Are you pure in heart?

 

November 27, 2019 Nehemiah Zion

 

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Only the pure in heart will see God. The heart filled with the lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, cannot see nor begin to understand the goodness or purity of heaven.

God is Holy. Holiness is His standard. Purity is not attainable by man, on his own.

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” ‭‭James‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭

When our hearts are purified, the work of our hands and the words of our mouth will be pure. God will be near. We will live without fear. What we express comes from the depth of our hearts (Mark 7:22,23). It will be well-pleasing to God.

How to purify our heart? By walking in the two commandments of love through the power of the Holy Spirit. Loving God, and loving everyone in our lives, specially brethren.

“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:22‬ ‭

Purifying our heart requires daily exercise. All Word (scripture) based exercises sanctify the heart. When Jesus prayed for the disciples, He asked God to sanctify them by the truth. How does the truth sanctify a believer? Exercising the truth in our walk purifies our lives from all carnal, old natures that attack us during everyday spiritual warfare.

Obedience to the word of God produces heavenly natures in us. God creates in us a new heart and renews our mind daily. This new heart and fresh mindset, powered by love through the Holy Spirit produces a faith that overcomes all double minded behaviour.

How to stay pure in heart?

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;” 1 Peter‬ ‭1:13-15‬ ‭

Moses met the Father on mount Sinai, before that by the burning bush. This wasn’t the Moses of the palace. This was Moses who was humbled after 40 years herding sheep. This was Moses, the meekest man on the planet at that time. It takes a meek, poor in spirit and a pure person to get that kind of an audience with God. God made it possible for Moses. God is holy, we need to be covered by grace to be at his throne. In Jesus, we are covered like the shittim wood that was covered by brass, created for the ark of the covenant.

We are called to be examples as youth, and Paul cites 6 areas including purity when he writes to TimothyLet no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

The two blind men were pure in their heart when they believed in Jesus. No matter who hindered them to meet Jesus, they cried out in all earnest. After they were forgiven and healed, they were able to see Jesus and follow Him.

Peter who denied Jesus, was a changed man after he started to walk according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. At the temple, Beautiful, the people around were shocked by the miraculous healing of a lame man. Peter clarified that it wasn’t he who performed the miracle, it wasn’t his holiness or power. But the power of the Holy Spirit that works in a believer. Where there is a purity of faith and belief, we will see the glory of God.

We cannot define purity however we want. God has a standard, and the Word of God is replete with instructions for us to abide by daily. May God heal our hearts from the corruption of the times and enable a Spirit led walk daily for us to enter into His eternal glory.

And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)

Original here

Knowing God’s Love is Impossible

At least for us. But for God, nothing is impossible.

DEREK RISHMAWY Oct 21, 2019

Knowing God is maybe the most central thing in the Christian life. Also, possibly the hardest.

The other day I was talking to a student, relatively new to a life of discipleship, who confided just how frustrating it is that he’s taking so much time to grow. He lamented how much he struggles to trust God when others seem to do so with ease.

As I struggled to think of how to encourage him, I remembered one of the most curious prayer requests in all of Scripture, found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, which I had just been working through.

Towards the end of chapter three, Paul asks “out of his glorious riches may [God] strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all God’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19).

We’re tempted to glance over this and think, “Okay, great, Paul prays that they understand God’s love. Typical Paul prayer. What’s the big deal?”

I was stopped short, though, when I realized Paul is asking that they be strengthened, that they have “power” to be able to know this love that surpasses all knowledge.

Now perhaps it’s because I’m a grad student who happens to study the doctrine of God, but if I were writing Ephesians, I might have rendered the relationship differently. I might have said that coming to know God takes weakness (and not just because you spend all your time in the library and not the gym). It requires a humility, a pliability, a weakening of our arrogance to sit before Scripture and come to know the infinite God as he has revealed himself. At that point, though, the answer becomes, “Try harder. Humble yourself!”

But that’s not the route Paul takes. Paul’s paradoxically encouraging assumption is that we are simply too feeble to be able to grab hold of the love of God. We don’t need to be weakened—because from the start we don’t have the “spiritual grip strength” to grasp God’s love.

Paul is asking that they be strengthened, that they have “power” to be able to know this love that surpasses all knowledge.

To steal an image from Plato, it’s as if we’ve dwelt in a cave of sin and our spiritual eyes are too weak to withstand the brilliant light of God’s glorious love. Our own hearts are too frail with sin and selfishness to grasp the shape of it, our muscles too cramped and atrophied from curving in on ourselves to imagine the gracious extension of God’s love, which surpasses the boundaries of the cosmos.

I hoped my student would find encouragement in this prayer for at least three reasons.

