Lest we see the sinner’s prayer as mere technique, we must remember that Christ raises the dead that they might walk. We do not mumble the magic words and then wait to die. Christianity is about spiritual growth as well. It is about work, the hard work of sanctification. Regeneration is monergistic, God’s work alone. Sanctification, the process by which we are made holy, is synergistic, God’s work with us.
God’s part is easy for Him. He needs no shortcuts because He never tires. We, though, must ever fight the temptation to seek the shortcut. No technique will make us holy. No technique of the Devil’s, though, can stop the process of Christ making us into His image. Those whom He calls He sanctifies.
Our sanctification requires the Spirit of God and, because He has so ordered His world, sanctification requires the disciplined and repeated use of the means of grace. Five minutes a day of Bible study smells like technique. Arid, it is sure to fail. We must immerse ourselves in the Word of God. Then, as Jesus promised, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. Then we will be His disciples (John 8:31-32).
Coram Deo: Living in the Presence of God
Remember, God is at work in you. He never tires. Give thanks for the process that is underway.
Read Psalms 54.7 – The final verse of Psalm 54 describes a sudden reversal. The first verses describe a dire situation, prompting David to plead for God’s help. By verse 7, his despondency has turned to triumph. His declaration, “He has delivered me from all trouble,” is past tense. Hebrew literature often uses the perfect tense to declare a future event “as good as done.” David doesn’t know how or when God will act on his behalf; nevertheless, he writes with complete confidence,
For He has delivered me from all trouble,
And my eye has looked with satisfaction upon my enemies. (54:7)
According to 1 Samuel 23:26–29, God intervened to protect David from his enemies.
Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain; and David was hurrying to get away from Saul, for Saul and his men were surrounding David and his men to seize them. But a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid on the land.” So Saul returned from pursuing David and went to meet the Philistines; therefore they called that place the Rock of Escape. David went up from there and stayed in the strongholds of Engedi.
Suddenly, perhaps as soon as David said, “I will give thanks to Your name, O LORD, for it is good” (Psalm 54:6), the enemy turned tail for home, removing the threat of immediate danger. Furthermore, David said his eye could now look “upon my enemies” (54:7). The NASB inserts the phrase “with satisfaction” to bring clarity to this Hebrew idiom. David’s choice of words reflects a man without bitterness. He could look his enemies squarely in the eyes without malice or resentment. He had released them to God and God had dealt with them in His own sovereign, perfect way.
Let’s declare war on those longstanding habits we cultivate against others—negative feelings, unforgiveness, resentment, competitiveness, grudges, jealousy, revenge, hatred, retaliation, gossip, criticism, and suspicion. Let’s leave this rugged, ugly, well-worn road forever! The only alternative route to take is love. The longer I live and the more time I spend with the Lord (and with others), the more I am driven back to the answer to most people’s problems: sincere, Spirit-empowered, undeserved love. It’s called living by grace. Once Christ is in full focus, it’s amazing how powerful love can be!
As a guitarist, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in the back country. As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost.
I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.
I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.
The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man.
And as I played ‘Amazing Grace,’ the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my guitar and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full.
As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, “I never seen nothin’ like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.”
Apparently, I’m still lost…
Read 2 Corinthians 4.18 – When you are younger, you think certain things are always good, while other things are always bad. For example, success is always good, and hardship is always bad. But when you have lived life for a while, you can look back and realize that success actually can be bad for some. And hardship actually can be good for others. You begin to see things differently. And sometimes the things you thought were really good things turned out to be bad things. And the things that you thought were bad things turned out to be good things.
We must realize as Christians that God is in control of all circumstances surrounding our lives. God takes all of the events of life, the good things and the so-called bad things, and works them “together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).
We must also realize that God loves us and is always looking out for our eternal benefit—even if what we are presently going through is difficult. We are told in 2 Corinthians 4:17–18, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (NLT).
Are you thankful for what God has blessed you with? Have you given thanks recently for your health? For the freedom to worship openly? For the clothes on your back and the roof over your head? We need to give thanks to God—because there is so much to give thanks for.
Faith does not shed tears over sorrows which may never come. God never made a Christian strong enough to stand the strain of today’s duties–and all the load of tomorrow’s anxieties piled upon the top of them. The apostle Paul himself would have broken down, if he had attempted the foolish experiment. We have a right to ask our Heavenly Father for strength equal to the day–but we have no right to ask him for one extra ounce of strength beyond it! Faith . . .
carries present loads,
meets present battles,
feeds on present promises, and
commits the future to a faithful God!
We should not penetrate into the secrets which tomorrow hides–if we could. It is far better to know Whom we trust, and that He is able to keep all that we commit to Him, until the last great day.
