Alive in Christ

Christ paid the penalty

Romans 4 to 7 As I read this, all I could think about was what Martin Luther must have thought when he read this letter. What freedom he now had, as I do as well, freedom in Christ, freedom from sin, freedom to serve Him, not to gain heaven but because this is our gift back for our salvation. No wonder he took the church to task! They were like the Pharisees of old, and they needed correcting. No wonder he, like Paul, was willing to step forth to proclaim the good news: you are saved by faith, not by works!

God grants righteousness on our faith and not of works, which is precisely what Martin Luther, proclaimed and for which the church rebelled. Yet, like Martin Luther, we can declare righteousness because of this truth.

Now, as to death, we shall be like Christ in His resurrection, We die physically, but we shall never die spiritually; God so loved us that even while a sinner, Christ died for us. [Rom 5:8]Therefore, we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness, and we prove that through our works which takes us back to James. Prove your faith by your works. [James 2:17 -19] Rom 6:14 we are no longer under the constraints of the Law, but we are under grace. Rom 6:19, we are now slaves of righteousness for holiness.

Life Lesson: If we say we are righteous, live as righteous because of what Christ did.

 

Death and Eternal Life

Is heaven on your bucket list

2Cor 5 What if you knew that today or tomorrow you would be meeting God face to face? A precious friend whose elderly father is nearing his step into eternity waits for that last breath. As the friend waits, she recalls his life as a pastor and his work amongst the lost. She recalls his life as he taught her the scriptures she holds in her heart and shares with others. In this, we have this promise God has given to us. Ps 116:15 KJV tells us that “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

Paul also shared that we might be comforted. We now live in an earthly house, but one day that house will close, and it will be by God’s timing. Until then, know this truth: we have a heavenly home already prepared for us. “Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God” [2 Cor 5:5] We who are left here groan in our earthly house, but we too one day will see the glorious Christ waiting for us on the shore of the celestial city.

Victory is but a word, but victory in Jesus is a lifestyle.

Will you believe?

Jesus saves

Acts 4 “Salvation in No Other Name”

Satan is a master at deception and pride and the religious leaders fell into his trap. They thought they were done with this “Jesus thing” by crucifying him, but now a man stands before them healed by this same “dead” Jesus. They realized that they were unable to produce a body to use as evidence to refute his claims. They also noted that uneducated and unlearned Peter and John had been with this Jesus. They were living proof of what Jesus told them: “do not worry about how to speak or what to say.” [Mt 10:19] God provided the religious leaders’ evidence of a man healed by His power, and they could not deny it.  

Once again these leaders heard the truth that salvation takes place “not by works of righteousness … but on the basis of his mercy” [Tit 3:5] and “there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12] Yet, Satan blinds the minds of those who refuse to believe, so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel. [2Cor 4:4] Because of the evidence, they now stand without excuse. [Rom 1:20] They saw and chose to deny it. 

When the evidence is before you, will you believe it? 

“An Upside Down View”

What do you see?

John 14 How often have you looked through a rainy window only to realize that your view is distorted because of the raindrops? Our view of life is like that and why Jesus reminded the disciples that He would ask the Father for an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. He would be with them because our view of life may seem upside-down but God has it just right! He would give us the Holy Spirit’s presence to prove the world’s upside-down view of sin and righteousness and judgment because we often see our sin as not sin at all. Again, our view of righteousness is by works, but Paul later would confirm: “he saved us not by works of righteousness.” [Titus 3:5] Instead, we are saved through faith lest we boast in our self-righteousness. [Eph 2:8-9] Our view of judgment is that of a balance scale based on works but again, God judges righteously based only on faith.

Again Jesus said, the Advocate will set your view correctly because He will be in you and with you! He “will teach you everything and will cause you to remember everything [Jesus] said.” [John 1:26]

Have you felt alone or is your view somewhat distorted? Instead, remember this, you have the indwelling Holy Spirit with you moment by moment, day after day, until He calls you home to heaven to give you the correct view of life and faith. Rejoice in this!

Guilt –>Repentance –>Forgiveness

Seek Repentance early

Matt 26 and Mark 14 If you are a believer of the Word of God, you have come face to face with guilt, whether it is presumed or actual. Jesus had a sure-fire way of getting reactions to his statements, and these chapters prove that point. He stated that “I tell you the truth; one of you eating with me will betray me.” Immediately the guilt signals arise in the minds of the disciples. One by one, they asked, Surely not I?” When we hear the words of Jesus, we too often ask, could it be me? It makes us squirm because we know Jesus knows all things. 

When Judas also asks that same question, Jesus responds: “You have said it yourself.” If that were you, how would you have responded? Judas’ response was to continue on the road to betray Jesus, and only after the dastardly deed did he repent. Too little, too late. But was it true repentance? Listen to his words: “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” [Matt 27:4] He said that before the religious leaders who cared little for his words. There is no scripture saying he ever repented before the Lord or the Father.

What about us? Why is repentance so very difficult? Why do we not admit our sin and seek forgiveness? One writer noted ten reasons, and the top three included: it confronts us with our sin, we are scared God won’t forgive, and we want law, not grace. If that is you, today do not delay; seek God’s forgiveness as 1John 1:9 says. God is waiting to hear your prayer. 

Are you Spiritually Blind?

Are you spiritually blind or free?

John 9 and 10 The blind is made to see the “seeing” remain blind.

