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GRACE ALWAYS WINS

The Lord spoke to Paul and said My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weaknessPaul replies, Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.[1]

Matthew West, a talented song writer and performing artist of contemporary Christian music, wrote an extremely powerful song entitled “Grace Wins.”  The lyrics say:

“In my weakest moment I see you
Shaking your head in disgrace
I can read the disappointment
Written all over your face

Here comes those whispers in my ear
Saying who do you think you are
Looks like you’re on your own from here
‘Cause grace could never reach that far

But, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin’ it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I’m down but I’m not out 

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time

 No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time 

Words can’t describe the way it feels
When mercy floods a thirsty soul
A broken side begins to heal
And grace returns what guilt has stole
And, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame

I hear you call my name sayin’ it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I’m down but I’m not out

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time 

No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time 

For the prodigal son, grace wins
For the woman at the well, grace wins
For the blind man and the beggar, grace wins
For always and forever, grace wins
For the lost out on the street, grace wins
For the worst part of you and me, grace wins
For the thief on the cross, grace wins
For a world that it lost

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time

No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time
Every time
I’m living proof grace wins every time”[2]

I have written and spoken many times about how the enemy uses guilt to bring us down and attempts to distract us from the victory we have already been given.  That victory is the result of grace given freely and willingly by our Heavenly Father.  Often defined as “unmerited favor,” grace is the result of what Jesus Christ did for us on Calvary.  God’s perfect plan included His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, living a perfect life; he was tempted just as you and I are tempted yet he remained perfect; demonstrating the power of Jehovah God to heal and to raise the dead as well as save the outcast and unwanted in the world.  He was accused of crimes He did not commit yet He was found guilty and sentenced to death on the cross.  Jesus anguished on that cross to pay my sin debt and not just for a period of time but for all eternity!  It is extremely difficult for me to soak this in simply because I know I am not worthy of God’s grace. Yet He extends it to me just the same.  There is a wonderful hymn that says “Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all my sin.”  It is grace that makes me clean in God’s sight.  It is grace that makes me a new creature when I accept a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is grace that gives me the ability to rejoin my heart with God’s.

The fact is there is nothing that I can do on my own to save me from my sins and as long as there is unconfessed sin in my life I cannot have the kind of relationship God wants to have with me.  Grace is not something we can earn or perform good works to deserve; it is a gift of God that cannot be bought or earned.  It is His love gift to you and me so that we can have a personal relationship with Him in this life but in addition, an eternal relationship with Him forever and forever.  Paul gives us a good description of this very issue when he wrote Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.  However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.  David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:  ‘Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.’”[3]  When we try to earn God’s grace we can very quickly have our focus removed from God and turn to self.  You see works is about what we can do grace is about what God can do!

As Paul trained Timothy to carry on the ministry he tells him “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”[4]  You see the enemy would like for us to believe that grace ends at the altar of salvation yet nothing is further from the truth.  Grace begins at the altar of salvation and gives us power in our lives as we grow in our walk with the Lord.  As we grow in our faith we learn not only to receive God’s grace but to extend it to others.  Let me close with a powerful passage of scripture that sums up what I am trying to say.  In the book of Ephesians we are told “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.”[5]  Are you living in God’s grace?  Are you demonstrating to others the same grace that God has extended to you?  Grace is power and it is the power of God living through us despite our weaknesses.  Oh thank you LORD that when I am weak, You are strong!


[1] 2 Corinthians 12:9.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] Artist Matthew West on his album “Live Forever” released in 2015
[3] Romans 4:4-8
[4] 2 Timothy 2:1
[5] Ephesians 2:1-9

 

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LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE

As a boy, I remember going to vacation Bible school and singing “This Little Light of Mine.”  The song says:

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine, Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine, Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine

Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine; Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine; Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine,

 Let it shine til Jesus comes, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine til Jesus comes, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine til Jesus comes, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”[1]

 

While I remember the song very well, I never stopped to consider the meaning of the song and really let it sink in.  The Gospel of Matthew tells us “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”[2]  “The Message”, which is an interpretation of the Bible, says it this way: “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”  A simple children’s song has such a powerful message when we look at the scripture behind it!  Jesus said YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!  WOW, I wish I could testify that I see many Followers of Jesus Christ letting their light shine every day but from my vantage point there are fewer and fewer that have the boldness and courage to let their light shine.  We have become too concerned with fitting in and worried about what people might think if we let the light of Christ shine in our lives.  As the passage warns, we have put our light under the bowl of being politically correct and socially acceptable.  There is still time to change your situation to truly become a light-bearer for Christ.  It is not too late to let your light shine.  So let’s look at the critical elements needed to be an effective light-bearer.

