Tag Archives: Assurance

Grace Defined #5 – an annonym: The Idol Lie

“LABORING TOGETHER [as God’s fellow workers] with Him then, we beg of you not to receive the grace of God in vain [that merciful kindness by which God exerts His holy influence on souls and turns them to Christ, keeping and strengthening them—do not receive it to no purpose]” (2 Corinthians 6:1).

I have a very dear friend that I love greatly, who, in a season of trouble, was going through a very difficult time of life. I wanted so to be there for her and walk with her to its conclusion, but she turned to fleshly things and began running in ways contrary to God’s ways. Sitting with her, trying to encourage her to trust the Lord and stay close to His ways, she quickly informed me, “God understands that I am but flesh, and He will forgive me.” Is that truth? Yes. But is it truly applied? No.

My friend continued on her path, and God instructed my heart, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). I was not allowed to walk with her in her season of trouble as she walked quickly into the consequences of her sin.

This morning, as I visited with the Lord, He led me to see that the philosophy spoken of by my friend is a lie about grace. That lie is used of Satan to set up a type of God’s grace as a false idol in the lives of those who would be God’s people, and it works to defeat them because they do not fully know, understand and acknowledge the truth of who God is in all His fullness when they practice that idolic grace. In leading me to understand this truth, God took me to some Old Testament passages.

“Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the LORD speaks, ‘Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand’” (Isaiah 1:2-3).

So what is it that we must know and understand if we are to avoid falling to this idol lie?

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-26).

Four things we must know about God in order for Him to protect us from falling to this idol lie about His grace:

FIRST, God is LORD. If we truly know His grace, we must not only call Him LORD, but walk in ways that reveal His Lordship in our lives. That walk in His Lordship comes day by day, in good times and in bad. The practice of that Lordship is what brings us into the obedience of Christ, who says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, NASB). What does it mean to take up ones cross?

I have many times heard people say of some illness, “It is my cross to bear,” but is that what Christ is speaking of here? No. That may be their thorn in the flesh, but it is not a cross. When I hear of bearing a cross and think of choosing to pick it up, I think of the example of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, when, facing His own cross, Jesus cries out, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42, NASB).

Our pastor pointed out the other day that this cup Christ speaks of is not that of taking up the cross. The cup was bearing the sin that would bring separation from the Father. Jesus never once in His life of ministry had to face anything without God’s presence. He knew that taking up the cup meant separation from the Father in the moment of His bearing our sin. For us, to take up our cross, we must lay down the cup that separates us from God.

In every situation where we are caused to cry out, “Lord, not my will, but Yours be done,” as we press forward in obedience to His will and way, we lay down the cup of separation to take up our cross and follow Christ in His example of obedience to God. Thus, through obedience to God’s will in every circumstance, we successfully remember His Lordship so as to walk in His grace, trusting His power to perform the requirements of the path God sets before us.

SECOND, God practices lovingkindness toward us: God is love and He always acts toward us out of that love, giving grace as unmerited favor and spiritual blessing in His lovingkindness toward us. That is the part of His grace that covers us through Christ-crucified, bringing us into salvation. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB).

But the truth of that Ephesians passage continues on in verse 10 to say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

God expects that His work of grace in us will bring us to be the living image of God revealed to us through Christ’s earthly ministry. When we receive His gift of grace through Christ with thought that we can go on our merry way and do what we want without fear of eternities death, we walk quickly out from under that cover of His lovingkindness in Christ to this idolic grace that deceives us. In so doing, we commit the sin Paul speaks of in 1 Timothy 3:1-8:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, HOLDING TO A FORM OF GODLINESS, ALTHOUGH THEY HAVE DENIED ITS POWER; avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

True knowledge of God’s grace brings with it the power to overcome evil and perform the good works of God. When we deny that power, we believe a lie about grace and set it up as an idol we bow to as if we have no call or responsibility to live righteously in the earth. When we walk away from God in this way, we quickly find the next characteristic of God for ourselves, for love always does what is best for the one loved, in order to bring them to good and glory. But some choose to learn the hard way the next truth about God’s character.

