|Accede to &|
Act in accordance with
|…God’s will, imperative, prerogative, and purpose.|
|Rest in||…God’s absolute omnipotence, eternal sovereignty, timeless omniscience, and peaceful omnipresence.|
|Trust in||…God’s immutable faithfulness, mercy, justice, and love.|
- the Word made flesh (John 1:14)
- the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15)
- the exact representation of God’s being (Heb. 1:3)
- the One Who created all things and for Whom all things were created (Col. 1:16 and Rev. 4:11)
- He Who is before all things and in Whom all things hold together (Col. 1:17)
- the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2 NASB)
- He Who was, and is, and is to come (Rev. 1:4, 8; 4:8)
- He Who reconciled all things to Himself by making peace through His blood shed on the cross (Col. 1:20)
- the light of the world (John 8:12)
- the bread of life (John 6:35)
- the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6)
- the gate (John 10:7, 9)
- the door (John 10:9 NASB)
- the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
- the true vine (John 15:1)
- the One Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage, but made Himself nothing (Phil. 2:6–7)
- the King Who humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8)
- He Whom God highly exalted and gave the name that is above every name (Phil. 2:9)
- the One before Whom every knee will bow and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10–11)
- the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Rev. 22:13)
- He Who is making all things new (Rev. 21:5 NASB)
Reading the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) today, the love of the father is overwhelmingly tangible. Both sons demonstrated failure — the kinds of abject failures that emanate from deep within a heart that is yet to truly know the love of the father. One son sought to fill the inner void of his brokenness by gratifying his every desire — the other, by seeking approval for his performance and perfection. In both situations, the father went out to his son to invite and welcome and reconcile — to pursue as only love can pursue.
So, do you find yourself feeling like a failure lately? Job isn’t what you expected or hoped for? Jealous of others apparent success? Kids pushing you to the edge? Marriage is breaking you? Or, you know you have really screwed things up … and the consequences are becoming unbearably painful. Here this from Rebecca Van Noord: “Often, when we focus too much on our own failures, we don’t reach the point where grace changes us.”
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,
what can avail to wash it away!
Look! there is flowing a crimson tide;
whiter than snow you may be today.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe;
you that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin.
There is no better news than this … the God Who is Love pursues failures like you and me! The Almighty God of all creation is pursuing us with Holy Love — the perfect and sincere and everlasting Love that we can only ever comprehend in knowing Him as our heavenly Father.
Just prior to telling of the Prodigal Son, Jesus gives two examples (Luke 15:3-7, 8-10) of loss and redemption and ends both of them with the proclamation that there is rejoicing in Heaven over even one sinner who repents.
So, will you be the son or daughter who wallows in your failure or perhaps sulks about the joy of others? Or will you repent and receive by grace the indescribable love and unspeakable joy of God the Father?
Yep, that’s Him … right behind you, still pursuing you, longing for you to know Him … longing to tell the angels that it’s time to rejoice again in Heaven.
“that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Have you ever considered the sufferings of Christ? How may we share His sufferings? We know that in the Incarnation Jesus laid aside His glory willingly, not clinging to it. Yet, even more than that, He willingly gave Himself into the hands of His enemies — both the readily apparent and the not so apparent.
Jesus suffered the deprivation of all the comforts of His glory — having not even a place to lay His head. He suffered the hatred of the religious leaders of His own chosen people. He suffered the rejection of His own family and neighbors. He suffered the abandonment of followers who were easily distracted and dissuaded. He suffered the misunderstandings and weakness and selfishness and inattentiveness of His disciples — even the betrayal of and denial by His very own. He suffered the false accusations and injustice and mocking and condemnation … and then the horrific brutality of the Roman system that scourged Him into a bloody pulp and nailed Him to a cross to suffocate in agony. All of this, yes, Jesus suffered.
Let’s go a step farther — God the Father suffered the immeasurably exquisite anguish of watching … beholding … knowing it could all be stopped with a word … a breath. Indeed, ever since the fall, God has beheld as His creation turned against Him and upon itself in selfishness, pride, hatred, and vile wickedness — humankind, the very pinnacle of God’s creation, leading the charge to its own destruction. And then He beheld as His only Son took all the sin of all creation upon Himself — the pure becoming impurity — the lamb becoming the scapegoat.
But perhaps there is a suffering we underestimate — one that we may be unfamiliar with and possibly cannot bear to face.
