Good News — Sunday is Here!

Have you ever heard the sermon, “It’s Friday, Sunday’s Coming?” I was introduced to this masterpiece in high school. A pastor friend borrowed it for one of his messages. That was almost forty years ago and I’ve never forgotten the message. I found a recording of this sermon on YouTube delivered by the great S.M. Lockridge. I’ve listened to it literally hundreds of times. I still get goose bumps every time I listen.

The preacher starts softly, “It’s Friday…Jesus is praying…Peter is sleeping…Judas is betraying…but Sunday’s coming.”

“It’s Friday,” he says again, this time a little louder. “The disciples are running like sheep without a shepherd…Mary’s crying…Peter is denying…but they don’t know that Sunday’s coming.”

He keeps repeating the phrase. With every turn, that horrible Friday grows darker and more hopeless.

“It’s Friday. See Jesus walking to Calvary…His blood dripping…His body stumbling…And his spirit’s burdened…But, you see, it’s only Friday, Sunday’s coming.”

“It’s Friday…The world’s winning…People are sinning…And evil’s grinning.

“It’s Friday…The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands to the cross…They nail my Savior’s feet to the cross…And then they raise him up next to criminals.”

“It’s Friday…But let me tell you something…Sunday’s coming.”

The cadence quickens.

“It’s Friday…He’s hanging on the cross…Feeling forsaken by his Father…Left alone and dying. Can nobody save him?”

“Oh, it’s Friday…But Sunday’s coming.”

“It’s Friday…The earth trembles…The sky grows dark…My King yields his spirit.”

“It’s Friday…Hope is lost…Death has won…Sin has conquered…And Satan’s just a-laughing.”

The pastor pauses briefly. His next words are stark, emptied of all emotion.

“It’s Friday…Jesus is buried…A soldier stands guard…And a rock is rolled into place.”

Friday ends in the worst possible way, but…

“It’s Friday. It is only Friday.

“Sunday is coming!”

With those last three words, the pastor fills that darkest day with light and hope.

If you ever hear this sermon, you’ll never forget it. To me, it is one of the most powerful, evangelistic sermons ever delivered.

I shared this sermon with you to make this point – Sunday is here!

On that third day, the huge stone was rolled away and Jesus walked out of his borrowed tomb. When the women went to the garden early Sunday morning, they were shocked by what they saw. “Who took his body away and where did they take it?” they wondered.

Jesus told them on seven different occasions that he would rise from the dead. The disciples did not understand what he meant, nor did the ladies that visited the tomb. When they saw the empty tomb, they did not think that he was alive. But he was, and he is today. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and He lives forevermore. This is the good news story.

Have you come to know this story?

I don’t mean as an historical fact. Has your dark, hopeless Friday come to an end — the searching, the restlessness, the emptiness, the guilt and shame? Have you found what you were looking for in the person of Jesus Christ? Has he given you new life?

If so, the resurrection story has become your story. Sunday is here for you. As John wrote in his gospel account, “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

You have everlasting life.

Let that soak in.

Like Jesus, you’ve walked out of your spiritual tomb fully alive – raised to walk in the newness of life here and now. Sunday has arrived for you!

Excerpted from Simple Gospel, Simply Grace

 

The Number One Thing You Need to Know

“Why did Jesus come to earth?” There are several different biblical answers to this question. I like the answer John gave early in his gospel account: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18).

Through his life, Jesus showed us the Father. To his disciples, he said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Before knowing Jesus, we could discern some of God’s attributes through creation such as his eternal power and divine nature. These are plain for everyone to see. We can also see God’s wrath against all godlessness, as Paul wrote in Romans chapter one. Beyond these traits, the nature of God is veiled, so much so that the philosophers in Athens inscribed these words on an altar: “To an unknown God” (Acts 17:2). Only in Jesus is God the Father made known to man.

Some would rather keep God unknown. They fear finding out what he thinks about them. They don’t want to know the truth. And so they come up with their own ideas as to what God is like. Talk about a distorted view.

