Grace, Faith, Works – Very Interesting!

!“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2.8-10

Countless numbers of people have come to Christ after reading and understanding these verses. We are saved by grace through faith. While the concept of grace seems simple, I still struggle with why God would grant me grace. The only answer that makes sense to me is that He loves me and His unconditional love allows Him to extend grace to me (and every other sinner).

When I look at verses 9 and 10, I am reminded of two very significant thoughts: (1) I do not work to earn my salvation. (2) I have been created in Christ “unto good works”, meaning that my salvation experience should lead me to a life of good works that will point others to God. I must be aware of my responsibility to this purpose of God for me. I have been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works … ” Good works is not the ONLY reason God saved me, but it is certainly ONE of the reasons He saved me. How will a lost world know anything about the God whose we are unless we become His hands and feet in the world, and we speak as though He were speaking through us?

This last phrase adds depth to these verses: “which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” This is not something that just popped into God’s head at the last minute. Quite the contrary. This was His plan before the foundation of the world was framed. So our work for God serves a eternal purpose that will make a difference in time and also for eternity. Just my thoughts …

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Let God Do It!

The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14.14

Why is it so difficult for us to let God fight our battles for us? At what point in our rational thought processes do we think we have more power than God, or we know more about our enemy than God, or we can win this battle without His help?

The picture here is one of impossible odds if God doesn’t show up. Israel has left Egypt and Pharaoh decides he has made a mistake in letting his 2 million slaves go, so he sets out after them. When he catches up with them, the children of Israel are up against the Red Sea with no way known to them to cross it. In the verse preceding this one we read these words: “And Moses said unto the people Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more forever.

Man, we have a hard time standing still, don’t we? In v. 12 the people said, “Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” Here is an attitude of utter helplessness. But God … “The LORD shall fight for you … ” Israel needed to believe it and we need to believe it. Never mind HOW God is going to do it. We simply need to believe that He IS going to do it.

Here is the hard part: “ye shall hold your peace.” Just shut up and let God be God. He does that far better than you and I ever could. These are just my thoughts …

Transparent Honesty

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51.10

I cannot read this Psalm without remembering why David wrote it. He had sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband killed. God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin. David was broken and he penned the words of this powerful Psalm. Let’s consider this Psalm and its transparent honesty.

Create in me a clean heart … ” In spite of the egregious sins that David had committed, he was not in danger of losing his relationship with God. But he had most certainly broken any fellowship with God. That is the reason for his prayer for a clean heart. He needed to get rid of the trash he had allowed to collect in his heart. I suspect most who are reading this can identify with David and say, “I’ve been there too.” Without the regular application of 1 John 1.9 we find ourselves in the same condition. Remember John’s words: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Note that David’s prayer is directed to God: “Create in me a clean heart, O God … ” Sometimes we just talk to ourselves about our sin and never get to the place where we talk to our Heavenly Father. Our sin may have affected us deeply, but it was committed against God. He is the One who needs to hear our repentant heart.

and renew a right spirit within me.” What is a right spirit? I believe a right spirit is a spirit that willingly puts God first. I believe a right spirit is a spirit that runs from evil and runs toward righteousness. If you are in need of a renewed right spirit, get alone with God, pour out your heart to Him with transparent honesty, and you will get what David got … a clean heart and a right spirit. Just my thoughts …

Let the Whole World Know!

Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. (4) Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.” Psalm 63.3-4

When you think of God, what is the first thing you think about in your relationship and walk with Him? Probably each one of us would have a different answer. But I am drawn by the words of the psalmist here when he says: “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.” His focus is obviously on God’s lovingkindness. When you think about lovingkindness, what kinds of things come to mind? I think about the things that I receive that I do not deserve. I think about the things that I could never earn. I think about the things that could only be bestowed on me because God loves me.

Whatever you may think about lovingkindness, there is one more major thought in this verse: “my lips shall praise thee.” Can we all agree that praise should be a regular part of our conversations about God? Praise may not be a NATURAL response on our part, but we certainly need to make it a SUPERNATURAL response to God’s lovingkindness. When the world observes something good happening in our lives, they need to know that we are the recipients of God’s lovingkindness. If we want them to love the God we love, we need to let them see how much we love God.

