Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No Separation 120722

Romans 8:31-39, What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This wonderful chapter begins with "no condemnation"and ends with "no separation"! Today's reading begins with a reference back with the words, "What then shall we say to these things?" This calls to mind the fact that “those whom he predestined he also called, those whom he called he also justified, those whom he justified he also glorified.” Folks, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" What evidence do we have that God is for us? How can we assume that he will meet our needs? How do we know there is no separation? This passage of Scripture answers those questions without a doubt!
There is a false teaching that begins with earning your salvation by good works and ends with keeping your salvation by good works. Both these premises are wrong! None of us have any good works that can contribute to our salvation. We are saved by grace through faith and that is not by our works. Remember, faith is living like God tells the truth. Man-centered religion focuses on good works and usually incorporates some serious legalism. None of us have ever done anything to deserve salvation or ever will do anything to deserve salvation. There are some things we need to know that should give us confidence that there is "No Separation", for us, once we are in Christ Jesus. You see…
God is for us.
His word promises he is. The psalmist recognized this relationship. Read with me, Psalm 118:5-9, Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
He cried to the Lord and was delivered. He could not free himself — the Lord freed him. He knew that once the Lord was on his side he did not have to fear. With the support of the Lord he could do anything. A concept that was reflected by the apostle Paul when he wrote the Philippians and said, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Remember, Jesus said he would always be with us, that he would never leave us or forsake us.
In the Old Testament we find an example, and there are many.
Turn with me to, 2 Kings 6:15-19, When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.
Imagine with me, two men living in a small city. They wake up in the morning and find their city surrounded by an army of enemies. One of the men, who is the servant, is very disturbed. The master of the house, the prophet Elisha, is totally undisturbed. He could see things the servant could not see. Elisha prays a simple prayer that we need to repeat often, "Lord, open his eyes that he may see." And with spiritual eyes opened the servant could see something that was there all the time. The mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha! God's angels were there to protect his faithful servant. The second simple prayer defeated the enemy completely. We might expect him to have prayed for the Lord to destroy these men. Instead he simply asked and God made them blind. God has always been a God of grace and he blinded the men rather than take their lives. And they were led away to be presented to the King of Israel. Then they were released and sent home. This resulted in peace for Israel rather than war.
Again and again, throughout history God has shown himself to be on the side of his people. I remember two stories, out of many, that came from the great revivals in China during the 1930s. At that time the entire country was caught up in rebellion and war. Miss Bertha Smith was a Baptist missionary who lived through many horrifying situations. I remember hearing her say that one day a large number of missionaries were together in a particular walled compound. Fighting was going on in the street and shells for exploding all over the area. She said she was standing in a hall with a large set of French doors in front of her. Suddenly, an artillery shell went off in the yard right in front of those French doors. Shattered glass and shrapnel ripped through the area where she stood. She didn’t have time to pray but she had already done plenty of that in advance! Miss Bertha said that when she stepped away from the wall there is not a scratch on her, not even dust, but in the wall all around where she stood was filled with glass and shrapnel. The spot where she stood was clear of any damage. If God be for us who can be against us!
The second account involves a Norwegian missionary by the name of Marie Monson. She was in a similar situation as Miss Bertha had been except it was nighttime and she was in bed. She said that, literally, bullets were going through the room she was in. She was very afraid and was praying for protection. In her fright she sat up in bed and suddenly all around her bed was a wall of fire. Arrows were flying towards her and melting in the fire. She said she began to weep and said, “Lord, it is really like that, isn’t it?” She knew that the Bible said that God will be to her a wall of fire all around.
The greatest evidence we have of God being on our side is that…
He gave his only son. From the beginning of time, God had a plan to solve the sin problem for the human race. He taught by example of blood sacrifices that sin is very damaging. He showed them that their sin always resulted in harm and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. At the same time, the blood of bulls and goats was nothing but a symbol of the only blood that counts— that of the Lord Jesus Christ. He proves to us that God is on our side, God is for us! He loved the world so much that he gave his only son. Jesus, the son of the living God, came into the world to pay the price for our sins. No one took his life from him, he laid it down of his own accord. He said to his disciples that he would lay his life down and he would take it up again. He did that for us, proving that God is for us. Without God's favor we would have no hope in this life and only fear of eternal suffering in the life to come. God is not only "for us" he is able to meet our needs…
He can meet our needs. We have an abundance of needs. We need to be delivered from our sins and set free from spiritual bondage. In order for that to happen we have to have a champion who stronger than our enemy. Trust me…
He is stronger than our enemy. Read what John that say, 1 John 4:4, Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