Apart from Jesus, we make God out to look like a Picasso painting. It’s our inherent fear that paints such a distorted view. We think of him as a mean, judgmental and angry being who can never be pleased. Let me ask you. Before you heard the Gospel and responded in faith, what did you think about God? How did you describe him? What did he think about you? How would you answer now? Hopefully, you see a stark contrast between the two. The difference is that now you are seeing him through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Let’s take a look to see how this relationship evolves. Genesis 1:1 is the best place to start; “In the beginning, God…” He initiated the whole thing. He reached down to you through Jesus Christ. That’s grace. His grace worked in you a desire to know him. That’s faith.

At God’s initiative, a union was formed – you in Christ and Christ in you. His Spirit was joined to your human spirit and the two were fused together. That was the point when eternal life began for you, the point when you started learning truth about the God of the universe. In his love and grace, God started making himself known to you in a real and personal way.

Excerpted from Simple Gospel Simply Grace
http://simplegospelsimplygrace.com

Your Purpose in Life – It's Amazing

One of the big three questions we ask is this: “Why am I here?” This is a question about purpose. In the realm of darkness, purpose is where we miss the mark. We do not carry out God’s desires for us. Instead, we live for ourselves. This starts really early in life. If you are a parent you know this is true. Kids are selfish. They don’t like to share. They believe the world revolves around them. Jeanna and I have pointed that out to our kids many times.

The Bible says that “all of us lived among them at one time gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest we were by nature objects of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). That’s missing the mark. God didn’t create us for this purpose. He had something else in mind.

I wrestled with this question for many years. Other people seemed to know their purpose in life. They had a plan and a direction. I felt like I was stuck in the mud. Nothing seemed that important to me. As Solomon wrote, “everything is meaningless.” Discovering the grace of God cut through my confusion and helped me see that God did have a purpose for me. I was on this earth for a reason. Whew!

Paul encouraged the Philippians to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13). God works in us every minute of every day so that we choose and act according to his good purpose. It’s a process that aligns our hearts and minds with his. Your purpose is this: To work out in day to day life what God is working in you.

Excerpted from Simple Gospel, Simply Grace

simplegospelsimplygrace.com

What If…

Born and raised in Marietta, Georgia, Bob grew up in a Christian home and received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior at the age of 13. During his high school and college years, Bob struggled with the question of how to live the Christian life. His "roller-coaster" experience taught him that he didn't have what it took to be "God's guy."

After college Bob attended a Bible study in Atlanta where he discovered what he was missing—the life of Jesus Christ. Salvation isn’t a self-improvement program. Salvation is receiving and experiencing new life altogether. Witnessing God give new life to an elderly gentleman before he died put in Bob's heart a passion to share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible.

During his 30 year ministry, Bob has communicated the truth of the New Covenant in a way that is both practical and easy to apply to everyday life.

"The Gospel is more than a message," Bob says. "It is a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ based on His love and truth". Bob is passionate about the basic truths of Christianity, and deeply encouraged by those who are courageous enough to apply them in daily life.

Bob is the author of Simple Gospel Simply Grace, released by Harvest House Publishers August 1, 2015 and Love Is, published by Basic Gospel.

Bob and his wife, Jeanna, live in Denton, Texas, with their children, Caitlin, Coleman, and McKenzie.

What if the Old Covenant was God’s final word to man?

What if the Ten Commandments were the only means available to you to gain entry into heaven, or to earn God’s love and acceptance?

Where would this leave you?

What would your eternal fate be?

How would this affect your life here and now?

The Old Covenant was God’s word to Israel. Not His first word to Israel, nor was it His last. But it did define Israel’s way of life as a nation from Moses until Jesus.  And, as Moses explained to the people before they entered the Promised Land, it did have a specific purpose for Israel.

“The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness” (Deuteronomy 6:24-25).

We know they story. Israel did not obey. She did not obtain righteousness through obedience to the law. Instead of being the blessing of life and prosperity, the law issued a curse on Israel’s disobedience. The law judged and condemned the nation.

Try obedience to the law as your means of righteousness. You’ll prove Paul’s words to the Romans: “Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight through obedience to the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20).

So where does the law leave you? – judged, condemned, fearful and dead in sin.