First, it clarifies that, inevitably, strengthening takes time. Being “rooted and established in love” requires time spent experiencing the love of Christ when you are your most unlovable. It requires time seeing the love of Christ extend towards those it would never occur to you to love. Indeed, we will need an eternity to begin to plumb the fathomless love of God.

Further, coming to know God’s love is not something we’re meant to do alone. Paul teaches us that we come to know God “together with all of God’s holy people.” Coming to know the immeasurable love of God is a group project in the church, not a competition we engage in all by our lonesome.

Finally, that this is a prayer to God is the big tip-off: Paul is asking for something that ultimately only God can bestow by his grace, as a gift. He doesn’t preach a gospel of salvation by grace only to slip back into making knowing God a matter of intelligence, native smarts, efforts, or achieved goodness.

No, it is only by God’s gracious condescension into human history as the Son of God Incarnate, and by his atoning self-offering on our behalf, that God demonstrates the depths of his love beyond all doubt (Rom. 5:8). And for that reason, we can all take heart. A God whose love is strong enough to overcome sin, death, and the devil will surely answer any prayer to enlighten the eyes of our hearts, by his indwelling Spirit, to know that love (Eph. 1:17-18).

Derek Rishmawy is the Reformed University Fellowship campus minister at UC-Irvine and a doctoral candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/november/knowing-gods-love-is-impossible.html

 

‘Thanking God For Another Year Of Life Happy Birthday To Me

God, thank you for giving me the unique opportunity to be able to wish myself a happy birthday today in good health and happiness.

'Thanking God For Another Year Of Life Happy Birthday To Me

by Pastor Ray Patrick

As I celebrate another year of life today, I’m reminded of what God has done for me. No matter what difficulty I’ve faced over the year, God has drawn me out. Hallelujah! When I  felt overwhelmed, God reached out His hand. He wouldn’t let me sink, and He wouldn’t let me slip. He took hold of me and rescued me from the deep waters of opposition that raged against me.

He will do the same for you. Scripture says that when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a barrier against him. If you are facing adversity, know that you are not facing it alone. God is with you, and He is for you. He will draw you out!

Today, I say to all of my friends and those that follow me on social media, who over the past year may have been affected by major difficultities of life, know that you have only made it this far because God reached down, held you, rescued you and drew you out. Hallelujah! Today, on the day of my birth, I know that it was God who was working behind the scenes, that has brought me this far and He’ll  do the same for you. He will bring us out better and stronger.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy…”

(Psalm 18:16-17, NIV)?

Pray With Me
Yahweh, thank You for Your grace and mercy that has held me together this year. Father, I reach out my hand to You today, knowing that You have been an ever present help in my day of trouble. God, I thank You for another year of life, and in advance for all that You are doing, and for bringing me to a place of peace, in Jesus’ Name! Amen.

https://godinterest.com/2019/06/21/thanking-god-for-another-year-of-life-happy-birthday-to-me/

10 Years Later, The Manhattan Declaration’s Defense Of Marriage Is Even More Needed

The most fundamental duty of government toward marriage is to recognize its reality and enforce the legal contract at its heart. This is what the Manhattan Declaration called for 10 years ago.

10 Years Later, The Manhattan Declaration’s Defense Of Marriage Is Even More Needed

Nov 21, 2019 Jonathan G. Lange

The Manhattan Declaration, released ten years ago today, is an appeal to everyone who considers himself a Christian to recognize that the sacred nature of marriage is no reason to be silent about its public benefits. Rather, precisely because Christians know both the sacred and the secular value of marriage, they owe it to their secular neighbors to defend it. In so doing, they are not merely defending principles, they are defending millions of people who have been defrauded by government institutions.

For nearly 50 years millions of men, women and children have been robbed by state and federal governments. I am not referring to taxes, unfunded mandates, or to federally planned inflation. I am referring to the government’s dereliction of one of its most basic duties—to enforce marriage contracts.

Marriage, of course, is far more than a contract. It is a sacred covenant. But it is a covenant with an economic impact. Christians recognize that marriage signifies the holy bond between Jesus and His church. But anyone can see that it bestows tangible goods on husband, wife, and any children who are conceived in the conjugal union.

Those who reduce these tangible goods to tax privileges and social standing demonstrate an astonishingly deficient understanding. Tax benefits and social standing are not the content of marriage benefits, they are its results. Because of its intrinsically high value to society, governments support it and incentivize it. But the most fundamental duty of government toward marriage is to recognize its reality and enforce the legal contract at its heart.

Marriage Secures Children’s Rights

When a woman enters motherhood, (Latin: “matrimony,” French “marriage”), her energies are refocused in fundamental ways. The physical, psychological, and emotional demands of pregnancy and child rearing affect every area of her life. Marriage serves as a legal contract to guarantee her the support of the child’s father both during these affected years and beyond.

