Category Archives: Salvation

That you may know

1 John 5:13-21   I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 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.  If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.  We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.  We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.  And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

What do you believe?  Where do you put your trust?  You may say that you believe Jesus has the power of eternal life, but if you don’t act as though He does, you’re not really believing.  John didn’t write his first letter to non-believers so that they would see the truth about Jesus.  He wrote it to Christians, so that they would actually believe what they say they believe.

It’s one thing to have the belief that Jesus died for your sins, one thing to go to church and fellowship with other Christians.  But it takes more to actually live it out.  If you know, without a doubt, that Jesus saves, then don’t ever worry about whether you’re forgiven.  If you know it to be true, don’t act timidly when He calls you to do something.  If you know He has all things in His hands, act like it.

John made this point by bringing prayer into the discussion.  True belief brings confidence and boldness.  Are you praying with confidence that God can answer you?  With boldness that He will hear you and give you your requests?  Pray in His name, according to His will, and He is able to provide all things.  There’s nothing He can’t do.  Do you believe it?

The Walking Dead

Ephesians 2:1-2  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—

What did you do to make yourself be born into the world? Most of us would not argue against the truth that we had nothing to do with our physical birth. It was as out of our control as anything can be. Why do so many of us, then, think that we had anything to do with our own spiritual birth?

When you’re dead, you’re just dead. There’s nothing that a dead thing can do to make itself come to life; that can only be done supernaturally. We were all once dead, even though we walked as someone who was living. We lived and breathed physical life, but spiritually we had no pulse. We could only follow the course of this world, led around by the rest of the walking dead. We were slaves to sin.

That is, until God made us alive. Yes, He made us alive together with Christ, that we might be His people. This is true if we’ve put our trust in Christ and we’ve been adopted into God’s family. Notice all the passive language. We’ve been made alive – passive. We’ve been adopted into the family of God – passive. We were chosen – again, passive.

The dead can’t raise themselves, physically or spiritually. We can no more choose to wake up from spiritual death than we can choose to be born from our mother’s womb. We have ever so much to be thankful for, and spiritual birth is among the greatest gifts we could ever receive. God’s grace is unfathomable.

According to the riches of His grace

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

The thing about the gifts of God is that they’re free.  Completely and totally free.  Our Father wants us to know that there’s nothing we could ever do to earn His redemption, His forgiveness, His deliverance, or His love.  They’re free — for us.

There was a price for all of these blessings and we’d do well to remember that because it causes us to give thanks constantly. When we remember that our redemption was purchased by the blood of Christ, shed on the cross in our place, we can’t help but thank God for His grace.  It’s a natural response to being given so much.

The cost of our freedom was expensive for the Son of God. He had to suffer and even die in order for us to be reconciled back to God. But the beautiful thing about it all is that He wasn’t forced to do it. He willingly gave His life for all of us and He’d do it all over again if He had to. But he doesn’t.  It is finished, once and for all.  It’d done. Paid for in full.

We mustn’t pass over the phrase “according to the riches of His grace” as though ti was not an important part of this passage. It may seem like just an ending to the statement, but in this lies one of the most important things we can understand about God.  He’s not limited in how much He has to give.  He has all things under His control. He has every blessing to give. He has everything we could ever need.  And He offers to us from that abundance.  We can trust in Him to deliver on His promises because He lacks nothing.

What do you need right now that you’re trusting God for?  He’s able to deliver.

Chosen in Him

Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

There are few doctrines within Christianity that are more controversial than that of predestination, which Paul speaks on a lot in his letter to the Ephesians. Many Christians shy away from talking about the subject, but we need not fear discussion about something that God spoke about in His Word. As John Calvin is quoted as saying, “No doctrine is more useful, as long as it is handled properly.”

As Christ followers, there are certain things we need to know about our identity. I’ve mentioned the importance of knowing that we’ve been adopted into the family of God as a result of Jesus Christ’s completed work on the cross, but there’s more to it.  You did not just choose to follow Christ, you were chosen in Him.  That phrase “in Him” sometimes slips by us as we ready, but it’s vital to our understanding of who we are as God’s children.

Adoption, in earthly terms, implies that a family has chosen a child that will become one of them and take on their identity. The child does not choose the parents, the parents rather choose the child.  God has revealed in His Word that we have not chosen Him, He has chosen us. He chose us “in Christ,” which means we were only capable of ever being adopted because of Christ. Does this mean we didn’t have a choice in the matter?