First and foremost, before we can effectively shine light we must be connected to the source of light, Jesus Christ.  Without Jesus there can only be darkness and in that darkness we are drawn to the ways of the world.  A lamp can have all the proper components (bulb, switch, electrical cord, etc.) but if it is not plugged into the source it cannot shine light.  Jesus said “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”[3]  Clearly Jesus is the light and without Him we live in darkness.  It is awesome to know that our energy source of light never runs out and He provides us the power through Him to shine light to the world.  We are not sources of light but we are reflections of the source of light within us.

This brings us to the second element; the entire purpose of light is to dispel darkness.  If you have ever been in the forest at night where there is no light or in a room that is completely void of light we find ourselves trying to maneuver around attempting to avoid the pitfalls that lie before us.  Sometimes we guess right and sometimes we guess wrong.  We desperately strain our eyes looking for even the smallest ray of light to help us avoid the dangers around us.

When your life is in total darkness you want to find light yet you fear the light because it will expose the sin in your life. The Gospel of John tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”[4]  Despite our best attempt to extinguish the light it can never be eliminated.  While it is sometimes difficult to open ourselves to the light and expose the sin in our life, it is the light that can bring us to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the result in repentance and God’s forgiveness.

The third and final element is the fact that letting my light shine is a choicePaul tells us  “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.   Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”[5]  By no means an easy assignment, yet we have the ability to accomplish what Paul is saying by relying upon the light within us.  No matter the place or circumstances we are to be like shining stars in this world of darkness.  To accomplish this we must focus on the statement Paul makes saying “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”  The Prophet Isaiah said it this way “Yet you, Lord, are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”[6]  To choose to let your light shine means you are willing to be the clay and let our Heavenly Father shape and mold you to accomplish His desired purpose in your life.

So here’s the question, are you going to let your light shine?  There is no question that our dark world needs more shining stars to see the light of truth.  Let your light shine in every aspect of your life and others will be drawn to the light!


[1] Found on METROLYRICS; Written by Jim Curnow; Published by Hal Leonard Corporation

[2] Matthew 5:14-16.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.

[3] John 12:46

[4] John 1:1-5

[5] Philippians 2:12-16

[6] Isaiah 64:8

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SATAN IS A LIAR; TEMPTATION IS REAL; HELL IS FOREVER

My intent in writing this article is not to scare or frighten the reader but to give them an understanding of a spiritual reality that is far too often ignored. For the most part it is not being taught in today’s church either.  May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read this article and my heart’s desire is that it will make you thirst for studying God’s Word to gain addition insight about not only hell but the eternal home for all Followers of Jesus Christ, heaven.

Sadly, in today’s organized church far too many have moved away from preaching the truth of the gospel and the reality of spending eternity in one of two places; heaven or hell. There are some fundamental issues that every Follower of Jesus Christ should be well acquainted with so they are prepared to talk to the questions that come up about eternity.  Many, including people in the church, believe that everyone will go to heaven because why would a loving god send anyone to eternal torment.  While a nice thought, that is far from what God’s Word says very straightforward and clearly.  Some believe if we just try to be a good person and do good things for those around us then that’s the best we can do.  Again this is not what we know from God’s Word which teaches us that even with our very best efforts to live a righteous life they are like filthy rags in comparison to God’s righteousness.  So let’s look at three critical elements of understanding Satan, temptation, and the reality of hell being for eternity.