We cannot live on yesterday’s meals. As the children of Israel gathered fresh manna every morning–so must we look upward for a fresh supply of heavenly rations for the day’s march. The secret of happy days is not in our outward circumstances–but in our own heart life. A large draught of Bible taken every morning, a throwing open of the soul’s windows to the precious promises of the Master, a few words of fervent prayer, a deed or two of kindness to the first person you meet–will brighten your countenance and make your feet “like hinds feet” for the day’s march.
“As your days–so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25
At age eighty-six, Polycarp, the second-century bishop of Smyrna and disciple of the apostle John, was brought to the Roman authorities and ordered to confess that Caesar is lord. Though doing so would have saved his life, Polycarp refused and was murdered, inspiring others to remain faithful.
Considered apart from Polycarp’s story, it was not unusual to refer to Caesar as kurios, the Greek term for “lord.” In the original Greek, kurios can mean simply “sir” as a polite and slightly exalted way of referring to another human being. Or, it can refer to a master of many slaves or servants. However, neither of these meanings were in mind when Rome applied the title kurios to the emperor. Instead, kurios signified divinity when used of the Caesar. Faithful Christian that he was, Polycarp could not call Caesar lord without violating the most basic tenet of the faith (Ex. 20:3).
Sometimes, the New Testament may have the less exalted meanings of kurios in mind when it addresses Jesus as “Lord,” but the title is undoubtedly used of Him in the highest possible sense as well. As we have seen, the old Greek version of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint translates the Hebrew Yahweh and adonai as kurios. Yahweh is the revealed name of God in Hebrew and Adonai is one of His titles; thus, kurios, or “Lord,” is the most important title for God in the Septuagint, which is quoted throughout the New Testament.
When kurios is used in this sense, it conveys the idea of “one who is absolutely sovereign.” It is a majestic title, conveying God’s sovereignty and divine power, and it is a remarkable proof of Jesus’ divinity when it is applied to Him in this manner. Philippians 2, in which Paul discusses the humiliation and exaltation of God the Son, calls Jesus “Lord” in the highest sense. “Lord” is the name above all names that is given to our Savior when the Father exalts Him (vv. 9–11).
Of course, Paul is not saying the Son of God was unworthy of this title before He became incarnate on our behalf. No, Paul is proclaiming that the Son’s perfect obedience, followed by His death for sin and His resurrection, reveals all the more clearly that Jesus indeed is worthy to be Lord of all.
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
Early Christians like Polycarp were martyred because they refused to confess Caesar as lord. They knew that Jesus alone is divine and would have no one usurp His status. These Christians knew the New Testament is not merely being polite when it calls Jesus “Lord”; rather, it is teaching that Jesus is God Almighty. Idols of sex, money, power, prestige, and so on can become lords if we are not careful; therefore, let us always confess that Jesus Christ alone is Lord.
Read – Isaiah 45:5-10
When we experience hardships, we usually wonder why God allows these painful situations to come our way. It just doesn’t seem to fit with His role as our loving heavenly Father. We struggle to reconcile our suffering with His love for us and His power to prevent or stop it. In order to understand what’s going on, we need to consider the possible sources of adversity.
A Fallen World: When sin entered the world, suffering came with it. God could have protected us from these harmful effects by making us like puppets who could not choose sin, but that would mean we’d also be unable to choose to love Him, because love must be voluntary.
Our Own Doing: Sometimes we get ourselves into trouble with our foolish or sinful choices. If the Lord stepped in and rescued us from every negative consequence, we’d never grow into mature believers.
Satanic Attack: The Devil is our enemy. To hinder anything the Lord wants to do in and through believers, Satan will never cease to harass us. His goal is to destroy our lives and our testimonies, thereby making us weak and useless for God’s purposes.
God’s Sovereignty: Ultimately, the Lord is in charge of all adversity that comes our way. To deny His involvement contradicts His power and sovereignty over creation.
For us to accept that God allows–or even sends–afflictions, we must see adversity from His perspective. Is your focus on the pain of your experience or on the Lord and His faithfulness? As believers, we’re assured that no adversity comes our way unless He can use it to achieve His good purposes.
What do we always say? “No.”
Why are we so reluctant to admit we were sleeping? Why do we always want to deny it?
The apostle Paul wrote, “Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living” (Romans 13:11–12).
The J. B. Phillips paraphrase states it this way: “Why all this stress on behavior? Because, as I think you have realized, the present time is of the highest importance—it is time to wake up to reality. Every day brings God’s salvation nearer. The night is nearly over, the day has almost dawned. Let us therefore fling away the things that men do in the dark, let us arm ourselves for the fight of the day!”
“The present time” this verse is referring to is the Lord’s return. Paul wasn’t addressing his words to nonbelievers; he was addressing Christians. He was addressing his remarks to genuine believers whose spiritual lethargy and laziness made them appear and act as though they had no spiritual lives.
