The Calling to Excellence

by R.C. Sproul

What was the primary battle cry of the sixteenth-century Reformation? It is the unifying point of classic, historic evangelicalism: justification by faith alone, sola fide. Anyone who calls himself an evangelical, historically speaking, is saying by that title, “I believe in the doctrine of justification by faith alone.”

Justification has to do with repairing the damage that sin creates in our relationship with God. It describes how we are declared just in the sight of God because God is holy and requires righteousness from His people. Since we fail to meet that requirement, we either stand under God’s judgment or we are justified in His sight. We are justified through the imputation of the merits of Christ so that the basis of our justification is the righteousness of Jesus alone.

I want to call our attention to what I think is a great distortion of justification by faith alone. Incidentally, this is the very thing the Roman Catholic Church feared from the teaching of Martin Luther. They feared that if the doctrine of justification by faith alone was disseminated throughout the Christian community, people would come to the conclusion that works are utterly unimportant in the Christian life.

However, Luther and the other Reformers recognized that the New Testament calls us again and again to do good works. Good works are not the cause of justification, but they are the fruit of justification. One could even say that works are the indispensable fruit of justification. If a man says he has faith but has no works, can that faith save him? That’s the question the Apostle James asks in James 2. If a man says he has faith, but he has no works, will that man be justified? If he doesn’t have any fruit, that proves he doesn’t have any faith. If he doesn’t have any faith, he doesn’t have any justification. Do the works count for justification? No. Must the works be present if a person is truly justified? Yes.

The Lutheran church came up with a formula that I think all Christians should commit to memory: Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. Justification is not by a lonesome faith that exists in isolation from good works. If it is alone with no works present, then it is not justifying faith. Good works add nothing to our justification, but they are crucial to our sanctification, which follows and flows out of our justification. We do not trust in our good works in order to reconcile ourselves to God, but we should constantly be examining ourselves to make sure that the fruit of the gospel—good works of service to God and neighbor—is being borne in our lives.

GOOD WORKS AND CULTURAL IMPACT

According to the church historians with whom I’ve spoken, never in the history of the Christian church has there been so great an evangelical awakening as there is in our day. Yet at the same time, it has had little impact on the culture in which it is manifesting itself. We are living in a time of intense interest in evangelicalism, yet the evangelical community is making almost no impact on the culture in which it is flourishing. Why is that?

I’m sure there are several factors involved, but one key factor is the myth that grace means the end of work, labor, or effort. Theologically speaking, we call this the false teaching of quietism. Quietism means that the working out of my salvation is strictly and simply the work of God in the sense that we do nothing. We do not have to labor, we do not have to sweat, but instead we “let go and let God.” We allow God to work through us while we quietly wait upon the Lord. Not only does God have no expectations for us to produce good works, but we have no right to expect any other Christian to be laboring diligently for the sake of Christ. Likewise, no other Christian has the right to call us to excellence.

Let me put it in simple language. The underlying motif of this myth is that once a person accepts the grace of God, he or she has a license for sloppiness. It is the belief that forgiveness—the heart of the Christian faith—means never having to make demands on people. No matter what we do, God accepts us wherever we are, never asking us to move from where we are. That is how the myth goes.

It’s easy to fall into the belief that forgiveness means no demands on people. When I tell people, “You can never achieve merit that will get you into the kingdom of God,” what’s the normal human response? People respond by saying: “Well then, I might as well not sweat it. I might as well relax, take it easy, bask in the arms of Jesus, and let it go.” That’s what we call quietism, where someone is totally removed from any serious call to excellence.Justification has to do with repairing the damage that sin creates in our relationship with God.SHARE

Now, add to quietism the ruthless spirit of competition that we see in the world around us, particularly in American culture. The competitive mentality of our society is in conflict with Christian values and Christian virtues. Our culture has no room for whoever finishes second. We idolize and exalt those who win the prize. Traditionally, Americans are highly success-oriented, but that has come to mean that success is all that counts. It doesn’t matter if a person is virtuous or not. If they’re a good actor or actress, it’s OK if their lives are scandalous privately because their performance excuses their morality. If a quarterback can take his team to the Super Bowl and win, it doesn’t matter what his lifestyle is off the football field. We honor excellence and winners. Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

So, we have this sense of competition that says the only value is success. The only value is winning. What happens when we say that? We come to the conclusion that it’s not important for us to compete. Since the variety of competition that we see in the world is characterized by ungodliness, ruthlessness, brutality, pride, ego trips, and all the rest, we look at that and say: “We don’t want any part of that. Therefore, we should remove ourselves from the arena of competition. Otherwise, we may be guilty of conformity to the spirit of the age.” Though it is true that we are not called to participate in the brutal, ruthless, pride syndrome of success, nevertheless, we are called to work even more diligently than anyone who is motivated by a success ethic could possibly be. Yes, God accepts us as we are, but He accepts us to change us. He calls us to excellence. He also calls us to discipleship.

DISCIPLINE AND DISCIPLESHIP

Discipleship means discipline. Paul says, for example, “I discipline my body and keep it under control” (1 Cor. 9:27). “Run that you may obtain the prize” (v. 24). Other biblical authors echo this teaching. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccl. 9:10). Seek the higher things, but with diligence. The author of Hebrews says, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12:4). The Christian is called to Herculean efforts of discipline and achievement that would make the labor and industry of the world pale in comparison. In other words, Christianity is not an exercise in slumber where we take our ease in Zion and spend the rest of our life being ministered to. I remember when I first became a Christian, and the fellow who led me to Christ said to me one day, “R.C., what you have to do as a Christian with respect to the world is out-think the world, out-fight the world, and out-love the world.” That’s a tall order—to out-think, out-fight, and out-love the world.

Where do we see greatness in Christian art today? Where do we see greatness in Christian music today? Who are the leading great Christian novelists of our age? Who are the great Christian politicians? Where are the great Christian research scientists? Consider the great composers—Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Handel. Of those men, which one most consciously sought to use the medium of music as an instrument to capture men’s minds for the glory of God? It was Bach. Bach was bitterly opposed to the forces of the Enlightenment that were eclipsing the influence of Christianity. Bach determined to use his gifts and talents to stem the tide as far as he could against those forces. Now, consider some of the greatest painters of all time—Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Raphael. Out of those five, many people would say Michelangelo and Rembrandt were the greatest. Anything peculiar about those two? About 85 percent of Rembrandt’s work centered on Christian themes and biblical themes. The same is true of Michelangelo. Now consider some of the greatest writers of all time—Milton, Shakespeare, Dickens, Donne, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy. Out of those six, many would say that Shakespeare was the greatest. His work is filled with biblical allusions and imagery. The same is true of Milton, Dostoyevsky, and Donne.

See the influence in history? We could look at other fields. We could go look at the natural sciences. We could look at Galileo; we could look at Kepler. Johannes Kepler, a key figure in the Scientific Revolution, believed that the purpose of science was to think God’s thoughts after Him. We see this down through the ages. The leaders of the classics in all the fields have been Christians.

Today, however, we live in a time of an eclipse of Christian influence on culture. Why? Can we say that it’s simply because the secular forces are so strong that they have strangled any attempts of Christian infiltration and influence? Can we say it’s because Christians are being persecuted? That’s true to a degree, but can that satisfactorily explain this failure of the Christian community to dent the culture?

If somebody paints great art, sooner or later, the level seeks the top. The cream comes to the top. Great novelists have a tendency to get discovered sooner or later. You don’t hide the really great people forever. The great contributors, the great musicians, the great novelists, the great artists, and the great thinkers will be recognized sooner or later. Where are they today? We have a whole generation of Christians who say: “For me, Christianity is a private, personal matter. It’s something I enjoy. I get a trip out of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean I am called to give everything I have back to the glory of God.” One thing I know for sure is that every person has at least one gift they have received from God. We may not know what it is, and I may not be able to recognize what it is, but we all have one. The gift that we’ve been given by God is supposed to be brought back to God and be developed to its ultimate potential.The Christian is called to Herculean efforts of discipline and achievement that would make the labor and industry of the world pale in comparison.SHARE

I had a professor in seminary, Dr. Gerstner, who was noted for his rigorous demands in the classroom. Students were so terrified of Gerstner’s classes that I had a seminar course, an upper-level elective in the theology of Jonathan Edwards, and out of twenty-two people in that seminar, twenty of them were auditors. Only two students took that class for credit. The other twenty took it as auditors. Why? They were afraid that they would not do well if they took it for credit and had to take the examinations, being evaluated in terms of their mastery of the material. They all wanted to hear what Gerstner had to say on the subject, but they didn’t want to compete. They didn’t want to submit themselves to the discipline of his teaching, and I’ll tell you why.

I remember when a student came back from picking up his term paper. He looked at the grade on the term paper, and it was a C or a C- from Dr. Gerstner. The student was crestfallen. He said: “I can’t understand this. I worked so hard on this paper. I did so much labor and so much research. I’m going to go talk to that professor and see why he gave me such a low grade.” So, this fellow went to see Dr. Gerstner and said: “Dr. Gerstner, I don’t understand why I got a C- on this paper. I did my best.” Dr. Gerstner looked at him and said: “You did your what? Young man, you’ve never done your best.”

How many times have we said that we’ve done our best? How many times have we actually done it? How many times have we reached the absolute peak that we could possibly achieve, where we expended the supreme level of effort and energy on any task? How many times?