Jesus was talking with the crown and questioned why they could not understand what He was saying.  He quickly identifies the problem and tells them You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” [1] Since the fall of man, we have all entered this world as sinners.  From birth we have a sin nature.  If we surrender to this sin nature then our lives will be patterned after Satan who is described as having no truth in him and further described as a liar and the father of lies.  Deception, distraction and destruction are his tools to keep people in his web of sin.  We are told “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”[2]  Satan and his band of demons use any and all methods to create an inviting environment to follow the false teachings of false prophets created by sin only to lead a person or group to be devoured by their blind devotion to the enemy, Satan.  The church is not immune from these efforts as Satan boldly uses religion as a means of creating false prophets and false teachings.  That is why it is so incredibly important that we stay connected to our Heavenly Father through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God’s Word so that we can see through these ploys of destruction. Satan is a liar and from his very first interaction with Eve in the garden he has been telling lies ever since.

Our second critical element is the fact that temptation is for real.  When God condemned Lucifer to the earthly realm, He gave him power and dominion on earth.  Because of this power, anyone that loves the world cannot have the love of our Heavenly Father in them.  Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”[3]  It is because of this power that God intentionally gave to Satan that he can use temptation as a source of drawing people away from God and into his lair of destruction and eternal separation from God.  We can boil it down to a pretty simple concept; when we surrender to temptation our desire is to please ourselves instead of obeying God’s teachings to flee from destructive sin.  Paul made it very clear when he said “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”[4]   Seeking self-gratification and the pleasures of the flesh characterize the unsaved, however, those who are saved can find themselves slipping back into the characteristics described in this passage if we do not follow the guidance given in God’s Word that says “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.”[5]

Our third and final element is hell is forever.  Barna Associates, a public survey/research firm, found in one of their surveys that only 32% of adults see hell as, “an actual place of torment and suffering where people’s souls go after death.”  No wonder so many people have bought into the ways of the world.  They don’t believe there are any consequences for doing so.  One of the false teachings that exist today is that hell is temporary.  Not true.  Hell, just as heaven, is for eternity.  In the Gospel of Mark it tells us “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.”[6]  The Gospel of Matthew describes how it will be at the end of time saying “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”[7]  Seems pretty straightforward doesn’t it?  Yet people choose to put on blinders and go their own direction choosing to worship self over a personal relationship with their Creator.  The book of Jude states “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”[8]  The Gospel of Matthew gives us a word picture regarding the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”  This passage goes on to say “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Then he describes the fate of those on the left “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”[9]  Hell is indeed for eternity and there is no way to cross over from hell to heaven.

[1] John 8:44; all scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] Matthew 7:15
[3] 1 John 2:15-17
[4] Ephesians 2:1-3
[5] James 4:7-8
[6] Mark 9:43
[7] Matthew 13:49-50
[8] Jude 1:7
[9] Matthew 25:31-33, 34, 41

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The Heart IS the Heart Of the Matter

Mark 4:1-9 tells us “Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.  He taught them many things by parables and in his teaching said ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.  Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times. Then Jesus said, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”[1]

In today’s age of technology, we know that the key component that makes a computer function is its hard drive.  Without the hard drive, a computer cannot function.  Just as the computer relies on the hard drive, the heart is our hard drive for our lives.  Therefore, the heart really is the heart of the matter.  From a spiritual perspective, if the heart is not surrendered to God’s principles then our lives will not achieve what God has in store for us.

With that in mind, as we look at the parable that Jesus shared with the crowd, He starts by saying Listen!  He then proceeds to tell a story about how a farmer went out to sow his seed.  The word “seed” is used to depict the Word of God and the farmer (sower) is the Son of God and anyone that professes to be His follower.   Just as a farmer sows his seed to produce a crop, you and I as Followers of Jesus Christ are to be sharing God’s Word to produce a crop.  Much of what is going on around us in today’s world is our failure to boldly share the gospel and without the seed being planted then how can there be a harvest.  A good farmer knows that he must sow his seed when the season is right to cultivate the greatest harvest.  Today we have very few who are willing to be good farmers.

The soil is the heart of the hearer.  There are people we come in contact with every day that have experienced challenges and disappointments in life and as a result they have allowed these events to harden their hearts in varying degrees.  Some are downtrodden, some are disappointed, and some are downright bitter.  Much like a potter’s clay, if a heart has been hardened it is virtually impossible to make something useful out of it.  That is why I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit that can come into a life and restore hope which then begins to soften a hardened heart so that God can do a mighty work.