THIRD, God is just and He delves out justice to those who sin against Him.

Now that sounds horrible, and it is for the one who is not truly in Christ, for they are doomed to an eternity without God. When I see people walking in this false-belief my friend has about God’s grace, I have to wonder if they truly know His salvation, for scripture teaches that the tree is known by the fruit it bears, whether good or evil (Matthew 7:15-23).

For those who are truly in Christ, yes, we have a tendency to fall to the flesh from time to time, but sin is not a habit we willing run toward. What does scripture say to assure our hearts of God’s grace to work in our lives when we as His true children do sin?

“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:7-11).

This brings us to our FOURTH truth about God: God is righteous. For those who are true sons, understanding the power of grace as well as its favor, He disciplines us as sons in order to develop His righteousness and holiness in us. What is “discipline”?

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul, teaching Timothy about God’s way of training His children says the following, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (vs. 12-17).

Thus, the true child of God is trained by God through the teaching of His word that they may know truth, through reproof that points out sin’s stain, through correction of wrong doing and believing, and through training in righteousness, thus equipping the true child for good works.

 Jeremiah 9 ends with the following:

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised…for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart.’”

God works in us as sons to circumcise our hearts, removing from us the flesh-man and making us new creations in Christ, image bearers who are wholehearted toward God. As He removes the flesh from our hearts, He establishes us to be Spirit led, seeking Him first in all things, trusting His power to work in us the glory of God’s grace, sufficient for every need even in difficult times. That work of His Spirit changes us from glory to glory, making us to be more like Him day by day, perfecting us until the day of Christ’s return. For those who truly know and surrender to God, they do not deliberately and rebelliously walk away from God and test Him by taking advantage of His grace in ungodly dissipation. Instead, we long for Him, to be clothed in His righteousness, thus we are quick to repent and remain in fellowship with Him in Christ.

Am I better than my friend who fell to sins grip? No. Scripture warns, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).

It is dangerous to think too highly of self, for “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” as the old testament King James passage says (Proverbs 16:18). But what does God’s word promise in the 13th verse of 1 Corinthians 10?

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

What is the way of escape? Grace in all its power! We can trust God to empower us to walk in the victory of His grace: unmerited favor and spiritual blessing with power to both overcome evil and perform what is good.

Is my friend beyond help? How about your loved ones who walk in this falsehood? No. Grace can minister healing to her still, and when grace moves in to do so, I am here. “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:6-7, NASB).

God would not let me walk with her into destruction, but He has me ready, willing and able to walk with her as His hand of grace and love brings healing from sin. Before I can, there must be proof of sincere repentance and understanding of these truths of grace, otherwise the crushing pain of watching helplessly as she falls again will be the experience, for those who set grace up as an idol constantly fall away to follow the flesh of their heart.

“Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (1 Peter 3:14-18, NASB).

Grace Defined #4: Power to Perform

“According to the grace of God (the special endowment for my task) bestowed on me, like a skillful architect and master builder I laid [the] foundation, and now another [man] is building upon it. But let each [man] be careful how he builds upon it” (1 Corinthians 3:10, AB).

According to grace, we do our work in Christ. Did you see the definition? Here the grace revealed in this passage is “power to perform” our tasks in life and in our God-given work.

I am often struck by a passage speaking of Christ that says, “and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing” (Luke 5:17, NASB). Since noticing that portion of scripture, I pray to work in God’s “power to perform.” Now I see more clearly that His power for the task is a work of His grace toward us and it is awesome to behold.

Last segment we learned that God’s grace is not only unmerited favor and spiritual blessing, but it is power to overcome the things of life that hinder our growth in redeveloping and walking out of the image of Christ, and now we see that His grace empowers us to do all that He calls us to, all that is needful for us to do in this life.

