On this third anniversary of GRACE PARTAKERS – well, not the actual day but you get the idea! – I stop to recognize that somewhat like David ( no I am not a “David” ) I choose to follow an urging ( I hope not to presume ) of the Holy Spirit to write a short note on a single verse of scripture each day. I’ve fallen off “each day” but I strive to meet this expectation. My prayer is like David’s:
“And the speeches of my mouth shall be such, that they please; and the thinking of mine heart is ever[more] in thy sight. Lord, mine helper; and mine again-buyer. (May the words out of my mouth be such, that they please thee; and may the thinking of my heart be acceptable before thee forevermore, O Lord; my helper, and my redeemer.)”
I’d like that “the thinking of my heart be acceptable” to God. I’d like that “the speeches of my mouth” please Him. Only God knows my heart; only He can judge my motivations. Even I not dare to say that what I write makes any difference in His Kingdom. I can only hope.
And so my theme at GRACE PARTAKERS is to glorify the Lord, my God and “mine again-buyer!”
If we worry a bit more about reforming our wits as we do about reforming our behaviors, we’d be much better off, I believe. God asks us to change our minds; that is literally to allow Him to change the patterns of our thinking. He asks us to allow Him to perform this exacting task through His own Word; but also through the indwelling of His own Holy Spirit, the third Person of the blessed Trinity.
“And do not ye be conformed to this world, but be ye reformed in newness of your wit, that ye prove which is the will of God, good, and well pleasing, and perfect.”
As we allow God to work in us through His Word and His Spirit, we inevitably find our thought patterns change. As our thoughts are changed, so our behaviors follow.
Attempting to achieve change in behavior prior to change in thought is pointless in God’s eyes.
Read the Word. As you read the Word, allow the Word to transform your mind. The rest will follow.
Why should I be “subject under God?” The obvious answer is that God is my Creator; He knit me together in my mother’s womb, and fashioned me in His Mind long before my conception or birth. I am His, and always have been and always will be.
The other obvious answer is that He saved me. He is “my salvation, or my deliverance” just as David sings in his song of triumph over an enemy.
The enemy defeated by God for me is death, the wage of sin.
Therefore, like David, I sing:
“Surely my soul shall be made subject under God; for my salvation, or my deliverance, is from Him.”
“For a beastly man perceiveth not those things that be of the Spirit of God; for it is folly to him, and he may not understand, for it is examined ghostly [for it is examined, or assayed, ghostly].”
Perception is everything. The beastly man – that is the natural man – is incapable of seeing “those things that be of the Spirit of God.” Why? Because the things of God are “folly to him.” The natural man is incapable of understanding the things of God. Why? Because “the things that be of the Spirit of God” are “examined or assayed ghostly.”
Therefore, it follows that men and women in their natural state are incapable of discerning the Spirit of God.
What is needed?
The natural man requires illumination. The Holy Spirit must reveal Himself to the natural man so that he or she is able to see and understand the things of God. Why? Because the things which be of the Spirit of God are discerned and understood and appreciated by the very Spirit of God, i.e. through God’s power.
We become the children of God not by the “will of flesh, neither of the will of man, but be born of God.” (John 1: 13, WYC)
“And Jesus came nigh, and spake to them, and said, All power in heaven and in earth is given to Me.”
Who comes near? Jesus comes close. He approaches His disciples, i.e. His friends, and He tells them the truth. He assures them that “all” – not some or a little power “in heaven” – but not only in heaven, but also “in earth” “is given to [Him].”
Unlike the Wizard of Oz who is a mere man behind a curtain, Jesus is a man who contains “all power in heaven and in earth.” Rather than hide behind a curtain, Jesus steps out into full view. He says, “Here I Am; you may see Me; you may find Me.” Jesus stands on hilltops and in valleys, places where people can get a good view and where they can get a good touch.