Some seed fell on the path leaving it exposed and subject to its surroundings.  In Jesus’ day, there were no mechanized tools or defined layout of a field so the farmer sowed his seed across the land hoping that it would fall on hearty soil that would allow the seed to cultivate.  Some of us have gotten so busy and allowed so much activity into our lives that we have become like the path.  We’re moving around a lot but there’s not much substance.  We can even get too busy working for God that we lose our roots and foundation.  We have to guard our hearts from becoming so involved with activity and busyness that we lose connection with our Heavenly Father.  We may have been a seed on the path and we were not able to take root in the Word of God.

That brings us to the “bird.”  The bird is Satan and his army of demons.  They desire to devour the seed before it has time to take hold.  Satan is always busy with his lies and devious ways to distract us from truth.  He will use whatever means he can to remove the Word of God from the heart of the hearer before it can take root.

Some seed landed on rocky soil.  Rocky soil represents a lack of spiritual depth.  A person with a heart like the rocky soil may make an emotional or superficial response to the gospel but the minute things don’t go the way they think they should they are quick to blame God for their circumstances.  Because their roots are shallow, when difficult times come along they can quickly be uprooted and slip back to their previous way of life.

Some seed fell amongst the thorns.  Some people hear the Word of God but they allow the worries of life and the desires for things this world has to offer to choke out their desire for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  They are busy chasing promotions in their career, material possessions, belonging to the “in” groups, achieving status by the world’s standards.  All of these can bring stress and worry and many people find themselves dealing with all kinds of physical and mental health issues due to this “chasing” after things of the world.  Worry can kill you and chasing after desires of the world can cause that worry.

Some seed fell on good soil and that would be described as a spiritually productive heart.  The results can only be attributed to the supernatural.  The change that occurs and the peace that replaces the worry and stress are due to the seed being firmly rooted in good soil.  Nothing can hinder the growth and yield of the crop when the heart is good soil.  We must guard and protect our hearts from the efforts of the enemy to harden the soil to make it ineffective in yielding a crop.  “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”[2]

The hard heart is the most vulnerable to Satan.  It is what he looks for so that he not only prevents the seed from taking hold in this person’s life but uses that person to influence others to ignore the Word of God.  There are very real forces at work to do everything they can to prevent spreading the Word of God (the gospel which is the truth).

The flesh is against us like the rocky soil.  A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is not based on emotion or feelings but through a moving of the Holy Spirit within one’s heart that brings about a spiritual change.  There is no magic prayer that brings about salvation and we can’t live with one foot in the world and attempting to have the other in a right relationship with God.  God’s Word says we become “new creatures” when we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and we no longer live our former lives but live a new life in Christ.

The world tries to smother growth much like the seeds that fell on thorny ground.  We are constantly bombarded with new products, new technology, and new thoughts around morality and acceptable behavior all of which can smother out the new seed trying to find its way to root into good soil.  We can quickly lose sight of the fact that the world is driven by sin and we fall into the desires of this world so deeply that we are no longer connected to the truth.  The world, just like thorns, desires to smother truth and pull us into the tangled mess that eventually strangles us spiritually.

As I stated in the beginning of this article, Jesus and anyone who professes to be His follower has a responsibility for spreading the seed or the Word of God.  Spreading the gospel should not be confined within the walls of the church.  The church should serve as a school for farmers and equip them with going out to the fields and planting new crops.  Farmer education should deal with the various types of soil and how to prepare a field to receive the seed.  We may have to devise a way to keep the birds away from the field.  At times we will have to remove some of the rock that will prevent the seed from growing strong roots.  We must be willing to tend to the field once the seed has been sown; we will have to pull up the thorns and thistles that will try to strangle out the chance for the seed to develop; we will have to nurture the seed by making sure it gets the Son light it needs and the everlasting water to keep it strong.  A good farmer knows that his hard work in sowing the seed and tending the field is in preparation for God to provide the harvest.  A farmer cannot make a seed grow and develop but God can.  It is God that gives us the increase.