Whatever task is required of us in our God given rolls for life here, whether it be the daily tasks and duties of our offices and stations in life, doing our work as unto the Lord, or whether it be tasks found in special called ministry opportunities, God is committed to pour forth through His grace all that is needed to empower and equip one fully surrendered to and trusting in Him for the task of His calling. Oh, if Moses had understood that from the beginning, what a difference it would have brought him when his call to service came. Exodus 3 would have been a totally different testimonial chapter, don’t you think.

And what about you and me? What difference does this truth mean for us today? For me it is a new assertion from the Father, saying to me, as He said to Paul:

“But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

There is no weakness we have in our flesh that can hold back one rested in and empowered by this grace of God’s supply. When we fail to remember this, putting our eyes on our weaknesses as Moses did in Exodus 3, we too insult the living, all powerful and trustworthy God who calls us. When God calls, “I can’t” does not belong in the vocabulary of one truly rested in His grace, trusting in Him.

So what will you do with this grace, now that you are aware of its power?

“And now [brethren], I commit you to God [I deposit you in His charge, entrusting you to His protection and care]. And I commend you to the Word of His grace [to the commands and counsels and promises of His unmerited favor]. It is able to build you up and to give you [your rightful] inheritance among all God’s set-apart ones (those consecrated, purified, and transformed of soul)” (Acts 20:32).

(PS: God added one more session to our study of grace. I am excited to share this and am heading now to write it out. See you back here tomorrow, by the grace of God’s power to perform.)

Grace Defined #3: Power to Overcome

“But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it)” (James4:6).

What a powerful statement about God’s grace. Grace—God’s unmerited favor and spiritual blessing, flows to us in order to bring power to our lives that will equip us to overcome every evil tendency. Read this full passage, James 4:1-10, in the New American Standard Bible Version:

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?

“Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.’

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

Wow, what promise this grace is. Here is what I know about God’s work of grace:

God desires us so much that He provided a way through Christ for salvation to come to us weak willed beings who falter and fail so constantly. Sending salvation to us through His grace found in Christ, as we humble ourselves to admit our need of it, He gives to us His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing. As we humble ourselves to receive His grace, He then places within us His Holy Spirit to teach us and to do a work of transformation, making us back into the image of God first placed there in creation. But this work of transformation is not instantaneous, though some may have more instantaneously obvious results than others, all will have a lifetime of work yet to accomplish. We become a work of art, God bringing healing to us a little at a time as we are ready and able to humbly submit ourselves to Him and receive it.

Step by step, God reveals to us our ungodly pleasures, our self-centered motives, our murderous adulteries: all the while He jealously longs for more of His Spirit to be found in us. So He keeps heaping on grace as we will receive it, using the hope that grace brings to our struggling hearts to empower our victory. Equipping us to recognize our own need of His grace, He empowers us to receive His Spirit through Whom He equips us to stand against our every evil tendency, thus He is able to make you stand (Romans 14:14; Jude 1:24-25).

Is there an evil-issue you find yourself constantly struggling to overcome? Ask God to reveal the root of the problem to you and surrender to the grace He gives you to stand.

Second Corinthians 1:11-12 (AMP) encourages us further as we note this work of grace, “While you also cooperate by your prayers for us [helping and laboring together with us]. Thus [the lips of] many persons [turned toward God will eventually] give thanks on our behalf for the grace (the blessing of deliverance) granted us at the request of the many who have prayed. It is a reason for pride and exultation to which our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world [generally] and especially toward you, with devout and pure motives and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God (the unmerited favor and merciful kindness by which God, exerting His holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, and keeps, strengthens, and increases them in Christian virtues).”

This is the work of God’s grace, found in Christ Jesus, and brought to bear in our souls by the power of His Spirit. All things are possible for me, for nothing shall be impossible with God. Therefore I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me through the power of His Spirit working within a humbled and submissive me, as I stand in agreement and surrender to my All Knowing, Almighty, and Omniscient God.