This student came in and said, “This is my best.” If Dr. Gerstner was honest with that student, he’d have said to him: “If this truly represents your best, young man, let me suggest to you that you stop school right now. You just simply don’t have the gifts necessary to do the job if this is your best.” Of course, Dr. Gerstner knew very well that it wasn’t that fellow’s best. He knew that student could have done much better than he did.

As Christians who believe in God’s forgiveness, we understand that we’re not going to lose our salvation, that we’re not going to lose the acceptance that we have in the Christian community. But from that we often draw the false conclusion that there’s no point in trying. There’s no point in developing a gift that God has given us to the fullest measure that we can. But none of us have done that with any of the gifts we’ve been given. Believe me, I know.

THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

Here’s what happens: we start piano or any other skill, and when we start, it’s very easy at the beginning. We’re playing little three-fingered melodies: “I am playing middle C. I can play it well, you see.” One finger—anybody can do that because it requires no great effort. So, you cruise along and, all of a sudden, the teacher says, “Now we’re going to start playing with two hands.” Then it starts to get difficult. This is a new level, a new plateau. At that first plateau of difficulty, a percentage of those children who began piano lessons with eagerness and enthusiasm then decide to drop out.

Maybe 90 percent continue and make it to the second level where they’re playing with two hands. Then they have to begin to learn how to play chords. In order to do that, they need to learn something about scales and rhythm, and they go to another level of difficulty. Now about 30 percent more drop out.

It gets a bit more complicated when learning five-fingered chords, difficult tempos, four sharps, and five flats. That gets us to classical compositions, and about 5 percent of those who started piano lessons make it there. Then it becomes a question of learning harmonics, fill-ins, and little musical terms and cadences, which becomes more difficult, and about 2 percent of those who started piano lessons make it there.

Then, in order to go from 2 percent to be in the top 1 percent of piano players in the world, it is almost a sheer vertical wall of difficulty. That is where the boys are separated from the men, and the honky-tonk players are separated from the musicians. That is just to divide the top 2 percent from the top 1 percent.

I’ll give you another illustration. I play golf, and I take golf seriously. I have had probably two hundred lessons of golf in my life. I’ve been playing golf for many years and have read every serious book of instruction there is. I work hard at my golf game. I have a four handicap, which puts me in the top 1 percent of golfers in America. Do you realize what the difference is between a four-handicap golfer and a zero-handicap golfer? It’s all the difference in the world. A guy who has a four handicap has a serious problem with his game.

When you get to a zero handicap, where you’re shooting par regularly, maybe ten thousand people can do that in this country. There are a ton of them. How many of those can win a state championship in America? Fifty. Those guys start separating the men from the boys. How many of those fifty make it on the professional golf tour? Maybe 10 percent of those can do that, down to five. How many of those can make it big on the golf tour? Do you know what the difference is between a four-handicap golfer and Jack Nicklaus? It’s the difference between you and Van Cliburn on the piano. Not too many people are coming to pay money to hear you play the piano, and nobody pays to watch me hit a golf ball.

What it takes to achieve excellence, more than anything else, is not talent but perseverance. Once a person reaches a certain plateau of mastery and proficiency in a skill, it becomes simple to get even better, but the cost of reaching a certain level of achievement is high. Very few people ever develop any skill or gift to the plateau where they are in the top 15 percent. Things start easy, but as soon as we run into obstacles or difficulties, we quit. We have no perseverance, no commitment. Excellence takes work. It takes the monotonous routine of running your fingers up and down the scales.What it takes to achieve excellence, more than anything else, is not talent but perseverance.SHARE

I remember when I went back for music lessons when I was in seminary. I went to my teacher and said, “I want to learn how to play Chopin.” She said, “You’re not ready to play Chopin.” I said, “I don’t care; I want to play Chopin.” She said, “OK.” So, she gave me some pieces that had all these runs up and down the scale, and I said, “I can’t do that.” She said to me: “Here’s what you do. Figure out how that goes and start with your left hand, really slowly, and then add the right hand. Do that ten times until you can go very slowly without making a mistake. Then turn the metronome up a little bit. Do it slowly, over and over again, and gradually increase the speed.” After a couple of weeks of that, a person can sit down at the piano and go up and down the scale without ever missing, but the discipline it takes to train your fingers to do that is simply tedious. It’s laborious.

We hear men like Van Cliburn, who is very expressive and has mastery over his instrument, and we understand that it is not until you master those discipline areas that you have the freedom to do anything you want with the piano. The more you master the details, the more freedom you have to be creative. Do you want to be a creative painter? You better learn the basics first. You better learn all those laborious steps in order to do it. Most of us don’t want to pay the price.

What happens is that we have people in our secular culture who are more motivated than we are. You can’t tell me that God, all of a sudden, quit giving gifts to His people in this century. You can’t say that the secularists have all the talent, that the Christian community is working hard but they don’t have any talent. No, the secular man is out-motivating the Christian person. The Christian person is not motivated to excellence. I don’t understand that. How can that be? How can you have any understanding of what God has done for you and have no motivation to return your gifts, which He gives you, to Him?

DILIGENCE, LAZINESS, AND LOVE

Do you love Christ? Is love a strong motivation? It’s one of the strongest motivating forces in the world. If you love Christ, you are called to give yourself as a living sacrifice to Christ. It’s your reasonable service. It means you are called to work, to labor diligently. I defy you to go through the New Testament and count how many times the word diligence appears. It occurs over and over and over again. The Christian community by and large, it seems, is slothful. It’s lazy. It’s sloppy. It doesn’t want to be challenged. It doesn’t want to have to work hard for things. We’re turning out a whole culture of unmotivated people who want to drop out and take it easy.

I talked to a Christian student not too long ago who was graduating from college. I asked, “What are you going to do with your life?” The student responded to me: “I don’t know yet. I think what I’m going to do this next year is take the year off, go trucking through Europe, and have the experience of having some fun. I’ve been working in college for four years. I’m tired of going to school, and I don’t want to go to work yet, so I’m going to spend a year trucking through Europe.”

I wanted to tell the student: “Hey, there’s a war going on. People are dying all over the world, and you haven’t even started into the ministry. You haven’t even begun to pay your dues, and you want a year’s vacation right now?” Where is the Christian community that is willing to give their best to the Master, as the old song says?

The Old Testament principle of the firstfruits relates to this issue. What were the firstfruits? A man goes out, plants his field, and sees that part of his crop perfectly cultivated. The fruit is lush and firm and beautiful, so he goes through that crop and picks it. In those days, the Jewish man would go through the selection process and say: “I want the finest 10 percent of that fruit. We’re not going to put that in the market. We’re giving that to God.” Today, we take the finest we have, which isn’t very fine, and sell it for as much as we can get. Then, we come down to the stuff that’s withering and dying on the vine, take that, and throw it to God like slop to hogs.

Listen to part of the Sermon on the Mount: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick” (Matt. 5:13–15, KJV).

That’s simple enough. You take a candle and put it on a candle stand. You don’t put it under a bushel. Christ calls you to be the light of the world. Is He going to put you under a bushel? That’s not His way of doing things. He wants to put you on a lampstand. The only person who will put a bushel over your light is you.

The light that is on the candlestick gives light to everyone that is in the house. If you give a gift back to God that He has given to you, not only does it honor God, but it enriches God’s people. It becomes a blessing and an inspiration to everyone around you.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16, KJV). That is the Christian impetus for excellence—the mandate of Jesus, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works.” Your good works are supposed to be visible. You are supposed to be a light that can be seen. You are not supposed to be a closet Christian but a visible Christian whose gifts bring illumination and light to this world. Let it shine so that men can see it, as Jesus says, so that they see good works to the glory of God the Father.

Let me finish this by saying that one theologian made this observation: the essence of theology is grace. If you don’t understand grace, you can’t understand theology. The essence of ethics is gratitude. That’s the motivation for excellence.

Dr. R.C. Sproul was founder of Ligonier Ministries, founding pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and first president of Reformation Bible College. He was author of more than one hundred books, including The Holiness of God.

Covering topics including Christian ThoughtStewardship of Creation, & Vocation.

VIDEO Will You Pay the Price for a National Awakening?

April 8, 2021  by Shane Idleman

I recently had the privilege of speaking on the theme of Paying the Price at Godspeak Calvary Chapel in California, pastored by Rob McCoy (a short clip is here.) My brief exhortation drove home the fact that America crossed a dangerous line years ago. Instead of repenting and turning back to God, we have walked further into the deep waters of ungodliness. The decadence and brutality in our streets are unparalleled in our history. Despair and depression reign in our land. But—believe it or not—I am hopeful.

Where do I find such hope? In studying various spiritual awakenings (including those in the Bible), I have found that darkness often precedes light. For instance, in his book on revival, W. T. Stead makes a stunning observation: “It is the darkest hour before the dawn. The nation always seems to be given over to the Evil One before the coming of the Son of Man [Jesus Christ]. The decay of religious faith, the deadness of the Churches, the atheism of the well-to-do, the brutality of the masses, all of these, when at their worst, herald the approach of the Revival.” He then concludes with this powerful offer of hope: “Things seem to get too bad to last. The reign of evil becomes intolerable. Then the soul of the nation awakes.” Sadly, it often takes tragedy and calamity to wake us up.