Well, we have plenty of time to get into that as we study the rest of Ephesians, but here’s a quote to get you thinking more:

“Those who do not believe are responsible for the fact that they do not believe and will perish as a result. But those who believe, believe by the grace and mercy of God and walk in the fear of God, living holy and blameless in Christ by love.”

– Heinrich Bullinger

Romans: God’s kids

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God

What a precious gift salvation is from the Lord!  Yet even in this wonderful news there is more.  Not only has God saved us and freed us from sin, but He’s adopted us!  He didn’t have to do that for His enemies, and yet He did.

But we all run the risk of falling into doubt, don’t we?  We doubt His love for us, we doubt the forgiveness we’ve received, we doubt that we’re truly His.  And it’s there that we see that the gifts just keep pouring in.  He’s done all these things for us and still there’s more.

In those times of doubt we find that we have a Comforter.  It’s the Holy Spirit who bears witness to our spirits that we are indeed children of God, adopted by the Father of Lights.  Yes, He is our loving Daddy who would spare nothing for our sake.  He never wants us to forget that or to lose sight of it.  He keeps giving by reminding us through the Holy Spirit that we are His and He is ours.  Great news.

A Question of Why

Why? Isn’t that always the question? Often times it’s the one short little three letter word that defines for us our trials and adversity, our struggles and our pain. We ask it as we try to make some sort of semblance of sense out of everything we can’t figure out enough to actually make sense. We do it to the point where it’s not just a question anymore, but the answer as well.

How often have we found ourselves challenged, asking ‘Why’? “Why me?” “Why now?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “If God is so good and He loves us, they why would He let this happen?” At times, it’s the easiest and quickest word to roll off of our tongues in our hour of need, knowing we just don’t know and that what we need to know isn’t going to come simply or readily to us even for as much as we want it to.

But then life is difficult, it’s hard and it’s wrought with challenges. Just when we think we’ve gotten our head wrapped around it enough to actually do something, it throws a curve ball that knocks us off our game. Sometimes it’s small, and we’re able to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off saying “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” as we move on from it. Other times it’s big and it’s encompassing and, for as much as we want it to, we can’t quite seem to do it, we can’t quite figure it out enough to do it. It leaves us with this hurt feeling as we wonder if it’s ever going to be the same. In those moments, “Why” is about the only thing that’s uncomplicated about the complicated to us.

The thing is it’s not always about the “Why”. After all, for as unclear as it may all be, for as convoluted as it perhaps seems to be, the “Why” is actually transparent, it’s not that complex at all. We live in a sinful world; one that, since the fall of man, has been marked with trials and temptations. (Genesis 3:1-19) As Peter reminds us, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Is there a greater “Why” than this?

Even the most righteous, the most faithful, living in this mortal realm, need fear the old adversary, and they need to do so more than the unrighteous. After all, the greater question of “Why” is why would the Devil go after a soul he already has when the nature of man is to abide in fear and doubt? He knows this, and he doesn’t go after the weak alone, but the strong, hunting them, seeking to make them his own.

No, the question isn’t “Why?” regardless of how easy it comes. “Why” is often times the means by which uncertainty attacks that which we need to be the most certain of. “Why” is the easiest way to make the simple become complex, so complex that we can’t begin to understand it. “Why”, for as hard as it may be to let go of, is how comfort and peace is robbed from us as it sends us looking everywhere but where we need to for the answers.

It’s not “Why” that’s the most important thing, but rather “What” and “How”. “What am I supposed to learn?” “How is this going to make me a better person?” “What can I do differently?” “How can I use this to grow in faith and better understand God’s plan for me?” Regardless of the pain and the hardships we may face, these are the questions we not only have to ask but the ones that need to draw us closer and nearer to our Heavenly Father.

The promise of God is the promise that where we are so He is as well. He will never fail us or forsake us. (Joshua 1:5) His covenant with us is the covenant that stands by His blessed assurances to us in the faithfulness of His love and mercy. (Deuteronomy 4:31) So strong is He in that love and care He has for us, in the covenant He has made with us, He would give His only Son to die for us (John 3:16) even when we seemed like we were lost to sin, death and the Devil. How much more then does the wonders of His Word mean when He tells to us that, if we come to Him, in faith and hope, He will give us the knowledge that we so seek? (James 1:5-6)

Even when we stumble, even when we fall, even when the world seems unfair, unnecessarily so, our blessed Savior is there for us, to take the yoke of our burdens from us. (Matthew 11:28-30) Again, the “Why” is simple, it’s a matter then of “What are we meant to do with the freedom He has given us?” and “How can we use His good gifts to be the people He has intended for us to be?” We can only do that, we can only answer that by letting go of “Why”, understanding that it has already been answered for us, and we are not in control of it, all we can control is what we do with the blessed gifts and the wonderful promises God has given to us.