GraceDifined#2: Spiritual Blessing

Returning finally to my focus on grace, in our last session we defined God’s grace that is found in His unmerited favor. That unmerited favor is “free, spontaneous, absolute favor and loving-kindness” expressed toward us because of who He is and because of His purpose toward us. This grace is “unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing.” It is the mercy of God toward His chosen people, chosen for a sincere love relationship with Him and to be useful in the accomplishing of His good will and purpose in this life. It is His provision of spiritual blessing and saving grace through Jesus Christ; and by it He gifts us for service (Romans 3:24, 5:20-21; 1Peter 5:12).

This review of the first blog on grace as unmerited favor reveals one aspect of God’s grace as being spiritual blessing. In the Amplified Bible, several passages use the term spiritual blessing, divine blessing or divine favor as the defining characteristic of God’s grace. That definition qualifies the grace spoken of as originating from God in the power of His Spirit. When we truly walk in the knowledge of that grace, being affected by its work in our life, that grace is coming to us from God. It is only through the flow of grace from God to us in the power of the Spirit that we can give true grace to others.

One thing I note as I look at these passages is the expression of that grace found in the recipient. We often see Paul and others write a greeting that expresses hope for those receiving their word to walk in God’s grace (spiritual blessing) and peace. Peace accompanies this grace in the life of the recipient of God’s spiritual blessing and divine favor. One verse stands out to me in which we find this union of spiritual blessing with peace, as it defines this work of grace in the recipient.

According to 1 Peter 1:2 in the Amplified Bible, those who walk in the spiritual blessing and divine favor of God experience Christ in ways that bring ever increasing measures of His grace with peace. This grace mixture at work in our lives is expressed in us through many degrees of freedom: freedom from fears; freedom from agitating passions; and freedom from moral conflicts being listed in this passage. When we are walking in constant fear, constantly struggling with ungodly passions agitating our souls, wavering on moral issues, most likely it is because we fail to fully receive by faith this grace mix in ways that cause us to walk it out.

What is there about this grace that allows us to walk in peace and freedom? First Peter 1:13, Amplified, says it is hope, but hope in what? “…the grace (divine favor) that is coming to you when Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is revealed.”

It is hope in the Divine favor of God found in the work of Christ’s completed ministry in us, faith in the finished work of His coming again to rule for all eternity, that brings this grace with peace to work freedom in us. It is trusting that whatever is tempting us to leave our freedom is there with a purpose that will make us more Christlike. It is such a faith and hope in our eternity with God through Christ that no threat to our freedom can cause us to waver in fear, ungodly passion or moral conflict. This verse instructs us to brace our minds on this hope, being sober, circumspect, morally alert to the returning Christ and His work in us as we wait. Our hope set wholly and unchangeably on this provision of God’s grace found in Christ is what allows us to receive His grace with peace that sets us free.

The following quote fits here to explain this truth. Speaking of Christians, Rev. Rick Parnell said, “In this life you and I live by promises, not by explanation.” We must trust God’s promises, taking Him at His word if we are to walk in the full freedom of His grace.

Speaking with regard to suffering brought to us by the work of God’s enemy, 1 Peter 5:10 tells us that by this spiritual blessing and Divine favor found in Christ’s work in us, God Himself uses our suffering to complete and make us what we each ought to be, establishing and grounding us securely, strengthening and settling us into this grace more fully and surely.

And in passages like 1 Peter 5:5 we see the coupling of humility with this work of God’s grace. God’s grace comes to the humble. The humility called for is pictured for us in Christ, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Christ chose to be of lower stature than the Father in His triune manifestation, showing us the way of God’s work of grace to the humble.

As I read that description of Christ, realizing that we are to walk in the same spiritual blessing He had—that grace of God that provides peace and freedom from fear, ungodly passion and moral conflict—we too can be loosed into bond-service that can face any insult, even threat of death, with God’s power in play. We can walk in victory, because of the hope of grace sufficient to overcome every difficulty.

Dying to self and living to Him, we find grace, sufficient and working in us to bring us into His glory and peace. May we each find God’s saving grace working freedom in us to the filling of His purpose and plan at work in us (1 Peter 1:10).