John says that we "have overcome them". But notice he does not say "because we're able" instead he says, "he who is in you is greater than the he who is in the world." It may be that Satan believed he had the power to destroy Jesus. It may be that Satan believed that he could win the cosmic battle. What he did not know, or at least appears not to have known, is that his strategy was always a part of the Father's plan. Jesus was the lamb killed, in the mind of God, before the world was created. If Satan believed he was going to win at the end of Jesus' life he was one surprised evil Angel when, after having posted a guard on the tomb it was found to be empty on the third day. Actually, the surprise occurred earlier than that. He must have sensed some inkling of what was about to happen when he heard Jesus say to the thief on the cross, "Today, you will be with me in paradise". You see the greatest evidence of God's ability to take care of his people is seen in the cross and the resurrection. If Satan and his minions had understood what the cross was all about as Paul told the Corinthians, "… they would not have crucified the Lord of glory". (1 Corinthians 2:8)
He intercedes for us. Read with me 1 John 2:1, My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
We have an advocate! An advocate might be compared to an attorney. But this attorney is also the judge, and the son of the supreme judge. What a sweet deal! Our advocate took our sins, the payoff of which is death, and paid the price for us. Since he did this — as the writer of Hebrews tells us…
Hebrews 7:25, Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him because he lives forever to make intercession for them. At other places in Scripture we find him seated at the right hand of God. We find him standing to receive his martyr, Stephen. We find him entering into the holy place in heaven with his own blood to pay the price for our sins. He is able to intercede on our behalf because he paid the price for our sin. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep. And he is strong. In the Old Testament there is a verse that says, For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) God is seeking people that he can give strong support to! Meet him in prayer, make your heart right with his and, rely on it, he will give strong support to you. He has the strength to do whatever needs to be done. And we are kept by that strength.
He keeps us by his strength not ours. Praise God that that is true.
We are strong in him. And only in him, Ephesians 6:10, tells us, Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Earlier, Paul, had prayed for the Ephesians… that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:17-23)
We are strong in the Lord not in ourselves. Paul reminds us, in Romans chapter 4, that Abraham, the father of the faithful, was made strong in his faith and gave glory to God because he was convinced that God could do what he promised. The result of that faith encounter was the birth of Isaac to a father and mother long past the prime of life. We are to be strong in the Lord and trust in him without wavering even when what we face seems impossible.
Satan, our enemy, roams the Earth like a roaring lion looking for those he can devour. At the same time the eyes of the Lord are roaming the earth looking for those whose hearts are his so he can show himself strong on their behalf.
Never have any doubt that he who is in us is stronger than he who is in the world.
He has defeated our enemies. Every enemy will be defeated in his time and in his way. Read, 1 Corinthians 15:25-26, For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Every enemy! The last of these is death itself. Alfred Ackerley got it right when he penned these words, "We serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today; I know that he is living what ever man may say. I see his hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer, and just the time I need him, He's always near, He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how does he lives? He lives within my heart." Jesus' resurrection proves his power over every enemy including death. He will reign until even death is destroyed.
We can't be taken from his hand. John 10:27-30, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Jesus gives us a great picture of his relationship to his people. He is the Good Shepherd, we are his sheep. When he speaks, whether to call us to salvation, are to give us a specific call to ministry, we recognize his voice.
This is a picture of an Eastern Shepherd. They do not use dogs to push their animals. Instead, they use their voice. When the traditional Eastern Shepherd brings his sheep to the common fold they are placed with several other flocks. When it's time to move on the gate is opened and the Shepherd uses his voice to call his sheep and they follow him.
In exactly the same way, Jesus calls his sheep. He make specific promises to them: "I give them eternal life" not, "I offer them eternal life" or, "They can earn eternal life." Jesus GIVES eternal life. Then he says, “... they will never perish”. What part of “never” do people have trouble with? Next, “... no one will snatch them out of my hands.” “No one” includes yourself. Once you have placed your faith in the crucified, risen, Lord, Jesus Christ you cannot be taken away from him. If you can be taken away from him you were never his. You see, his sheep are a gift from the Father. The Father is all-powerful — no one can snatch them from the Father's hands, Jesus and the Father are one therefore no one can take Jesus' sheep from him.
What a magnificent thought! "… And in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." The enemy uses all kinds of events and experiences against us. Paul personalizes them by using "who" can separate us, rather than "what", can separate us. These experiences have intelligence and obey their master, Satan. The power of sin moves in to plant thoughts in our mind to make us feel separate from God. We have the promise of Scripture, perhaps the greatest promise apart from salvation, that sin will have no dominion over us. He came to set us free and though events along the way may be difficult, and sometimes even seem impossible, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. He is faithful and he will do whatever is needed to bring us through to final glorification in eternity. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory!

All Scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Those Who Love God 120715

Romans 8:28-30, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28 is one of the most abused passages of Scripture. It's often used by people to say things like: "It will all come out in the wash" or, "Doesn't the Bible say everything works out for good?" No where does the Bible say that everything, for everybody, works out for good. The translators of the English standard version changed the order of the words to make an emphasis. Where the King James version says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." The ESV says, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." The difference in word order is important. The ESV helps us to see that "all things work together for good for those who love God — for those who are called according to his purpose."

You see, emphasis is not on "all things", the emphasis is on "those who love God". Now we need to remember that love is not a feeling it is an action. Or rather it's a series of actions each one confirming the other. To say "I love you" without lifing out "I love you" shows that you do not know the meaning of the words. God so loved the world doesn't mean much until there is added to it "that he sent his only son" to save the world. Some people will turn away from the idea of loving God because of the twisted understanding they have of the word "love". Nevertheless, God's word says, "And we know that for those who…". The world is divided between God lovers and God haters.

Those who love God.

The great divide. Let's read Ephesians 4:17-18, Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. The Greek word translated here as "Gentiles" could just as easily be translated "nations" or, "the human race". Christians are separated from the world by their faith in Jesus Christ. That faith can, and often does, result in rejection by the world. Recently, a pastor in Phoenix, Arizona, was sentenced to sixty days in jail and a $1210 fine. For seven years he had hosted a Bible study at first in his home. When it outgrew his home he built a game room on the property and the Bible study begin to meet there. The government authorities determined that what he had was a church and therefore involved dozens of code violations. The Pastor's response was his meeting was no different than a group of friends coming together to play poker or watch football.

I have often joked that we think persecution is the code enforcement people not letting us break the law. This case is no joke! This man has had to pay a hefty fine and is now sitting in the Maricopa County jail, unless he has been released in the last few days. And that is not a fun place. I have no doubt that there are code violations, if the building is really a church, but at the same time there appear to be similar buildings being used for all sorts of recreation in the area. The problem is a lack of evenhandedness just because the use of the building involved Bible study.

We need to remember…

Trials come — look at Job! If you want to follow in your Bible turn to the book of Job. Most of you know the story of Job. He was caught up in a great contest between God and Satan. After he lost his property, and his family, he responded, Job 1:20-21, Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Then, he lost his health and the loving support of his wife. Read 2:9-10, Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Later, after much suffering and struggle Job answered his tormentors 13:15, Though he slay me, I will hope in him. That's love! That's trust! Job didn't feel very loving. I'm sure that all he felt involved grief and pain. But he could still say that he would rather hope in the God of heaven than turn away and follow his grief. Further on Job made one of the most profound theological statements in the Old Testament. He probably did not have any written Bible. In the context of the story I believe it happened long before Abraham, the father of faith. But Job knew God and could speak with confidence 19:25-27, For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! And the rest of the story illustrates Romans 8:28. God allowed one who loved him to suffer for no apparent reason. God allowed it to happen because he had a greater purpose than Job's comfort. And when it was over God restored his fortunes and honored his prayers. Job loved God and was loved by him in return.

