Happy New Year

fireworks

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, so this is not that – this quote from 2nd Peter (below) just happens to be one of my favorite passages of scripture.

I always have room to grow in this life. When I consider my shortcomings, I’m not condemned by them. As a Christian, I’m free to consider them because my own sense of worthiness and righteousness, while based on God’s standard, isn’t earned by my own abilities to do well or be good, but on Christ’s. I judge myself freely.  When I see faults in others, I come back to seeing my own faults, free and clear of guilt, deflection, excuses and denial, I can be honest with myself because I am in Christ, secure in my relationship with my heavenly father.

But beyond my shortcomings, I also have the Spirit in me who molds my thinking, my attitude, my desires to be like His. My shortcomings — my sins – aren’t what drives my relationship with God. Overcoming them is not my motivation (daily or yearly). My motivation is in the positive – to be like Christ in thought and deed. I get a real kick out of the attitude that says “be kind to other people – have joy, peace, patience, self-control, and above all put on selfless love” (Galatians 5:22-23).

At any given moment, someone might examine me and see more or less of Christ in me. I’m okay with this – I have no claim to personal, fleshly perfection. But I hope and aspire to be like Him while in this world, and I can judge myself objectively and freely, having no need for fleshly righteousness. I am growing within His righteousness, and it is producing fruit in me, in my thoughts and reasoning, which flow out into actions that benefit others. In learning about His free grace and growing in that, I’m free of the trap of self-righteousness, able to move beyond that snare, and able to think of others for their benefit. And being free – growing in that – I see my heart and mind desiring more to “love God and my neighbor”. I’m understanding more clearly that if I love God, it means loving my neighbor also, and that the two go hand-in-hand.

Lastly, I want to say I’m so encouraged by my brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I am fortunate to know. So many of you have blessed me in ways you may not be aware of. I see some struggle with this world and the flesh in different ways, yet you are always on top, you always win. In Him, you can’t lose, you are more than conquerors. Thank you all for sharing yourselves with me and my family. Thank you for being kind to me and showing me Christ’s love, even when it may have looked like I wasn’t receiving it, or when I was difficult to be around. Thank you for walking in Christ with me in this world.

“His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins. Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble.” (2 Peter 1:3–10 HCSB)

 

 

The End Game

In Greek, the word telos is sometimes translated as ‘goal’ and sometimes as ‘end’.  It’s the point of it all, perhaps.

The whole goal of God for me in learning of His free grace is this:

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:12–14, NASB95)

“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5, NASB95)

Love is the point of it all. Love is the End Game.

To love others, I have to first love God, and the two are in no way mutually exclusive – to love God IS to love others. But I can’t love God unless he loves me first (1 John 4:10). And He does love me, so that’s not the problem – the problem is my reception of His love. I choose to live by my conscience – either in the condemnation of the knowledge of evil or in the pride of the knowledge of good.

The pillars of grace instruction, complete forgiveness of all sins, past, present, and future, complete sanctification -knowing I am already 100% holy, living in rest – ceasing from my own works to please God, and knowing who I am in Christ – my identity – I am a child of God… these pillars serve me to ‘clear the channel’ so that the Love of God can flow freely to me. These pillars allow me to receive what is already there. Then, once I have received, only then am I FREE to let it flow out.

Love can’t flow out unless it stirs within.

The Grace of God is for me… <and> it is for my brother and my neighbor too.

Otherwise, I’m just clangin’ around, beatin’ on drums without rhythm, striking power chords on the guitar without melody and singin’ in the wrong register.

Note to Self – Today’s Resurrection Life

Note to self:
Trust God for today’s resurrection life. My Father in heaven is a God who makes promises and fulfills them. He demonstrated His power for life by raising Christ from the grave. He gave me that promise of forever-life and proved that He is able to fulfill that promise. My hope is a sure thing – a done deal.
I live in a new heavenly age that belongs to God – one that is superimposed over and on top of an evil age – one that is coming, and already is.
I live out my resurrected-forever-life *now* – today. I live it now, by faith, trusting Him to do the living in me.
My life – looks like His life, because it is His life – full of selfless love, mercy, compassion, kindness, gentleness, self-control, purity and holiness.
His Life – my Life – gives glory to the Father… it displays His splendor, for it belongs to Him. It comes from Him in power and goes back to Him in glory.
My life – His Life – is housed in a weak container – but hey, my Life is about Jesus and His power, not about me and my own power …
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“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. — Galatians 2:20
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For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. — 2 Cor 4:11
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For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, — Romans 8:6
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If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. — Romans 8:10

How to Get Christians to do Good Works

Concerned that your congregation isn’t mindful enough to do things that help people?  Paul gave Titus The Formula for motivating Christians to good works: “Speak these things“.

What are these things?

First, here’s the formula in Titus 3:8 (NASB):

“This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.”

And the ESV is even more clear:

“The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.”

So the answer is to insist on these things – but what are these things that are supposed to be so excellent and profitable for people? What are the things that leaders in the church should insist on, so that the congregation will be motivated to good works?

<Drum Roll>

In the preceding four verses, we find these things.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

For comparison, here is the New Living Translation:

But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”

So, in short, if we want the congregation to do good works, then let’s tell them what God has done for them – freely done for them in Christ.  Let’s get them to know that and to believe that and to depend on that.

But first, dear Christian teacher, do you notice the irony?  To get Christians motivated for good works, you need to teach them about how God saved them according to his mercy and not based on good works.

Let’s preach the Good News!  If it doesn’t sound “good“, it may not be the gospel!