The Sanctifying Work of the Spirit of God

“Who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure” (1 Peter 1:1b-2).

The Sanctifying Work of the Spirit equips us to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John15:1-5).

Without God’s Spirit at work in us, it is beyond us to fully obey. Many people believe their works will save them, but it is only through saving grace that we have access to the power of God in the Spirit, and only with His sanctifying work can we be seen by the Father as good. Even Jesus said of Himself as a man that “no one—not even me—is good, but God alone” (Mark 10:18). Apart from Him we are nothing and can do nothing of any truly good nature. Our flesh will always destroy the goodness we desire, without God’s grace working to cleanse us.

Thus the Spirit also sanctifies us through the constant sprinkling of the blood of Christ. What is the significance of this sanctifying work of the Spirit? Let’s look at a few Old Testament passages to get a glimpse of this important work of the Spirit.

“So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:8).

The blood of sacrifice sprinkled on the people is a sign of the covenant promise that will not be broken by God. The Spirit of God is our covenant seal authenticating the work of God in us. “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise; who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

“Then you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments and on his sons and on his sons’ garments with him; so he and his garments shall be consecrated, as well as his sons and his sons’ garments with him” (Exodus 29:21).

To consecrate is to purify and make holy, setting it apart for service. The sprinkling of His blood on us, consecrated us, making us holy acceptable as vessels, useful in His service.

“He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy and shall pronounce him clean…” (Leviticus 14:7).

The sprinkled blood cleanses and is a sign of cleansing. We are cleansed of all unrighteousness, cleansed of the leprosy of sin by the blood of this Lamb of God (John15:3; 1John1:9).

“Thus you shall do to them, for their cleansing: sprinkle purifying water on them, and let them use a razor over their whole body and wash their clothes, and they will be clean” (Numbers 8:7).

Jesus is the Living Water who quenches the unquenchable thirst of mankind, filling that empty spot that will be satisfied by none other, and giving to us true life more abundant and full. Sprinkled in Him we are purified and made clean.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols” (Ezekiel 36:25).

He not only cleanses us immediately and eternally by the sprinkling of His blood, but His blood, like Living Water, cleanses us from all filthiness and all idolatry day by day, here a little there a little, removing unrighteousness from us as He reveals our need of His constant cleansing and perfecting work (Philippians 1:6).

“Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand” (Isaiah 52:15).

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He died as a sacrifice for sin that we may be spared that death, and He arose to new life as the First Born of God, taking His rightful seat as one worthy to reign on me and on all who will believe.

“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

“What does it say? ‘THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED’” (Romans 10:8-11).

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-9).

As Sunday approaches, I am rejoicing over our King this Easter, praying the sprinkling of His blood for all who will receive it.

Mirror Image

“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:21-15, NASB).

 

Jesus is the Word, John tells us, and when He is vitally abiding within us, we are saved by God’s grace in Christ for all eternity.

In this passage I see that we need saving grace in two ways: first and foremost being the eternal salvation of our souls through belief in and surrender to the saving grace found in the Lordship of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection paying the price due. But then we need step by step salvation from acting out in the flesh to walking steadfastly in the truths of God, otherwise we would just believe in Jesus and continue on our own path without any difference found in our life through Him.

Every word of God is useful to cut away the things of the flesh and grow us in the truths of God and His way, so that we are able to choose life over death in our day to day circumstances, and thus restoring in us the very image of God (Hebrews 4:12).

Jesus, in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, brings His Word to life in us. He uses His Word to equip us to understand, putting all together so as to help us to know and grow in His ways and to know how to apply His truths to our daily circumstances. Thus, through His Word applied to life, He saves us choice by choice as we see and walk in that truth day by day, keeping us through His word from falling away from Him, where our ability to relate with Him is hindered. The word implanted, becoming more and more who we are and dictating more vitally our lives and paths as a result, saves our souls, our fleshly bodies, from walking contrary to our God.