Jesus began this parable by saying “Listen” and he closes by saying “whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”  My prayer is this article will open you spiritual ears and be a source of encouragement for getting into spiritual farming.  God doesn’t need our help but He allows us to come alongside to show the world what a difference a relationship with Jesus Christ can make in a person’s life.  What an awesome thing to be allowed to be in business with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  So get busy getting your spiritual farming education and get out there and sow some seeds for the Lord!


 

(1) All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.

(2) Proverbs 4:23

This article is based on a sermon delivered by Scooter Noland, Lead Pastor of Hope Church, Tupelo, MS on 5/10/15, from a series: Exclamation Point; and the message is titled The Heart of the Matter.

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THE STRUGGLES WITH FORGIVENESS

So many men struggle with the idea of forgiveness and this is often the area the enemy relies heavily upon to cause men to doubt that God can forgive someone that has a past like they do.  Many in our culture picture God as this angry deity that can’t wait to punish us for our sins.  The fact is we can have forgiveness but it is up to us to accept it.  For this reason, I want to utilize God’s Word to bring awareness of what our Heavenly Father has to say about forgiveness and create a greater awareness of how we can be confident of being forgiven.  John tells us “I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.”[1]   “His name” refers to Jesus and He is the atonement for our sins.

Paul was speaking to the Jew and the Gentile when he said “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”[2] You notice Paul says “through Him everyone who believes is set free.”  First, a person must accept a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and then justification comes to us because of that relationship.  No matter how hard we might try, we cannot do enough to earn God’s justification by “being a good person” or “living by the ten commandments” but Jesus accomplished it for us by His death, burial, and resurrection.  Clearly this is telling us that God chooses to forgive us of all our sins.  While Satan often tries to use our past as a way to distract and deceive us from God’s truth, scripture clearly shows that no matter how great our sin, He forgives. God tells us “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”[3]

 So for those who choose to look at God as being angry and mad at people and is just waiting to take out his displeasure on all who have sinned (which is all of us), God’s Word doesn’t at all provide support for this ideology. This passage of scripture gives us a valuable description regarding sin and forgiveness: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[4]Some key points from this passage:

  • For anyone that enters into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ they are a new creation, the old has gone (sinful man) and the new is here (freedom in Christ).  This does not mean we achieve perfection through this relationship but forgiveness.
  • It was God’s plan that made a way for reconciliation; it was not man’s idea because of our sinful nature.  God wants a personal relationship with the part of His creation that was formed in His image so if anyone is in Christ they are reconciled through Christ.  The Holman Bible Dictionary defines reconciliation as “The establishment of friendly relations between parties who are at variance with each other, making peace after an engagement in war, or readmission to the presence and favor of a person after rebellion against the person.”[5]  Sin caused man to be rebellious against God and therefore created separation and distance.  Through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we have a way to be in the presence and favor of our Heavenly Father.
  • God allowed His one and only Son to serve as the sacrifice for all sins past, present, and future so that in Him we become the righteousness of God.

So often we forget or ignore the fact that we were sinful by nature and we needed forgiveness and reconciliation with our Creator.  As a result, we fail to forgive others as we have been forgiven.  Men particularly struggle with this idea of forgiveness.  We expect forgiveness from others but have difficulty giving it.  Scripture tells us “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”[6]We are to model ourselves after Christ and our Heavenly Father.  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”[7]Pretty strong message when scripture says “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

In closing, I want to remind all Followers of Jesus Christ that salvation does not prevent us from sinning.  Let’s face it, it is our nature from the beginning; it is in our DNA. God tells us “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”[8]  It is very important to recognize that our relationship with Jesus Christ must be our primary focus and if we maintain that focus we will minimize sin but we will sin nonetheless.  Thought or deed, sin is sin.  God knows this and He gives us words of comfort when he had John write “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”[9]

My heart’s desire is these words regarding forgiveness will give you a new or refreshed look at what God has done for us and what we should be doing for Him in relationship to forgiveness.  Thank you Lord for your grace and forgiveness so that we might reconnect our hearts with yours!