When a man enters fatherhood, his life changes as well. His chromosomal connection to the child creates a legal and social obligation that is enforceable by law, whether he is married to the mother or not. Marriage seals his obligations to the mother while obliging the mother to cooperate with him in raising the child.

Children are the greatest beneficiaries of these mutual obligations. When mother and father are cooperating on a child’s behalf, that child’s “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is protected. The more comprehensive the cooperation, the more beneficial it is to the children. Conversely, when parents refuse to cooperate it robs children of their birthright.

When a couple files for a marriage certificate, they have every expectation that those issuing the certificate will enforce the contract. But so-called “no-fault divorce” laws changed that. As governor of California, Ronald Reagan signed the first one in 1970. Years later, he counted it among his biggest regrets.

Before long, every state was reneging on its promise to enforce marriage contracts. Knee-jerk calls to “get the government out of people’s lives” resonated with libertarians and libertines alike. Free love culture reasoned: If they want to get a divorce, they should be free to get a divorce.

How No-Fault Creates an Imbalance of Power

The problem is that married couples never want a divorce—at least not initially. Rather, typically one party to the marriage wants a divorce while the other does not. “No-fault divorce” laws do not make the government neutral. They put it on the side of whoever values the marriage least.

The injustice is felt by the woman or man who accepted the up-front economic disadvantages of child-rearing relying on a promise of future fidelity. The person is defrauded when the promise is broken. A government that fails to hold people to their promises becomes party to that fraud.

Even worse, the children who ought to be protected from the loss of life, emotional support, education, and inheritance are completely disregarded. Divorce courts should admonish parents to work it out for the sake of their children. Instead, they usually rubber-stamp the breakup. All that remains is for the welfare state clumsily to micromanage the broken home and throw money at the child, as though that could substitute for losing a parent.

Connections Between Religion and Marriage

Forty years after the disaster of no-fault divorce, the late Chuck Colson recognized that anti-Christian religious forces often use the religious nature of marriage to delegitimize and silence Christians who speak about the public policy side of marriage. He and others connected the dots between government’s abdication of its duties toward marriage and its parallel abdication of its duty to protect the youngest and most vulnerable people—children, the unborn, and frozen embryos.

They also recognized that as public policy supporting marriage and human life spiraled downward, there was a corresponding growth in attacks upon religious liberty. This not only put Christians in legal jeopardy, more importantly, it caused many Christian voices to self-censor in a vain attempt to weather the storm.

Colson decided to do something bold. He asked Dr. Robert P. George of Princeton and Timothy George of Stamford to draft a document that recognized both the public and the churchly nature of marriage. It was called the Manhattan Declaration. Today, (November 20) marks ten years since 152 Christian leaders released it. Since then, more than a half-million others have signed it. I am one of them.

In Defense of the Children

Since marriage so deeply affects the welfare of children, the Manhattan Declaration also calls upon every Christian to speak in defense of the life of every child conceived. While faith informs Christian action, it does not limit it. The faithful do not do this primarily in self-defense, but in defense of all people. It is a duty of love to stand with any man, woman, or child who has been defrauded by a government derelict in its duties.

It is a duty of love to stand with any man, woman, or child who has been defrauded by a government derelict in its duties.

The Declaration states: “Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense… We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.”

Those trying to intimidate Christians into silence have only grown louder in the decade since these words were written. They have passed laws that strip infants of legal defense both before and after birth. They continue to press a radical agenda that allows embryonic children to be bought and sold on the open market, and do precious little to halt the trafficking of older children. All the while, there is a never-ending parade of government-sanctioned indoctrination aimed at destroying the marriages of generations to come.

To shield these anti-child and anti-marriage policies from criticism, they carelessly bludgeon fellow citizens with labels meant to intimidate and silence. They press for so-called “hate crime” laws that use the power of government to silence their opponents. Despite a string of losses at court, states and municipalities continue to pass such laws. They are valuable for intimidation even if unenforceable.

‘Only the Bravest Keep Standing’

The latest salvo has come from the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. One of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s first orders of business was to push through the so-called “Equality Act” (H.R. 5). This radical legislation has nothing to do with equality. It is, rather, a toxic stew of laws that further erode federal support of marriage and legal protections for children of all ages and stages of development. Centered in its crosshairs are protections for professionals, social agencies, and individuals who live out their Christian understanding of marriage in word and deed.

‘It’s only the bravest who take a stand, and continue to bear witness even when others mock them.’

Measured by its effects on public policy, the Manhattan Declaration doesn’t seem to have done much to stem the tide. But public policy was never its chief aim. The Declaration was and remains a personal pledge. Signers promise to continue speaking and acting in defense of their neighbors no matter what the cultural or political costs. By that measure, its effectiveness can only be measured by you.