“Father, forgive them …” (Luke 23:34)
The suffering of forgiveness … to forgive is to relinquish my rights — to be humbled — to let loose of my claim on just satisfaction for some loss or grievance — to give mercy in response to ruthless injustice — to give honor in response to humiliation — to give love in response to hate. You see, the deeper the wound — the more grievous and offensive the sin — the more spiteful and heinous the actions and words of the perpetrator — the deeper the suffering of the victim who chooses to forgive. This is a suffering that can be crushing — feeling like one’s very soul is being torn apart. In this process, more and more of self dies as it is surrendered in obedience to the Cross. And what is that obedience to the Cross? In a very powerful sense, it is compassion — quite literally, to suffer with. And we may not suffer with Christ unless we will forgive as He did. To look upon the Cross with pity may stir up the most powerful feelings; but, unless we move beyond pity to compassion, there is no action and without action there is no obedience … there is no being … there is no “becoming like Him in His death.”
There is only one motivation to move beyond pity to compassion — forgiveness itself. Jesus illustrated this for us in the parable of the unjust servant who, although he was forgiven by the king for his debt that was the equivalent of 200,000 years labor, refused to forgive the debt of another that was the equivalent of a day’s wage. No wonder Jesus said, “if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:15) When Jesus said, “he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47) I’m inclined to believe that He wasn’t speaking only of the quantitative measure of forgiveness so much as the recognition of the weight and consequence of forgiveness.
This forgiveness is for the meek, not the weak. It demands response, not reaction. A reaction is nothing more than that which naturally occurs when a stimulus is applied. A response is quite literally an offering (Latin: re– “back” + sponde “drink offering” ) — indeed, it is something poured out as an act of worship. Jesus describes the response of the Christian to wrongdoing in selfless and intentionally active terminology. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28) Harboring unforgiveness or failing to seek reconciliation preempts any ability of the Holy Spirit to enable you to love and bless and pray. (Matt. 5:23-24) Forgiveness is essential to any reconciliation. God did not wait, but freely offered forgiveness — reconciling us to Himself through the Cross while we were still sinners and enemies. (Rom. 5:8-10)
Only as we come to fully know the forgiveness we receive as our own through Christ can we truly, completely forgive. Conversely as well — only as we truly forgive as we have been forgiven can we begin to grasp the fullness and power of the forgiveness we receive from God our Father. As we truly forgive, our self will continually be put to death — and therein, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be raised to new life with and in Christ and come to “know the power of His resurrection.” That which is resurrected in us is indeed new life — life overflowing with joy and peace that even death cannot conquer.
Then we can proclaim with Paul, “to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)
Jesus, my risen Lord, makes living worth dying for and dying worth living for!
So, how would you put into words a concise, yet comprehensive statement of who you were in sin, who you are in Christ, who you are becoming by His grace, and the glorious hope of who you will be? I’ve been rather verbose about it on numerous occasions 🙂 although I’ve never taken the time to compose a synopsis. The pastoral residency I’m in calls us to respond to every facet of the Gospel and evangelism is perhaps the most essential call of every Christian. And that makes this effort rich for me in both substance and purpose.
Here’s what I would say if I had just a couple minutes of your time…
From the earliest age, I recall always being in church, seeing as I was raised as a pastor’s kid. I don’t remember not being a Christian — my faith as a child was strong and my heart was tender; but I do remember becoming increasingly and intolerably rebellious as I entered and began through my teenage years. A crisis of faith developed toward the end of high school when I knew I could no longer allow self-will to harden my heart and destroy the faith God had given me. I knew Jesus died in my place for my sin. I knew I could only live in Him. This was the beginning of a long journey back to God.
The personal, spiritual battles that continued into adulthood were often lost due to my preoccupation with self — achievement, satisfaction, fulfillment — all things that were sometimes merely secular, but for entirely the wrong motives, or even more often, blatantly sinful. I could never quite satisfy my desires — I was always left incomplete. Although guilt repeatedly led to what was often private confession, the secret shame and lack of true repentance left me a slave to the insatiable.
God allowed me much success in my career — perhaps in part to prove to me just how hollow it could be. Yet as I found myself being crushed by guilt and emptiness, the evidence of God’s love and mercy began to overwhelm me. I found that He was ever so patiently drawing me to Himself. I was filled with deep longing for true repentance and freedom — God wonderfully granted me that repentance and I found such freedom in the love of Jesus like I had never known! My guilt and emptiness were replaced with such joy and contentment.
The gracious gift of Jesus’ righteousness has begun a work in me that continues as I grow and am transformed by the Spirit and the Word of God. The Spirit of God living in me guides and directs me, convicts me of sin and righteousness, and makes me Holy, reminding me I am His own. As I confess my sin, He faithfully and justly forgives me as His child. God continues to strengthen me when temptations to lust and covet confront me — giving me perfect peace in His complete fulfillment of my every need.