[1] 1 John 2:12
[2] Acts 13:38&39
[3] Hebrews 8:12
[4] 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
[5]Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991.
[6] Ephesians 4:32
[7] Colossians 3:12-14
[8]1 John 1:8
[9]1 John 1:9

Note: this article was inspired by God Has Forgiven You – Jesus Christ brought love from Heaven posted on www.believers.org website

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SALVATION: Doubts or Assurance?

The enemy, Satan, the devil, the evil one and all the other names used to describe him is so well versed in deception and lies that he loves the opportunity to take one of God’s children and try to convince them that they can’t really be saved because of their past; maybe because of some recent sin that is unconfessed; maybe because the person is in the wrong church that fails to reinforce the true meaning of salvation.  Regardless of the ploy or tool used to create doubt, rest assured that the enemy is working diligently to create doubt in the minds of those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.  So that we are perfectly clear as to what I mean by the word “salvation,” let me define it this way:  God has made it as simple as A, B, C.

 

A – Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
B – Believe that his death on the cross paid your sin debt in full (past, present and future)
C – Confess that you need a savior because you cannot be righteous in God’s eyes without Jesus.

 

This is defined as God’s gift of grace.  You cannot buy it, earn it, or even steal it; you just have to accept it in your heart and if you do that sincerely and genuinely, you have invited Jesus Christ to take up residence in your heart.  When we accept God’s gift of grace, scripture tells us we are made a “new creature.”  This simply means we are not the same person we were before because before sin controlled our life, now Jesus has wiped away sin and brought us to a different path for our lives.  With this in mind let’s look at how we can be confident in the promises God has made to us regarding salvation and eternity.

To get started we have to go back and look at what God said prior to the coming of the Messiah.  God tells the Prophet Isaiah “You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.  Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.  I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you.  You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God.  Yes, and from ancient days I am he.  No one can deliver out of my hand.  When I act, who can reverse it?”[1]

 

 God utilizes Isaiah to be His witness as to who He is and the power He holds in his hands.  God declares that he is the LORD (anytime this word is spelled in all capital letters it refers to Jehovah God and there are no other gods before Him) and apart from Him there is no savior.  In this Old Testament passage God tells us that no one — and I mean no one — can pluck us out of His hand and when He acts, there is no one that can reverse his actions.

 

Another powerful reminder from the Old Testament tells us Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”  God has always fulfilled every promise He has ever made so why should we question whether he will fulfill the promises yet to come.  By His very name He cannot lie and His truth is everlasting throughout the ages.  God is going to do what He says He is going to do and you can stand firm on that!

 

So what does the New Testament tell us about the security of our salvation?  While there are many, many verses that we could use to demonstrate the promise of security in our salvation, I want to share seven verses that will give you a beautiful word picture of how we can be absolutely sure of our salvation and there is no need to ever doubt or question.  Before we begin to look at these verses, I want to encourage you to stop right now and simply pray “Father, send your Holy Spirit to help me discern the meaning of Your Word.  Strengthen me so that I can write these verses on my heart so when the enemy attacks me with doubt I can call on what You have said about my salvation and the promises that You have made.  AMEN”.

 

The first verse comes from the Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus said to his followers “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”[2]  We could write a book on this single verse but this is not the time or place for a book.  Jesus is instructing us to obey everything He has commanded which means loving Him with all of our heart, mind, and soul.  He then gives us the promise that we must hold tightly in our hearts; “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  When we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (often referred to as being “saved”) we have the promise that Jesus will be with us always even to the end of the world as we know it.  Even God’s people feel lonely and abandoned at times and it is during these times that we need to reflect upon what Jesus says to us in Matthew 28.  We are never alone even though we may be going through difficult times, trials, or tribulations.  The struggle is not letting the enemy become the controlling factor in these times but rather leaning and trusting in Jesus and know that He has our back regardless of the difficulty. It is knowing that He is right there with us every step of the way.  And when we feel like we can’t go on, He will lift us up and carry us.

 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.   And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.   For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”[3] The Messiah tells us none of those who have entered into a personal relationship with him can be taken away from Him but He will raise them up at the last day.  He then further defines God’s plan when he says “my Fathers will is that everyone that looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life and I will raise them up at the last day.  Our promise of eternity with our Heavenly Father is defined in these words.

