The Life I Live…

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“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, NIV 1984).

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20, NIV 1984).

My Musings – A couple well-known verses, with interesting paralells:

  • Deny Yourself – “I no longer live.
  • Come After Me – “Christ lives in me.
  • Take Up Your Cross – “I have been crucified with Christ.
  • Follow Me – “I live by faith in the Son of God.

My Advice – Christ gave up so much (denied Himself) to pursue (come after) us.  This took Him to the cross (crucified), so that we might live (by faith).  The cross we are asked to bear pales in comparison to the one He bore.  Let’s deny ourselves, our path, and follow Him.  Though it might lead through the “valley of the shadow of death,” it ends up in “green pastures.

 

Chariots of Fire

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When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.  “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  (2 Kings 6:15–17, NIV 1984).

My Musings – How many times in our lives have the angelic hosts protected us from harm?  We clearly have no idea.  But if His eye is on the sparrow, I am certain that nothing escapes His attention when it comes to us.  And if when troubles do come (“in this world you will have trouble“), they need not dishearten us (“take heart, I have overcome the world“).  We can learn from them.  We grow character during them.  We can be witnesses through them.  Because nothing touches us that does not first pass through His hands, and which His grace is not sufficient to sustain us through.  And when “the time has come for [our] departure,” may we be able to say that we have “fought the good fight, [we] have finished the race, [we] have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:6–7, NIV 1984).

My Advice – It may seem at times that “those who are with them,” or that which is against us, are more than “those who are with us,” or that which is for us.  But it just “ain’t” so.  We may be tempted to say “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?”  But we should open our spiritual eyes and not “be afraid.”  For “if God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Romans 8:31, NIV 1984).

Sharpening The Saw

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Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  (Mark 1:35, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The above verse is just one among many where Jesus withdrew to a solitary place to commune with the Father.  Why was this so important?  “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” (Abraham Lincoln).  So what’s so important about having a sharp saw?

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.  “What are you doing?” you ask. “Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”  “You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”  “Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”  “Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”  “I’m too busy sawing!” (Dr. Stephen R. Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”).

Sometimes we get so busy going about the work we have to do, that we neglect the things that would make those things so much easier.  Jesus understood this about His ministry.  For example, one of the times He withdrew by Himself to pray was immediately before He chose the twelve disciples.

My Advice – Time spent in prayer and in the Word is crucial in as we journey through this life.  How about you?  Does your saw need sharpening?

Hunger Pangs

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Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  (Matthew 4:1–4, NIV 1984).

My Musings – What are we hungry for?  A better job?  A bigger house?  A fatter bank account?  A comfortable retirement?  Some would just like to have a job.  Some would like to no longer live in the streets.  Some have nothing in their wallet, much less a bank account. Some have no hope for retirement.  But whether you have exorbitant or modest wants, there is something the we all need to hunger.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Be filled, but stay hungry.

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Today’s musing was inspired by Teaching Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on March 8, 2020. 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.

 

Born (Again) Free

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It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1, NIV 1974).

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.  (Galatians 5:13, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Those who are in Christ (saved by grace not merit) have been freed from the “yoke of slavery” to measure up to the law.  Nevertheless, this does not give us carte blanche to “indulge the sinful nature.”  Rather, as we grow in Christ, we choose (exercise of freedom) to live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord instead of pleasing the flesh.  It is a mark of maturity not a sign of slavery.

My Advice – Stand firm in the faith, freed from the law but choosing to be obedient nonetheless.

 

Can Such Faith Save?

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What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  (James 2:14–18, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “Can such faith [with no deeds] save him?”  On the surface, this sounds like an outright contradiction of yesterday’s musing – by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.  Is James (the half-brother of Jesus), promoting “a different gospel [faith plus works] — which is really no gospel at all,” that Paul condemns?  Many, through the years, have seen such a contradiction.  This included Martin Luther who said, “James’ Epistle is really an epistle of straw, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it.”  Or as Paul said, “no gospel at all.

But there is no contradiction.  Paul’s epistle of grace and James’ epistle of “straw” are in fact complementary.

Salvation result of grace – “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.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV 1984).

Salvation results in works – “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV 1984).

In essence, a faith that does not result in works (not a result of works) was very likely not a saving faith (“can such faith save him?“).  Such a person may claim to have faith, but if that faith does not produce works, it is dead (really never was alive). These works are “produced by faith” in Jesus. These labors are not born out of obligation, but are “prompted by love” that we have for our Master, our fellow heirs and the lost. Finally, all of this is inspired by our “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Thessalonians 1:3, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Do not think that your salvation is works based.  Rather think that your works are based on salvation.  Show your faith by what you do.

 

Straining Toward What Is Ahead

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I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”  (Philippians 3:8–9, NIV 1984).

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: 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.”  (Philippians 3:12–14).

My Musings – “I consider everything a loss” and “I have lost all things” may sound like hyperbole to some, but not to Paul.  Upon his dramatic conversion he did lose a lot of what may be considered of great value in this world – power, postion, privilege, to name just a few.  And it takes a mature spiritual perspective to consider such things as “rubbish” that they “may gain Christ and be found in him,” and have a “righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”  If you doubt Paul’s sincerity in saying this, consider the following:

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23–28, NIV 1984).

How would you like that on your spiritual resume?  From persecutor to persecuted.  But “forgetting what [was] behind and straining toward what [was] ahead, [he] press[ed] on toward the goal to win the prize for which God [had] called [him] heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  And when he got that final call (imprisoned in Rome and ordered beheaded by Emperor Nero) he finally obtained all that he had “strained” for all those years and claimed his “prize.

My Advice – What are you pursuing in your live?  When all is said and done, will it be considered “rubbish” and “loss?”  Have you heeded Christ’s Heavenward call?  If so, are you pressing on?

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Want to become a Christian (that Heavenward call)? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”

Want a closer walk with Christ (the pressing on)? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”