According to John, in his first little letter, we love God because…

He first loved us. Read with me 1 John 4:18-19, There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

There's a praise song we sing that goes like this:

Your love, oh Lord
Reaches to the heavens
Your faithfulness stretches to the sky
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains
Your justice flows like the ocean's tide
I will lift my voice
To worship You, my King
I will find my strength
In the shadow of your wings

That's an expression of love and trust in the living God reflecting his love back to him.

But does God really work good in…

All things? I believe he does.

He uses good things. Read with me Romans 5:2, Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God! We have obtained access into his grace and we enjoy it! That's a good thing and God uses it to help us to grow up to his image reflected in Christ. But God also uses…

Bad things. Look at the next three verses Romans 5:3-5, More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Suffering may be physical or mental/emotional. God always has a plan that includes our suffering and he has a purpose in allowing it. William Cowper was a great hymn writer. He wrote thousands of poems and hymns. Two of them are found in our hymn book more than two hundred years after they were written. One we sing often, "There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood". The other is less well known and we've never sung it. It is entitled, "O for a Closer Walk with God" And is hymn numbered 471. The second verse reads like this, "Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord? Where is the soul refreshing view of Jesus and his word? The last verse shows his love for and trust in God. It reads like this, So shall my walk be close with God, calm and serene my frame; so purer light shall mark the road that leads me to the lamb. Cowper could trust in the God he loved and know, without a doubt, though he suffered much mental anguish he would still be brought through to the glory of God.

Another sufferer was Adoniram Judson who served in Burma as one of the earliest missionaries. He saw the death of his first and second wives and several of his children with little obvious spiritual results. One day, obviously reflecting on the suffering he had gone through, he wrote this little poem:

In joy or sorrow, health or pain,
Our course be onward still;
We sow on Burma's barren plain,
We reap on Zion's hill.

Judson understood his calling and his God. He knew he could love God because God loved him, in fact, God is love!

In the Bible book of Habakkuk we see the prophet observing the contradiction of God using the pagan nation of Assyria, and later Babylon, to punish Israel and Judah. There was much suffering during that time and yet he could write at the end of this little book the following words, Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. Though all else fail Habakkuk would say, "yet I will rejoice in the Lord"! We need to learn to follow these examples and keep our eyes focused on the author and perfecter of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Those who love the Lord are also…

Those who are called. Romans 8:30

There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding around the concept of election or predestination. Of course, there are those who help make it worse by insisting on a hypercalvinism. I personally am not a follower of Calvin so much as I am a follower of Paul. What the Scripture sets forth plainly is that God has issued a call to mankind of a general nature and a call to some, very specifically, that will not be resisted.

There is a story told about John Leland, an evangelist from Virginia in the late 1700s. He was visiting with a local doctor who had recently become a Christian. The doctor was eager to learn more about the faith. After some conversation, the doctor told him that he should be glad to have his views on two or three points of religious doctrine. First, as to the sovereignty of God. This was with Elder Leland a favorite theme, and one in which his head and his heart had been engaged for sixty years. He proceeded, and occupied several minutes in repeating appropriate passages of Scripture, commenting upon them in a most lucid manner, until the doctor said he was entirely satisfied with those views. "Now," said he, "please let me know what you think of the free agency of man." With no less authority from Scripture, and no less potency of reason, he made this point equally satisfactory. "Now, Elder," said the doctor, — "One more solution, and I shall be entirely satisfied — will you tell me how you reconcile these two great and important truths." "Doctor," said he, "there was once a mother, who, busy with her needle, was teaching her daughter to read. The child at length came to a hard word, and asked her mother what it was. "Spell it, my child," said she, "I can't spell it." "Let me see it then." She handed her the book, and the mother, after puzzling over it for some time, returned to the child, and said, "Skip it then." Iain H. Murray, Revival and Revivalism, Banner of Truth Trust, pp 318-319

When we come to what appear to be two conflicting doctrines, that are both clear in Scripture, we may just have to "skip it" until we have better light on the situation. Both, the doctrine of election, and, the free will of man are taught in Scripture. Don't get tangled up in trying to resolve the apparent conflict. Rest in the fact that all Scripture is God breathed and is profitable for our instruction.