Have We Really Sought the Lord Wholeheartedly?

Decades ago, Gordon Cove challenged readers when he wrote, “You have not sought the Lord with ‘your whole heart’ until you have tried a protracted season of prayer and fasting.” Could a lack of prayer and fasting be one of the hindrances to a spiritual awakening? Absolutely! Desperate times call for desperate measures. A full stomach makes seeking God difficult, prayer hard, and worship challenging.

Cove continues, “In many cases, where fasting has been added to the prayers, along with deep consecration and weeping before God, the answer has miraculously come to hand.” Fasting doesn’t twist God’s arm, but it does bend my knee. Fasting isn’t a work; it’s exchanging one appetite for a greater one.

The Spark that Ignites the Flame

My goal isn’t to overemphasize fasting, but it’s clear that fasting has fallen by the wayside and King Stomach is still on the throne. In reading about the spiritual renewals under the preaching of John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Duncan Campbell, Evan Roberts, and the Puritans, as well as in the First and Second Great Awakenings, I have found that, along with keeping the Word of God front and center, intense prayer and vigorous fasting were the sparks that ignited the flame. God heard the cry of His children.

Could it be that we aren’t willing to pay the price through a deep season of prayer and fasting? Granted, in the same way we cannot produce a field of corn by making it rain, a spiritual awakening cannot be orchestrated. It’s God’s work alone, but we can prepare the soil of our heart by fully surrendering our lives. God revives those who submit themselves to Him with open and empty hands (Isaiah 57:15).

God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility

A.W. Pink, in Gleanings from Joshua, said, “It would indeed be strange if we apprehended how that on the one hand Canaan was a free gift unto Israel, which they entered by grace alone; and on the other, that they had to fight for every inch of it!” Although we are totally dependent on God, a spiritual awakening will not come without a fight.

In the book of Joel, the people’s provisions had dried up and withered away. They were desperate and despondent, but God didn’t give up on them. To show the magnitude of their sin and the need for humility, God told Joel to consecrate a fast and cry out to Him. Crying out, fasting, and repentance were the sparks that ignited the flame (Joel 1:4-14; 2:12-17). If you’d like to join me in fasting for our nation, see the note below.

Four Essential Steps to a Spiritual Awakening

The following scriptural truths, along with prayer and fasting, can no doubt ignite the fires of another spiritual awakening.

1. Embrace godly sorrow and confess sin. Confession of sin is often a precursor to a spiritual awakening, both personally and corporately. During the 1904-1905 revivals in Wales, Evan Roberts said that four things contributed to the revival. At the top of the list was the confession of sin as well as acknowledging Jesus Christ publicly, followed by obedience to the Spirit and the removal of doubt about God’s truth. How are you doing in these areas? If we don’t make changes here, we will not experience all that God has for us.

2. Humble yourself before God does. In Isaiah 58, fasting was ineffective because the people were harsh and self-focused. Whether it’s pastors throwing tirades from the pulpit, carnal Christians mocking God, or proud believers who never look in the mirror, we have not yet humbled ourselves. We underestimate how rebellion and pride prevent spiritual awakenings: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). Pride must be crushed under the power of the cross.

3. Holiness is not a suggestion. Second Corinthians 7:1 says that we must purify ourselves from everything that contaminates our spirit. Romans 12:1 reminds us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Without holiness, no one will see revival. Perhaps it’s time to examine yourself and see how you’re doing in this area. If nothing comes to mind, ask God to show you areas of sin in your life. Spend a Sweet Hour of Prayer with God.

4. There must be continual hunger and thirst for God. On this point, I’m often reminded of the three times in Leviticus 6 where God instructs that fire should always be burning on the altar. And Jesus, in Matthew 5:6, tells us that only those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.

A spiritual awakening is God’s power meeting God’s people who are hungry for more of Him. Full surrender isn’t optional; it’s essential: “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

It’s not about perfection but direction. What direction are you heading? Will He find you empty, humble, and desperate, or full, arrogant, and satisfied?

Will you pay the price for a national awakening? It’s our only hope.

Note: I recently became so broken over what we are leaving the next generation that I began a lengthy water fast, not knowing that it would be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m planning to post my experience in May 2021. You can hear about the outcome by subscribing to my YouTube channel here. Additionally, my new book, 40 Days to Reset Your Life, is scheduled to be released in June. This book demonstrates how prayer and fasting can reset your life and change your spiritual course as well as the course of the nation.

https://shaneidleman.com/2021/04/08/will-you-pay-the-price-for-a-national-awakening/

Born to Holiness

John MacArthur Sep 7, 1986

I want to welcome you to our continued study of the epistle of James.  So you can take your bible and open up to James.  We have much ahead of us in this great epistle, but we are going to stop tonight for just a brief look at verse 18.  Normally, we would be taking another section starting in verse 19, since we did mention verse 18 in our last study.  But I want to stop for a moment and expand our understanding of James 1:18, because it is such a great, great verse.  This is a verse that really articulates in a very simple way the meaning of the new birth, the meaning of salvation.

I was interested this morning in the reception for our first time guests to meet a lovely young lady from Japan who understands some English, conversational English and confessed this morning that she found it very difficult to follow what I was saying in the message.  And it alerted me not so much to the fact that the words that I say are not intelligible as such, but the fact that the longer you are a Christian and the more you get involved in Christianity and in the word of God, the more sort of evangelical lingo you probably develop and somebody coming in who knows conversational English is going to have a very hard time plugging into what you are saying.  It’s a good reminder also, that every once in a while, we need to go back to the simple reality of what the gospel really is and that’s what we want to do tonight.  Let’s look together at verse 18 of James chapter 1. 

It says this, of his own will, speaking of the father, God the father mentioned in verse 17, “Of his own will begot he us, with the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.  A simple verse, but on in which is bound up all the richness of the new birth.  The Old Testament said, be holy for I the Lord am holy.  Peter says in his epistle, be holy, for I the Lord am holy.  In order to enter into the presence of God, man must be holy.  Set apart from sin unto righteousness.  Now men are not holy.  That’s obvious.  They are not righteous, that is, they are sinful.  They do not think right, speak right, act right, do right.  They to not rightly perceive God.  They do not rightly perceive themselves.  They do not rightly perceive God’s truth, God’s revelation or God’s law or God’s will.

But even though men are not holy and they are not right with God, for the most part they do not perceive that they are not holy.  They do not understand that they are not righteous, they do not willingly agree with the diagnosis of scripture that they are sinful.  Men are not holy, and worse, they do not recognize either the need for holiness or in many cases, the absence of it.  And if they do recognize that they are not holy, they usually blame someone else for that reality. 

And that’s what we were discussing in our last look at this tremendous chapter.  In directly, men push the responsibility for their sinfulness off on God, typically.  And as we looked at verses 13 through 18, we saw that we have no one to blame but ourselves for our own sinfulness.  Certainly, we cannot blame God by saying, well, God created us.  God made laws that are impossible to keep.  God has allowed me to become the way I am by my environment.  God put me into circumstances that put such constraints on me I can’t control my behavior, et cetera, et cetera.  But what James says to us is, God cannot have any part in our sinfulness either directly or indirectly.

So men have to be holy in order to have a relationship with God.  They are not holy.  For the most part, they don’t even recognize that they are not holy and if they do recognize that they sin, they will usually blame someone else’s and that someone in a very vague sense is the God who put them in the circumstances they are in and gave them the impulses he gave them and they want to shirk the responsibility.  So James says in verse 13 to 18, you cannot blame anyone but yourself for your sin.  In verse 13 he says, the nature of evil demonstrates that.  No man can say, when he is tempted, I am tempted by God, for God can’t be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man.  You can’t blame God for evil because God and evil are mutually exclusive.  And then in verse 14, the nature of man.  He says, man has his own problem.  Man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.  The problem is in man, it is in his sinfulness, his fallenness.  Then he talks about the nature of lust in verses 15 and 16. 

Lust when it conceives brings forth sin, sin when it finally comes forth produces nothing but death, and don’t you be wrong about that.  In other words, understand that that is the reality of sin, so it isn’t God, because God and evil are incompatible.  The problem is in the nature of man and in the nature of man the problem is his evil desire, his lust, his passion for that which is wrong.  Then in verse 17, he goes back to discussing the nature of God and says, from God comes every good gift and every perfect gift and that never varies and there is never any shadow cast on that, so you can’t blame God because his nature is to give only good things.  Only good comes from God.  So, he says, we can’t blame God for our sin because of the nature of evil, the nature of man, the nature of lust and the nature of God  Then in verse 18 he sort of sums up his argument by saying, the nature of regeneration itself or conversion or salvation or the new birth shows us that God does not lead us into sin.  Verse 18 says, of his own will in other words, it was his will to beget us to become like him.  A kind of first fruits of his own creation.  So the purpose of regeneration was to give birth into life.  To create us to do good not evil.  To give us power over sin as a part of a new creation. 

So God is in no way involved in our sinfulness.  He cannot be mixed with evil.  The problem is in man.  In man, the problem is bound up with his lust.  The nature of God is such that he only gives good gifts and when God touches your life, it is to produce life, not death, to produce righteousness not sin.  To make a new creation, not exercise the old one. 