We, too, can get a little lazy and a little lethargic. Maybe we have been taking in the Word of God without an outlet for what God is teaching us in our lives, and as a result, we are actually falling asleep in the light. We are resting on our laurels and living in our past. We need to wake up. The coming of the Lord is near.
At some point everyone experiences dashed hopes. Disappointment—an emotional response to a failed expectation—is the normal initial reaction. But allowed to linger, it can turn into discouragement, which hovers like a dense cloud. When that’s the case, there is no sense of joy or contentment, no matter what you do.
The circumstances that trigger these emotions may be unavoidable, but the way we respond is a choice. We can either let sadness overwhelm our souls or face the situation with courage and bring it before the One who can help us.
Living in discouragement will divide the mind, making it hard to focus on anything besides our pain. Then as anger becomes habitual, we’ll look for someone to blame—whether God, people around us, or ourself.
Frustration that isn’t handled well may develop into depression, which in turn can estrange us from others—people do not enjoy the company of someone who’s bitter and defeated. This isolation leads to a low self-esteem. Finally, in a fog of discouragement, we can make poor decisions based on crushed emotions instead of truth. Obviously, choosing this self-destructive path is not God’s best for our lives.
Though we’ll all face disappointment from time to time, believers are not to wallow in it. Instead, God wants us to trust Him with everything—even our unmet expectations and deepest sadnesses. Remember, there is divine purpose for everything He allows to touch His children’s lives (Rom. 8:28).
Read 2 Peter 3.8 – When I became a Christian in 1970, the Jesus Movement was in full swing. A lot of young people were coming to Christ. There was a great deal of talk about the soon return of Jesus. It was very common to see bumper stickers on cars with slogans that read, “In case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned” or “Jesus is coming!”
I don’t know how many of those I have gone through, but quite a few. And still He hasn’t come. Some would say, “You guys were all wrong. Maybe He is never coming.” But here is what the Bible says in response: “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9).
Forty-three years ago, I was praying that Jesus would come back. I would venture to guess there are many who are glad that God didn’t answer my prayers because they have become believers since then. I also think that somewhere on earth is an individual who will be the last one the Lord is waiting for to put his or her faith in Christ, and the moment this person does so, the Rapture will take place.
Peter continues, “But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment” (verse 10).
If you really believe that Jesus is coming back, then it should impact the way you live. And if it doesn’t impact the way you live, then you are completely missing the point.
Read Luke 18.26-27. I once heard a story about a man who was shipwrecked on an uninhabited island. Seeing that rescue might not happen for a long time, he painstakingly built a little hut to provide himself protection from the elements and a place to store the few items he had managed to salvage from the wreck. Every day he would prayerfully scan the horizon, hoping for the approach of a ship. But he saw nothing.
Then one evening, after he had been out and about on the island, searching for food, he came back to see that his little hut was in flames. He tried to put out the fire, but it was too late. Everything he owned in this world had gone up in smoke. He went to sleep that night listening to the pounding of the surf, stunned by his own misfortune.
The next morning he awoke to find a ship anchored off the island—the first ship he had seen since he had been marooned. Still trying to believe his eyes, he heard footsteps, and then a human voice, saying, “We saw your smoke signal and we came to rescue you.”
That’s how it happens sometimes. In divine sovereignty and grace, the worst-case scenario somehow becomes the best-case scenario.
Disasters can turn out to be great opportunities for God to work in your life. The Lord is always present with us, always intimately acquainted with our circumstances, and He specializes in taking “impossible” situations and turning them around, for His glory and our benefit.
Read | John 14:16-18
If you were asked who the Holy Spirit is, would you say He’s a ghost, a power, or a person? The Bible clearly teaches that God’s Spirit is a person, and He . . .
• Is a member of the Godhead. The Trinity includes God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
• Acts like a person. He lives, testifies, teaches, convicts, guides, and speaks.
• Has a personality, shown by knowledge, thoughts, will, and language (1 Cor. 2:13).
• Has many names, including Spirit of Holiness, Spirit of Christ, and Spirit of God, which all indicate His divine nature.
• Can be treated—or mistreated—like any person: He can be lied to, resisted, obeyed, and called upon.
Yet many believers don’t think of God’s Spirit as someone they can know. Perhaps these Christians have misconstrued verses that speak of the “Holy Ghost,” or received incomplete teaching about Him. Or maybe, when reading about His power, they assume “power” is all He is. It could even be that their church may have focused on the Father and/or Son to the exclusion of the Spirit.
If we believe anything less than what Scripture teaches about the Holy Spirit, then we will experience far less of the victorious Christian life than God intended. That would delight Satan, because he doesn’t want us to know the whole truth.
The remedy is easy: Ask the Spirit to illuminate the Scriptures about Himself so you can know Him in all His fullness. He’s the one who will help you find in Christ a life that is radiant, powerful, fragrant, satisfying, and victorious. What are you waiting for?