Friday, February 28, 2014

Can We Forget Our Salvation?

Can We Forget Our Salvation?

2 Peter 1:5-11
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue (moral excellence); and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance (self control); and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (love). For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

What is Peter saying in this Scripture? Is He wanting us to remember the reality of our salvation? “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” That is salvation conversation for sure. Words like faith, righteousness, Savior, grace, peace, knowledge of God, Jesus our Lord, all of those are salvation terms. Peter is saying that we have entered into a salvation that is precious and the riches of our salvation are abundant and everlasting. The richness of our salvation is understanding who we are in Christ and what we possess in Him. "According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue by which are given unto us exceedingly great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." Are you remembering the riches of your salvation?

Saving faith redeems you and sustains you in a life of response to God. You have everything you need in Christ. When you became a believer, you came into instant possession of all things that pertain to life and godliness. If your life is not virtuous and godly, it is not the absence of resources, it is the absence of your willingness to add to your life the knowledge of Christ. All of God is in Christ and all of Christ is in you. Great reality. If you're not living on top of things, you are somehow missing the point. You've not begun to see what God can do when you find yourselves utterly and totally cleansed and His power flowing through you. 

Some people have said, “Let go and let God.” but I think we need to, “Hold on and let God” do a work in us. God does it all and yet, we have a part. He says, “for this reason give all diligence,” give everything you’ve got to God; i.e., we have all we need, yet we have all we can do to add to it. Isn't that an interesting paradox? Our position is one thing, our practice is another. We have all we need but we have to apply; moral excellence, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. When we don’t practice these things we become useless, 

ineffective and unfruitful. These Christian qualities in a believer’s life will distinguish him from an evildoer or unbeliever. We must not fail to diligently pursue spiritual virtues, for if we fail to do so, it will cause us to lack discernment of our true spiritual condition. A person with no spiritual discernment has no confidence about their salvation and may live in doubt and fear. Peter’s intention was to remind believers of these qualities, to stir them up by way of a reminder, that when he was gone, they could recall the truth already established and follow it.

Thought: Live a virtuous life, an excellent life, fulfilling all of the highest potential of God in man. Live a life that controls the passions, rather than being controlled by them, to break the will of sin. Add to your life of faith the excellence of Christ's likeness; portraying a life of wisdom, goodness, knowledge and brotherly affection, with genuine love. The riches of your salvation  has given you all things that pertain to life and godliness through the deep knowledge of Christ. Make sure of your calling, your salvation, for if you practice these qualities, you will never stumble into doubt, questioning your salvation (2 Peter 1:8-10).

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why Temptation?

Why Temptation?

James 1:12-14
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.  Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

What is your most persistent temptation? Why is it so difficult to say no to this temptation and yes to God? Why is temptation so attractive and powerful? Couldn’t God adjust the degree of your temptation so that you wouldn’t be tempted so much? Because men and women fall to one sin or another and often end up in ruin, it seems logical (man’s thinking) that God would stay one step ahead diffusing the land mines along the path.

Couldn’t God eliminate the devil? If Satan were gone, we could resist temptation much more easily. Why doesn’t God obliterate Satan? Isaiah 55:8,9 says; “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” David’s great sin with Bathsheba happened while the king was resting on the roof top and she was taking a bath next door. Couldn’t God have arranged for her to take her bath some time earlier or much later? The answer, God does not shield us from circumstances that trigger or provoke us to sin. It was the Holy Spirit that lead Christ into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Why temptation? What is the purpose? With temptation there are great possibilities for failure, but it’s God’s method of testing our loyalty and our love. We cannot say we love someone until we have had to make some hard choices on their behalf. God does not make choices easier for a reason, our temptation is a character building program that He has designed to help us. There is a saying, “talent is formed in solitude, but character in the storms of life.” Look at temptation as God’s magnifying glass to show how much work He has left to do in our lives. What is God teaching us through temptations and struggles? To love Him, depend upon His Word and endure the trials with steadfastness and faithfulness.