 

When Paul and Silas were in prison they were asked by the jailer what he must do to be saved and they replied “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.  At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.  The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.”[4]  This passage of scripture shows us what can happen when an individual accepts Jesus as their Savior and suddenly they have an impact on those around them.  In this case the jailer, because of his belief, was able to have the gospel shared with his entire family and they all accepted the gift of grace.  We never need to sell God short and what He can do through us.  I love the portion of this passage that states “he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God.” When we genuinely enter into a heart relationship with Jesus Christ, we have joy and peace despite what is going on around us. This is one of the things that set us apart from those who are unsaved because they cannot claim the promises that are made to those who have Jesus in their hearts.

 

Paul shares a very powerful passage of scripture which says He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[5]  WOW!  How do you follow that up?  Paul makes it very clear that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Paul reminds us that there will be trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword because we live in a sinful world controlled by the enemy. But he also quickly reminds us that Satan can do nothing to separate us from God’s promises.

 

When Paul was speaking to the church at Philippi he tells them I always pray with joybecause of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”[6] What an awesome thought that through our personal heart relationship with Jesus Christ we are assured that “He that began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  I do not see any way possible that this can be interpreted other than the assurance of our salvation until the return of Christ when He will claim His children and take them to eternity with the Heavenly Father.  If God begins something He will see it through to completion.

 

 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him;if we endure, we will also reign with him.  If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”[7]  Do not let this confuse you because of the two paths it describes.  It is first talking to those who have a personal heart relationship with Jesus Christ and defines if we stop living for self and live for Him we will also live with Him.  If we endure the challenges, trials, stumbling blocks and temptations, we will reign with Him in glory.  The second portion of the passage is talking to those that have heard the gospel but refuse the offer of grace.  In essence they have disowned God so He therefore will disown them.  If a person is faithless and does not believe and/or trust in God, God remains faithful and continues to seek and save the lost because He cannot disown Himself.  Promises are made to both the saved and the unsaved.  We have to choose which promises we desire as well as accept the consequences of our decision.

 

Peter gives us a great analogy when he writes “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  For, ‘All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”[8]  Being “born again” is a term that means we have accepted a heart relationship with Jesus Christ and as a result we have been made a new creature.  Oh we will look the same on the outside but we have been reborn on the inside.  The old man is dead and the new man now has a Savior that paid his sin debt.  This rebirth is from imperishable seed brought about by the living and ever enduring Word of God.  In and of ourselves we are like the withering grass and falling of the flowers but when we have the seed of the LORD living within us then we have hold of something that will endure forever, the Word of the Lord!

 

The number seven is the number of completion or perfection in Biblical terms.  My prayer is that these seven verses will give you the understanding and confidence that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can pluck you from the hand of God.  You must first accept His wonderful gift of grace and enter into a personal heart relationship with Jesus Christ.  Once you accomplish that, you can consistently and forever stand on the promises of God!  Don’t let the enemy distract you from the truth and plant seeds of doubt in your mind; let God fill you from head to toe with the joy and peace that comes from knowing Him personally and trusting in His promises.  God has fulfilled every promise he has ever made and I can’t find any reason to believe He is going to change now.  Salvation is firm and faithful and no one can take it from you so when the devil tries to tempt you into doubting your salvation, go to the Lord and His Word, claim the promises made to you and tell the devil to get lost in Jesus name! 

 


 

 

(1) Isaiah 43:10-13 (all scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.)
(2) Matthew 28:20
(3) John 6:38-40
(4) Acts 16:31-34
(5) Romans 8:32-39
(6) Philippians 1:4b-6
(7) 2 Timothy 2:11-13
(8) 1 Peter 1:23-25a

 

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HOW MUCH IS A SOUL WORTH?

So often in today’s world men are distracted from the condition of their soul and enamored with the condition of their social status.  Men are notorious for maintaining a win/loss tally sheet and they compare their sheet with their circle of acquaintances to determine their level of success.  Many of them are church going men that fill a pew on Sunday mornings but that too is a part of their tally sheet to use in comparison to their peers.

