Confident In Prayer

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My Musings – God answers all the prayers of His children, they just may not be what we expected.  To me it seems that His answers fall into four broad categories:

No – God is not arbitrary, capricious nor vindictive. After all, do we give our children everything that they ask for?  If not, isn’t there usually very good reasons?  When the answer to our prayers appears to be no, we can be sure there is a good reason. Instead of questioning His good intentions we should search our motives and our heart to make sure they are in line with God’s will.

Wait – Sometimes, we conclude that the answer is no because it does not come when we want it or expect it. It could be that God has determined that the answer is yes, but the timing is not right.  His timing is always best.

Yes – When we ask, when our motives are pure, when the timing is right and it is in line with God’s will, we have the assurance that the answer will be yes.

Better – Sometimes God has something even better to answer our prayers with.  After all, He is able to do abundantly more than we can think or imagine.  In these cases, if His answer was simply yes, we would miss out on even greater blessings.

My Advice – Make sure your motives are pure and that what you request is not in obvious conflict with God’s will.  Then trust Him to do what is best, even if you cannot see it right away.

The Sanctioned Position

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My Musings – The “sanctioned position” is “to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”  But only for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ.  For those who have not, getting old is indeed better than the alternative.

My Advice – If you have not put your faith in Christ you can.  It is open to all who will believe and receive.  But “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation,” for we never know if we will ever have another opportunity.  For we certainly do not want to be absent from the body without Jesus present in our heart.

If you have put your faith in Christ, do not get too comfortable being “at home in the body.”  For the things of this world can distract us, causing us to drift “away from the Lord.” We do not want Him to be displeased with our walk. Rather “we should make it our goal to please Him.

 

Adding To Your Faith

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My Musings – Yesterday’s musings, referencing the Apostle Paul, stood for the doctrine that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  Any effort (on our part) to add to this would be futile.  In today’s text, the Apostle Peter is saying that we should make every effort (work) to add to our faith the listed qualities.  That these efforts (on our part) would be effective and productive.

Surely this is a huge contradiction between these two giants of Christianity?  Not at all.  Paul was speaking about what results in salvation (grace).  Peter was speaking about what results from salvation (good works/qualities).  Grace is the cause of salvation, good works/qualities are the effect of salvation.  Salvation is an event, developing these qualities is a process (in increasing measure).  One can have good works/qualities without being saved, but no one can be saved without developing good works/qualities.  There is no effort of our own that can gain us salvation.  But once we have gained it, we should make every effort to add to it. And yet, here’s the deal.  Even though you are putting effort into it to grow your faith, it is the work of the Holy Spirit transforming you into Christ-likeness that gives the increase.

My Advice – You cannot grow it, if you don’t got it.  Get it today.  It’s free.  By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Another Gospel

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My Musings – This text requires a bit of explaining.  Paul was speaking against the “Judaizers.”  These were people who were attempting to burden the Gentile believers with Jewish laws and customs in addition to the free gift of grace.  Paul, the same man who wrote the “love chapter” and instructed his followers (to the extent that it depended upon them) to be a peace with all people, has very strong words for anyone attempting to turn others “to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.

It’s as if they are saying that what Christ did on the cross was not good enough.  Not of sufficient value to save us, without adding our own efforts or religious practices. Elsewhere (Galatians 5), Paul states that doing so (adding to grace) results in Christ being of no value at all.  Why?  Because trusting in ourselves, even if partially, means we are not really trusting in Christ at all.

My Advice – Relying on a safety net, putting “confidence in the flesh,” means that our confidence (faith) in God’s saving grace is not absolute.  If it is not absolute, it is no faith at all.  You do the math.  Adding to grace is, in reality, subtracting from it.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on October 27, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

 

The Right Stuff?

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My Musings – Paul had just recounted all the reasons he had for putting his confidence in the flesh – that if anyone could obtain righteousness on his own merit it was him.  This was no idle boast on his part.  His credentials were impeccable.  If anyone had “the right stuff” it was him.  But Paul came to realize there was nothing he could “do” to obtain his salvation, it had already been “done” by Christ’s atoning death on the cross.  What Paul’s greatest efforts were powerless to accomplish, the “power of [the] resurrection” was able to do.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” – Like Paul, we could never be able to do enough of the “right stuff” to earn our salvation.  Rather, it comes “through faith in Christ.

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” – What we put behind us is our own righteousness that comes from the law.  We count it as loss.  What we strain toward is the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ. We count it as profit.

My Advice – Knowing that we cannot “have a righteousness of [our] own,” do we really want to come to God on the basis of that righteousness (rubbish), or on the basis of Christ’s righteousness (surpassing greatness)?

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon “Grace Exchange” on October 20, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

But Even If He Does Not

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My Musings – “If you can?” My doubt rarely manifests itself  this way.  I am usually confident that God can, but I am not always confident that He will.  I don’t know if this is a worse kind of doubt or not.  Is it because I believe I am not worthy of God’s help?  Or is it because I acknowledge that God might have a higher purpose?  I wish I could say  it was a faith like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who facing the fiery furnace told King Nebuchadnezzar, “we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Let our faith be like the three Hebrew children – yes, God always can, but there may be times that He will not.  Even in those circumstances, let’s stand firm in the faith that God is sovereign and that it is not because He does not love us.  Sometimes He will remove us from it, whatever it may be, but there will be other times that He will take us through it.  It may be as dark as the “valley of the shadow of death,” or as threatening as the fiery furnance, but no matter what “thou art with me.”

 

Only One Flavor

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My Musings – “I wish I had an answer to that, because I’m tired of answering that question.”  This is a quote from Yogi Berra, a baseball player of a bygone era who was famous for his nonsensical comments that, upon reflection, made a lot of sense after all.

After nearly 2,000 years, it seems that everyone should know the answer to the question, “what must I do to be saved?”  Yet many continue to believe that salvation has more than one “flavor.”

Religion – “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13, NIV 1978).  Religion is an external observance that does not lead to a transformed. But a heart that is transformed by a personal encounter with Christ, is a spiritual act of worship, a religious expression that demonstrates that our heart has been changed  (Romans 12:1 –2). Religion is not the answer to the question, but it should be a result of the answer.

Obey God’s Laws – “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10, NIV 1978).  We could not obey one simple command in the Garden, much less the ten on the tablets.  But even nine out of ten would be insufficient. But an encounter with Jesus will set us free from the bondage of sin (John 8:32-34).  Obedience to the law is not the answer to the question, but it should be a result of the answer.

Doing Good Works – “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Psalms 14:3, NIV 1978).  Goodness is measured by God’s unchanging standards, not relative to society’s ever-changing standards. But the light of Christ reflected in our transformed lives, can point the way for others (Matthew 5:16). Good works are not the answer to the question, but they should be a result of the answer.

Grace Through Faith In Christ Alone –  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves [religion, laws, good works], it is the gift of God – – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV 1978). When you know the real answer to the question, you never get tired of answering.

My Advice – If salvation was dependent upon religion, obeying the law, or good works, how could we ever be sure that we were religious enough, we had not broken the wrong (one) rule, or we had done enough good deeds (the good you ought to do but do not do, that is sin to you)?  It should be a relief to know that our salvation does not depend upon the depth of our desires (never deep enough) or the degree of our efforts (never high enough), but on God’s mercy (inexhaustible).  “It [salvation] does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16, NIV 1978).  Forget your desires.  Give up on your efforts. Appeal to God’s mercy.  You’ll never get tired of His answer.