Friday, 31 May 2013

Justification and Sanctification

There is a difference, and today's church only wants to think about Justification as a one time event that the individual did to "accept Jesus into his or her heart"...

Justification is what Jesus did for us, not anything we did at one time or other. He did it on the cross, and it was a one time event, that part is true.

Sanctification BEGINS in each of His "called out ones" after we have heard (because He opens our ears) and answered His call. Sanctification is like sand paper that rubs against our rough spots, revealing our sins and our fleshy nature, that God in His mercy because He is HOLY has to remove as He reveals them to us, and as we pray for strength and endurance, and His grace, and as He allows satan to sift us like wheat (like He did with Peter: Luke 22:31,32). Whatever gets removed through that sifting process is gone forever, chaff...don't hang on to it, it is wood, hay, and stubble. But what God purifies in us is like gold, silver and precious stones.

1Pe 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4  To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
1Pe 1:5  Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1Pe 1:6  Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
1Pe 1:7  That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ

Let's be encouraged by what God has done, and continues to do, for those who are called by Him. None of us are "innocent". We are all guilty before a holy God. Either we are forgiven, or headed for hell. There are no other categories, and it isn't what we do that counts, it is what He has done, and is doing, in the lives of His true believers, and that belief even is a gift that He has given to those who seek Him diligently... and even the seeking is a desire that He puts into our hearts. All praise is to Jesus alone, Who alone is worthy of all praise. That is our comfort, our strength, and our only hope. All the rest is "wood, hay, and stubble".

1Co 3:11  For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1Co 3:12  Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
1Co 3:13  Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

Yesterday I felt prompted to read Ecclesiastes again...all the vanity, vanity, vanity (emptiness and hollowness of this life):

 Ecc 12:8  Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
Ecc 12:9  And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
Ecc 12:10  The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.
Ecc 12:11  The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
Ecc 12:12  And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Ecc 12:13  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
Ecc 12:14  For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

There's gonna be a huge amount of wood, and hay, and stubble, that will be burned up and thankfully so, all that we did for what "seemed like" good reasons, etc, etc...but what will remain will be what God actually did through us and in us, and that will shine for eternity. :)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Pearl of Great Price

Mat 13:45  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Mat 13:46  Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
Mat 13:47  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
Mat 13:48  Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
Mat 13:49  So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
Mat 13:50  And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

There are interesting things about pearls that lend light in understanding this parable. A pearl in Jesus day was the only gem that came from a living creature. A pearl is formed by an irritant that gets inside the oyster's shell, be it a grain of sand (usually) or pebble that gets inside the oyster shell. The oyster cannot get rid of the irritant, so it forms a glossy coating over it, layer upon layer, until, over time, it becomes a beautiful pearl. When someone harvests a pearl, the oyster dies to give this pearl to the one who finds it. Oysters were considered "unclean" by the Jews of Jesus' day, therefore a pearl was a gemstone "of the Gentiles".

There are probably many other things about pearls that I'm forgetting to mention, but let's take the things above as they relate to our Christian walk.

1. formed from a living creature: God can make things out of nothing, poof! Earth, stars, sky, trees, everything out of nothing. Here is something that He makes by using a living creature to make it through, instead of just making it by Himself out of nothing.

2. by an irritant that gets inside: instead of giving the oyster a way of getting rid of the source of irritation, He forms a pearl, something beautiful and valuable, out of it. He doesn't make it go away, He transforms it.

3. dies to give this pearl to the one who finds it: in order for others to get an appreciation of the pearl the creature has to die. Jesus gave His life (as it was taken from Him, but they couldn't take it unless He gave it up for them) so that we all could find His pearl of great price.