That’s the Old Covenant, a ministry of condemnation and death.

When read correctly, the Law is God’s word about man, the plain, stark truth. It answers these questions: What is the destiny of a people caught in the throes of a lie? What will be their end? According to the Law, the final stop is death, but only if the Old Covenant is God’s final word.

The denouement of this story has a twist. It is revealed on a hill called Calvary, outside the walls of Jerusalem. A man hung there on a cross, suspended between heaven and earth. He was no ordinary man, and the death he died was no ordinary death.

The man whose hands and feet were pierced was the Lord Himself, the unblemished Lamb of God. His death was in place of ours. Live out the full story of the Law and it ends at the foot of this cross. Look up and see God’s final word to man – Jesus.

Death is not God’s end for man, it is Jesus. In Him we have forgiveness of sins, righteousness and a new way of life defined by the New Covenant.

What if you truly believed that Jesus was and is God’s final word to man?

Where would this leave you?

How would it affect you here and now?

The New Covenant answers – in Jesus fully alive!

Four Promises that will Change Your Life

This is an astonishing claim. But it’s true. I am talking about the four promises of the New Covenant.

These promises are better than any other promise that is out there.

They are laid out for us in Hebrews 8:10-12. I’ve numbered them for ease of reading.

  1. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
  2. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
  3. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
  4. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

These are better promises because they satisfy our deepest needs. We need power and the internal motivation to live out the Christian life. We need  assurance that we belong to God and that He loves us. We need a personal  relationship with God, to genuinely know Him. We desperately need to know that our sins have been forgiven once and for all.

On all of these points, the New Covenant provides. Jesus’ finish work guarantees all of these promises to be true. I’ve juiced each one down to one word. In this New Covenant we have

  • Power
  • Assurance
  • Relationship
  • Forgiveness.

The world, religion and even the flesh make outlandish promises, but they never deliver. But not Jesus. In Him, you have everything you need.

Take hold of these four promises and your life will never be the same.

Don't Look Back

I like the word “new.” I’ll bet you do too.

It is an exciting word, especially when it is attached to things like cars, houses, gadgets and even the New Year. We all like “new” things and we want “new” things.

But it is also a scary word. “New” sometimes means that we need to break free from the “way we’ve always done things.” It can also mean moving into unknown and unfamiliar territory.

Think about how you felt the first day on a new job, or at a new church. Uncomfortable is the word that describes how I felt. How about you?

It is hard for us to change, to let go of all that is familiar and comfortable. It is hard even when we know that the “new” is better.

This is why the Gospel is a frightening proposition for many. Spiritual birth ushers us into the new. Paul made this point clearly: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Are you in Christ? If so, for you the old has gone and the new has come.

  • A new life – Romans 6:4.
  • A new identity – John 1:12.
  • A new self – Ephesians 4:24.
  • A new heart – Ezekiel 36:26.
  • A new covenant – Hebrews 9:15.
  • A new command – John 13:34.
  • A new way – Romans 7:6.

You might not know what this new life in Christ will look or feel like. And at first, it may seem a little awkward or strange. But here is the good news — the “new” that Christ has for you is better than anything you could ever dream or imagine.

There is nothing to fear with this “new.” Jesus’ love for you has taken the fear out of moving forward. And besides, Jesus Christ is with you, empowering you to this new life to the full.

As a believer in Christ, the only way is forward in the newness of life. It is time to let go of the old, to stop looking back, and to embrace the new.

Who Do You Say that He Is?

One of the most interesting places in Israel is Caesarea Philippi. Philip, the son of Herod the Great, built this city on the southern slope of Mt.Hermon near the headwaters of the Jordan River. I think this is a significant fact. Let me explain.

Jesus visited this city along with his disciples. At this stage of Jesus’ ministry people were extremely curious about his identity. His miracles and teachings had everyone talking. “Who is this man?” they wondered. So Jesus asked his disciples what people were saying about the “Son of Man.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Who do you say that I am?”

I think this is the most compelling question ever asked. It takes us right to the heart and soul of Christianity, Jesus Christ himself. He is the source of life and faith.

Peter stood and answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This new life of faith we have in Christ begins here.