As I continue to obediently seek and honor God and His kingdom, and to faithfully respond to God’s call on my life to minister the Gospel, no matter the sacrifice, He proves that His providential grace is perfectly sufficient. All my hope is in Jesus, my Lord—because He arose from the dead in the power of His Holiness, whether today or tomorrow I live or die, in Jesus I have life eternal.
How about you?
“55 But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. 56 And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.” (Num 33:55–56)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Heb 12:1)
In considering these two Texts, I find myself both exhorted and encouraged. The “inhabitants of the land” are analogous to “every weight, and sin“. Just as the Israelites were not to be satisfied with possessing the land, we must not be satisfied merely to take possession of this great Salvation afforded us by the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In humble obedience to the Holy Spirit, we must endure the cleansing and purification of our souls. Whatever weight we won’t lay aside … Whatever sin we won’t confess and repent of … these will fester and spread like a cancer just as the “inhabitants of the land” perverted and polluted the Israelites from within. The writer of Hebrews not only gave the examples of all the great “cloud of witnesses“, but he went on … “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2) Because He did, we too can endure our cross for the hope, the joy that is set before us … our eternal glorification and dwelling in perfect communion with our Creator and Father, the Almighty God.
Is your patience being tried? Or, perhaps you are trying someone’s patience?
7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:7-11, ESV)
Patience is a virtue … indeed! I often find my self feeling rather un-virtuous in this regard. What words come to mind when you think of patience? (waiting, anticipation, endurance, steadfastness, suffering, perseverance, relief, satisfaction)
James links our patience with the coming of the Lord, gives us an agrarian analogy, and then reinforces it with the reminder of the imminent return of the Lord. Let’s not overlook the importance of this precept. We have a greater reason to be patient than anyone who is lost … this is all temporary! Our troubles, our frustrations, our pain, our fear, … all the things that remind us of our not-yet-glorified, not-yet-fully-perfected, mortal state. Our citizenship is in Heaven and, at any moment, our King will take us home to be with Him in glory forever! Jesus is coming soon! We will be glorified … made perfectly whole in Him.
And when our King – the Righteous Judge – returns, justice will be executed. So, in demonstrating patience with one another, don’t go around grumbling and complaining about each other. Be sure of your right relationship with the Lord and with others lest you are condemned as well. It’s quite likely that none of us has had to endure as Job did … we can certainly follow his example and learn from his dialog with his wife, his friends, and God.
But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (James 5:12)
This clearly aligns with Jesus teaching from the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:33-37) that our word alone should carry the reputation of being reliable and trustworthy. Following James exhortation to patience, this lays a solid foundation for avoiding things that confound patience. Don’t over-commit yourself … you’ll only end up frustrating yourself and others. At the same time, be certain to follow-through on that to which you do commit.
We humans often find ourselves wondering why bad things happen to good people. I’ve caught myself doing it … even saying it aloud. Yet the premise is entirely wrong! Can any human claim goodness? Jesus Himself said: “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18, ESV) Paul tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) And we who have been saved are not saved as a “result of works“, but “by grace … through faith” in the atonement of Jesus blood, the “gift of God.” (Rom 8:28-29)
So, if not one of us can claim goodness, what happened? God did create everything “good,” including humans (Gen 1:31). But, being created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), mankind was given a free will – an innate ability to choose and decide how to live, act, etc. And, being less than Divine, man and woman chose to act against the will of God (Gen 3:1-13). The consequence was a series of curses pronounced upon the serpent, woman, and man (Gen 3:14-19) … even more, upon all of creation.
Paul eloquently discusses all this in the context of God’s redeeming re-creation:
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. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 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. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Rom 8:18-25)
Paul acknowledges and accepts suffering as part of our existence in this age. But he goes on to complete our understanding. All of creation is watching, waiting, and seeing what God is revealing of the firstfruits of His re-creation … we who have been born again into new life by the indwelling of His Spirit. And just as our souls have been made new, one day our bodies will be redeemed. All of creation is groaning with anticipation, just as we do, for the glory to come.
In the mean time, why do good things happen to any of us? James declares, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17). And God is not prejudicial in this regard; “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt 5:45). ” 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:17–18).
So, the next time someone asks or you find yourself wondering “why do bad things happen” … remember and declare the glorious, incomparable hope that belongs to all who are redeemed, made new, and being made new by the precious blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God!
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:50–55)
“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” (Ps 4:7) David had learned the contentment and abundance of knowing the joy of the Lord in contrast with others who knew only material abundance. God is teaching me that lesson and I am ever so grateful.