In commemoration of the Declaration’s tenth anniversary, the Colson Center for Christian Worldview published a collection of essays titled: “Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty: What Belongs to God, What Belongs to Caesar.” In it Frederica Matthewes-Green wrote, “[E]very generation faces an issue that draws a line between those who will stand up for what is right, and those who just go along. It’s only the bravest who take a stand, and continue to bear witness even when others mock them and misrepresent them; only the bravest keep standing when, from a worldly perspective, the cause looks lost. Only the most dedicated people are willing to keep working for change, when the struggle is all uphill and they reap nothing but rejection.”

She has aptly described our generation. Our grandchildren are watching to see how we respond.

Jonathan G. Lange is a pastor of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. He has raised his family in Wyoming for two decades, serving parishes in Evanston and Kemmerer. He is a leader of the Wyoming Pastors Network. Follow his blog at OnlyHuman-JL.blogspot.com.

How the Church Can Protect the Dignity of the Most Vulnerable
Among Us – segment 

http://www.breakpoint.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Tada-Chapter.pdf


I am a signer of the Manhattan Declaration

Dancing with the Devil in the Latter Times

Sim Chen Xing December 2, 2019

When we pray for God’s kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, what do we pray for? Peace? Prosperity? The revival of the Christian church? Or the advent of the latter times — the impending judgement that must come as prophesied by countless prophets throughout Biblical history?

For me, I see the formation of a global polity. I see the rise of global powers coming together in the name of peace. I see a day when all nations will set aside their differences, put down their weapons of war, come together to tackle issues that can only be solved if humanity comes together as a collective.

Got to admit, though, that if the Bible claims that the impending judgement on the earth in the latter days will be the work of the devil, then I think that our job as believers is to dance alongside the devil and to rise above him. To do this, we’ll need to be conversant with Biblical prophecies (because it is the sequence of events that must happen) and be kept up-to-date with current affairs. Let no one trick you to think that there is no need to read beyond the Bible. It is in the middle of the war when we’ll need to be well-versed with Biblical prophecies and then be able to link modern happenings with what we know must happen.

Don’t be fooled. The devil knows better than we do about what must happen — and shudder. Daily, the devil live out the vision of being swallowed alive due to the decision that he’s made earlier before the formation of the universe. The devil knew everything that must happen. The devil knew everything that lies ahead of him. Faced with the prince of the power of the air, it is in our every intention to work alongside him and to realise the purpose that he was called to fulfil. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling us to stand alongside him, but to rise above him. If we understand that the devil’s purpose was predestined by God to be fulfilled on this earth, we will understand that any action against the devil will be an act against God.

Don’t misunderstand me. Dancing alongside the devil is not accepting all the workings of the devil in this world. Rather, we are called to understand the works of the devil and to rise above him. Look, if the Bible says that there will be a global leader in the future who will unite global powers and the global economy, then we will work alongside him to achieve it. But if the Bible says that the global leader will cause people to worship him, then we will need the wisdom to consider alternatives to it. We can run, but we can’t hide. He is, after all, the prince of the power of the air. If we know that all the nations will turn to God and this is also the purpose of the devil, then work alongside him and be advocates of the Truth. But if we also know that the devil will pervert this to his own advantage and cause the world to worship him as the Creator, then we will need to stand our ground, one way or another — either by going into hiding or divorcing ourselves from the global economy.

Whether or not we put our faith in God, all of these must happen. But as Christians, when we pray for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, then we must be prepared that we’re inviting the devil into our midst. Therefore, we are called to ready ourselves for the war that is ahead of us.

In the stillness of my meditations, I have listed down a few pointers for our consideration as we prepare for the arrival of the latter days.

  1. Do we know the prophecies in the Bible well enough that we can determine where we are on the Biblical calendar of end-time prophecies?
  2. Do we know how to recognise true news sources from fake ones? Are we able to take decisive steps to determine the level of truth of the articles we read?
  3. Are we grounded ethically to God’s original design? Or are we easily swayed by the waves of modern trends?
  4. Are we prepared to divorce ourselves from the economy for the sake of survival? Going into caves and relying on agriculture to stay alive? Or are we overly reliant on modern technologies for our survival?
  5. Is our definition of love, sin, and forgiveness, grounded on Biblical truth? Or are we overly legalistic, condemning every “sinner” that comes our way, forgetting that we are too, the needy sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God?

We are called to dance with the devil. But much more than that, we’re called to rise above him. We are not to be swayed by the waves of modern trends, but we are called to be rooted in our faith in Christ. Are we ready for the dance?

Image by Efes Kitap from Pixabay
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https://themanifoldwisdomofgod.wordpress.com/2019/12/02/dancing-with-the-devil-in-the-latter-times/


James 4:7 (NKJV)
7  Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.


VIDEO Trees Replanted In Eden – God Is In Control

In Christ, we find our way home to paradise—not just in the future, but also right now.

