. If we do not walk in obedience to Christ and his commands, but we go our own way, instead, we will die in our sins, not be saved in the end. Yet, if we follow our Lord in obedience, and we are, by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity.

Flee and Pursue (2 Tim. 2:22-26)

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

So, repentance is a change of heart and mind away from sin and Satan and to (toward) God and his righteousness. And, it results in a change of thinking, believing and behaving so that we don’t do the things we did before. Now our desire is for God/Jesus, to obey him and to walk in his ways and in his truth. So, it is a lot like making a U-turn in a road. First we were going one direction, and then we changed course, we turned, and now we are going in the opposite direction as we had been traveling.

And, it entails fleeing worldly passions and desires and pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace. If all we do is just try to stop doing what is wrong, but we don’t do what is right, then we are a lot like a thief in between jobs, because nothing has really changed. Our character hasn’t changed, nor have we truly had a change of heart and mind. True repentance means we leave the way we use to live behind us and we now live holy lives pleasing to God. This is not to say we will be instantaneously perfect, i.e. that we will never sin again (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but it is saying that being born again is a new life, not the old life slightly cleaned up to be more presentable.

When we come to repentance, via God’s grace to us, we come to our senses, we realize we were heading the wrong direction, we are broken and contrite over our sins, and we follow our Lord in the right direction. We escape (break free from) the snare of the devil, who had taken us captive to do his will, and now we submit to our Lord, and we are desirous to do his will. And, we continue on this path until the day we die or until Jesus comes back to take us to be with him forever.

And, all this is made possible because of God’s grace to us and due to his sustaining power in our lives. All glory to God. Great things he has done in granting us repentance and forgiveness of sins so that we can now walk in freedom from slavery (addiction) to sin, and so we can walk in the Spirit, by faith in Christ, and according to his righteousness.

Seek the Lord / An Original Work / July 20, 2012

Based off Isaiah 55

“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.

“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”

Slavery to Sin

Friday, July 21, 2017, 5:13 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Reached Down.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read varied scriptures (in the ESV) on the subject of slavery to sin.

Practicing Sin (Jn. 8:34; Ro. 1:28-32; Gal. 5:19-21)

“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.’”

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

When Jesus Christ, the Son of God (and God), died on the cross for our sins, he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus died, in fact, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He was put to death on a cross so that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. And, He gave his life up for us in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk (in lifestyle; in practice) not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. [See: 2 Co. 5:15, 21; 1 Pet. 2:24; Ro. 8:1-4.]

So, if we practice (continue in) sin, i.e. if sinning against God is part of our normal course of life as a matter of habit, routine, or the way we live, then we are not free, but we are still enslaved (in bondage) to sin. And, we don’t have the promise of eternal life with God. For, God’s grace to us is not carte blanche (free rein) to continue in willful sin against God without guilt. God’s 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, don’t be led astray! We should not even be entertained by the sins of others, for we are thus approving of others’ sins.

Slaves to What? (Ro. 6:6-7; Ro. 6:16-23)

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.”

“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When we truly believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives with God-given faith, and not with mere intellectual assent or acknowledgment, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. The old nature is put to death that we might no longer be slaves to sin, but that we might live new lives in Christ Jesus to his righteousness.

This is not to say, nonetheless, that we will never sin (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but that sin should not be our practice (lifestyle). Daily, by the Spirit of God, we should be putting the deeds of our flesh to death, and daily we should be taking up our cross and following (obeying) our Lord Jesus (Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14). For, this is the reason for which Jesus was crucified on a cross. For, if we are still making sin the practice of our lives, we are enslaved to sin, and that leads to spiritual death, not life in the Spirit. But, if we walk in obedience to Christ and to his Word, that leads to righteousness, which then leads to sanctification (being made holy), and its end is eternal life with God.

Freedom to Captives (Lu. 4:18-19)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

So, if we want to share the gospel of our salvation with others so that they can come to know Christ, too, then we need to tell them the truth. So many preachers and teachers of the Word today are proclaiming a half-truth gospel, which is a lie, and which deceives naïve minds into believing that they can “believe” in Jesus, but that they don’t have to repent of (turn from) sin, and that they don’t have to obey Christ, and that God is pleased with them no matter what they do. Yet, scripture clearly teaches that if we proclaim we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin, wickedness), we are liars who don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).

Freedom from sin is not merely forgiveness of sins or deliverance from hell. True liberty is freedom from slavery (bondage, addiction) to sin. Freedom from sin is deliverance from the power and control Satan had over our lives so that we can now walk in freedom from sin addiction and its hold on our lives. No born again Christian should be addicted to (controlled by) any sin. Jesus set us free! We just have to live like we believe that, and all in his power and strength and working of his grace within us. This is the GOOD NEWS! It is not good news if we are still bound in our sins, and especially if we have been given a false hope of eternal life with God based on a lie.