That being true, when we have the word truly implanted in this vital, life directing way, it proves us to be His as we become doers of the Word, living it out as He did, rather than hearers who are deluded. Did you get that? Those who merely hear God’s word and never apply it to their lives are deluded. How are they deluded?

Hearers who do not do are those branches spoken of in John 15: the ones that fall away, dry up and are burned. You see, we are grafted into the vine of God’s people, Israel, through Christ (Romans 11). When a person hears the truth, they may momentarily bump up to the vine as if to graft with it. Desiring eternity without giving self to the relationship, they fail to become vitally united with it, thus drying up for lack of the food of the Word and the Living Water of His Spirit.  Having no vitally growing root in them, they fall away and are burned.

These hear of God’s grace in Christ and accept it as a truth in their mind, seeming to attach to Him, but then they never feast on Him so as to remain in Him. They die on the vine, never fully committing to His Lordship, failing to be changed by His word, and they fall away with no root in them. Then because they know He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life in their head, they, believing they are safe for all eternity, go on living their lives of wanton pleasure, and never realize they are still lost in sin because they failed to have The Word Implanted. They are deluded, having a form of religion, without truly belonging to the Vine, which is Jesus. So they struggle, wavering back and forth like the seas, wondering why they never get anywhere with the power of others they see growing in Him.

Am I saying people can lose their salvation? No. I am saying that people can have a head-knowledge of Jesus that sets them up against the vine as if to graft to it, but that never gets into their being to unite them to the vine for all eternity. They are like the demons who know of Jesus, but refuse His Lordship. (Luke 4:34; James 2:19)

God uses His Word, implanted in us, to transform us from the fleshly person we are who has the image of God in them distorted by sin, to one who is restored to that image through grace and the Word, living and active within. For this to happen, God’s Word of truth and righteousness has to become part of who we are, the very makeup of our being and personality. To habitually read God’s word and be encouraged to do better in an area of life, only to consistently turn away and immediately forget what we read, returning to our own way, is like looking in a mirror to see who we are to be, only to forget what we look like when we turn away, never truly becoming Christlike in nature.

People who quickly forget the good word they hear, waver back and forth from hope with faith to destitute poverty of soul, never being changed by God’s revealed will. But those who receive the word into themselves, making it the vital, life-giving seed that works in them this change into godliness, find liberty and blessing that transforms their lives to the abundance and effective example that God desires us to be in Him. Such bear within themselves the very image of Christ that makes them whole and empowers them to stand, firm in faith and faithful in Him.

Does this mean that a true Christian will never waver? No. We are each on a journey to perfection, being continually transformed day to day into His likeness, but our flesh does not give up easy (Philippians 1:6). For us, we will look in the Mirror of God’s Word, see who we ARE in Christ, only to walk away and forget to live it in that area of struggle; but we do eventually grasp the word and transform to the image. God does not generally lead us into perfection over night. It is a process, growing us to greater depths of righteousness, here a little, there a little, as we are able to bear it. We have times of struggle when He leads us to deal with deeper root issues; and times of great growth, when we bear the fruit of His image in the power of His Spirit, never to fall back into the old-man-ways in that area of maturity again.

I have about 50 rose bushes in our yard. They put on big, beautiful roses for the most part, very hardy, lasting in beauty for the entire summer. But some of my bushes are obviously grafted to other roses to effect a change in them that is meant to make them the hardy bushes they are. From time to time the grafted bush will put on wiry, sprawling branches with less desirable small roses that destroy the beauty of the bush. If I let those branches keep going, they will take over the bush, destroying the larger roses. So I have to cut those sprawling branches away, allowing the transformation of the bush to take root and produce the desired fruit.

It is the same with us. When we are vitally grafted to Christ, we will as a branch in Him, grow to produce fruit in keeping with righteousness and glorifying our God. But then on occasion, our old nature will sprout forth, bearing fruit in keeping with our old habits and ways. That is when we see God’s discipline come in, pruning away the fruit of death so that the fruit of life more abundant and full can take full root and grow strong. As we fully surrender to His pruning shears, we graft more fully to Him producing the desired fruit.

