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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Being Made One



          God gives us another gift, conviction of sin. We cannot see our fallen-ness and seek after Him without conviction of sin. We cannot  be glorified in Heaven by God without freedom from sin. It is not God’s love that saves us; it is Christ’s death.   

When Jesus had spoken these things, He lifted His eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come.” Glorify, exalt, honor, and magnify Your Son, so that Your Son may glorify and extol and honor and magnify You. Just as You have granted Him power and authority over all humankind, now glorify Him so that He may give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.  And this is eternal life: it means to know You, the only true and real God, and likewise to know Him, Jesus as the Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You down here on the earth by completing the work that You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me along with Yourself and restore Me to such majesty and honor in Your presence as I had with You before the world existed. (John 17:1-5, AMP).
Because God is holy, He can only be in the presence of holiness. The only way to make us clean to stand before Him was to offer a sacrifice for our sins. In the Old Testament, God provided for sins by pronouncing to the Israelites that they were to offer sin offerings through the Levitical priests by use of animals. They understood that, otherwise, they could not enter God’s presence because they were not clean. With the New Covenant, which came in to being upon the birth of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, a new way was available to cleanse our sins. We are not required to make a new sacrifice every time by accepting this new way. This was a perfect sacrifice prepared for humanity from the beginning of the world. Jesus, the Son of God, became the sin sacrifice for every sin. His sacrifice covered sin for every time. Now, do not get me wrong, He was not a martyr. If that were what was necessary, there would have been many sacrificers who offered themselves over the millennia. No, God required a pure sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins. Who is better than sinless Jesus, a person whose sole reason for existing in human form is to present God to the world and  give the perfect sacrifice for sin? 
Though Jesus became the perfect sin sacrifice for the world, this does not mean forgiveness happens automatically now and we are cleansed. No, this new covenant (covenant being the key word) is available to us if we ask believing Jesus is the Messiah who came freely from the Father to earth to be the sacrifice for our sins. God will not force Himself upon you or me. He will wait patiently for you to ask for Him. God will not be as other leaders of whom we met or heard. He will not break down our door, nor force us on pain of death to give obeisance to Him. No, God gave us free will to choose our way in life. He gives us the opportunity to choose to go our own way, to be our own destinies,  and make our own mistakes. God also gives us the alternative, of letting Him lead and guide us through life so we become more Christlike. With His guidance, we choose the best path in life and are able to not sin in the as we live. With this choice, He is providing not only life on earth but life forever with Him in heaven. 
So what must we do to accept the new covenant God has provided? Well, believe Jesus is the Son of God and came to earth to be the once-and-for-all sacrifice for your sins. Confess your sins to Him and receive His forgiveness. Walk in newness of life allowing God to lead and grow you into a close relationship with Him as you pray and read the Bible each day. These two things will grow you to be more Christlike each day. These also make it easier to give control of your life to Him and follow Him, not yourself, everyday. Jesus, the Son, and God, the Father, are one in Spirit and truth. Jesus wants us to be one with our Christian brothers and sisters and with the Father each day. He states this in John 17:19-21 (NASB).
Therefore, for their (the disciples) sake and on their behalf I sanctify and dedicate Myself, that they also may be sanctified and dedicated in the Truth. Neither for these alone do I pray, it is not for their sake only that I make this request, but also for all those who will ever come to believe in Me through their word and teaching, that they all may be one, just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe and be convinced that You have sent Me.  
If we accept this gift of God’s Son, Jesus, the gift of conviction of sin, and act upon it in obedience, we will see God has provided an even greater blessing than we could imagine. God provided a once for all perfect sin sacrifice for everything we did wrong. What is the cost to us? The cost is our allegiance and obedience given out of free choice and love to the Father and the Son. God wants to glorify us, take us to heaven with Him, as He did with His Son. He wants to honor us in front of everyone by doing this and through that declare we are His children. How difficult is it really to give our lives to God to be lived in the best possible way and to live for eternity with Him? Is that not better than the other choices, to live doing what we want to do and then die forever at the end of this human life? By living our own lives, we do not acknowledge our heavenly Maker nor give our lives back to Him. He, then, cannot redeem us from our sin, cleanse us and take us to Heaven to live with Him because we are not holy. He cannot be in the presence of sin and evil. Consider it, would you rather live your physical life for yourself and die for eternity?  Or, would you rather live the best life and live for eternity in Heaven with our Creator and Savior
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 Dictionary:
“Glorify” – to take to glory/heaven
“Exalt” – to life up
“Extol” – to praise
“Magnify” – to make great, like God’s name, Yahweh
“Honor”- To honor someone, then, is to give weight or to grant a person a position of respect and even authority in one's life. A person grants honor most frequently on the basis of position, status, or wealth, but it can and should also be granted on the basis of character. While honor is an internal attitude of respect, courtesy, and reverence, it should be accompanied by appropriate attention or even obedience. Honor without such action is incomplete; it is lip service ( Isaiah 29:13 ). God the Father, for example, is honored when people do the things that please him (1 Corinthians 6:20 ). Parents are honored through the obedience of their children. The source of all honor is God on the basis of his position as sovereign Creator and of his character as a loving Father. The granting of honor to others is an essential experience in the believer's life. Christians are to bestow honor on those for whom honor is due. The believer is to honor God, for he is the sovereign head of the universe and his character is unsurpassed. (Baker's Evangelical Dictionary)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Perfect Peace


I have told you these things so that in Me you may have perfect peace. In the world you have tribulation, trials, distress, and frustration, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world and deprived it of its power to harm you.   (John 16:33, AMP