So all of those things we looked at last time, point to the fact that God cannot directly or indirectly be the source of sin.  God is not and cannot be tempting men to sin.  And so we looked at verse 18 in that light.  But the verse is so rich because it discusses this matter of the new birth of begetting a person, of regenerating a person and it demands a closer and longer look and we want to do that tonight.  He introduces us to the subject of regeneration in verse 18 in connection with a point in his context.  And the point is what I have just said to you, he is using regeneration as a way to show you that God doesn’t lead people into sin, he leads them to be creations of a new kind, like him.  He leads them out of sin into new life.  And that would be inconsistent with any thought that he would lead us into sin.  He is recreating us away from sin, not into sin, but apart from the context itself, as we look at the verse, I want you to just examine it in and of itself, because it says so much about regeneration, and the whole teaching of regeneration and new birth is worthy of our careful attention.  Now keep in mind what I said earlier and what we noted in the text that man is filled with lust and lust produces sin and sin begets death.  It is true that without holiness no one will ever have a relationship with God, no one will ever fully know God.  No one will ever enter into God’s eternal presence without holiness.  And yet man is unholy and he is sinful and everything in his nature produces lust and evil.  To give you a clearer understanding of that, look at Romans with me, chapter 3.

A very familiar portion of scripture to bible students but one that needs examination, in the light of this particular point.  At the end of verse 9 he says, Jews and Greeks, they are all under sin.  They are literally under the mastery of sin.  They are all subject to the control of sin.  And then he goes on to show this in extent by quoting from some Old Testament passages and he says, “As it is written, There is none righteous no not one.”  There is not one human being created in this world since the fall of Adam that is righteous and that means that is right with God, that does righteously, that obeys the will of God in and of himself.

There is none righteous, no not one.  There is none that understands.  That is, there is none that fully comprehends that which God requires and is fully able to understand it and carry it out.  There is none that even seeks after God.  The bent of man is to seek sin.  Men love what?  Darkness, John 3 says, rather than light because their deeds are evil.  They are all gone out of the way.  They have all diverted themselves from the path that God ordained for righteousness.  They are altogether become unprofitable.  The Greek word has to do with sour milk.  It is good for nothing.  They are absolutely useless.  And there is none that does good, not even one.  And then he describes the nature of their evil.  Their throat is an open sepulcher.  It stinks like a dead corpse whose scent comes oozing out of a tomb.  With their tongues, they have used deceit.  The poison of asps or snakes is under their lips.  A man is basically revealed in his conversation and in his mouth, and the ugly, evil, defiled, deadness of his sinful nature comes out through his mouth.  The mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.  Their feet are in a hurry to shed blood.  Destruction and misery are in their ways.  The way of peace have they not known and there is absolutely no reverence of God before their eyes.  Here is a definition of sinful man, man without God.  And the whole world comes under this in verse 18.  Every mouth is stopped and all the world stands guilty before God.  And there is no way he says, in verse 20, that through their flesh, they can be justified by God, by keeping some rules by obeying law, even though it be the law of God.  The law simply produces the knowledge of sin, it doesn’t produce righteousness.  So there is the definition of man from Romans 3.  Man in his sinful state, look at Ephesians 2.

In Ephesians 2 it says, verse 1, “And you who were dead in trespasses and sins.”  And here we find that man is characterized again as  being dead, the stench of a corpse and the characteristic of his deadness is a deadness in trespasses and sins.  Just using two words to show kind of the breadth and the extent of his sinfulness.  He walks, it says, according to the course of this world.  In other words, he daily conduct is dictated by the evil system.  The one who is in charge of his life is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience, those are titles for Satan.  He functions, verse 3, in the lust of the flesh.  He fulfills the desire of the flesh and the mind and he is by nature a child of wrath.  That means, he is a target of judgment, he is the object of God’s judgment. 

Now all this is very basic, man in order to have a right relationship to God, needs to be holy.  Man is not holy.  Man doesn’t recognize that he is not holy and sometimes if he does recognize that he is not holy and sinful he tends to blame God for his circumstances, pass off the responsibility which keeps him confined under the subjection of sin and therefore cut off from God.  Now the question comes up, what are you going to do to help this man?  What are you going to do to change the situation?  What does this man need?  External changes are not enough.  He cannot by some resolution in his own mind determine that he is going to obey the law of God and work his way out of this deadness.  He cannot give himself new life. 

What he needs is to be recreated.  He needs is a new heart, a new inner person, a new life principle.  He needs to be born again.  He needs to start all over and come out different.  As if in the words of Nicodemus, he could crawl back into his mother’s womb and start all over again with a different nature.  Since holiness is the absolute condition for acceptance into fellowship with God, sinful man in his fallen dead condition can’t ever have that fellowship and God won’t accept his corrupt self, so he needs a new life.  He needs a brand new life.  So when we talk about the gospel or the new birth, we are not talking about adding something.  We are not talking about tacking something on.  We are not talking about putting a ribbon on a sow.  We are not talking about putting a new suit of clothes on an old man.  We are talking about a total transformation.  To enter into a right relationship with God, demands a total new person.  You have to go back and start all over again and be born all over again into a new life.

Now scripture affirms this.  It isn’t even new, in the New Testament, this was part of the promise in anticipation of the Old Testament.  Jerimiah for example, says the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked and Jeremiah says, can the Ethiopian change his skin?  Can he by willingly and by being willing rather and wishing can he change the color of his dark skin?  And then Jeremiah says, can the leopard change his spots?  And the answer is of course not, then, may you also do good that are accustomed to do evil.

You can’t change your life either, so you need a transformation.  That’s Jeremiah 13:23 and over in chapter 31, comes the wonderful promise of that transformation, Jeremiah 31:31, “Behold the days come, says the Lord, I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the hand of Egypt, and so forth.”  He says, “I’ll make a new covenant,” verse 33, “I will put my law in their inward parts.  I will write it in their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.  I am going to get inside and change their inside.”  They can’t do it on their own so it has to be done for them.  Man has to have a change at the very core of his being. 

The natural man, that is the unregenerate man, the man that doesn’t know God.  The sinful man, the unredeemed man, the unsaved man, does not, 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “Receive the things of the spirit of God.”  He can’t receive them.  He’s dead.  And a corpse doesn’t respond to anything.  And so what does he need?  He needs new birth.  He needs new life.  I just read you Ephesians 2:1 to 3, how that men are dead in trespasses and sin following the lust of the flesh, the lust of the mind, the desires of the flesh, being subject to the leadership of Satan, the prince of the power of the air, they are children of wrath, but it says, even when we were dead in sins in the same chapter verse 5, Christ has made us alive and raised us up.  And here is the idea of a resurrection from the dead, of new life, of a new birth.  In Romans 6, it says, when you put your faith in Christ, you die and you rise to walk in and it uses this wonderful phrase, newness of what?  Of life.  Now that’s what every person has to have, newness of life.  The old life has to be totally done away and a new life has to come.  In Ephesians 4:24, you have put on the new man, which, listen to this, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.  When you come to salvation, you put on a new man, a new person, not new clothes.  A new person. 

It’s a recreation.  The best and most graphic illustration of this is found in the wonderful encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus so turn to John 3 and let’s look at it briefly and remind ourselves of this wonderful, wonderful story.  There was a man of the Pharisees, that was, he was a religious leader of great esteem.  He may have well been as prominent as any teacher because in verse 10 Jesus says, are you and uses the definite article, the teacher of Israel and don’t know these things.

So here is one man who is recognized perhaps publicly as the teacher in Israel of some great stature, a Pharisee well versed in the law.  He approaches Jesus and says we know you are  a teacher from God.  Here is a man of great esteem.  Here is a man who recognizes his own calling, but recognizes one who is even significantly above himself in understanding, so he comes to Jesus and he says in verse 2, we know you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do the miracles that you do except God be with him.  And he never says what’s in his heart.  He doesn’t ask a question, but Jesus reads his heart.  And Jesus answered, that’s an interesting statement because he didn’t ask anything.  He just said, you are a teacher, and went on to say, you come from God, we know that, but Jesus answered the question in his heart and said, Truly, truly I say to you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God and he knew that what was in the heart of Nicodemus was how do I get into the kingdom.

Here was a man who was the teacher in Israel.  A Pharisee, had it all going religiously, but knew he had not entered into truly to the kingdom of God.  How did he know he hadn’t?  Because there was nothing inside of him confirming that.  So he comes to Jesus and the question of his heart is, what do I do to get into the kingdom and the implication would be, I’m very religious, I study the law, I try to live by the code of the Old Testament.  I’m an ethical man.  I’m a trusted man.  I’m a respected man.  What do I need to add to my life to get into the kingdom and Jesus said, you don’t add anything, you start all over again.

You just kill the whole thing and start with birth.  You have to be born again.  And Nicodemus said to him, how can a man be born when he’s old.  Now he’s not asking the physical thing.  Give him a break.  He’s not saying, physically, how can I go back and be born?  He knows what Jesus is talking about.  He is simply picking up on the same use of veiled language, of parabolic talk of the meshal, the kind of speech that they use.  And he’s picking up on the same metaphor, the same descriptive terms that Jesus is using and he’s saying how does someone so many years in one religion, so many years following one code, so many years to be now a Pharisee and a rabbi and a teacher of the law, ever go back and undo all of that and start all over again.