There is no entry for “Christmas tree” in my field guide to trees of the eastern United States, and I cannot buy a table from a carpenter made with the wood of a Christmas tree. A Christmas tree becomes one only when we bring it into our home and dress it up with twinkle lights and tinsel. It is place and purpose, rather than species or variety, that identify an ordinary evergreen as a Christmas tree.

Through Christ, we have become rooted in a new and eternal place that is forever fresh like spring and fruitful like summer.

As a child, I helped choose our family Christmas tree from a field of Scotch pine in central Texas. Now that I am grown, I help my own children choose our annual tree from a field of Douglas fir in southeastern Pennsylvania, a practice we especially enjoy when there is snow on the ground and we can take turns pulling the tree back to our car on a sled. Whether we choose pine or fir, the lifespan of most Christmas trees is brief, but a friend recently introduced me to his family tradition of a “living Christmas tree.” For several years in a row, he and his wife have chosen an evergreen tree from a nearby garden center. This “living Christmas tree” includes a root ball well wrapped with burlap and twine. After a few days in the house, this tree can be replanted in the yard, and my friend now has a few transplanted Christmas trees flourishing around his home.

Followers of Jesus have something in common with Christmas trees. We, too, have been given a new place and a new purpose, and it is these that now identify us. No longer defined by categories like “slave or free” and “Greek or Jew,” we are, as Eugene Peterson writes so beautifully in his colloquial translation of Psalm 1, trees “replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a leaf, always in blossom” (Gal. 3:28 NASB; Psalm 1:3 MSG). Through Christ, we have become rooted in a new and eternal place that is forever fresh like spring and fruitful like summer. Our core identity as “replanted trees” stands in sharp contrast to those this version of Psalm 1 calls “the wicked, who are mere windblown dust” (Psalm 1:4).

Windblown dust is a troublesome thing, and when we feel its sting, we may be tempted to repeat a familiar cliché: “This is not our home. We are only passing through.” With these words, we claim a heavenly inheritance, but unfortunately, we claim it only for our future selves. Heaven becomes a place out there instead of near as Jesus promised when He preached, “‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 4:17). The idea that we are “passing through” comforts only if we have forgotten where we stand: not in the kingdom of men or even Satan, but on firm ground reclaimed by the bountiful and beautiful kingdom of God.

Perhaps the notion of Christians as homeless wanderers persists because it echoes biblical imagery—for instance, in 1 Peter where we are described as “aliens” and “strangers” (1 Peter 2:11). However, in Ephesians we read, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19). Are we strangers merely passing through this place called Earth? Or have we traded the identity of stranger for citizen? If we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom, is that kingdom here and now? Or is it something we only anticipate?

In Hebrews, the heroes of our faith who preceded Jesus are those who believed they were “exiles on the earth” in search of a “better country” (Heb. 11:13Heb. 11:16). But we who live after Jesus are digging our toes into the dirt of that better place Abraham could only imagine. When I return to 1 Peter to trace the contours of that word stranger, I find a passage concerned with our rootedness. No longer wanderers, we are “living stones” being built up into a solid, spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-5). With Christ as our cornerstone, we are already home. If we remain strangers in some sense, it is only that we are strangers to the dust-blown reality of which Peterson writes. That reality is passing away. One day it will disfigure the earth no longer and creation will be completely renewed.

If we acknowledge the mystery of this fulfilled kingdom—if we truly believe that the kingdom Jesus proclaimed did not depart with Him but has instead established itself on earth through a Spirit-filled church—we will live each day with a profound sense of freedom. Why is this not always our experience? Perhaps it is because, though our roots are growing in a place where spring and summer reign supreme, we still feel the chill of a wintery world. We must still remind ourselves, as we do this time of year, that the Light of God “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5 NIV). Those twinkling lights on our Christmas trees testify to this truth.

With Christ as our cornerstone, we are already home.

With the help of God’s Spirit, we defy the world’s winter winds to offer our neighbors the heavenly fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And this fruit blesses not only our neighbors but all of earthly creation. For creation itself is groaning for the new world that is even now being revealed in us. Groaning as if in childbirth, even as we are being shown our true nature: We are children of the eternal king (Rom. 8:19Rom. 8:22).

Grafted into the true vine, laid like rocks on the most solid Rock of all, our transformed lives testify that heaven has drawn near and is reclaiming its rightful place on earth. If we ache, if we feel battered by the swiftly passing dust storms of the world, it is because we long for the kingdom soil beneath our feet to extend everywhere without boundaries. We feel that ache especially during the Advent season of Christmas anticipation. “Come, Lord Jesus,” we pray. “I am with you always,” Jesus answers (Matt. 28:20). Because Christ is with us, and because we are fruitful trees of Eden, every moment of our life is an opportunity to extend the reign of heaven on earth. Even our smallest offering, whether we bring a meal to a lonely neighbor or plant a tree in the ground, becomes one more resounding answer to an earth-shaking prayer: Thy kingdom come.