First of all let's look at…

The general call. Read the words of Jesus in, Luke 24:46-47, Jesus said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. …" Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name among all nations. Repeatedly, throughout Scripture, the word says we are to proclaim the gospel to everyone, everywhere. Look at what Paul said in Romans 10:14, How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? The message must go out to everyone of every race and nation that the Savior has come. For many the response may be negative but we have no way of knowing until we proclaim it. But for some there is a positive response to the gospel that is…

An effective call. Look at the words of Jesus,John 6:44, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

In order for the call to be effective the Father has to draw that person. Nothing we do can cause a person to be drawn to God. We can plant the seeds, we can water, but God gives the increase. When Paul and Silas crossed over to Philippi, bringing the gospel for the first-time to Europe, they sought out a place of prayer. They went there on the Sabbath and finding a group of women set down and presented the gospel. Luke records the story for us, Acts 16:14, One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. Paul spoke the words God had given him. That's all he could do. Deliver the mail! It was up to God to open her heart to pay attention to what was said and, at the end of the day, she and her whole household believed and were baptized. All of these things are part of God's purpose. All things work together for good for those who are called…

According to God's purpose.

The salvation of his people. Read with me, Ephesians 1:5-10, he predestined us for adoption 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. In Christ we have redemption through his blood. From the beginning of time God planned to send his son to be born of a woman, live a sinless life, and die on the cross for our sins. He did this with the specific purpose of uniting all things in him in heaven and on earth. Since that is true, his purpose not only includes salvation it also involves our glorification. His purpose is…

To glorify them. Jesus talked about this plan in his prayer preserved in the gospel of John. Turn with me to John 17:20-23, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.…" Jesus actually said that he had given, already, the glory that the father had given him to those who believe in him. Well, I'm not experiencing it all the time but I have to remember that my experience is not the standard, the word of God is. You see I can't work up God's glory but I can accept what God has done. Look with me at the words Paul wrote to the Philippians, Philippians 1:6, And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful that my salvation does not depend on my good works. In fact the Bible is very clear that it is not by works of righteousness that I have done but according to his own mercy he saved us. You see…

It is God who does the work. Look at, 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Pay attention to what this passage says. The God of peace himself will sanctify you completely. You cannot sanctify yourself — it's impossible. Only God can do that! But folks, it says right here that he is faithful and he will surely do the work of completing our salvation. The glory that Jesus gives will be revealed in us at the end of time.

God sent his son to seek and save that which is lost. There is, and always has been, a great divide among humans. Cain killed Abel simply because Able offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice. However, God had a plan and a purpose even before he created the earth. That plan was to raise up a people by his own strength to serve and follow him out of love because "God is love"! Have you come to love him? Come to him today he will not turn you away.


All Scripture quotes are from The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Guidance in Prayer 120708