That’s what he’s saying.  And if you have ever witnessed to an orthodox Jew, of any years, you will understand this mindset.  How can I ever unravel all this lifelong pursuit of religion and start all over again, that’s what was in the mind of Nicodemus.  Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born and he’s tongue in cheek at that point.  He’s saying that again, consistent with the analogy that Jesus was using.  How can I be born again spiritually?  He knows Jesus speaks spiritually.  How can I do it?  How can it happen?  And Jesus says to him, basically, you can’t do it. 

You can’t do it Nicodemus, truly, truly, I say to you, except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot what?  Enter the kingdom of God.  He says, you can’t do it.  It has to be done by water and the spirit.  It has to be done by a power and a resource outside yourself, outside of you.  And that power is the water and the spirit.  Now what does that refer too?  That’s the water of salvation, I believe if you go back for a brief moment to Ezekiel 36, you will see Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus in very familiar terms, he knew the Old Testament.  He knew the promise of Ezekiel 36 verse 25, I will sprinkle clean water upon you.

Who is I?  God.  This is a sovereign act.  And you will be clean from your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleans you, what he is saying to Nicodemus is this, number one, you must have a sovereign cleansing by God.  Secondly, it comes through the Holy Spirit.  You need a sovereign salvation that comes from outside yourself.  Just like Ezekiel prophesied, clean water, cleansing your filthiness.  Paul writing to Titus talks about the washing of water through the word.  The water of regeneration, verse 26, a new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, take away the stony heart out of your flesh, I will give you a heart of flesh, then this, I will put my spirit within you and cause you from the inside to walk in my statues.  You shall keep my ordinances and you shall do them. 

So when Jesus says to Nicodemus you must be born of the water and the spirit to enter the kingdom, he’s taking Nicodemus right back to Ezekiel 36 and saying, you know what the prophet said, you need a sovereign cleansing that comes from God outside yourself and the planting of his holy spirit in your heart to give you a new life and a new heart and a new motivation.  Why?  Verse 6, if you try to do it on your own, that which is born of the flesh is what?  All you are going to do is reproduce what?  Yourself.  More of you.  But that which is born of the spirit is what?  Spirit.  So don’t be surprised that I said you must be born again.  Don’t be surprised.  Then he says, the wind blows where it wants and you hear the sound and you can’t tell from where it comes and where it goes and so is everyone that is born of the spirit.  You know what he’s saying there?  He’s saying, I can’t tell you how or when the Holy Spirit does this, but this is a sovereign act of the Holy Spirit.  It can’t be charted.  You can’t even see it coming or going, but the spirit of God moves in where he wills and gives new birth to whom he wills as sovereign God by the agency of the spirit, through the washing of the water of the word in regeneration, cleanses the heart and plants that spirit within a man.  What you need Nicodemus is a new life and that is a sovereign act of God.  Just what Jerimiah 24 said in verse 7 where God said, I will give them a heart to know me.

A new nature, a new heart, a new life.  If any man be in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:17, he is a new creature, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.  So what I’m saying here is a new birth is essential.  That’s what salvation is.  It is God sovereignly coming down to a sinner and by his grace cleansing that sinner and planting his spirit in that sinner so that the cleansing of that sinner takes care of his relationship to God and the planting of the spirit takes care of his power to live in the will of God.  And that’s the purpose or regeneration. 

Now I want to ask four questions in our verse, James 1:18, let’s go back.  That was introduction.  James 1:18, I want to ask you four questions about regeneration.  Very simple questions and it won’t take us but a brief time to answer the four.  First question, what is it?  You’ve just said that man cannot know God without holiness.  Man is not holy.  Man doesn’t recognize his unholiness and when he does, he tends to blame God.  How is he ever going to get out of the dilemma.  Here is he blaming God for it, or not recognizing it.  How is he every going to change.  Well, you say somebody brings him so higher standards, some better ethics, a law that he is supposed to keep and he does it on his own.  No, that which the flesh produces is more what?  More flesh, so what has to happen is, he needs the divine intervention of a sovereign God,  who by his spirit comes in, washes away his sin, plants a new life in him.  Gives him his spirit to energize that new life unto obedience, that is a sovereign act.  That’s really regeneration.  But let’s get into this verse and look at the four questions, question number one.  What is is? What is the nature of regeneration?  And I have already alluded  to it, in fact already covered a great portion, but just this phrase, of his own will be begat us.  That’s the nature of regeneration.

It is God brining us forth, giving birth to us as new beings.  You are not the same.  You are a whole new creating.  Its’ the same verb, by the way, exactly the same one used back in verse 15.  God, when he conceives brings forth regeneration.  Brings forth new life, it’s the very same verb.  It’s in Eros tense so it looks back to the event of salvation when we were born by the divine parent and given new life as children of God.  Now if you want a technical definition for he begat us, here is one that I think is excellent.  It’s given by the theologian Berkhoff many years ago, but really says it.  Regeneration is, that act of God by which the principle of new life is implanted in man and the governing disposition of his soul is made holy.  That is a great definition.  Regeneration is that act of God by which the principle of new life is implanted in man and the governing disposition of his soul is made holy.  That is a total transformation.  That doesn’t sound anything like Romans 3, does it or anything like Ephesians 2:1 to 3.  In fact, Peter says, we become partakers of the divine nature.  God gives us his own life, his own self, his own righteous character, his own holiness is implanted in us, just a tremendous thought.  As a Christian, you and possess the very nature of God, 2 Peter 1:4.  We are partakers of this divine nature.  Now, in its fullness, we are yet to receive all that that implies, but already that new life principle is planted in us.  This is completed in a moment of time.  It is not a process.  It is an event.  It is an act by which God creates you new.  It is a secret work.  It cannot be perceived.  That’s why we can’t, in the words of Jesus, tell the wheat from the tares, because this particular act is imperceptible.  It is known only through its effect.  We can’t see God recreate someone.  That is a divine miracle unseen by any human eye.

But it plants in the person a new life principle and a new disposition that is enabled and driven to keep the law of God. Marvelous.  It overcomes the deadness of sin.  And the deadliness of sin.  No longer are we subject to sin, Paul says in Romans chapter 6, sin no longer has dominion over us.  We now follow a new master willingly and eagerly.

Jesus said in John 10, I am come that they might have what?  Life.  What do dead men need most?  Life.  And so, he comes to give us new life.  So what is regeneration?  What is it?  He begot us.  What does that mean?  He gave us new life.  Total transformation of the inner person.  Second question, who does it?  Well, I have already told you that from John chapter 3, who does it?  Look back at verse 18 again, of his own will, he begot us.  He being God the father mentioned in verse 17 as the source of every good and every perfect gift, of his own will is first in the Greek in the verse, which put is it in the emphatic position showing that the sovereign will of God is the root of this new life.  It couldn’t be any other way, because how is a dead person going to give himself life?  Impossible.  The source of new life is God.  God.  It is the grace of the giver, not the desire of the receiver.  That desire of the receiver is prompted by the grace of the giver.  So it is wholly the choice and the work of almighty God.

If I am saved, and you are saved, who gets all the credit?  God does.  We praise him.  Go back to John 1:12 and I want to just draw a little more on this thought.  You say, but wait a minute, didn’t I receive Christ, didn’t I believe, of course, you did.  You reached out and received him and believed.  Look at verse 12 of John 1, “As many as received him to them gave he the right or the authority to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name.”  You say that’s right.  I believed and I received.  Didn’t I do that?  Didn’t I initiate that?  Look at verse 13, who were born, not of the blood, not talking about a human birth, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,” but of what?  “God.”  You believed and you received because it was the will of whom?  Of God.  It is a sovereign thing.  Yes, you believed.  Yes, you received.  Behind it, all was the sovereign, determinative, gracious will of God. 

No, child has ever been born into the world humanly speaking because he or she wanted to be born.  Fair enough?  The birth of a child is strictly the decision of parents, not of unborn children.  Spiritual birth is analogous to that.  It is the decision of the sovereign divine parent.  No man comes unto me Jesus said, except the father what?  Draws him.  Except the father draws him and even the very faith we exercise, is granted graciously by God.  So our conscious experience of conversion, our conscious experience of committing our life to Jesus Christ of believing in his death and resurrection, of opening our hearts to receive him, of believing the gospel, all is a consequence of his sovereign will.

Beloved when you stop to think that you are saved because he predetermined in eternity past to save you, that is a marvelous thing.  God in his grace and love predetermined to have an eternally intimate love relationship with you just because that’s what he wanted, marvelous.  John put it this way, we love him because he first loved us.  A child gives love to a human parent as a response to parental love and care and the life they gave that child.  And because God has willed to save us, because God has willed to give us new life and a holy nature, it is absolutely impossible, James says that he could ever lead us into sin.  You see how absolutely incongruous that is?  What a thrilling thought.  He predestinated us to set his love on us.

To give us new life that we might have eternal fellowship with him and he longs for us to be in his presence and when we go into his presence he will make us like his own son and he will pour out eternal blessing on us forever and ever and ever.  No wonder John says in 1 John 3, “Behold what manner of love the father hath bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God.”  He can’t even think of an adjective.  It’s absolutely indescribable.  He just says, what manner of love, he couldn’t even come up with an adjective to describe that kind of predetermined sovereign free choice to love. 