Then the psalmist continues with “Thus will I bless thee while I live … ” For him, praising God was not just a one-time expression. It had become a lifestyle for him. In fact, he went so far as to “lift up (his) hands in (God’s) name.” it is ok to express our love for God and appreciation to God in ways that may seem “different” to someone else. When I lift my hands in a worship service, it is not to impress someone around me who may be watching. It is to give my genuine whole-hearted expression of love for and dedication to God. Just my thoughts …

Don’t Leave Anything Out

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God man be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3.16-17

Have you ever wanted to argue with God over a scripture you just read? “Really God?” In our heart of hearts we know that these verses are absolutely true. But there are times when our old nature wants to rear its ugly head and object to something God said.

When we consider all of the things for which God’s Word is said to be profitable, we would do well to allow the Word to assist us in those areas. For example, we live in a world that is plagued with FALSE doctrine. Even though we say we know what we believe, we need to have our faith anchored firmly in doctrine – true doctrine. Doctrine is not tradition, even though some want to make it so. Doctrine is not necessarily my conviction, although I should hold what I believe with great conviction. The thing of which we must be certain is that what I call “my truth” is not different from “God’s truth.”

We all know there are times when we need to be reproved and corrected. It may not be what we WANT, but it is what we NEED. But them Paul speaks about “instruction in righteousness … ” When I read the Word, I find myself being continually instructed in what is right. It is not that I have not read it before, but when I read it this time, it takes on a greater significance, perhaps because of where I am in my walk with God and the needs that exist in my life. If you and I want to be “thoroughly furnished” with what we need, we need to allow God’s Word to do what it is designed to do in us and for us. Just my thoughts …

What Was Mine Became His!

Who his own self bare our sins I his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” 1 Peter 2.24

This opening “Who” here is a direct reference to Christ, who is mentioned in previous verses. The encouraging truth for us here is that He (Christ) bore OUR sins in His OWN body on the tree (cross). While this death was substitutionary, it was none-the-less a death that I should have suffered, BUT He took it for me. Because of His death, we are now rendered “dead to sins.” The only problem for so many of us is that we STILL live as if we are under the control of sin. 2 Corinthians 5.17 says: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” If old things are passed away and all things are become ne, why do we still want to hang on to the detrimental things of the past that create failure after failure? Paul writes in Romans 6.6-7: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Now folk, that is either true or it is not! We need to LIVE like it is true because it is.

Just an observation about these last words: “by whose stripes ye were healed.” Some may want to apply these words to physical healing, but if that is the case, then why isn’t every true believer free from ANY kind of physical malady? I believe the healing here is what God does to my spiritual life because of what Christ did to give me a spiritual life. Just my thoughts …

WHAT Kind of Answer?

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15.1

I often judge the credibility of words by who said them. I’m sure many of you reading this do too. Having made that observation, these words come from the pen of Solomon. SINCE he was the world’s wisest man, apart from Jesus Christ, then his credibility should be without question.

Wonder what it would have been like to be a part of Solomon’s court? The Queen of Sheba was certainly smitten with him. In fact, she said that the half had never been told about this man Solomon and his kingdom. Do you think Solomon was able to display that kind of image to his guests from all over the world and at the same time yell and scream at his staff if one of them did something that displeased him? Remember, he was the one who said, “A soft answer turneth away wrath …

I don’t doubt that there were some who came to him with “grievous words” about someone else. But I seriously doubt that they left the same way they same. I wonder what kind of attitude changes would take place between husbands and wives, parents and children, bosses and employees, and members of our churches, if this principle of a soft answer were put into practice regularly? I would love to be a mouse hiding in the shadows to hear some of the conversations that would be changed by “a soft answer”.