Now, most of us think of this question in terms of apologetics, defending the faith. The question, however, is much broader in scope. The answer has continuing effects in our day-to-day lives.

“Who do you say that I am?” is not a question to be asked and answered merely once in a lifetime. We should circle back to it time and time again.

Our faith, to have value and substance, must be tied to an object. Without an object, faith is a meaningless word. For Christians, the object of our faith is Jesus Christ Himself. As our knowledge of Christ grows, our faith in Him expands within our souls.

This faith is a dynamic word that is lived out in trials and tribulations. Yet, sometimes in the trials of life, we carry on as if we had never come to terms with the truth of Jesus’ identity.  However, it is in those times, we need to come back to this most significant question: Who do I say that He is?

Jesus is God and he is living in you. What does that mean? As God, he is fully capable of working the situation you are in right now for your good.

Do you need hope? Jesus is the source.

Do you need wisdom? Jesus is your wisdom.

Do you want peace today? Jesus is the answer.

What about you? Who do you say that Jesus is right now?

42 Truths That Will Help You Give Thanks In All Things

Sometimes life is tough. It can hit us hard and hurt us deeply. In those times, it’s hard to give thanks. But that’s what God calls us to. As Paul wrote, we are to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

If you are struggling right now and feeling overwhelmed by life, here are 42 hope-filled truths that will overflow your heart with thankfulness.

Loved by God

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10 ESV)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)

Chosen by God

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4 NIV)

Saved by Grace

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Made Alive in Christ

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24 ESV)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved– (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV)

Born Again

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3 ESV)

Indwelt by the Holy Spirit

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9 ESV)

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27 ESV)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”– so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14 ESV)

Made into a Temple of the Holy Spirit

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV)

Made into a New Creation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

Named a Child of God

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 ESV)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2 ESV)

Adopted as a Son

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5 ESV)

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15 ESV)

Reconciled to God

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10 ESV)

Redeemed

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7 ESV)

Totally Forgiven

I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. (1 John 2:12 ESV)

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses (Colossians 2:13 ESV)

Totally Cleansed

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV)

And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:8-9 ESV)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 ESV)

Made Holy and Blameless

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…( Colossians 1:21-22 ESV)

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 ESV)

Saved Completely

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25 NIV)

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-13 ESV)

Dead to the Law

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4 ESV)

An Heir of the New Covenant

So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:7 ESV)

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10-12 NIV)

Translated out of Darkness into Light

 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8 ESV)

Baptized into Christ’s Body

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Corinthians 12:13 NIV)

Raised and Seated with Christ

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1 NIV)

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6 NIV)

Hidden with Christ in God

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3 ESV)

Clothed with Christ

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27 ESV)

Sealed in Christ

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV)

Made Righteous — Justified

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24 ESV)

Saved from the Wrath of God

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9 ESV)

Made at Peace with God

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1 ESV)

Freed from Condemnation

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)

Sanctified (Made Holy)

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10 ESV)

Made Perfect

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14 ESV)

Totally Accepted

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7 NIV)

In Fellowship with God

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV)

Access to God

This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. (Ephesians 3:11-12 ESV)

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 ESV)

A Citizen of Heaven

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20 ESV)

Anchored by Hope

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20 ESV)

Free

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:32 NIV)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

Victorious

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:31, 37 ESV)

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5 ESV)

Made into a Holy Priesthood

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6 ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

Complete in Christ

For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10 NLT)

Blessed with Every Spiritual Blessing

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. (Ephesians 1:3 NLT)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3 ESV)

Know God

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3 NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7 NIV)

Equipped to Share His Life and Forgiveness

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6 NIV)

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NIV)

 

 

The New Desires of the Heart

Most of us are familiar with Ephesians 2:8-10. This is the passage quoted most often to affirm that salvation is a free gift, not something that can be earned through human effort. Here is the passage:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Most of us stop with verse 9. When we do, we miss the full impact of God’s purpose in saving us by grace. According to verse 10, this gospel message extends well beyond that moment when we cross over from death to life. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection ushers us into a new way of life altogether, one characterized by good works.