When we are still in bondage to sin, we are free from the control of righteousness so that we cannot please God with our lives. We are blinded to the things of God and of his righteousness until he opens our eyes to the truth and he awakens our minds and hearts to see our sinful condition and our need of him as Savior (deliverer from sin) of our lives. So, know that there are many liars and deceivers out there who are disguising themselves as servants of righteousness and as ministers of the gospel, but whose messages are lies cleverly disguised as truth in order to deceive naïve minds. They are messengers of Satan sent to turn people away from the truth so that they will not be saved, while still promising them the hope of heaven when they die. So, know the truth, and the truth will set you free!

He Reached Down / An Original Work / February 3, 2014

Based off Psalm 18

How I love You, Lord, my Rock and my strength.
My God is my fortress; I hide in Him.
He is my shield and the horn of
My salvation, whom I praise.
I have found my refuge in Him.

He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
Drew me out of waters so deep, I’d sink.
He delivered me from Satan
And my slavery to sin;
Gave me hope of heaven with Him.

My God turned my darkness into His light;
Opened up my blinded eyes; gave me sight.
As for God, his way is perfect.
He gives strength to stand secure.
I have found my vict’ry in Him.

My Lord lives! Praise be to my Savior God,
Jesus Christ, who died on a cruel cross.
He is my Rock and the source
Of my salvation, whom I trust.
I will give praise always to Him.

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

Are You Free?

Monday, July 3, 2017, 5:52 a.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 freedom in Christ Jesus.

What is Freedom?

I think most of us, who have any knowledge of scripture, know that Jesus died to set us free from sin, but not everyone agrees on what that means. Some people think of this freedom as merely being set free from the ultimate punishment of sin, which is death, i.e. eternity without God, and in eternal damnation in the fires of hell (or in the lake of fire). And, being set free from the punishment of sin means they get to go to heaven one day when they leave this earth. But, is that all there is to it? Or, is there more?

The Truth Sets You Free (Jn. 8:31-36)

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Here we see that if we abide (stay, remain, continue) in Christ and in his Word, then we are truly his disciples (his followers) (cf. Jn. 15). The result is that we will know the truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, so we will know (intimately, experientially) Jesus Christ. His Word is also truth, so we will know intimately, through first-hand experience, God’s words to us, not just through head knowledge. And, this knowing of The Truth will set us free from slavery to sin, not just from the punishment of sin, because it isn’t just head knowledge, but it is intimately and experientially joining ourselves to Christ and his Word by listening to him and in following (obeying) him.

Here we also see that the opposite of freedom from sin is slavery to sin, for if we practice (walk in) sin, we are still slaves to sin, and we are not FREE. Now, we cannot provide our own freedom, i.e. it is Jesus Christ who sets us free, if truly we have trusted in him as Lord and as Savior of our lives. But, if we do not walk in that freedom, then we are still enslaved to sin, and we have not truly been set free (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 8:1-14; Gal. 5:19-21). So, we must understand here that being set free has to do, not just with loss of eternal punishment for sin, but it has to do with death to sin and living to righteousness, as well (See: 1 Pet. 2:24). For, if we continue in sin, we are not free, but we will still face the fury of hell when we leave this earth.

Dead to Sin – Free from Sin (Rom. 6:6-7, 16-23)

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin in order that we might walk with him in newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (See: Rom. 6:1-4; cf. Eph. 4:17-24). Jesus Christ died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). So, Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell and have heaven when we die. He died so that, through faith in him, our old self would be put to death in order that sin would be brought to nothing, i.e. so that it would no longer have control over (enslave) us. If we have truly been saved from our sins, thus, it means sin has been put to death in our lives so that righteousness might reign.

Many people are being taught today that faith in Jesus Christ is just an acknowledgment of who Jesus is and of what he did for us on the cross, in taking our punishment for us, and that it is an acceptance of his forgiveness of our sins. And, many of them are being taught that repentance (turning from sin) and obedience to Christ are not required by God for their eternal salvation, and that, in fact, they are works-based salvation, so they are being trained that faith in Jesus has nothing to do with death to sin and living to righteousness. But, God’s Word teaches us that if we present ourselves as slaves to sin, it leads to death, not to eternal life, but obedience to Christ and his Word leads to righteousness and to eternal life with God. Being set free from sin means we are now slaves to Christ’s righteousness.

Walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:1, 16-24)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

I know that this is in the context of legalism and of adding to God’s grace what he does not require, but the principle applies, as well, to the subject of being set free from sin, in its entirety. Jesus set us free from sin so that we would no longer be slaves to sin, but that we would walk in freedom, which means to walk in righteousness and no longer according to our sinful flesh. So, we need to stand firm, not only on not adding to God’s grace what is of the flesh, but also in not removing from God’s grace what God has established as the very purpose for his grace to us. His grace is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God, without guilt and without remorse, but his grace instructs (commands) 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 (See: Tit. 2:11-14).