Now looking back at James 1:18, just one other thought about that particular point, when it says of his own will, it uses the word boultheis, aorist participle.  It is not just a wish, but it is an active will of accomplishment.  It isn’t God just wishing it.  He wishes us to be saved, it is he wills it to the extent that it actually happens.  May I say something to you that’s very profound theologically?  This is what we would say is God’s productive will.  That is when he wills this, it happens.  It is not a wish.  You can wish something, oh, I wish, oh, how I wish this will happen and it may be remotely unrelated to what will happen.  Or you can say, I will that to happen because it’s within your power to make it happen.  That’s the intent of the word here, God’s desire produces the end of that desire.  So what is regeneration?  It is God recreating us.  Who does it?  God does it by his sovereign power and we respond to that sovereign grace.  Third question, okay, we have asked what and who here is the third on, how does it happen?  How does it happen?

You say, well, does God just reach down and bang you are saved, does God just zap you?  How does it happen?  Well, let’s look back at the verse, verse 18, “Of his own will he begot us,” here it comes, “With the word of truth.  With the word of truth.”  Or literally, by truth’s word.  By truth’s word.  That means the word of God, the scripture.  You see, God regenerates us and washes us and cleanses us and gives us a new inner person and plants a spirit in us through the power of his what?  Of his word.  Of his word.  Men are born again by the power of the word.  If you don’t hear the word, you don’t hear the message that saves, in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul is commending the Thessalonians for how they responded to the preaching of God’s word.  He says, “For this cause we thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God,” listen to this, “which effectually is working also in you that believe.  It is the word that works with a believing heart.  God Sovereignly moves to redeem.  A person responds to the exposure to the word with faith and salvation takes place.  God’s will then of salvation is brought to the heart of a person through an understanding of the word mixed with faith and regeneration takes place.  How does it happen?  It happens through the word of God.  And again, I remind you of Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done.”  We don’t get salvation and new life by doing things, by trying to obey God in the flesh, but according to his mercy, he saved us, watch this, “by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.”  There are the same two things, the washing of the water of the word and the planting of the Holy Spirit.  That’s the sovereign work of God.  SO, the word of truth is the issue.

Now let me just take that phrase a little bit further, the word of truth or truth’s word.  That particular designation is used several times in the New Testament.  In 2 Corinthians 6:7, you don’t need to look these up, I’ll just mention them to you.  It says, by the word of truth, by the power of God and it goes on.  In Colossians 1:5, it says, “Of which you heard before,” listen to this, “in the word of the truth of the gospel.  The word of the truth of the gospel.”  And there the word of the truth is specifically linked to the gospel.  By the way, 2 Timothy 2:15 also mentions the word of truth, rightly dividing the word of truth.  So the word of truth in general is the word of God.

It is that which God brings to us to unfold an understanding to us of his revelation of himself.  In specific, on the basis of Colossians 1:5 we could call it the word of the truth of the gospel.  Now with that in mind, we go back to James and we can just simply say that we wouldn’t be out of line to say, that we are born again with the word of truth, not only God’s general revelation, but as in Colossians 1:5, his specific revelation of the gospel.  And you say what’s the gospel?  The good news that Jesus came, died and rose again, so people are saved then when God sovereignly sets out to give them new birth, to give them a new nature to wash away their sin, to plant his spirit in them.  He brings them an understanding of that through the knowledge that comes in the gospel that is preached or that is given to them.  That mixed with faith results in the new birth.  In Romans 10:17, and I’m just picking up some scriptures that come to mind that I think are related to this as we kind of wind down.  But in Romans 10:17, do you remember this, how then shall they call on him whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in him in whom they have not heard?  How shall they hear without a preacher?  And then it says, and how shall they preach unless they be sent and so forth and so on.  It’s talking about we have to have preachers.  How are people going to hear if they don’t have a preacher?  How can we send anybody if there is no one to send?  People have to have a preacher, how beautiful, quoting from Isaiah, are the feet of them that preach the gospel.  How important it is to preach it, why?  Because of verse 17, faith comes by hearing, a speech about Christ.  That’s the proper Greek rending of 10:17, faith comes by hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, Romans 10:17.  So, God sovereignly saves by moving into a life and recreating that life, but that takes place when a person comes to hear and understand the gospel and it is mixed with faith and that brings about the new birth.  What is it?  It is total transformation.  Who does it?  God does it by his own sovereign will.  How does it happen?  By hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ that he died on the cross and rose again, that comes through the reveled word of God.  One other scripture on this regard is 1 Peter 1.  Being born again, it says, and here is the definition of the means.  Being born again, not of corruptible seed, he’s not talking about human birth, but of incorruptible, here it comes, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever. 

By the word of God which lives and abides forever.  For flesh, you can’t have a new birth in the flesh, it’s just like the grass and the glory of man is like the flower of grass, the grass withers and the flower falls away.  The flesh can’t produce anything lasting, but the word of the Lord endures forever.  Now listen, and this is the word, which by the gospel is preached unto you.  And again he says, you are born again by the word and the word that you are born again by is the gospel and the gospel is the story of Jesus death and resurrection.

So God sovereignly chooses to redeem, comes down, cleanses the heart, plants his spirit, but in order to do that, the heart must be comprehend the gospel as clearly preached and that comprehension mixed with faith brings about new life, new life.  Now, if anything is to change in us, God must do it, but we must respond as well, to the gospel.  Now that leaves us with one question, one question.  Why is it done?  Why?  Why does God bother.  We know what, we know who, we know how, but why?  What is the purpose of making us new?  The end of verse 18, this is marvelous.  In order that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creation.  Boy, what a statement.  We could really go to town on this one.  The ramifications of this are just tremendous, that we should be, that’s an ace with the verb to be, that’s a purpose cause, with the purpose of producing a new kind of creation, that’s what God wants.  He wants a new kind of creation and we are the first fruits of that.

That’s great.  What are first fruits?  Well, if we had time and we won’t take the time, we could study the Old Testament, mark down Exodus 23:19, Leviticus 23, Deuteronomy chapter 18, Deuteronomy chapter 26, that tells about first fruits.  When you planted a crop, God said, I want your first fruits.  First fruits meant two things, I want the first in order and I want the best. 

When you harvest that crop, bring an offering to me and I want the first that you harvest and that will show that you live by faith, because if you take your first, the tendency for a farmer is to take the first thing that he harvest and he hordes it incase nothing else comes through.  So you bring me the first and you bring me the best, that’s the first fruits.  The first of a full crop that’s coming later and that’s exactly what it means here. 

He says, I want you to, this is thrilling, to be the first and the best indicative of a whole crop that’s coming later.  That’s marvelous.  Now listen to me carefully, do you realize people that the world will not continue the way it is right now?  Do you know that?  Do you know that we are headed to a total transformation of the world as we know it?  Do you know that this entire operation on the earth will burn up and the bible tells us that the Lord will recreate this earth, to his own liking?  He will make a new creation, everything will be born again, everything.  Men and women and dirt and hills and valleys and water and grass and plants and animals and everything, in fact, he will make a new heaven and a new earth, there is coming a whole new creation and we are just the first evidence of it. 

As Paul says in Romans 8, the world doesn’t even know what we are going to be yet, because we are still veiled in our flesh and waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God when it becomes clear to everybody what we really are. That’s kind of exciting to know what I am in that regard.  I’m a sample as a Christian and so are you, of what’s coming.  We’re just the first look at the new creation.  Incredible.  We are his.  And he recreates us as symbols, as examples, as illustrations, of his coming new creation.  You want to know what the future is going to be like.  I’ll tell you what it’s going to be like.  It’s going to be like us all new on the inside.  It’s going to be like us after we get all new on the outside too, but we are just the first fruits.  What is that?  The first fruits is the promise of the full crop.  The promise of the full crop.  And we are the first fruits.  What a thought.  God says, I want to take you to be my special possession.  I want to take you to belong to me.  To be symbols of the full new creation yet to come. 

Do you realize that here we are in little Grace Community Church in this little pocket of bricks here tonight and the world has no idea what we are, but we are just first fruits of an incredible new creation when God recreates the whole heaven and the whole earth?  We are just the first fruits.  Creation, it says in Romans 8 is groaning waiting for its recreation.  And we also are crying out for the recreation, not of our soul, we have had that, but of our what?  Of our bodies where the flesh hangs on.

This new life we have in Christ is a taste of future glory when the whole universe will be recreated.  So, what a marvelous privilege is ours.  What is regeneration?  It’s recreation.  Making us all new from the inside.  Who does it?  God does it sovereignly.  When does it happen or how does it happen?  It happens when we hear with believing hearts the word of the gospel and then God mixes his faith with his sovereign power, transforms us and why does he do it?  Because we are to stand out in the world as living examples of where this world is headed when he recreates is.

Now to put this thing back in James context, try to tell me now that God wants us to sin and I’ll tell you you got a screw loss.  There is no way that God wants you to sin.  No way he is pleased with your sin.  He created you to be a model of a sinless society.  That’s what he wants.  So when you sin, don’t blame him.  Put the blame where it out to be on your flesh and long for the day when your flesh is redeemed. 

That’s what it means to be born again and we have much to praise God for.  Let’s bow in prayer.  Our father, we titled our message tonight, Born to Holiness.  And we indeed are committed to that.  That we have been made new in order that we who were unholy might be holy. What a tremendous truth that is.  Father we thank you so much for making us the symbols of your new creation.  And father, we pray that we might shine as lights in the world.

