Called Out Of Darkness

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My Musings – “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  (Yogi Berra).  It certainly isn’t.  Hopelessly lost and separated from our Creator, with no hope for reconciliation by our own efforts.  Facing an eternity apart from God in Hell.  No Exit. His righteousness demanded it.  That was our future.

Where there was no hope, God provided hope.  Where there was no way, God provided a way.  The possibility of being reunited with our Creator because He made it possible for us to be a new creation through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  His grace satisfied His righteousness.  The opportunity to spend eternity reunited with God in Heaven.  This can be our future.

My Advice – Which future do we want?  This should be an obvious choice.  Yet so many stumble over it.  Yes, Jesus is the only way, because His sacrifice was the only possible way to satisfy God’s righteousness.  But whoever calls on His name will be saved.  He’s calling us out of darkness.  Will we respond?

Contempt For God’s Grace

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My Musings – “Do you need a good lawyer?” “I need a good judge.” Mattie Ross and Ned Pepper in True Grit.  We have a good judge, whose judgment is based on truth, kindness, long-suffering and righteousness.  We show contempt for these when we pass judgment on others and are guilty of some of the same things.  While the text does not specifically state this, I think we likely also show contempt when we pass judgment on others just because they sin differently than we do (“their sin is worse than mine”).

My Advice – As Christians, we are recipients of God’s grace – undeserved favor.  Who’s to say that those we are tempted to pass judgment on are less deserving than we are?  They are not.  So let’s not be too hasty in casting the first stone, because we are cannot see clearly enough with the “log” in our eye.  So, rather than passing judgment, let’s pass along the Gospel of Christ so that they too might be recipients of God’s mercy.

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.

Continue In Faith

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My Musings – So then, just how did we receive Christ?  Did we work for it?  No, that would be earning our salvation, like receiving wages.   The only “wages” we earn are for our sins.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NIV 1984).

We may think that our sins are not that bad, at least not compared to some, but that would be the wrong comparison.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:23–24, NIV 1984).

The correct measure, or standard, is God’s glory, and all have sinned, which means all fall short.  All means all.  No exceptions.

But there is a “flip side” to both of these passages.  “The gift of God is eternal life,” and “we are justified freely by His grace.”  The “gift” is “freely” given.  That is what makes it a gift and not a wage (something earned).

One does not earn a gift.  One receives a gift.  Which brings us back to the original question: just how did we receive Christ?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:8–10, NIV 1984).

By grace, through faith.  We received Him by faith, and that is how we are to “continue to live (walk) in Him.” We walk by faith.  We live out our faith.  As a result we are:

Rooted – To establish deeply and firmly.

Built Up – To develop in magnitude or extent.

Strengthened – To become stronger or more difficult to break.

We are established, developed and made stronger for a reason:  “created in Christ Jesus [born again] to do good works.”  This is where works come in.  They do not result in salvation, they are a result of salvation.

My Advice – If you have not received Him, put your faith in Him and receive His free gift: the forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  If you have already received, continue to live in him and walk by faith.

 

Wishes and Works

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My Musings – What happens in fairytales stay in fairytales.  In real life, we cannot wish (desire) or work (effort) our way to Heaven.

You can whistle while you work or even wish upon a star,
but without God’s grace and mercy you won’t get very far.
Many that went before us, had credentials that were so fine,
But still not nearly good enough, to cross Heaven’s finish line.
Makes no difference who you are, no sin is too extreme,
Salvation is God’s free gift, not a wage, a wish or dream.
But anytime your heart desires, the Master will come to you,
To seek and save His lost sheep, when nothing else will do.

No you know why I stick to prose.  The following are just a few who had “credentials that were so fine.”

Adam & Eve – Created in God’s image. Genesis 1:26
Noah – The last righteous man. Genesis 6:9.
Job – A man that God boasted about. Job 1:8.
Abraham – A man of great faith. Galatians 3:9.
Moses – He spoke to God face-to-face. Deuteronomy 34:10.
David – God called him “a man after My own heart.” Acts 13:22.
Mary – The mother of Jesus, highly favored by God. Luke 1:28.
John The Baptist – None greater born of woman. Matthew 11:11.
Peter – The man on whom Jesus built His Church. Matthew 16:18, 19.
Paul – He fought the good fight. 2 Timothy 4:7.