God uses our sins to show us His grace and power. “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Experiencing God’s sufficient grace is certainly something we don’t deserve, yet graciously receive. Knowing His power is perfected in our weakness, gives us strength to overcome sin's control.

Thought: What sin is it that keeps holding you captive? Is it an obvious one: drunkenness, adultery, gluttony, homosexuality, an addiction of any kind? Maybe it is a very private sin, the one in your mind: pride, fear, bitterness, envy, anxiety, jealousy, or hatred. Whatever it is, God can deliver you from that sin. Sin’s power need not have rule over you. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability. A Christian should recognize that victory is always available, because a believer can never get into temptation that he cannot get out of.

 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man. God will provide for you the way of escape–––that you may be able to endure the temptation. The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials. When believer’s have successfully and victoriously gone through trials this indicates the genuineness of their faith. They, therefore, will receive the crown of life mentioned in James 1:12, the Christian’s ultimate reward of eternal life.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sacrificial Love

 Sacrificial Love

John 15:13
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Short summary of the novel, “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens:

The year is now 1789. The peasants in Paris storm the Bastille and the French Revolution begins. The revolutionaries murder aristocrats in the streets, and Gabelle, a man charged with the maintenance of the Evrémonde estate, is imprisoned. Three years later, he writes to Darnay, asking to be rescued. Despite the threat of great danger to his person, Darnay departs immediately for France.

Sydney Carton, a look-a-like to Darnay, also has traveled to Paris because of the selfless love that Lucie Manette has inspired in him. He resolves to sacrifice himself to save her husband's life. Carton arranges for the Manettes to leave immediately. He uses his influence with Barsad (Pross), who also works as a turnkey, to get into Darnay's cell. He drugs Darnay and exchanges places with him, having Barsad carry Darnay out of the prison to safety. Carton dies in Darnay's place at the guillotine, satisfied with the knowledge of his good deed and the sacrificial love he showed towards Lucie. Sydney Carton’s final quote: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.” Though this is only a novel, the truth of “agape” love is shown by the sacrificial giving of one’s life for another, without thought of return. 

The true meaning of love, as defined in Biblical terms, has been corrupted, stained in our English language. Most often, people that have said that they are in love, are really infatuated with what they think love is. This kind of "love" is something that lasts typically less than a year, and unless replaced by true love, results in broken relationships. Sometimes there are movies made that capitalize on “falling in love” but I am not sure they portray the true meaning of love. Is love that touchy-feely feeling a person has when he or she is with a familiar person? According to the Bible, love is caring in action. Love isn’t what we feel, but what we do.

The Greek language (the language of the New Testament) uses two different words to describe and define love. The most commonly used Greek word translated "love" in the New Testament is "agape." This love is represented by God's love for us. It is a non-partial, sacrificial love probably best exemplified by God's provision for our rebellion and sin.

"For God so loved (agape) the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) The gift of God's Son as a provision for sin was given–––regardless of who we are or what we have done. God's love is unconditional.

In contrast, our earthly love is usually conditional and based upon how other people act toward us. This kind of love is based upon how well we get to know someone and how we interact with each other. We "fall in love," or two people meet and it is "love at first sight." But the world's love is a selfish matter. The world does not give love where it does not benefit them. If you do not please me, then I have no love for you. Thus, for the world, love must be earned by making someone else feel good. The Greek word "phileo" defines this kind of love, often translated "brotherly love." Phileo love is connected through our emotions  - something that can be experienced by both believers and non-believers. This is in contrast to “agape,” which is love extended through the spirit. Agape love requires a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, since the non-regenerated soul is unable to love unconditionally. Agape love gives and sacrifices expecting nothing back in return. Powerful emotions may accompany love, but it is the commitment of the heart that holds true biblical love steadfast and unchanging. Emotions may change, but a commitment to love in a biblical manner endures and is the hallmark of a true follower of Christ. 

Thought: Our example of true love is shown in God's love for the sinner. Romans 5:8 says, ". . .commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The lost sinner living in rebellion and sin is still loved by the Lord. He loved us enough to die for us and pay our sin debt while we were sinning against Him. This shows that true biblical love is not about emotion. God chose to love us and His love was not based on our meriting it in any way.