Illustration by Helen Musselwhite

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/faith-works/trees-replanted-in-eden/


God Is In Control, Habakkuk 1:2-4 – Pastor Chuck Smith – Topical Bible Study


 

Faithful to Finish His Work in You

 

Philippians 1:6

“The life of a Christian is a series of miracles.” So said Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great British preacher of the 19th century. If he is correct, why don’t we ever talk about those miracles? When a friend asked me that question several years ago, I asked several friends to tell me about the miracles they had personally experienced. All of the stories were inspiring, and some were very instructive. Here is one man’s story:

Tonight I read with interest your comments about miracles. I believe God is still in the miracle business. And the answers are still spectacular. But most of the answers don’t seem to me to be instantaneous.

We really are the immediate gratification generation. I think we read the New Testament and wonder why we don’t see God performing instantaneous, spectacular answers to prayer framed within peals of thunder and bolts of lightning. I think He does give spectacular answers, only in His time. I base this on my own experience. If I had asked a close friend 16 years ago to write down a description of me and then done the same today, here is the conclusion you would come to once you read them: These are two distinctly different people with very little in common.

What happened? Nothing short of a miracle!! I won’t go into all the circumstances, but 16 years ago I was at the end of my emotional and spiritual rope. One day I got down on my knees and told God to either change me or take me home because I didn’t want to live another minute if my life was going to be the same as it had been. That’s when I started to hear the faint sounds of hammering and sawing inside.

To jump to the end of the story, over the last 16 years God has created a whole new person inside this one. That’s not visible to most folks. And it wasn’t in the twinkling of an eye. But it is a miracle! It is spectacular! And it isn’t over yet! What God has done in my life is more miraculous than if He had grown a new arm or leg to replace an amputated one—because He has grown a whole new person. He still does miracles! They are spectacular! They are in His time! To God Be The Glory!!

Miracles All Around

As I read his story the thought occurred to me that there are miracles all around us if only we had eyes to see them. Our problem is that we look for outward, spectacular results when God’s work, like the tiny mustard seed, begins in a hidden place inside the human heart. As wonderful as reports of physical healing are—and I thank God that he still heals in answer to prayer today—the greater miracle is the transformation of a sinner into a saint by the grace of God.

I love one particular sentence in the last testimony: “That’s when I started to hear the faint sounds of hammering and sawing inside.” If you have been a believer for any length of time, you already know about that hammering and sawing inside your own life. Theologians have a big word for it. They call it “sanctification.” It’s the work God does inside the heart of a believer in order to make him into a brand-new person.

Here are five fast facts you need to know about sanctification:

It is the work of God.

It is a lifetime process.

It is never complete in this life.

God won’t stop until the job is done.

God uses everything that happens to us—the good and the bad—to make us like Jesus.

With this sermon I am coming near the end of the series called “The God You Can Trust.” Next week is the final message and then I will be on sabbatical for two months, a gift from the elders to mark my 10th anniversary as pastor of Calvary Memorial Church. I plan to say more about that next week, but for the moment I would simply remark that in these final two Sundays, I want to talk about some themes that have been important to me over the last ten years. If what I have to say sounds familiar, it’s because the promise of God to finish his work in us has become a precious theme in my heart. I believe it much more today than I did 10 years ago.

As a place to hang our thoughts, let’s take a quick look at four passages that speak of God’s determination to finish his work in us.

I. He starts the work in us.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Note three things from this famous verse. First, God takes the initiative in starting his work in you. He is the one who “begins a good work” in us. Salvation always begins with God. He makes the first move, and if he didn’t make the first move, we would make no move at all. Perhaps you’ve heard of the country preacher who was being examined for ordination to the ministry. When asked how he had become a Christian, the preacher replied, “I did my part and God did his.” That sounded questionable, so the learned brethren on the council asked the preacher to explain “his part in salvation.” “My part was to run from God as fast as I could,” the preacher answered. “God’s part was to run after me and catch me and bring me into his family.” That’s a perfectly biblical answer because all of us were born running from God, and unless God took the initiative to find us, we would still be running away from him.

Second, God takes personal responsibility for completing his work in you. I find this a most comforting thought. God has a “good work” that he intends to accomplish in your life and in mine. God intends that all his children be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and he will not rest until that “good work” is finally finished.

Perhaps you’ve seen those buttons that read PBPGIFWMY. Those cryptic letters stand for a most important truth: “Please be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet.” Thank God, it’s true. I may not look like much—but God isn’t finished with me yet. And when you look in the mirror—and even deeper into your own soul, you may not like what you see, but no matter. God isn’t finished with you yet.