Romans 8:26-28, Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
The suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is revealed in us. But the suffering of this present time often interferes with our prayer life and with our spiritual growth and development. We need help and are not even sure what to ask for. Remember the old saying, "Be careful what you ask for — you may get it!" Sometimes we just don't know what to ask for simply because we can't imagine what the answer would need to be. Thank God, the Spirit helps us in…
Our weakness. 
Resulting from our suffering. Read with me, Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…  & 23, And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Without any doubt the apostle Paul understood the problems of suffering. You recall his pedigree found in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 11. There he spoke of imprisonment, beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, being constantly surrounded by danger and physically in need. Along with all this physical and mental suffering he still carried on his heart the daily pressure of anxiety for the churches. Without a doubt he understood suffering. He also knew that every believer will suffer at one time or another because of their faith and this suffering causes us to be weak in faith. We are also weak…
Resulting from our lack of knowledge. We know what we want, but don't know what's really right in any given situation. Our wants, the Bible tells us, are not God's wants! Contrary to popular opinion the world doesn't circulate around us! We are not the center of the universe individually or corporately. Sometimes we don't even know what we want. We only know that we want something to fix the problem. So one of our weaknesses is ignorance.
Ignorance is not a bad thing it just simply means that we do not know. Ignorance can be cured by knowledge. How can we know the will of God? We know the will of God by knowing the Bible. The Bible is God's revealed will to mankind. I know the Bible pretty well, but even with that, I don't always know what to apply in any given situation. I need direction and guidance.
Please, don't just open the Bible and put your finger down and claim a verse to solve your problem. That's nothing but superstition. But please do search the Scriptures for an answer to your problem. Take the time to look and see for yourself. Ask advice from someone you trust who really knows the Bible. And ask God to show you what you need to know. Many times our prayers are not answered because of our selfishness.
Resulting from our selfishness. Look with me at, James 4:3, You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  Often times we are very sure what we want and believe that God should give it to us but our motives are wrong and God measures the heart. Half jokingly, someone created a T-shirt that said, "God, let me prove I can be trusted. Let me win the lottery"! That T-shirt prayer reflects the self-centeredness that's part of the human condition. So, often our prayers are not answered because they result from our self-centeredness. God is not honored when we are selfish. He is pleased to reward us when we ask correctly. Jesus himself said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) Thank God for that and focus on his kingdom and his righteousness. Because of our weakness the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
Jesus promised the Spirit. Read, John 14:15-17, “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. … In his last days on earth, knowing that his disciples would soon be lost without him, he told them what the future plan was. At least three times he told him he would be arrested, beaten, and crucified by sinful men. He also said after three days he would rise again. Jesus knew they didn't understand it so he tried to reassure them in another way. He promised that he would send another helper, the Spirit of Truth, to be with them when he was gone. There is a false teaching in the world today that says a person can be a believer without having the Holy Spirit. I believe in being filled with the Spirit. I believe in many fillings of the Spirit. I have to base my beliefs on the word of God, not on my feelings or my experiences. The word of God says…
The Spirit lives in every believer. Read, 2 Timothy 1:14, By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and causes a person to seek a right relationship with God. The Holy Spirit comes into the life of a person and causes them to be born again into the family of God. The Holy Spirit guides and protects us, sometimes when we are not even aware of it! The Holy Spirit informs us — puts thoughts into our minds that glorify God. The thoughts that come to us come from at least three sources. First, they come from our renewed mind that no longer generates sinful thoughts. (1 John 3:9 and 5:18). Second, they come from the Holy Spirit and those thoughts always glorify God. Third, our thoughts come from the power of sin that lives in our body. Those thoughts never glorify God but often stimulate us to selfish desires! Thank God for the work he does in our lives to defeat the power of the enemy by pulling down every stronghold taking every thought captive to Christ. He sends his Spirit to live in us. That enables us to pray…
According to God's will. Look at what John had to say, 1 John 5:14-15, And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. Even Jesus had to ask "according to the Father's will" when he was in the garden of Gethsemane. You remember he prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." Jesus knew the will of the Father, but his humanity caused him to look for another way. I don't always know the will of the Father. Or, not liking it, still look for another way. Many times people will come to me and ask me to tell them it's alright to do something that's clearly not "alright". How can we really know God's will? Look at what the psalmist said, Psalm 37:4, Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. This is a spiritual IQ test! You're still very immature as a Christian if you take the phrase, "he will give you the desires of your heart" to mean that you could have any desire you want. That can only be true if your "wanter" has been fixed by the Spirit of God who has come to live in you. What this passage really says is that if we will make the Lord God our delight and desire to please him in all things. he will put the desires in our heart. These desires will bring glory and honor to him, and will guide us into a prayer life that will be…