4. considered "unclean" by the Jews: the Jews knew all about clean and unclean. These were symbols to teach about God, and holiness, and sin, etc. Pearls were treasured by the Gentiles, so this parable was a hard one for religious Jews to swallow. We so want to think that our goodness, our avoidances of what is sinful, our outward appearance, makes us acceptable to God. Jesus said the Pharisees (who were considered the most righteous Jews of Jesus' day) were "empty whitewashed sepulchers". They were beautiful on the outside, but inside full of dead men's bones. They hated hearing that, and they certainly wouldn't teach that. They would probably fit in very well with the preachers of today that only want to point out the good and pretend they were acceptable, while avoiding talking about true sin, and the consequences of it, and the irritation they felt by having their cover blown didn't lead to repentance. It led to anger, and hatred, and sin.

The parable of the Pearl of Great Price points to what Jesus did, and how He also forms a pearl in those who are His, a pearl that is made in something unclean, us fallen sinners, and forms something beautiful out of something broken and seemingly unfixable. It is humbling because we do not do it, He does it, and it is irritating because it puts down our flesh and irritates our flesh, but over time He uses it to transform something inside of us. That irritant is what we share with others, so that it gets in their flesh, and with God's transforming power, creates more pearls of great price at the great cost of putting down the flesh in favor of His redeeming love and power.

Gal 5:24  And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Gal 5:25  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Gal 5:26  Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Only God is good, and that is irritating to the flesh. We want to apply goodness to ourselves, and not be reminded, or remind others, of the vileness that we are, but if we remain faithful to remind ourselves as well as others of the goodness of God and the sickness that we have, we will be hated of men, who only want their ears tickled with things they want to hear. Such is the "church" that we have today, wishy-washy, weak, salt that has lost it's savor and needs to be thrown out, good for nothing.

I pray many more will be faithful, to say what is irritating but true, to the putting down of our vanity and flesh.

Friday, 24 May 2013

What do we hope for?

1Pe 1:1  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1Pe 1:2  Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
1Pe 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4  To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
1Pe 1:5  Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1Pe 1:6  Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
1Pe 1:7  That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
1Pe 1:8  Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
1Pe 1:9  Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

Does it ever get old? The fact that God saved us by His blood, that we of ourselves are nothing but through Him? His blood? The fact that daily we are to lay our lives down, crucify our flesh? Does that stop after repenting one time? Should it bother me when someone says "Repent? Oh, I already did that!" As if it is a magic incantation that only needed one application. Done. "I already did..." really??? YOU DID? What about Jesus? Isn't what HE DID what really matters? The Bible says that repentance is an ongoing process by which HE refines us as HE reveals to us HIS perfection, and that we still have fleshy desires.

Rom 8:20  For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
Rom 8:21  Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Rom 8:22  For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
Rom 8:23  And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
Rom 8:24  For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

It is true, we are still subject to vanity. Not a day goes by that I put too much value on what I do, have done, or am going to do. It is good to do (or not do) but to do all in the Lord and for the Lord, in the Lord's strength and grace, so that it isn't I but the Lord who does it. So our hope is always Jesus, and only Him. What else could we hope for that has any meaning? Are we so complacent in our Christianity that we have to find more or other reasons or meanings to our hope? To try to jumpstart ourselves and revitalize ourselves somehow? That is what the Lord Himself does. If we try to add to what He did, it adds nothing, vanity, selfishness. We groan in our spirit. We travail in pain together...all of creation, but not just creation, we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit. The redemption of our body is something separate from the receiving of the Spirit. It is something that is still ahead. Our body, that is our flesh, is still corruptible. It has not yet put on incorruption.  And thankfully, whether we feel it or not, whether we are rejoicing or sorrowing, Jesus is in control of our future, our hope, and that is our only hope, our blessed hope. There is no other to grab for ourselves, right now, or in our past, or any other time. He provides for all our needs, even when stripped to our last breath on earth. He is everything we need, nothing more is needed. In spite of the fact that we still fail Him every day, and that our deeds are still for vanity, for ourselves, or to boost our or someone else's vanity. He is still good and perfect and loving. He is transforming our vile and selfish flesh into that which is incorruptible. That is our hope.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Loaves and Fishes