There is good news and bad news in this truth. The good news is that since God isn’t finished yet, we have great hope for the future. The bad news is that since God isn’t finished yet, he won’t let us stay as we are today. He’s going to keep chipping away at us until we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Most of us have a long way to go—and some of us have an enormous distance to travel. But it doesn’t matter. If you find yourself in the muck and mire of personal defeat, be encouraged. Child of God, he’s not finished with you yet. Rise and walk, my Christian friend. God is not finished with you yet. If you’ve been sent to the bench for a personal foul, learn the lesson God has for you and then get back in the game.

Third, God guarantees the outcome of his work in you. Not only does God start the process, and continue the process, he also guarantees its ultimate outcome. He will “carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This means that God won’t be turned aside by difficulties of any kind. He is so determined to make you like Jesus that even your own backsliding won’t ultimately hinder the accomplishment of his purpose. Someday you and I will stand before Jesus Christ as redeemed children of God—holy, blameless, and complete in every way. We’re a far sight from that today. But a better day is coming for the people of God. What is incomplete will be made complete. What is unfinished will be finished. What is lacking will be made full. What is partial will be made whole. What is less than enough will be far more than adequate. What is broken will be fixed. What is hurt will be healed. What is weak will be made strong. What is temporary will be made permanent.

God has promised to do it and he cannot lie. Has God begun a good work in your life? Do you feel incomplete and unfinished? Fear not, child of God. He will complete his work in you.

II. He keeps us from falling.

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—

First, there is the power of God: “To him who is able to keep you from falling.”

Second, there is the purpose of God: “To present you before his glorious presence.”

Third, there is the promise of God: “Without fault and with great joy.”

God has ordained that those whom he calls to salvation will be so preserved that though they stumble along the way, they will not utterly fall away. He guards his children by his Spirit and with the holy angels to insure that none are lost during their earthly pilgrimage. I love the way J. Vernon McGee used to put it. As many as God calls, that many will he one day receive in heaven. Dr. McGee pictured the Lord in heaven counting his sheep as they come into the fold: “…94…95…96…97…98…99…McGee, where’s McGee? I can’t find him!” No, he would say, it’s not like that. All of God’s sheep will make it. Not one will be lost in the process.

Jack Wyrtzen loved to put it this way: “I’m as sure of heaven as if I’d already been there 10,000 years.” How can a Christian say that? Because it doesn’t rest on me or you. It rests on the word of the eternal God. If God has said he’s going to do it, he will do it. You can take it to the bank. What God says he will do, he will do.

Jude says that God’s purpose is to present us before the Lord without a single blemish. The Greek word for “without fault” comes from the temple sacrifices. It describes a lamb that is free from all defects. No cuts, no broken bones, no spots, no diseases of any kind. God said, “Bring me a lamb without spot or don’t bring one at all.” He rejects defective sacrifice as unworthy of his holiness.

But if that is true, how then will any of us stand before the Lord? We all have spots, blemishes, secret faults, hidden sins, wrong attitudes, bad habits, and sin that hangs around our necks like a heavy weight. We’re all struggling to make it from one day to the next, and many of us live with a guilty conscience and a keen sense of our own failure.

It is precisely at this point that the words of Jude 24 become so important. God intends to present us before his own throne faultless, spotless, free from everything that in this life drags us down. In that great day the angels will hush their singing as one by one the saints of God are introduced to our Heavenly Father. I picture the Lord Jesus saying, “Father, this is Stan Utigard. He has just come from a hard struggle on the earth. By virtue of my blood, I present him to you perfect, spotless, and without any blemish.” And the Father will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

So it shall be for all of us. But what about our sins? They are covered by the blood of Jesus and judged at the Cross. All the failures of this life will be left far behind. All the undone work of a lifetime will be but a dim memory—if we remember it at all. In that great day we will be completely delivered from sin and all its devastation.

Don’t skip over the little phrase “with great joy.” In Greek it means something like “with unbridled exultation.” When the saints go marching in, it will be like one of those noisy parades in New Orleans (only without the bad stuff). We will enter heaven not with downcast eyes and somber faces, but singing and laughing and with shouts of eternal joy. “Hallelujah, by the grace of God, we made it.”

Last Friday night my dear friend Bob Briner passed through the eternal gates. His struggles are forever over, his day of rejoicing has come at last. He is now before the Father, without spot or blemish, healed and made complete forever.

When sin torments you this week, let this thought encourage you. Better days are coming. Days of victory. Days of rejoicing are not far away. Your present failure won’t last forever. One day the battle will be over and you will stand in God’s presence whole and complete, free from everything that drags you down in this life. You will enter heaven with a song on your lips. God has willed it so.