Jesus also assures His friends that this power that He has is not His own; it is a gift of God the Father. Jesus does not dethrone His Father or rebel against Him; He is no demi-god like Perseus is to Zeus.
Beware of those who claim either/or – that Jesus is wizard and/or demi-god. Rather, Jesus is the Son of God.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” (Hebrews 1: 3, NIV)
“Jesus answers, and says to them, This is the work of God, that ye believe to him, whom he sent.”
The question is: “What shall we do, that we work the works of God?” Just as in Jesus’ day when He walks the earth, people ask and argue this question every day. Some people debate while others actually denigrate others’ ideas of what it means to “work the works of God.”
“And now dwelleth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the most of these is charity.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Paul answers the question, “What shall we do, that we work the works of God” with a strong reminder that without charity, we are nothing.
I’ve actually heard people downplay the value of love, spouting that holiness is the key to God. Jesus, I believe, agrees except that He says that without love, holiness is of no value because without love, there is no holiness.
What causes a Christian to stumble? God’s Word says that love of God’s Law gives “much peace” and “no cause of stumbling.” Doesn’t it follow, then, that when a Christian stumbles – I presume, sins – the cause is a lack of love for God’s Law.
So, what is God’s Law? Jesus says the greatest commandment (i.e. God’s Law) is to love the Lord your God with all the strength of your heart, your soul, your mind. And the second greatest is like it – it calls on the Christian to love his or her neighbor in the same manner as self-love.
Of course, it’s not enough to understand God’s Law. We must incorporate this law of Love into our very selves. If we love, it follows we will have peace and will have no reason to stumble.
Paul reminds that sin is anything done outside of faith. Faith is being certain of things unseen. My faith rests squarely on the accomplished work of Jesus Christ, and on absolutely nothing else. His Love – His ability to fully love – is what I rely upon. Outside of His Love, I am nothing.
“Much peace is to them that love thy law; and no cause of stumbling is to them. (There is much peace for those who love thy Law; and they have no reason to slip, or to stumble.)”
“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Essentially, Jesus Christ is Life. Not having Jesus is death. Yes, the situation is that black and white. It’s sort of like Reese’s line to Sarah Connor in the first Terminator movie, “If you want to live, come with me.”
Jesus says, “If you want to live, come with Me.” He finds people – individual people – and tells them this same thing: “Follow Me.”
“For [to] me to live is Christ, and to die is winning.”
Now most people know Paul isn’t saying, “I wanna die!” Rather, Paul is saying, “Life is Christ; death is winning.” If you examine Paul’s life, you can readily understand why living for Paul is “Christ.” Paul’s walk is filled with sufferings, thorns in the flesh, and hard hard work for the Lord. He writes frequently about “suffering” for Christ’s sake. No wonder Paul looks forward to dying for to him, death is the end of the struggle and the beginning of eternal glory.
Life is hard, but life is good. Death is harder, and eternal life is best. Why is eternal life best? Nope. Not because of gold streets or shiny baulbs. Eternal life is best because of being in God’s presence, face to face. Fully knowing Him as we are fully known. The end of tears, no fear, no pain.
“They [God’s people] were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—” (Hebrews 11: 27, NIV)
None of these sufferings matter in God’s presence. Paul likens death to winning a race, crossing the finish line, celebrating the victory, accepting the prize. That’s why he writes, “To die is winning.”
“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
I gather sparrows are valuable in Jesus’ culture. Five of these little birds are worth 2 farthings. Even less valuable items gain God’s notice. The hairs on my head “are all numbered” says the Word of God. In other words, nothing escapes God’s notice. He sees, He knows everything about everything. Not only does He see and know, He also cares about everything. He cares about things which we human beings do not value or which we hold in low esteem.
Because God cares about “the little things,” we ought to rest assured He cares about the important things, i.e. about us. We “are of more value than many sparrows.” Since this truth ought to be obvious, why do we live in fear?
God’s Word tells us, “Fear not! You are not forgotten” by God.