Ephesians 2:8-9  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: (this is not of your doing) it is the gift of God:  Not of works, (not a result of works) lest any man should boast (so that no one may boast). God’s love is given freely, a gift from Him. There is nothing you do to earn His love and not a thing you can do to keep Him from loving you. We can never be separated from God’s everlasting love, a sacrificial love shown by the shedding of His own precious blood for us. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Warning Signs of Spiritual Drifing

Warning Signs of Spiritual Drifting
Romans 13:14
 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.

Many years ago, when my daughter was only a toddler, we went to California to swim in the Pacific Ocean and play on the beach. Growing up in Southern California, I had been to the beach many times and knew that swimming after 3:00 p.m. was sometimes dangerous because of the under current or riptide. But, my husband, being from Indiana, wanted to say he had been body surfing in the Pacific Ocean. I asked him if he wanted me to tell him how to body surf and he said, "Woman, I know how to swim!" In man language that means, "Don't tell me what to do!" I sat on the beach with my daughter and played in the sand while my husband and his brother, Mark, started walking out into the water. They were enjoying themselves and splashing each other when all of a sudden a wall of water hit them unexpectedly. They were taken off guard by the under current pulling them out further and further into the ocean. Both were  engulfed by the enormous wave and the overpowering water plummeted them to the ocean floor. While being dragged to the bottom, the overwhelming force of the water resulted in an unbelievable occurrence, the collection of sand and sea shells in their swimming shorts. The rolling and tossing motion caused them to hit heads, giving Mark a severe bloody nose and both a headache. In the midst of their turmoil, as I watched and waited for them to come up for air, I admit, I did giggle as they dragged themselves out of the water and emptied their shorts of debris. My husband and his brother missed some warning signs making them vulnerable to the power of God's magnificent ocean.

We too, can miss some warning signs and fail in our efforts to bring glory to God, living out the abundant life He has declared is ours. We can become self-satisfied giving a sigh of relief that finally we have everything under control putting all our confidence in ourselves and our past record rather than in the LORD. We need to beware of thinking that we have any situation or sin under control permanently. (I Corinthians 10:12) "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Some who have succeeded  in overcoming their sin become prideful in their success and acquire a better than thou attitude especially when they see their friends fall into the same trap they were in. This places them in a position of feeling they have mastered the situation having everything under control, no longer fearing sin. 

Christ wants to be the Master of your entire life making you aware of the danger of  hidden provisions for defeat. Is there something in your life that you are not willing to surrender to the search light of the Holy Spirit? Are you slowly drifting away from God without even noticing? Have you become comfortable and see no need of change in your life? Be careful of pride sneaking in and causing you to fall. Past victories are no guarantee for future triumphs.

When drifting away from God, you can weaken your walk in Christ, when you tolerate personal sin for even a little while. You may be able to live a compromising lifestyle for a short time with no disastrous results, but eventually, it reduces your strength to resist. Are you caught in that old trap, back in the same rut? Satan would like for you to stay there, forever. You're probably feeling guilty and hopefully, uncomfortable, in your sin. God's motivation to help you live righteously is His grace and love. Grace freely given does not give you a license to sin; rather, it should motivate you to give yourself without reservation to the One who loves you so deeply. Confessing your sin the moment it is brought to your attention will restore your fellowship with God and lessen the chances of spiritual stumbling and drifting.

Thought: You're probably wondering, "What Happened?" How did I fall in this trap again, an ugly cycle of thinking I can do this once more and it won't bother me. The lies of Satan are divisive, destructive and deadly. Picture swimming in the Pacific Ocean. The tide begins to pull you out or down the beach without you even noticing it. Before you realize it, you have drifted away from the place you started from, away from God, in sin. When you allow sin to cause you to drift away from God, you don't realize how far you've gone until you look at the shoreline or landmarks to see where you are. Spiritual coasting is a warning sign to cause you see that you have drifted from your first love and didn't even know it. Beware of spiritual coasting and spiritual drifting, it could take you farther than you want to go.