None of these were saved by their own “desire or effort.” It took God’s mercy.

My Advice – What about you and me.  Are we any better than these.  Does our desire and effort surpass theirs?  No.  It will take God’s mercy.  It’s not what we do, it’s what God has done.  Accept His free gift.

Jesus – The way and the truth and the life. God’s mercy comes only through His desire for us and His effort on our behalf. John 14:6

Do not set aside the grace [mercy] of God, for if righteousness [salvation] could be gained through the law [religion, good works], Christ died for nothing! (Galatians 2:21, NIV 1978). Why would He die if He did not have too?

Times and Exact Places

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My Musings – To what extent will God go to save us?  He gave His only Son, what more could we possibly expect?  Though the cost was high, He doesn’t force Himself on us.  He gives us freedom to choose for ourselves.  Yet, He wants that choice to be an informed choice.  So much so, that “He determined the times set for them and the exact places they should live.”  Why? “So that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.”  And that’s not all.  He stays close.  By our own efforts He is beyond our reach.  So He stays close to us and reaches out to us.  But we still have to “reach our for Him.

There is a parable called the prodigal son.  It is more aptly called the prodigal’s father.  For “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  (Luke 15:20, NIV 1984).  That’s our father.  He’s waiting and watching while we are “a long way off,” “though He is not far from each of us.

My Advice – Don’t question why you are where you are and the time that you are.  There is a reason.  You are in the most likely time and place for you personally to find Him.  Seek Him. Reach out for Him. He is not far off, even though you may be.

No Disappointment

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My Musings – There’s a lot packed into these few verses.  Today, I want to focus on the linkage between peace and suffering.  How is it that some people can be subjected to so much suffering and yet still experience a “peace that surpasses all understanding?

Like a good mystery novel, you need to unravel the clues.  Follow the trail of evidence to wherever it leads.

Faith – We gain access to faith through God’s good graces.  Without faith it is impossible to please God, and yet we only have it because He gives (a gift) it to us.

Justification – Only by exercising the faith that God has given us, through His grace (also given), can we be justified (by grace we are saved – justified – through faith).  While exercising our faith is an action, it is not a work, because we know we are not saved by works.  It (salvation) is a gift.  Yet we do not have the gift just because it is offered.  We have to accept it.

Peace – We can only have peace (not as the world gives peace) if we have been justified (reconciled to God).  Genuine peace with God can only happen through reconciliation, which means eliminating the differences that separate us.  These differences would otherwise be irreconcilable if Jesus had not died to satisfy (eliminate) what caused the differences in the first place.  Caused by us (our action), eliminated by the cross (God’s action through HIs Son), offered to us as a free gift (God’s grace), and accepted through faith (our action).

Hope – Hope in the hereafter, where “we shall be like Him,” (“of the glory of God“).  Hope is desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.  Just like peace is not as the world give peace, hope is likewise not as the world experiences hope.  For the world, hope is a desire for something but no assurance.  For the believer, there is belief and expectation (assurance) because of Him who made the promise.  A “hope that does not disappoint us” because of Him who pours it out in love.

Suffering – Curiously linked to both peace and hope.  For the world, peace and suffering rarely coexist.  And hope seems almost futile.  For the Christian, suffering need not destroy hope.  If often magnifies it.  And while suffering does not bring peace, the Christian can experience peace while suffering.  That is what we can rejoice about.  Not that we are experiencing it, but that it magnifies hope and need not rob us of our peace.  Something that truly surpassing understanding.

And All The Rest – A Christian’s hope and peace are not merely intangible feelings.   They have tangible results – perseverance, character and (more) hope.

Another Gift – The Holy Spirit, who lives (and so much more) within us.

And where does the trail of evidence lead? To God. The faith we have is from God.  It is His grace that justifies us through the gift of HIs Son’s death and resurrection.  It is Him who gives us peace and backs up our hope.  The trail of evidence clearly points to Him.

My Advice – Don’t give up hope.