When we consider this last phrase, it should put us all on notice to watch our words: “grievous words stir up anger.” I can’t remember how many times someone has told me, after exploding in a conversation, “Well, that’s just the way I am. Get used to it!” Even if that was the “way I am”, I would certainly not want to get used to it and I would want anyone else around me to get used to it either. Let’s adopt this simple truth that “a soft answer turns away wrath.” Just my thoughts …

Christ Jesus Came Just to SAVE Sinners!

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1Timothy 1.15

Sometimes when I read this verse, if I am not careful, I get caught up in the statement that Paul gives about himself. He said that he was the chief of sinners. I do not want to quarrel with him about that. He knows his past better than I do. But I do want my focus to remain on the main thought of this verse: “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners …

On my two visits to the Holy Land, I will quickly admit that some sites spoke to my heart more than others. Among those sites were two in particular: Golgotha (the place of the skull), which was the place of the crucifixion, and the Garden Tomb that is still empty. Each time I saw them, they were both stark reminders of WHY Jesus came to this earth in the first place. He did not come to work miracles, even though He did a number of them, He did not come to be a phenomenal teacher, even though He was the best that ever was. He did not come to die as a martyr, even though that was something that was talked about then and is still talked about in some circles today.

It can’t be made any clearer than this: “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners … ” No matter what else seems to be of major importance in my life today, I must NEVER forget that Jesus came to SAVE sinners. I am one of those sinners, but there are so many more who have NEVER even heard that Jesus came, must less that He came to die for their sin. I don’t want to ever lost sight of WHY He came and my responsibility to this lost world BECAUSE He came. Just my thoughts …

Whatsoever Covers It All!

And whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3.17

The totality of each day’s actions needs to be governed by the words of this verse. The word “whatsoever” is all-inclusive. Could we approach this day with this attitude? “Lord, I want to be so attentive to the Spirit’s voice, that when He speaks to me in a whisper, I will hear Him. I do not want to argue with Him but I want to follow His leadership completely.” How different would your day be if that becomes your prayer right now?

Perhaps the greatest part of the struggle for each of us is found in this last phrase: “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Again, I’m not sure how difficult this is for you and how dramatically it would change your life. I do know this, when you and I do things each day that are NOT done in the name of the Lord Jesus, that means we are acting in a purely selfish manner and God is not glorified by such actions. When we CONSCIOUSLY think about our actions and realize that we are God’s hands, feet, and voice in this world, suddenly that things that I DO, the things that I SAY, and the places that I GO take on a new significance.

Do you think the Colossian Christians had some special need that Paul was addressing, or could he speaking to all of God’s children (including us) through his words here to the Colossian believers? I tend to think the latter is true. Our lives are as much n view here as those first century believers. May God’s Spirit have our attention from this moment on today? Just my thoughts …

Simple Observation! Powerful Truth!

Wherefore thou are great, O LORD God: for there is none like the, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” 2 Samuel 7.22

Most of us would NEVER publicly challenge this first statement about God, but how many times have we LIVED like there was someone or something greater than our God? God has just spoken to David in such a remarkable way and promised him a great future for his son Solomon. And David’s response was this: “Wherefore thou are great, O LORD God … ” Only God could have MADE and KEPT the promise He had just made to David. Think about this! How many promises has God MADE to you and KEPT? If you are like me, you can’t count them all. They are more than memories … they are milestones in our walk with God.

there is none like the, neither is there any God beside thee … ” Do you see it? None like thee? “neither … any … beside thee … ” Not only is there NO OTHER God LIKE this God. There is no other look alike or want-to-be god who is ANYTHING like our God! Are you feeling special yet? David was!

Now for David’s closing thought: “according to all that we have heard with our ears.” Nathan, prophet of God, had just finished talking with David ABOUT God. David had seen and heard God work in his life and the life of his family so many different times. He had just been reminded one more time of Who God is and What God could do. When you and I are careful to watch what goes on in our lives day-by-day, we cannot escape seeing the hand of God at work over and over. It is SO important for us to do what David did – share with all who would listen and read, what God had done and was doing in his life and in his kingdom. Let’s be ALL ABOUT that sharing! Just my thoughts …