These are a few of Jesus’ last words of encouragement before the soldiers took Him as a prisoner. Do we think they are only for those twelve disciples? They are for every one of Jesus’ followers of all time. Nothing Jesus said was just for that moment in time. As God is in control now, was in control in the past, and will always be in control, so Jesus’ words, as the Son of God, are for the past, present, and future. So what does this verse mean for us? Jesus said you will experience trials, distresses, frustrations, and tribulations. He did not say if you have them, but in the world, “you will have.” The world will  affect us. We are definitely going to flounder in this world. Yet, we do not have to go through them alone. Jesus, in verse 7 of this chapter, said He is sending a Comforter, a Helper. That knowledge should bring cheer to us each of us by itself; we retain God-sized help for our daily walk. Jesus said He gives more than this. We will possess cheer and peace, not just any peace but perfect peace. Peace and joy are not things we can find within the world or even within ourselves. They are only found in a relationship with Jesus. We might hold peace for a moment in ourselves when a calm night is with us and when we have completed necessary tasks and our needs are provided. We might say, what need have we for Jesus when we acquired this by our own hands. What about tomorrow, though, when peace is not relative with us, when things are out of your control? Do we possess peace in the midst of the troubles in which we find ourselves? Jesus gives peace for this situation, peace that comes because He has conquered the evil one, the one who is causing our troubles. Satan knows He is beaten; he is just hoping we have forgotten so he can steal our peace from our minds. We must remember we have Jesus as our conquering Savior; He is the provider of perfect peace. This is nothing new. The writers in the Old Testament testified to this peace many times, read Psalms and Proverbs again. Read about the Israelites’ travels to the Promised Land. Peace is here through Jesus, in the past, the present and for the future. We must never fail to remember and believe it comes through Jesus as Conqueror and Savior. Job did not fail to give praise to God and remember from whom his blessings had come in the past. He even went so far as to pray for his friends who appeared to have forgotten this fact and lost their peace. (Job 42:10).    

Now here is the question, are we remembering Jesus blessed us with perfect peace? Are we allowing Satan through his tricks to confound and blind us to the reality of God’s absolute sovereignty, blessing of victory, and perfect peace? Remember, as Isaiah said, “You will guard and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You” (Isaiah 26:3, AMP).


Friday, November 16, 2012

Of the Truth

 A thought from today's study in 1 John  

              How can you be assured you are "of the truth?” You have compassion for other believers. How can you say you are in a life-transforming relationship with God if you do not show love to your other brothers? This is the outward sign of what God inwardly has put into you and means to you. Your relationship with God will overflow outwardly with love for others; an inward change shows in an outward demonstration.

             These two are the commandments Jesus gave to His disciples, "You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31 NASB). This is Jesus’ reiteration and elaboration of the Shema the Jews knew from the Old Testament, the old covenant. Jesus also said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35 NASB). Are you marked by God in your deeds and truth?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Grain of Wheat




I assure you, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just one grain; it never becomes more but lives by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest. (John 12:24, AMP). Many of us “gave our hearts to Jesus.” That was something we did during the years we were growing up in America. Have we really looked at this passage though? What does it mean, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies? “Oh, I know that answer,” someone says. “That is referring to Jesus death. We couldn’t become Christians without Him dying.” Good Sunday school answer. How many of us have given it any thought beyond the point in time we gave our hearts to Jesus?
What does Jesus say to the disciples? Does he say, “You have done well to believe in me; now go your merry way?” No, Jesus is not only talking to His disciples but teaching them, too. The purpose of John’s Gospel is “so that you may know.” Read the whole book. We see John the Baptist opened the book by saying that he is pointing the way; he is not the Messiah. He is the one crying out in the wilderness, who is preparing the way of the Lord. So, why does Jesus tell this parable to the disciples?
Let us consider first, what a disciple is. A disciple is one taught and mentored by a teacher. This teaching is not a once off but a daily, moment-by-moment interaction. It is a sharing of life with the teacher. There must be a purpose for this form of teaching, right? There is. This method of teaching is not only so you can gain knowledge, but so you can understand with certainty and put into place the things you are learning as well. This is a life-changing education. For that reason, a disciple is one who learns and absorbs the lessons of God so that his or her life is changed-the way they see things and the way they live. 
How does this definition affect our reading of the passage in John 12 now? Is it only concerning Himself that Jesus spoke? We each are to become grains of wheat that die so God can use our lives to produce a harvest that will return to a relationship with Him. What, you say? Does a seed produce when fresh from the plant? No. Do we live for God if we do not die to self? No. Did you ever give that a thought? What does becoming a Christian mean? It means we no longer do what we want to do but instead we place God’s priorities as the reason for our lives. In baptism, you symbolize this dying to self by being laid down into water and rising out of the water to new life in Christ. The seed, yourself, dies when you become a Christian. You do not follow a life path of your own making; you are dead to yourself. When we are dead to ourselves, from that time God can use us to bring other people to Him, to a life and love relationship with Him. 
Now, let us consider this again. "I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just one grain; it never becomes more but lives by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest" (John 12:24, AMP). Our lives are useless lived exclusively for ourselves. Getting our wants met is not the priority. Everything we own we cannot take with us after we die nor will it keep us from dying. The only way to possess true purpose in life is to be in a relationship with our Creator. He loves us so much that He made a plan for us to return to Him even before He created us. Additionally, we gain eternal life if we “fall into the earth and die,” as Christ said in this parable. Jesus was not only talking about Himself; He was talking about His disciples, too.
God uses the people who died to themselves and their own purposes to tell others the Good News that God loves them and wants to have a relationship with them. This is the harvest, the others to whom we tell about God’s love incarnate in Jesus Christ. The seed is we, dying to self and living for Christ. We do this because not only have we heard the Good News, but we are being transformed by it until we can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, NASB). The fields are white and ready for harvesting; will you allow the Word in you to transform you?