All our offerings, whether it be money, or thanks, or prayers, or good deeds, are meager especially when we consider the truth of the fact that God gave them to us first, and we only return a small fraction back to Him. That is NOT TO SAY to not offer them, but IT IS TO SAY that we shouldn't think highly of ourselves for it. If anything, our measly returns to God should humble us into realizing just how deficient we are. But Jesus showed us that in His hands, a little becomes a lot!!! All glory and praise go to Him for it, and thereby we receive a true joy that goes beyond our simple understanding, knowing that God can use even such a one as I, the chief of sinners. If that is depressing, or it seems that I am beating up on myself, that is what the flesh wants to believe. When I do feel depressed, I see that I want to be elevated, and that runs contrary to the truth. The truth is that our vileness, our fallen-ness being transformed by God is not to our elevating, but to our humbling that God was willing to stoop into our dirt. That is cause for rejoicing, and not depression. When I do feel depressed, I can look to other people (like "everyone else" does?) to lift me up...( and as Israel also mistakenly does when she goes to her neighbors like Egypt for help) or I can remember that God is with me even in my darkest hours, and that the darkness has no power over me thanks to Him...and I do thank Him, that my couple of little fish and loaves of bread (that He had given to me) are enough for Him to turn into something awesome, to help feed others who haven't yet received that fellowship with Him.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

What Really Matters

The only thing that really matters, and that really merits our thankfulness to a holy, forgiving God. The rest are simply little side blessings that are given to saved and unsaved alike, and are inconsequential in the eternal scheme of things.

If we try to show how "good" we are, we only reveal our shortcomings and self-centeredness. But if we talk about Jesus, then we talk about someone who is truly good and more than worthy of our praise. Talk is cheap. If we only do it around those who will slap us on the back and tell us how "good" we are, it only reveals our fleshy self-centeredness again. But if we do it when we are hated and reviled for it, when people scoff at us and make us feel small, then we are doing it not for our own gratification, but rather we show we are doing it for God and for the greater blessings He will give when we see Him after this life is over. Because His kudos mean much more than kudos that come from other fleshy beings, whether they say they are Christian, atheist, whatever, people's praise is not ever as good as the praise that will come from God when He says "well done good and faithful servant" and that only comes from denying ourselves daily. Do I do it perfectly? Far from it. Therefore I know I am not worthy of any person's praise, because then I know that I have them fooled, just as the pharisees fooled their fellow Jews. Let us instead keep our eyes ever on Jesus, who alone is worthy of praise and all of our kudos.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Feelings, and Doing God's Will

I have been praying and thinking about this topic for more than a few years now, and recently, over the last few months, it has been a more pervasive topic on my mind. I wonder if the Apostle Paul ever got depressed. I wonder if it was important to him to stay happy all the time, or if speaking the truth in love was more important to him, even if it meant "sounding negative" about sin, about the flesh, and about our need for Jesus to see us through our darkness, rather than lifting ourselves up through feel good thoughts of our own. Does the call to "be light and salt" mean to only speak words that comfort our flesh? Or does it require us to speak the words that maintain the sinfulness and vileness of our flesh, and the only good coming from Christ alone? And why does that seem negative to some (many?) people, when it is the ONLY TRUTH that matters? The fact is many people are headed for hell, and that many Christians are too concerned about their own feelings (I also include myself in this number) to truly speak out the truth to the hellbound, to remind them of the truth about hell, and of forgiveness... and about the deceitfulness of our flesh, but instead only speak words that will bring ourselves "kudos" from those who likewise want their feelings stroked. Sigh.

Yes it is good to say uplifting words of comfort and joy and thanksgiving. ...however, our thanksgiving and our uplifting words are not to the edifying of the flesh, but to the sharing of the good news of the fact that this flesh will be put to death, by a loving God, who brings us to Himself, to keep us from having to go to hell. Those are truly the only things that we truly need to remember to be thankful for every day, and to remind others of, regardless of how they will "feel" about it.

Just some sobering thoughts.

Galatians 2:20  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.