According to his purpose.
The Spirit is our guide. Jesus explained to his disciples what the Spirit would do for them, John 16:13-15, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare to you. 
The Spirit of God comes to live in every believer when they are saved. He's there to guide us into all the truth. The Spirit, as part of the Godhead, will only instruct us in the things that please the Father. Sometimes, he will reveal to us the future to protect us from bad decisions while guiding us to right decisions. But always the Spirit of God glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He reminds us of what Jesus taught. He shows us how to obey Jesus and how to encourage others to obey Jesus. The Spirit guides us and our renewed mind receives that guidance. We know that's true because…
We have the mind of Christ. Read with me 1 Corinthians 2:16, “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. … I love it when the Bible is very clear. There should be no debate about the presence of the mind of Christ in the believer. We have his mind and are able to think his thoughts.
Why don't we do that all the time? It's pretty simple. We also have all our past experiences and habits resident in our body. I assume that the power of sin is resident in our brain as part of our memory. We learn how to tell the difference between the mind of Christ and our old habits as we grow in grace and the knowledge the Lord . You know the old saying, "Live and learn"? Some of us are pretty thick. One day I heard someone use that phrase in my dad's presence. Dad responded, "Some folks just live". If, as a Christian believer, you "just live" rather than "live and learn" you will be confronted again and again with the same problem until you "get it". We should look at everything in life as part of our spiritual education — I am sure that God does. Having the mind of Christ does not mean that everything we do is according to God's will. We are still subject to the world, the flesh and the devil. Eventually, we will see that the same problem continues to confront us and we will desire to "get it right" so we can go onto the next thing, whatever that is!
I'm so glad that God is patient and long-suffering with us. With his patience and the guidance of his Holy Spirit we develop the ability to think his thoughts because we have the mind of Christ! That guides us into…
Not our will but his wisdom. This is a long reading. Bear with me, 1 Corinthians 1:18-30, For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,…
We need to take this passage apart and see what it says. Too often we read Scripture and it seems to go into our eyes and out somewhere without having much effect on our mind. Or, we hear Scripture and it just goes in one ear and out the other! The world considers Christian teaching to be foolishness or folly. Well I have news for the world! God has made foolish the wisdom of the world. Unbelievers seem to be desperate to prove that God does not exist. Billions of dollars are spent in an effort to discover the origin of the universe. All the while ignoring the truth that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Some will say, "They are only trying to discover how God created." If you watch the news, you know that on July 4 scientists in Switzerland announced evidence of the existence of the Higgs boson. This is a subatomic particle that will explain for them how things hold together. It is been popularly called "the God particle". Paul wrote to the Colossians the following words: 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. (Colossians 1:16-17) Nothing discovered by science has ever disproved the existence of God.
Dr. David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's University of Durham,England, wrote: "When I was a physics student, the then retired Professor Rochester became a friend and we would sit together in our local church. I asked him once why he thought God had made a Universe with so many strange and exotic particles, to which he replied ‘Of course all particles are God’s particles. The really amazing thing is that he gives us the gift of science to discover them’."
My observation is that many scientists are clearly trying to teach that there is no God. The Bible has an answer for that, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'.” I understand that a better translation might be, "No God for me."
Paul's preaching was pretty simple. "… We preach Christ crucified" and that message is a stumbling block to the world. For those who believe, that message is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
The Spirit of God has come to live in us, the mind of Christ has been given to us and Christ has become God's wisdom for us. We are able to pray with confidence because we know without a doubt that God causes all things work together for good for those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.
We are in desperate need of the power of God in our day-to-day lives. In our human abilities and strengths we "get by" until things get tough. We don't know how to pray or what to pray for. Oh, we have lots of opinions on the subject but no real knowledge. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and he gave us the model prayer call by many "the Lord's Prayer ". Even in that we only have a form with little knowledge of how to fill in the gaps. We need to remember that prayer is not a "shopping list" of wants and desires. Instead, prayer is communion with a Holy God. His first purpose should be getting into God's will. Then, when he gives us desires we may ask for them and he will answer according to his purpose.

All Scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.