III. He equips us to do his will.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen

The word “equip” means to restore to proper working condition. It was used for getting an army ready for battle or sewing up a hole in a fishing net or setting an arm that was broken. You equip something when you prepare it to be used for its proper purpose.

God is willing to equip us to do everything he wants us to do. Let me flip that over. God will never call us to do something without also and at the same time equipping us to do it. Never. He simply will not do it.

I know many people who today face difficult situations. You may be out of money. Some of you are out of a job. Some of you are facing surgery very soon. Others face debilitating illness. Some of you have very hard decisions you need to make this week and you don’t know what to do.

Take this word of cheer. Whatever you have to do this week, God will equip you to do it. No matter how hard the road ahead, God has already started mending your nets and arming you for battle. You don’t even have to ask him; he just does it because that’s the kind of God he is. He never, never, never calls you to any hard task without giving you what you need to get the job done.

Notice how he does it. He works in us from the inside out. “May he work in us what is pleasing to him.” If we need courage, he works that in us. If we need compassion, he gives it to us. If we need integrity, he builds it in. If we need wisdom, he imparts the wisdom we need. If we need common sense, he finds a way to give it to us.

So many of us look at a difficult situation and pray, “Lord, change my situation.” That’s not usually God’s will. Much more often the difficult situation has come as a means of making us grow spiritually. God often brings difficulty into our lives to deepen our total dependence on him. When that happens, we ought to pray, “Lord, change me so that I can face this situation.” That’s a prayer God is pleased to answer.

IV. He promises to complete his work in us.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

When Jesus returns, two great things will happen for the believer:

A. Our character will be revealed.

B. Our perfection will be complete.

We are so far from this now. We seem to make such slow progress. Do you ever get discouraged about your own life? I do. Do you ever stand in front of a mirror and say “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you getting better?” Sometimes it seems as if the Christian life is three steps forward and two steps back.

I’m aware that spiritual growth can be very discouraging at times. It’s like climbing Mount Everest, the closer you get to the top, the farther away it seems. But God has a reason for all this. He wants us to depend on him for everything. He designed life so that it works only when he is in total charge of everything. When we try to run the show—which we often do—things begin to fall apart.

“The one who calls you is faithful.” This little phrase is all-important. It is the foundation for the doctrine of eternal security. We like to say that those who are saved are saved forever. How do we know this is true? We know it because God is faithful to keep his promises. Our entire hope—both in this life and in the life to come—rests on the faithfulness of God. His faithfulness bears the entire weight of our puny efforts.

What makes us think that God will ever finish the job? In my mind’s eye, I picture God as a sculptor working with a rough piece of marble. He’s working on a big chunk named “Ray Pritchard.” It’s a hard job because the chunk is badly marred, misshapen, discolored, and cracked in odd places. It’s about the worst piece of marble a sculptor could ever find. But God is undeterred and he’s working patiently at his job, chipping away the bad parts, chiseling an image into the hard stone, stopping occasionally to polish here and there. One day he finally finishes one section of the statue. The next morning when he returns to the studio that section is messed up. “I thought I finished that yesterday,” he says, “Who’s been messing with my statue?” With a guilty grin, I raise my hand. It turns out that I’m the culprit. I’m my own worst enemy. What I thought would improve things has only messed them up. But God is faithful. He patiently picks up his chisel and goes back to work. He won’t quit half-way through a project.

He Will Do It

Note the last four words of verse 24: “He will do it.” They are simple and direct. No qualification, no hesitation, no doubt of any kind. Just four simple words: He will do it. Not “He may do it” or “He might do it” or “He could do it” or “He will do it if he feels like it.” Not even “He will do it if we do our part.” Just a simple declarative statement that God will do it. Unqualified by even the slightest reference to anything on our part. When it’s all said and done, what matters is not my strong hold on God, but his strong hold on me.

Sometimes when I ask someone, How are you? the reply comes, “I’m doing all right.” That’s a conversational nicety, but it’s not accurate. If the truth be told, we’re not “all right.” Some of us feel “all right” and most of us feel “partly right and partly wrong.” But none of us are completely “all right” in every area of life. For the moment, we’re not “all right” but by God’s grace we’re moving in that direction and in the end, all God’s children are going to be “all right’ when we stand in his presence.

In that day we will be whole and complete. Perfect, pure, perfected. No more hammering, no more sawing, no more finish work. Why? Because God finishes what he starts.

Place Yourself in God’s Hands

We may chafe, doubt and despair of any progress at all. We may be angry and give up. But God does not change. He is faithful and he will do it.

What is left for us? Simply to place ourselves in God’s hands. To cooperate with the Master Designer as he shapes us into the image of Jesus. To say, “Lord, here am I. Make me what you want me to be.”

Take heart. God is at work in your life. He will not stop until the job is done.

 

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