When I share the gospel with men of varying ages it is not unusual to hear a response of “I’ll get to that later, right now I have other things I want to accomplish with my life.”  Not all of those things are bad; in fact, many of them are worthwhile and pleasing to God provided they are done in the way that God has them planned to be accomplished.  Education, getting married, starting a family, starting a career, buying a home, are just a few of the things they list and this list could go on for pages and pages; They’re not bad things unless they become your idol and you leave God out of the equation.

Jesus tells us “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”[1]

This seems to be a pretty clear message that doesn’t need a lot of interpretation.  The man that is trying to build up their tally sheet to compete by the world’s standards will lose it all.  Those who choose to follow the path of Christ will not look to the tally sheet for the score but will look to the Heavenly Father for His approval.  What good is it to gain everything the world has to offer but in the exchange lose your soul?  I find it truly amazing at what some men will sell their soul to gain something that will eventually tarnish and wear away!

Paul tells us “that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.[2]  Everything in this world will be subject to the bondage of decay because of sin.  We get focused on “stuff” and Satan loves to tempt us with the world’s stuff and the temporary satisfaction it can bring.  The key factor is the satisfaction is only “temporary” and cannot last so we move on to the next stuff that takes us a little deeper with Satan and a little further from God and soon we are feeling totally separated from God all together.

So some of you reading this may have been in the “tally sheet” mentality and trying to compare yourself to the world’s standards of success.  You are asking yourselves “is it too late for me to get things right with God?”  IT IS NEVER TOO LATE WHEN IT COMES TO GOD (provided that you are still breathing and your heart is beating)!  The gospel does not have an age or time limit. It is available today as it was yesterday and tomorrow it will be just as available as it is today.

It all starts with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Acknowledge He is the Son of God, ask him into your heart, and confess that you need a Savior because you cannot be good enough, rich enough or smart enough to buy or earn your way to heaven.  It comes by faith alone in Christ alone.  Once we have accepted that personal heart relationship scripture tells us Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.   Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”[3]  In this relationship we are living with a heaven-focused approach to life meaning that God is the center of our universe and we no longer need “stuff” to determine our success or value in the world.  We live knowing that eternity is all that really matters because all of us have an appointed time to die; we should live daily with the same desire that our Heavenly Father has and that is none should perish.  The only way this relationship is possible is if we revisit the passage from Mark where Jesus says If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

We must share the gospel if we truly have a heaven-focused heart and mind.  God’s man will use Jesus as his role model.  He will give unselfishly to those around them in need.  He will show compassion to those the world has thrown away or completely disregarded.  He will live everyday knowing that a person’s soul is eternal and if we aren’t the hands and feet of Jesus then a lost person may never know Jesus.  It makes me shudder when I read the words “in this adulterous and sinful generation” because it rings so true when we look at today’s world.  We have taken evil and made it good and we have taken truth and made it unacceptable.

God’s Word gives us a beautiful word picture of how God’s men should be living in “this adulterous and sinful generation” when the scripture that says Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.   Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.    And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”[4] 

I believe this is the meaning of living with a heaven-focused mindset.  This is what God needs from His men today.  God has made it very clear throughout scripture that this will not be an easy or painless journey yet our focus is not in the earthly realm but the eternal realm.  When we think eternally then the present becomes insignificant in comparison.  The book of James gives us the answer to dealing with trials and tribulations. He says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.[5]  This scripture uses the words “brothers and sisters” and when we look at the actual Greek text it would actually mean brothers and sisters in Christ.

God’s man must persevere if we are going to make an impact on lost souls.  There will be times when we share the gospel and it will be nothing more than planting a seed; there will be times that we are watering a previously planted seed; there will be occasions where we must tend the ground around the seed so that Satan doesn’t choke it out with his weeds of deception and lies.  There may actually be times that we get to see the Holy Spirit at work and a person accept God’s gift of grace and enter into a personal heart relationship with Jesus Christ.  In all cases we are living heaven-focused with eternity of a soul being the most important thing over all other things.

Paul reminds us “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”[6]

 


 

[1] All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.  Mark 8:34b-38

[2] Romans 8:21

[3] Colossians 3:1-2

[4] 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

[5] James 1:2-4

[6] Philippians 3:13b-14