These good works have been prepared for us beforehand by God. And as a new creature in Christ, we are to walk in them. But how do we know what they are?

In one of their many conversations with the Lord, the disciples asked Jesus this: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (John 6:28)

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29).

Paul echoes this truth in Colossians 2:6: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” This new life that we have been raised to live is a life of faith. But this still begs the question concerning good works. Isn’t there something that God wants us to do other than merely trust Him?

In a word, no. We are His workmanship. What counts as far as God is concerned is faith in Jesus. As we trust Him and our hearts respond to the leading of His Spirit in us, we will see the good works He has prepared for us begin to flow through us. And they will be recognizable.

Here is how. First, God gives us new desires. Paul calls them the desires of the Spirit. According to the terms of the New Covenant, these desires equate to the laws God puts into our minds and writes on our hearts. They flow from God’s love and are different, night and day, from the desires of the flesh.

Forgiveness is one of those desires God’s Spirit works in us. It is not normal, humanly speaking, to want to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply. But as children of God, forgiveness of others is a work God has prepared for us to walk in. We know it because God places that desire to forgive in us.

Next, the results of walking in those desires, living them out, can be attributed only to God. We can never be sure how someone will respond. Our imaginations are quick to jump to the negative possibilities, but God always has a better outcome in mind.
Calling up all the courage that we can, we step out in faith and extend forgiveness. What we first experience happens inside. Extending forgiveness calms the soul, brings peace to the heart and turns an anxious moment into one that surpasses understanding.

And then we see God’s work within the relationship. Maybe not instantly, but over time, it becomes clearer to us just how He is working what was a painful situation together for good. Couples on the verge of divorce have testified to the power of forgiveness in restoring their marriage. Assemblies of believers that were divided have come back together as they have walked in the forgiveness of God.

What happens both within and without is far too extraordinary to attribute to human effort. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Let’s walk in them.

How to Walk in the Spirit

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). To live in the Spirit is to be controlled by the love of God. This new life we have been raised to walk in is faith in Jesus Christ expressed in love to others.

Through His Spirit, God has poured His love into our hearts and has given us the desire to walk by faith in Jesus. As we do, we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Learning to say “no” is the by-product of saying “yes” to the Spirit.

It is important to understand this distinction. So many well-intentioned believers spend a life time trying to overcome sin in their lives. They wake up each morning with this prayer on their lips: “Lord, please help me to not sin today.” At the end of the day, all they have is another unanswered prayer.

A better prayer is this: “Lord, teach me to abide in you and to follow the leading of God’s Spirit in my life.” God’s Spirit is never going to lead you into sin. He leads you to trust in the Lord, to live righteous and upright lives. He leads you to love and serve others. If living out the Spirit’s work in your life, you will automatically be saying “no” to sin. Peter put it this way:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4

Walking in the Spirit is trusting God to complete the work He began in you. You can count on Him to complete this task, even when you do not fully cooperate. This is His promise: “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…”

When we do get off course, and we will, the Holy Spirit merely recalculates our journey and continues His work in conforming us to the image of His Son. He does so without condemnation. Nor does He manipulate us with fear and guilt to get us back on track. He uses our mistakes, reminding us of the forgiveness we have in Christ, and works them together for our good. He comforts our hearts with this amazing promise: “that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

You are not alone on your journey. Jesus is there with you every step of the way. Trust Him, rely upon Him, and live out what He is working in your life. When you do you will be saying “no” to sin and “yes’ to the will of God.

The center of God’s will, that’s the place where believers are to live their lives. Temptation may look exciting; the world makes sure of that. But it has nothing on its menu that can satisfy the soul and bring contentment to the heart.

The world promises happiness, but delivers pain, sorrow and misery. There is only one person who does deliver on his promises, Jesus. And He gives so much more than mere happiness. Peace, contentment, a life of godliness and love: these are His gifts of grace to us.

And there is nothing more rewarding than experiencing Jesus living His life through you.

It is time for us abandon ourselves to Jesus, to put all that we are in His hands. It is time for us to live out Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Let’s walk by the Spirit and discover that His will is good, pleasing and perfect for us.