That we might, who have been redeemed be so grateful that we might live in such a way as to properly represent that whole new creation of which we are but the first fruits.  Forgive us for those times when we have blamed you for our sin and help us to realize that it is your desire to recreate us unto holiness.

And help us to pursue that with all our might and the power of the spirit.  And father, if there are some in our fellowship tonight who have never come to Christ who have never been born again, who have not yet received the life principle.  Who have not been changed on the inside.  Who have not been washed from all their sin.  Who have not received a new spirit and a new inner person.  A new life principle.  Who have not received the Holy Spirit to live in them.  Who are not your special beloved and intimate possession, your first fruits and a promise of a whole new universe.  Oh Lord, may this be the night when they embrace Jesus Christ.  May they believe in the one who died on the cross for them, shed his blood to pay the penalty for their sin.  Rose again the third day for their salvation.

May they put their faith in the living Jesus Christ and may they experience that glorious sovereign mercy and grace and the joy of being first fruits, living examples of the coming recreation.  Oh God, help us who know you to live up to who we are.  And rightly represent to this world what is coming in the future.  We pray in Christ’s name, amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/59-8/born-to-holiness

4 branches of the River in the Garden of Eden

4 Branches in Eden’s River

January 25, 2021Author: hephzibahgarden

The Garden of Eden had a river flowing through it that had 4 branches. The Lord God had kept the river to nourish the entire garden.

Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there as well. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. Genesis 2:10-14. NASB

The Anointing of the Holy Spirit is like the experience of being in a river. Eden is compared to the Presence of God and the Garden to the Church. From this we gather that the river of the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Presence of God and nourishes the Church.

The 4 branches of the river in the Garden of Eden were:

  • Pison
  • Gihon
  • Hiddekel/Tigris
  • Euphrates

Pison

The meaning of Pison is God’s strength. Jesus was filled with the strength and power of God during His time on earth. With the help of God’s strength, Jesus went about doing good in every place He went to. How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. Acts 10:38.

Gihon

The meaning of Gihon is the Grace of God. The grace of God helps us to move forward in our spiritual lives. The Scripture teaches us that God grants His grace to those who are humble. But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. James 4:6. It is a gift of God to mankind.

Hiddekkel/Tigris

The meaning of Hiddekkel is wisdom of God. What do I mean by this? It means God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know Him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, it pleased Him by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. But, for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24.

Euphrates

The meaning of Euphrates is the holiness of God. Peace and holiness run in parallels. We grow in God’s holiness when we follow peace with one another. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Hebrews 12:14. God has called us unto holiness and not to uncleanness. and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation]. Ephesians 4:24.

May the Lord help us.

Be Blessed.

Unstable and Fruitless

September 10, 2020 by Joe Rodriguez

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Pictured above is the Orfordness Lighthouse located on Orford Ness, in Suffolk, England. The 98 ft. brick tower was completed in 1792.  Unfortunately, as with many other lighthouses built close to coastal waters, its grounds have slowly succumbed to the encroaching sea. Over the years, the shoreline was brought only a few feet from the lighthouse itself.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lhox.jpgLighthouse grounds (1951)
LHOX2(2018)

The Orfordness Light was decommissioned on 2013 after 228 years of safeguarding and providing a navigation mark for mariners. Fearing that the erosion would inevitably cause it to fall into the sea, work began to dismantle and demolish the tower this past July.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lhhox3.jpg

We can safely, technically, and officially conclude that unstable grounds caused the demise of the once popular Orfordness Lighthouse.

Pictured above is one of the 11 types of fig trees in the world. The fig tree is native to the Middle East and western Asia. Its fruit has been sought out and cultivated since ancient times. It is first mentioned in the Bible in the book of Genesis, where Adam and Eve clad themselves with fig leaves after eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Read Gen. 3). The Book of Deuteronomy specifies the fig as one of the Seven Species, describing the fertility of the land of Canaan (Read Deuteronomy 8:7-8). 

It was on His way to Jerusalem with His disciples that Jesus cursed a fig tree because it bore no fruit (Read Matt. 21:18–22). While scholars present various interpretations for this seemingly out-of-character action by Jesus, one particular analogy stands out simply because Jesus himself later uses it in one of His parables (Read Luke 13:6–9).

We can safely, technically, and biblically conclude that being fruitless caused the demise of the once seemingly flourishing fig tree on the road that led to the Holy City.

When we genuinely repent and begin living for God, our lives bear evidence of our relationship with Christ. This evidence is known as “fruits,” which include:

  • Good works – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
  • The fruit of the Spirit – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…” (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • Obedience to God and His Word – “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:2) & “Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching…” (John 14:23)

But what if we profess faith in Christ and bear no fruit? The presence or absence of fruit in the lives of those who claim to be Christians is an important issue. Jesus himself attested to this when he said…

“‘I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit…By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit’” (John 15:5 & 8)

Real and visible spiritual fruit is a necessary concern for anyone who identifies with Christ. The repercussions of not bearing fruit are too great to ignore. The Apostle John alluded to this.

“Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.” (1 John 2:4)

“Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire…” (Matthew 3:10)

As Christians, our faith must be built on solid and stable grounds. In other words, we ought to be spiritually and morally lead by sound biblical teachings that are founded on Christ as the cornerstone. The result is:

  • Living holy (separated) lives unto Him – “For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)
  • Forsaking our old sinful ways – “[I]n reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4: 22-24) & “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • Conforming to His character – “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to conform to the image of his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29)
  • Bearing a testimony of repentance – “Produce fruit, then, in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)

An unstable and fruitless Christian is as good as a decommissioned lighthouse on eroding grounds or a barren fig tree. Such a person will sooner or later suffer the consequences, whether here on this life or in the life to come.

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (James 2:17,20)

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:22-23)

For a good exposition on Jesus and the cursed fig tree, follow this link Why Did Jesus Curse the Fig Tree?”

Prayer: Dear Lord, You truly are the vine from which I draw life, strength, and purpose for living. Help me to remain firmly subject to you and to stand unmovable on your word and promises. Help me, Holy Spirit, to live a life that bears much fruit so that others will see Christ in me and be drawn to Him. Amen!

RELATED SCRIPTURE
Colossians 1:10 ESV – “So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

1 Corinthians 3:11 NIV – “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Matthew 7:24 NLT -“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.”

Why Does God Punish Us Sometimes?

November 15, 2019 hepsibahgarden

God chastens us to reveal His abundant mercy towards us. Look at what God tells David even before his son Solomon was born — I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. 2 Samuel‬ ‭7:14-15‬.

God chastens us to bring us back to the right place. Our sorrows are proof that He hasn’t given up on us, and that there is still hope for entering the kingdom of God. Proverbs 19:18.

His chastening reveals His love towards us. The Laodicean Church was found in a lukewarm state, yet, we see God warning them to come back to their former state. Revelation 3:19. Reveals His unending love towards man. Proverbs 13:24.

Chastisement helps us become His sons. If we aren’t chastised then we are bastards, that is, illegitimate. Hebrews 12:8. God desires to have a father-son relationship with us. Just like any parent/shepherd, who would not want their children/flock to perish in anyway, God as well keeps us with His rod and staff; protected.

OUR PAIN IS HIS PAIN. OUR TEARS HIS TEARS AS WELL!!

When we are chastised, we may die, but second death will not have power over us. Psalms 118:18. ‘Second death’ refers to being cast away into eternal hellfire. But when God chastens us for eg. through sickness, even if we may die physically, we’ll be with Him in heaven.

He chastises us to be partakers of His holiness. Hebrews 12:9,10. Our shame helps us come back to God, to His divine natures.

So that we are not judged with the world, the Lord chastises us. 1 Corinthians 11:32.

Be blessed 💕

Original here

VIDEO God Rescues! – Satisfaction for the Hungry Soul

 

 

Contributed by Jordan Satterfield on Jan 29, 2013
Summary: 4 word pictures from Psalm 107. People are in real trouble…1) Stranded in the Desert 2) Sitting in a Dungeon 3) Suffering with Disease and 4) Sinking in the deep. They cry out to God & God Rescues!

God Rescues!

Psalm 107

Introduction:

Warren Wiersbe told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him.

The One who rescues us Deserves our Thanksgiving.

The passage this evening uses 4 word pictures to describe what Jesus does for us.

Let’s start by looking at how Jesus comes to rescue people who are…

1. IN REAL TROUBLE

See how verse 8,13, etc… says “in their trouble…”

A. Stranded in the Desert, Psalms 107:2-6

> What a picture this is! Wandering in the desert. Hot. Sweaty. Desperate. Lost. Alone. Starving. Thirsting. Giving up hope. I read some stories of individuals lost in the deserts in Arizona and Utah…. Eating frogs, ants, sufferings from exposure… horrible suffering, exhaustion.

>> Perhaps you would say, this is my life…. I’m wandering in circles—keep coming back to the same old habits, the same hang-ups, repeating the same mistakes. I’m lost. I’m alone. Starving. Thirsting. Giving up hope.

>>> Might I suggest that this is what life is like when we turn away from God. Isaiah 53 reminds us that “we all like sheep have gone astray and have turned everyone to his own way.”