So, not only did Jesus set us free, but we need to walk in that freedom. If we walk (in lifestyle) by the Spirit of God, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. So many people believe that they can have the Spirit of God living within them, and have the promise of heaven, and still live their lives however they desire, but the two are in opposition to each other. If we continue to practice sexual immorality, for example, which includes viewing pornography or watching sexually charged movies or TV shows, et al, we do not have the hope of eternal life. If we make it our practice to involve ourselves in idolatry, impurity, sensuality, fits of anger, drunkenness, etc., we will not inherit the kingdom of God.

This is not saying that we lose our salvation every time we sin (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but it is saying that we can’t continue living in (practicing) sin, as a matter of lifestyle, and expect to go to heaven when we leave this earth. If we belong to Christ, we have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires, so let us live by and keep in step with the Spirit of God, and not give way to the flesh, for Jesus set us free! So, let us live like we believe that. Those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God (Ro. 8:14).

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!

A Stranger’s Voice

Sunday, July 2, 2017, 3:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Sheep.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 10 (Select vv. ESV).

They Will Flee (vv. 1-6)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Jesus Christ is the door (The Way, The Truth and The Life) to God the Father in heaven, to salvation from sin, and to eternal life with God. He is the ONLY door to heaven. There is no other way. The sheepfold is the church, his body, the saints of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, God’s Holy City. Yet, there are many false shepherds of the people who have infiltrated the gatherings of the church (of the sheep). These false shepherds have entered by another way, i.e. by a door of deception, wickedness, lies, and the manipulation of naïve minds. For, they do not truly know Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives, but they are “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (See: 2 Co. 11:12-15).

Jesus Christ is also the True Shepherd who enters the sheepfold by the door, i.e. by way of his death and resurrection in putting our sins to death on a cross so that we might walk with him in righteousness. When we enter by the door, it is by God’s grace, through God-given faith in Jesus Christ, in which 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 (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24). The true sheep hear the voice of the True Shepherd, they listen to him, and they follow (obey) him. But, they will not follow a stranger, i.e. one who enters by way of deception. In fact, they will flee from him, because the voice (teaching) of a stranger they do not know (intimately), in the sense of hearing, believing, accepting and following the stranger. The Holy Spirit will give them discernment to reject the stranger’s voice, and to only follow the voice of the True Shepherd.

To Kill and Destroy (vv. 7-13)

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

It is essential that we understand the difference between truth and lies, so that we do not follow the lies and reject the truth. Many false shepherds, who have infiltrated the church, are telling the people lies, and they themselves are rejecting the truth, as well as they are leading others to reject the truth and to accept the lies (See: 2 Thess. 2:1-12). Thus, they are thieves and robbers, because they are stealing the truth from people’s hearts in order to fill their minds with the lies of Satan, whose goal it is to deceive them and to turn them away from God and genuine faith in Jesus Christ. These false shepherds, who have infiltrated our ranks, are not there to lead us to Christ, but they are there to destroy and to kill all that is holy and is of God, for they are Satan’s messengers, and his goal is to destroy the church, Jesus Christ, his messengers, and the gospel of our salvation.

Since these false shepherds disguise themselves as apostles of Christ and as servants of righteousness, their messages will be a mixed bag of truth and lies so that it will appear as though what they are teaching is truth. But, the lies will be subtle, and will be cleverly inserted into the truth, so that naïve minds will easily accept them and not discern the error. Since this is the goal, these clever enchanters have devised a plan to discredit the gospel and its messengers by calling it “works-based salvation,” and to discourage all who would listen to the true gospel message from accepting it as valid. And, they cloak these lies in fine-sounding arguments, intended to sound as though they are somehow delivering the people out of the clutches of what is false, and that they are somehow leading them to true freedom in Christ, but nothing could be further from the truth.

What these false shepherds are telling the people is that they can have eternal life with God, salvation from sin, and the hope of heaven when they leave this earth merely by acknowledging Jesus’ existence, or what he did for us in taking our place on a cross to free us from the punishment of sin, and by accepting his forgiveness for their sins. And, they call this the gospel of grace. Yet, they also tell them that God requires nothing of them at all, other than to “believe,” i.e. to acknowledge Jesus’ existence, and to accept his forgiveness of their sins. They tell them that they don’t have to repent of (turn away from) their sins, and they don’t have to obey Jesus Christ or his commandments (his instructions to us), or submit to his Lordship, and that God is pleased with them no matter what they do. So, they give free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse.

Yet, the truth of the gospel of our salvation is that Jesus Christ died on that cross, not merely to free us from eternal damnation and to promise us heaven when we die. 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 on that cross. 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. If we walk (in how we conduct our lives) according to our sinful flesh (in darkness), 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. God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin, but it 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.

[See: Luke 9:23-25; John 6:35-66; Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6:1-23; 8:1-14; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; Gal. 2:20; Gal. 5:19-21: Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24.]

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.