Friday, February 28, 2014

A Calling

Salvation is a free gift. The Bible says so in Romans 6:23. It is a free gift. It does not depend on anything we can say, do, or think. Jesus offered His life on the cross in exchange for our salvation. That's what it took. Because of God's grace, He accepted that sacrifice. Because of God's grace, we can spend eternity with Him. Because of God's grace there is forgiveness for everything we have done. I am so thankful for God's grace. Where would I be without it? I am totally dependent on His grace.

But what if I told you that isn't the end of the story? What if I told you that His salvation isn't all there is to it? We don't just "get saved" and that's it. No. There is much more to it than that.

**God's salvation comes at a high price. Don't believe me? Check out these verses from Luke 14:
"A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, "If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison - your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters - yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
"But don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, 'There's the person who started that building and couldn't afford to finish it!'
"Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can't, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.""

Jesus Himself told us to count the cost and see if the price is worth paying before committing to Him. How many of us did that before we "got saved"?

**Salvation doesn't just come at a high price. It also comes with a calling. 2 Timothy 1:9 says, "For God saved us and called us to live a holy life." What does it mean to be holy? R.C. Sproul explains it this way in his book The Holiness of God: "The primary meaning of holy is 'separate'. It comes from an ancient word that meant, 'to cut' or 'to separate'. Perhaps even more accurate would be the phrase 'a cut above something'. When we find a garment or another piece of merchandise that is outstanding, that has superior excellence, we use the expression that it is 'a cut above the rest'.

We have also been called to live like Christ. 1 John 2:6 says this exactly. "Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did."

But that's impossible. Jesus was perfect. He was sinless. I can't do that. I was born with a sin nature.

I know this is already a long post, but God showed me something today. Please stay with me as I try to explain it.The first thing He said to me was that that excuse is a lie from the pit of hell. Satan has twisted Scripture in such a way as to make us think we can't live life like Jesus.

Romans 8:12 says, "Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do."

After we receive God's salvation, through grace, because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, we receive a new nature. 2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it this way, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; all things are become new." ALL things. That includes our sinful nature. We have been made a new creation. We have a new nature.

In our new nature we will have the desire to live as Christ lived. "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there." (Galatians 5:24)

We will also have the ability to live as Christ lived. "So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves."

God has offered us salvation. It is a free gift. The Christian life is not free though. It comes at a price. It has a high cost. Salvation required death, the death of Jesus. The cost of living the Christian life requires death as well. Death on our part. "So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you." (Colossians 3:5)

It is time for us to stop using excuses about our sinful nature and realize we no longer have a sinful nature. It's time for us to start living a holy, set apart life. It's time our lives start mirroring that of Jesus. It's time we begin striving for the same perfection that Jesus had. It's time we realized that because He is living in us, it is possible. It's time we realized that God offered His grace because we couldn't attain salvation on our own. It's time we realized that God requires His people to live differently instead of using His grace as an excuse to continue living like we have a sinful nature. It's time we realize that God has called us to live in freedom but to stop using that freedom as a license to sin. (Galatians 5:13).

Will you join me on this journey of living life the way Christ did? Not just reaching the lost by going to the ends of the earth, but showing them He has made a difference in our lives by living totally, completely opposite of the way the world lives? Remember, you don't have to sin. You have a new nature.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Is God Really Good?

I hear all the time "if God is so good, why do bad things happen?" I think there is a HUGE problem with our view of God. We paint Him as this loving, kind, good, gracious God. He is. God is all of these things. However, God is MUCH, MUCH more.

Did you know that God is jealous?
(Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 24:19)

Did you now that God gets angry?
(Isaiah 30:27-28; Exodus 32:9-10)

Did you know that God knows He is the best thing for us? Did you know that because of that, He requires that He be our number 1? Did you know that when He isn't our number 1, He will do whatever it takes to draw us back to Him, because He loves us that much?

God doesn't need us. He is self-sufficient (Acts 17:25). Just because He doesn't need us, doesn't change the fact that we need Him. Desperately. He knows that. He knows that we can't survive without Him.

God longs for us to "remain in [Him]" because He knows He is the best. He knows He is the only One. This is not egotistical. This is not a puffed up pride. This is simply because He is the only One. Because He is the only One, He knows it. Because He knows it, He would NOT be loving if He didn't do everything in His power to draw us to Him. He would be unloving if He left us to ourselves, if He didn't show us the error of our ways and require our complete and total devotion.

Why do bad things happen? Maybe, just maybe it is BECAUSE God is good and not in spite of that fact. Maybe we give Satan too much credit for the "bad" things that take place. Instead of saying, "it's just the evil world we live in", maybe we should say "Have I wandered away from God, even slightly?" Maybe the bad things that are happening are because God is trying to get our attention.

Please, please, please hear me! God does not WANT bad things to happen to us. Psalm 56:8 says, "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." God grieves when we grieve.

He doesn't WANT bad things to happen to us. He does cause them though. Lamentations 3:31-33 says, "For the Lord does not abandon anyone forever. Though He brings grief, He also shows compassion according to the greatness of His unfailing love. For He does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow." To the world, to most Christians, that doesn't sound like a good God. To me, that sounds like a great God!

The death of a child, losing a home in a fire, terminal illness . . . those are terrible, horrible, painful, life-altering things. But are they bad? Seen in and of themselves, yes. Seen in light of God trying to draw us to Himself, no. See, God knows that though the pain of these things is immense, unbearable, it is nothing compared to the pain of life and eternity without Him.

Though God grieves when we grieve, though it hurts Him to cause us pain, He is willing because He is a kind and loving God. He doesn't want to "send" anyone to hell. (Btw, God doesn't send anyone to hell, but that is another post for another day!) He causes these circumstances in our lives because He is "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

*Sometimes bad things happen because of the evil world we live in. Sometimes they happen because God wants to remind us that He is in control of all things. Sometimes they happen so we can be a witness to someone we will come into contact with. Just because bad things happen doesn't mean we have wandered from Him. However, sometimes that is the case, and I think we've turned a bind eye to that in order to "prove" that God is good. I think it's time we looked at this side of our God. He is oh so much more!*

Yes, God is good. A thousand times, yes! It just doesn't always look the way our definition of "good" says it should.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Day by Day

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best - 
Lovingly, it's part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure",
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E'er to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, 
Till I reach the promised land.

I Sing Because

I've been singing about my Lord for many years.
I've sung when I was happy.
I've sung through lots of tears.
Some folks have even questioned if it was just a show.
Well, the reason that I'm singing, I want the world to know.

I sing because there is an empty grave.
I sing because there is a power that saves.
I sing because His grace is real to me.
I sing because I know I'm not alone.
I sing because someday I'm going home
Where I'll sing for all eternity.

I've sung to those who were walking through the fiery trial.
I've seen their saddened faces turn to happy smiles.
I've bowed my head and whispered, "Please do the same for me".
I'm glad that I can tell you, He gave me victory.

I sing because there is an empty grave.
I sing because there is a power that saves.
I sing because His grace is real to me.
I sing because I know I'm not alone.
I sing because some day I'm going home
Where I'll sing for all eternity.

I sing because I know I'm not alone.
I sing because some day I'm going home
Where I'll sing for all eternity.