It’s only then that we can find the peace, the hope, and the comfort we so long for.

Salvation belongs to the Lord

Jonah 2:8  Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.

Where are you looking to find hope in this lost world?  If you’re looking for hope to come from the government, or from financial security, or even the prospect of world peace, you’re going to be disappointed.

There’s no hope to be found in the things this world has to offer.  That may sound depressing, but there is good news.  Salvation is found in God alone.  Maybe you’ll never find hope where you’re searching, but God is holding out His hand for you to grab onto, offering you hope that you could never know without Him.  He’s for you and He wants to give you that hope.

Even though we waste a lot of our time looking in all the wrong places, only to be disappointed time and time again, it’s good to know that there is hope after all. It’s good to know that we have a loving Father who cares for us and provides for us a way to forgiveness and reconciliation.  It’s good to know that the Son, who is the radiance of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3) and who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17) stands between us and the Father to serve as our mediator.  It’s good to know that the Savior who rose from the dead will also raise us up when the time comes (1 Corinthians 15:16).

If you haven’t put your hope in Jesus, look to Him today.  He’s all you need in this life, and the next.

 

 

Temptations

There is no greater challenge for the disciple than the internal conflicts that they can face, nor is there a greater stumbling block than the ones that we put up for ourselves. For as strong as the Devil may be, for as much as he comes to us “like a roaring lion” seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8), the truth is he needn’t do much considering his are but temptations but ours is the rebellious nature willing to take temptations and beyond to whatever next levels there may be.

But then, as the old saying goes, as our blessed Savior Himself reminds us, “The spirit is willing but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41b)

Consider some of the greatest warnings of the Bible. They are not warnings against the Devil. After all, the old Adversary, he did his part in Eden to corrupt the nature of mankind. (Genesis 3) Even there he never quite tells Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit of God. All he does is plant the idea in their head to question. Everything else is up to them as Eve partook and Adam watched to see the results.

If there is one thing the story of man’s fall to sin and temptation proves, it’s that even those who know of the presence of God, who have seen it first hand, have stood in His light and heard His voice calling to them, need nothing more than a gentle push and the worst of their nature comes out. Sometimes that push comes in the form of a want or a desire, sometimes it comes with a snide or hurtful comment, other times it comes from the best of intentions just gone terribly wrong.

The question for the disciple is, if it is such an easy snare about their feet, if it is such a simple trap to fall into, how do they guard themselves from it in their everyday life? How do we make the flesh stronger to match the nature of a spirit given to the love of Christ and the blessings of our Heavenly Father? How do we avoid the temptations that are there?

Quite simply put, we can’t. This side of Heaven, the imperfect side of Heaven given to the more base nature of the flesh, temptations are always going to be there. For as much as we may try to steer clear of them, as soon as we turn from one, another one is always going to be there staring us in the face. The true nature of Christian living, the true nature of faithful devotion to God isn’t the avoiding of temptation, it is not falling into temptation. It is meeting it head on with a heart and a will given over to God with the truest understanding that through Him who makes us more than conquerors (Romans 8:36), we have the power to overcome if we choose to use it.

This does not mean, as they may say, go out and look for trouble so you can exercise a Christian will and strength to demonstrate a power that you may have over temptation. The more we put ourselves in the line of fire, the more prone we are to be hit when we least expect it. What it does mean though is that just because we face temptations and inner conflicts does not mean we are any less the disciples that we should be, or any less on the road that God intended for us.

Faith is about understanding that even through the temptations of the flesh and the weaknesses of our nature God has a divine and holy plan for us, a wondrous design for our lives. Yes, it is true that there will be time when we don’t live up to it and other times when we do better. Yet we cannot live in those weaker times of our lives, and we cannot believe that just because temptations are present we are weaker than we should be, as it is a way of letting self-doubt in, and with it doubt about the nature of our salvation.

Pray and be vigilant. Look to the challenges that are there for what they truly are, a way of proving that you are led not of yourself but through the power of the Spirit to be a better and stronger person. Do not put yourself in a situation where you will be tested but do not shrink from the tests when they are unavoidable. This will tell you not only more about your own character but the character of your faith, showing you where you have been made strong and where you still need to pray for strength, knowing that if you come to God with a pure heart, desiring to do better and to be more, He will give you what you need.

In the end this is how we show ourselves to be the most faithful of His disciples, of Christ’s followers, as we meet the self-conflicts and challenges with the power of His might through the love that He has for us.