Will the religious leaders relinquish their man-made rules to believe? The disciples ask if the man sinned or his parents caused his blindness. Neither was the cause, but he “is” blind so that the works of God might be made manifest and cause men to choose the correct answer to this question: “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” KJV. [Jn 9:35]

The blind man obeyed the instructions of Jesus after receiving the “mud bath” and the “water bath,” and now is seeing. You would think others would stand up and praise God for this miracle but not so. Instead, he is tossed to and fro between his parents, neighbors, and religious leaders. Indeed Solomon was correct to say; the fear of man holds men. They fear men more than God. [Prov 29:25] Truly as Jesus said, they now remain in their sinful state. Jesus is the “Light” of the world, and He is the “Door.” Do you believe this?

 Spiritual Truth: Some are more comfortable in their sin than in the light of seeing spiritual truths.

Sow the seed and leave the results to God

sow the seed

Luke 8 and Matt 13 Ever go back to your high school reunion? If you have, you come away with ideas and thoughts about those four years. They walked with you, sat beside you in class but after high school, some stayed behind, and others went a different path. It was true for Jesus as well. He had grown up in Nazareth, but now he was busy with the Master’s business, and as he visits his hometown, he is shunned, scoffed at, ridiculed, challenged, and questioned about his family. As he is preparing to leave, he states: “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” [Matt 13:57] What does he mean by that? He means that another’s perception is based on what they remember, not what has changed. We face the same.

Circle back to the demon-possessed man. He, too, was changed, and Jesus told him to go and proclaim what God had done for him. Like the parable of the sower, he went sowing the seeds of his change; there were four reactions. Some shook their head and went on their way; some heard and were thrilled for his transformation, but then the “old gang” made life difficult, so they went back to their old ways. Some were thrilled and for a time walked with him, but then the challenges of everyday life were greater than the new life, so they walked back. But, then some heard and rejoiced with him, and they grew and prospered, and those were the ones that God used to prepare the way for a later time when the new believers would have to leave Jerusalem because of persecution.

The principle is don’t let your past dictate your “now;” go and spread the seed and leave the results to God.

Go and Tell

John asks, Jesus answers

Matthew 11: What are we to go and tell?

As John sits in prison, he may be set apart from the goings-on, but he is not unaware of what is happening beyond those prison walls. He still has connections with his advisors/disciples, and in their discussions, he sends them to Jesus to ask: “Are you for real?” Jesus lovingly answers the questioners with this statement: “go and tell.” At the end of Matthew, Jesus will again use those words: “go and tell.” So what are we to go and tell?

It is this; it is Messiah who can give spiritual insight. He alone can heal the lame both spiritually and physically. He alone can heal the outcasts of society so they can worship freely and openly. He alone can open the ears of the deaf and the eyes of the blind so that they can take in the wonderful words of life. He alone can raise to new life those who were spiritually dead and give them new life. He alone can fill the coffers of the poor with spiritual riches that are incomparable in this world. 

This is the same message we have before us to “go and tell.” And, lastly, Jesus told them to say to John; those who are not offended by all of this are blessed indeed. Are you “going and telling?”

Fear of Man or Fear of God?

Nehemiah an example to follow

Nehemiah  6-7 Principle #1 When you are in leadership, there will be opposition. Principle #2 Fear is our biggest enemy. Principle #3 Believers need discernment. Nehemiah had learned all three as he served the pagan king. and therefore was successful in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.  God uses any time we serve to learn the skills we need for future kingdom work.

Nehemiah experienced opposition that came from outside as well as inside. When Satan cannot achieve from the outside, he turns to the inside where he expects we will cave because others are not the apparent enemy; they are part of the holy huddle community. So, he turns to his arsenal of the deadly d’s of distraction, discredit, and deception, but we have a more significant “d,” in our arsenal and that is discernment. Nehemiah knew that he had the king’s directives and permission. As a man of integrity, Nehemiah would not be distracted or discouraged from the work. If he caved to their requests, his integrity and place before the king and outside before the workers would be forever changed.

 Nehemiah knew that the truth of the opposition: “there is no fear of God before their eyes” [Rom 3:18]. Instead, he trusted in the words of  Ps 118:6 “The Lord is on my side; I am not afraid!”   Is this true of “me” and “you?”

Times change but not the message

The times change but not the message:

Haggai 1 and 2 What keeps you from obeying?

As then, so today, fear is the tool of the enemy.  Cyrus gave the returning Israelites permission to rebuild the Temple, so what was the problem? The Samaritans used fear and intimidation to stop the work. As God’s prophet, Haggai reminded them that as God provided food, protection, and leading in the wilderness so He would provide now. Yet, the Israelites were excusing their delay in rebuilding by telling one another, “The time for rebuilding the Lord’s temple has not yet come.” [Hag 1:2] How often do we excuse our obedience using similar reasoning? Haggai reminded them that it was time and God was behind them, so “do not fear!” Haggai was saying, look at your life and your lack of provision for yourselves. God has withdrawn his blessing because of your disobedience. Has that been your experience as well?

Both Haggai and Zechariah were pleading with the people, “turn back to God and He will turn back to you.” Learn from your ancestors who did not listen and obey Me. [Zech 1:2, 3]

 Are we listening? Do we trust God to do what seems an impossible task? Remember the words of another prophet of God; Isaiah. “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ [Is 41:10]