Let’s look at the second picture.

B. Sitting in the Dungeon, Psalm 107:10-13

>Damp, dark. Rats scurrying everywhere. Clink and scrape of chains as the prisoner tries to move to a more comfortable position. The iron gate locked tight. Only scrapes of old bread and thin soup. And the worst of it all…. Guilty with a death sentenced!

>> Trapped in their sinful life. Bound by habit or addiction. Chained by regrets. Locked in Prison of shame. Guilty and facing eternal death. VERSE 11

C. Suffering with Disease, Psalm 107:17-18

> This is a picture of some one with a deadly disease. Suffering. Certain death. No appetite.

>> People sick and tired. Miserable. And if properly diagnosed, they would learn that they have a terminal disease.

D. Sinking in the Deep, Psalm 107:23-27

> One last picture and perhaps this is the most vivid. Out on a vessel at sea in the midst of a terrible nor’easter. See the ship mount up to heaven on a tremendous wave and then crash down to depths. The crew is staggering around on the deck like drunken men. They don’t know what to do and are afraid for their lives.

>> Perhaps you know what it is like to be in the middle of a terrible storm. You are staggering through each day without hope of surviving.

2. THE RESCUER

I’M GLAD THE STORY DOESN’T END WITH TRAGEDY WITH A SHIPWRECK OR IN THE WILDERNESS, ICU OR ON DEATH ROW. JESUS COMES TO RESCUE!

A. He Satisfies the Hungry

VS 6-9—Hungry satisfied. Leads out by the right way. Straight paths.

B. He breaks the chains

VS 13-16—Broken chains—brought out of the dark.

>Darius to DANIEL—was the God you serve able to deliver? Yes!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. –Charles Wesley

C. He heals the sick.

VS 19-22—Healing>>>He healeth the broken hearted and bindeth up their wounds. I love the story in Mark 2 of the healing of the paralyzed man. Son, thy sins are forgiven. Take up you mat and go home.

D. He calms the storm.

VS 28-31—COMES WALKING ON THE WATER>>>CALMS THE SEAS and BRINGS US HOME!!

3. WHAT ABOUT US?

PERHAPS TONIGHT… Perhaps you would say, “That’s me. I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore, very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more. But the Master of the Seas heard my despairing cry from the water’s lifted me Now safe am I! Love lifted me! Jesus came to my rescue… He spoke the word of peace to my troubled soul and he is going to lead me all the way to heaven.”

“I was suffering with the terminal illness of sin… miserable and dying… But Jesus came and healed me.”

Or maybe, “I was bound in chains of addictions and sinful habit, destructive living… but Jesus came, broke the chains and led me out of the dungeon.”

“I was lost… wandering through life, hungry, desperately need water, food and shelter. Jesus came looking for me… the led me out of the desert, satisfied my longing and gave me hope!”

How should you respond? Give Thanks to the One who Rescues!

Psalm 107:1 O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 107:2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

Psalm 107:8 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Psalm 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

Psalm 107:32 Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Remember the 10 Lepers? IF HE HAS RESCUED YOU, DON’T FORGET TO SAY “THANK YOU”!

BUT PERHAPS TONIGHT, You can’t say that you’ve been rescued. Perhaps tonight, if you were honest with yourself for a few minutes, perhaps you would say, “I’m in REAL TROUBLE.” Maybe one of these word pictures seems to describe your life.

Notice what it says they did in each picture…. “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distresses.”

CRY OUT TO THE LORD… implies several things

1. You are not pretending everythings ok.

2. You stop trying to find your own way out of your mess.

3. You admit you are in real trouble.

4. You believe that He can Rescue you.

The Bible Says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The Bible Says: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Jesus will break your chains, calm the storm, heal your wounds, satisfy your heart and lead you all the way to Heaven.

Cry out to the Lord! He will come to your rescue

https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/print?sermonId=173127


Satisfaction for the Hungry Soul, Psalm 107:8-9 – Pastor Chuck Smith – Topical Bible Study


Pulling Peter from the Water

Pursuing True Spirituality

July 14, 2019 by Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

True spirituality—the only spirituality that heals—is rooted in the fact that God is transcendent. He stands outside and apart from His creation. God is holy and just, and He is sovereign over all that He has created. He is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent one who loves us unconditionally and who desires fellowship with all humankind. But He relates to us on His terms, not on ours.

Therefore, we experience true spirituality only through God’s Spirit, who indwells a person as he or she responds in faith to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This is the exact opposite of shadow spirituality, which contends that the “god within” merely needs to be awakened and coaxed into actualizing activities. When the superficial, feel-good emotions are stripped away, though, one quickly realizes that New Age thinking is not new at all. It is the oldest of all philosophies, dating back to the Garden of Eden, where the first man and woman thought they could be like God. Indeed, they sought to be God.

True spirituality helps us recognize that our desperate inner longing is not a need for independence, but rather a consuming need for dependence.

True spirituality shows us the tragic consequences of this path. We are all born with a missing dimension caused by the sin of wanting to live independently of God. This sin separates us from Him. The only way to fill that void is through repentance of sin, faith in Jesus Christ, and the indwelling power of God’s Spirit. This is the spirituality that makes us whole.It is only when God’s Spirit opens our blind spiritual eyes that we truly begin to understand ourselves and recognize our own darkness and moral corruption—in other words, our sinfulness. True spirituality helps us recognize that our desperate inner longing is not a need for independence, but rather a consuming need for dependence—dependence on the Savior.

Biblical spirituality leads us to know the light of the world, Jesus Christ, and makes it possible for us to experience wholeness of body, mind, and spirit in becoming like Him. This healing comes only as the Holy Spirit of God is invited to do His ongoing work of transformation in our lives. We are made whole when we reflect the character of Jesus Christ.

Will you ask the Lord to reveal to you the true answer to your inner longing and to help you understand that your heart is made whole the moment you receive Jesus as the Savior of your soul? Will you ask God to help you walk in the light of His Son through all of life’s challenges that you are facing?

Prayer: Lord, because of Your great love for me, You made me alive in Christ even when I was dead in my sin (Ephesians 2:5). Father, thank You for sending the light of the world, Jesus. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

https://www.ltw.org/read/my-devotional/2019/07/pursuing-true-spirituality

Living the Great Eight

BY DAVID JEREMIAH

“Good is the enemy of great.” Those are the words of Stanford-educated consultant, lecturer, and author Jim Collins. His six books on leadership and corporate growth have sold more than ten million copies around the world and have been translated into scores of languages.

Perhaps his most well-known book was published in 2001: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t. In this book, Collins and his researchers spent five years evaluating the performance of 1,435 companies to find the few that outperformed all the rest. That is, they were seeking to answer one critical question: “Can a good company become a great company—and, if so, how?”

Their conclusion? “Greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance but largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” In fact, Collins co-authored a subsequent book on that very theme: Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All.

I confess I love Collins’ two ideas: “good to great” and “great by choice.” In fact, the idea of “choice” has roots that go deep into biblical soil. Remember Deuteronomy 30:19: “Choose life”? And Joshua 24:15: “Choose for yourselves this day, whom you will serve”?

Combining all of the above threads, in this issue of Turning Points I’m going to challenge you to choose to move your Christian life from good to great. (And challenge myself at the same time.)

Why do we need such a challenge? I’ll borrow Jim Collins’ words again: “Good is the enemy of great.” Let me put it this way: When I think of “good,” I think of average; it suggests doing just enough to get by. And by “getting by,” I mean becoming a Christian and inheriting God’s promise of eternal life. Yes, that’s where we start in the Christian life. We make a conscious choice to ask God for forgiveness and place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. That’s a wise and excellent choice—but that represents only the beginning of the Christian life, not the end. To be a fruitful and flourishing Christian for the rest of our life, we need to keep making choices that help us to go deeper and further with God.

As Collins and his team found in their research, only a small number of companies will make the conscious decisions necessary to take them “from good to great.” The inertia of being good enough to get by—being average—is too great for many to overcome. And if we are not careful, the calendar can turn from year to year without us realizing that we are not making the kind of spiritual progress we should be.

So our challenge this month is to climb out of the rut, to jumpstart our growth engines, and to set our sights on moving from good to great in our walk with God. And just to forewarn you: This is a life-long challenge. There is no definition of “great” that tells us when we’ve arrived. Because God is always doing more and more for us, we want to incorporate that same perspective in our lives (Ephesians 3:20). We want to continually grow more effective, more faithful, and more fruitful for Him. But we have to make that choice!

So, where do we start? We can’t focus on all the ways in which we could become more like Christ. But we can look at eight areas of our walk with Him where we can make measurable progress in the days ahead. In fact, we’re calling them the “Great Eight”—fundamental areas of our spirituality that are the bedrocks of belief, the foundations for faithfulness, and the crossroads of our commitment.

Here are the “Great Eight” disciplines we’ll examine in this month’s magazine: discipleship, love, stewardship, service, holiness, trust, surrender, and boldness. You and I can both think of additional areas of the Christian life to add to this list. But trust me—these eight will keep our knees calloused and our hearts and hands occupied for months to come!

Consider the “Great Eight.” Make a mental list now of the ones in which you’d like to move from good to great for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom. And remember, there is no ceiling. If you’re already doing great in some areas, then set your sights on greater—from “good to great” to greater still!

 

Original here