Just as we can know the bad tree—the ungodly person—by their fruits, so the godly person is known and revealed by theirs. As we are daily changed into greater depths of His likeness by His Word implanted, we prove to be His children (Matthew3:8-10; 7:15-22; Hebrews 12:1-13).

So the Word of God is a mirror for us, revealing to us what we look like in Christ. And that Word, implanted into our very being, equips us to walk away from the mirror as living proof of Christ in us. The important thing is that day by day, as we look in that spiritual mirror, we see more of Him, and walk away from the mirror with that image intact, being more like Him throughout our days.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:1-3).

PRESENCE

“You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word]. Do not hide Your face from me….” (Psalm 27:8-9a, AMP)

Have you ever tried to talk with someone who is fidgety: constantly moving, eyes wondering, seldom looking you in the eye? How does that make you feel?

I used to do that. I remember standing outside church once, talking with a friend and ministry partner. I was listening—for the most part. But I really focused in on him when he suddenly reached out and grabbed me by the shoulders, stopping my constant sway. Since then I have made a concerted effort to be sure that I look a person in the eye, and I stop my own fidget when I realize it.

It is difficult to visit with someone when they are constantly moving, their focus being stolen by every passer-by. And I have learned that those who habitually avoid eye contact often have issues that hinder their ability to have close relationships: not the least of which is extreme lack of confidence, often from being beaten down in this life.

And then there are those of us who are just so busy that they have no time for relationships? These issues often translate into our inability to truly and fully meet with God.

Note in this focal passage the instruction for our seeking God’s face, “inquire for, require My PRESENCE as your vital need.” We should so desire to have God’s presence and attention, that if we feel He is not listening, we will reach for His shoulders to get his attention and acquire His presence.

But God is not like us. He is all present and all knowing and all sufficient. He does not sway or fidget, nor is He flighty (James 1:17; Hebrews 1:10-12; 4:13). God’s “PRESENCE” waits for us, longing for our full attention so we can commune together in truth. Crying out for us to open up to Him so we can commune together on the deeper issues of life. He longs for us to require His presence as our body needs breath for life: To long to sit with Him, walk with Him, know Him.

“I saw the Lord always in my presence; for He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will live in hope; because You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your holy one to undergo decay.  You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.”  Acts 2:25-28

Just as God wants us to long for His presence, seeking after Him, so He longs for our presence. He is ready to give each of us His undivided attention.

Look at this passage in Acts. See what it says.

God is ALWAYS in our presence, ready to help us, available to commune together over our situations as we face them, able to help us choose right paths. But what else does it say? “I SAW the Lord always in my presence….” It is a practice of faith. We must believe, as David did, that He is, that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him, and that He is present with us (Hebrews 11:6).

Through David’s testimonial we learn that He stands at our RIGHT HAND. That is the place of protection, ready to fight for us. Thus there is no need for us to be shaken by the issues of this life, knowing that our God is a consuming fire, a valiant warrior, and He stands beside us to come to our aid and protect us. No matter the difficulty of life, we have hope because of the PRESENCE of our God.

“You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Your holy one to undergo decay.” God does not always protect us from every difficulty. Jesus warned that there will be trouble in this life. It is inevitable. But we have the promise that anything God allows has good purpose and will work for our good and His glory (Romans 8). We have the assurance that He will comfort and help us, then He will use us to walk with others in their situations to give them the comfort we received (2 Corinthians 1). And as I think on the fact that He will not allow us to come to decay, I realize that He will protect from any difficulty or trouble bringing us to destruction as we trust ourselves in Him. Though our flesh may die, to sin or even physically, as a result of our trouble in this life, the outcome will always be that of greater intimacy with God, in this life or the next.

Our God stands beside us, ready and waiting to make known to us the ways of life—life more abundant and full. Walking with Him, He will make us full of gladness in His presence.

He waits at the ready. Will you enter into the rest of your God through the practice of His presence and be blessed (Hebrews 3-4: focal verses 3:12, 19, 4:1-14)?