Lesson 366 People of Promise 9 Do All Things

God has things for His children to do. All of us are expected to work on our resume—RSMMA. That is to read, study, meditate, memorize, and act on God’s Word. It seems like such a tough thing. After all, we have to go and haul out that Bible. Then, reading it, well that’s something yet again. No, not just read, but actually study. That is, underline, write notes in the margin of the pages, make cross references, read commentaries, pray about the passages, get into a Bible study. Take correspondence courses, and so on. Then, it’s time to meditate. This means to really think deeply about what a verse or passage means; how it relates to other passages; how it relates to God’s character; how it applies to your life, and how you can implement it in you life. Often, in the meditating, memorization becomes automatic. That is, as you think about the verse, its meaning, and its application in your life, you actually get the verse in your memory banks permanently. And then you have to act on that Truth.

James, Jesus’ brother, knew full well, that without acting on God’s Word all we are doing is intellectualizing it. That’s why he wrote, For as the human body apart from the spirit is lifeless, so faith apart from [its] works of obedience is also dead (James 2:26). In His story bout the foolish virgins, Jesus makes a powerful statement about intellectual faith. When those who only served Him intellectually return to claim their place in the wedding party, He replied, I solemnly declare to you, I do not know you [I am not acquainted with you] (Matt 25:12). Again, Jesus made a very direct comment about those who only know the intellectual side of a true relationship with God through Christ Jesus, when He noted that Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name? And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands] (Matt. 7:21-23).

Everyone wants “free will,” but we have to accept the responsibility that goes hand-in-hand with this marvelous gift from our loving Father. Free will allows us to do anything that we want, at anytime we want, and in any way we want. But just because we can do all things, it doesn’t mean all things are good for us (1Cor. 6:12). As God’s children, our number 1 responsibility is to get to know Him better, so that the things we do are pleasing to Him. Jesus said This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger] (John 6:29). That means exactly what it says. That’s our job. And to do that we have to get into the Scriptures because Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work (2Tim. 3:16-17).

Still, all this great discussion brings up the need to get into the Word and dig deep (2Tim. 2:15), and that’s hard work. Then we have to act on what we know, and that can not only be hard, but even a bit scary. Paul understood both the hardship and the fear of doing God’s work in a world that does not always appreciate it. He stated, I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency] (Phil. 4:13).

This powerful statement needs be always at the forefront of our life in Christ. What a wonderful message. God has equipped us to do all things—that is all things in His Will. So, we have the time, the ability, and the help to get our RSMMA together, and polish it to perfection. We do this with God’s help, not off in a corner by ourselves. Jesus knew the human heart and its selfish attitudes, and told us very clearly I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing (John 15:5).

Paul, who was taught personally by Jesus (1Cor. 11:23), was a man who burned with a passion to evangelize the world. Even so, he wrote that we are to rely fully on God for His help in all that He asks us to undertake, and to do these things [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight (Phil. 2:13).

God will never ask us to do things that are beyond our abilities when we work in concert with His abilities. In fact, that has always been His plan for us (Gen. 2:19). As His children, we need to simply involve God in all we do. Every day, without fail, tell God that you give Him your life and your work. Ask Him to put His thoughts and His strength in you, and help you better understand how to do His work for you. Give Him thanks for hearing you and helping you to accomplish His purpose for you in the day (1John 5:14-15).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 365 People of Promise 8 Resist

One of the truly great promises in Scripture concerns God’s help with driving Satan away from us. But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it). So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you. Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery] (James 4:6-8).

The key verse is 4:7—So be subject o God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you. These are very important words for us to grasp and hold onto with fiercesome determination. Let’s look once again. First we subject ourselves to God. (1) We give up the ways of the world and accept Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. (2) Once we are His children, we hand in our resume–RSMMA—we read, study, meditate, memorize, and act on His Word. Sorry, there isn’t any other way. The more involved we are with God through His Word, the better we are able to stand against the Evil One: Come close to God and He will come close to you (James 4:8a). Notice—we have to make the first move. We come close and then He comes close. We must choose to be close (Deut. 30:19).

The greatest example that we have of anyone standing against the Evil One is Jesus. When He was tempted in the wilderness, He didn’t argue with Satan. He just hauled out the Sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—and cut and slashed away. Each time Satan tossed out a temptation by misapplying quotes from God’s Word—and they were not only real temptations, they were really strong ones—Jesus repelled him by saying, “It is written again….” Of course, what Jesus quoted was correct, and Satan had no choice but to quit.

As God’s children, we are to put on His armor and stand against the Evil One. This works. So if you’ve never put on the armor, go into God’s armory and get into the Helmet of Salvation, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Belt of Truth, the Ready Gospel of Peace footgear, and take in one hand the great Shield of Faith which quenches all the fiery darts of the Wicked One, and in the other hand take the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and overall raise the veil of prayer in the Spirit (Eph. 6:14-18).

Don’t ever take the armor off. Leave it on permanently. Then every day thereafter, give thanks in Jesus’ name that you are wearing it. Name the pieces as you give thanks. This will help you to always remember that you’re wearing the armor. The armor allows us to stand firm. The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, drives the Evil One away. Here the Greek word for “word” is rhema, which means the written or spoken word. Here it means both of these. The Sword of the Spirit is God’s written Word (Scriptures) that we speak out, exactly as Jesus did.

And, of course, in order to speak the Word of God, we have to know it, or at least have a good Bible search program so that we find the appropriate verses to use for our Sword in any particular circumstance. As I’ve noted before: it is not necessary to memorize 5,000 verses—4,999 will do just fine. Actually, knowing only a handful of verses will move you a long way. For example: Matt. 16:19 says that we can bind anything that is bound out of Heaven, and we can loose anything that God has loosed in Heaven. Satan is bound out of Heaven. Anger, jealousy, envy, hatred, harsh language, lust, greed, etc. are all bound out of Heaven. So, if you feel anger and want to dump it on the waste heap of life, just say: “In the name of Jesus I bind this anger and loose God’s Agape love in me.” Always loose something in your life that is of God. Don’t leave an empty space that Satan can get back into (Luke 11:24-26). Of course knowing the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, and self control—helps when we need something to loose in place of the thing we’ve just bound. It may be necessary to smack Satan up-side-the-head several times with the Sword before he will actually leave, so keep at it until God’s peace comes over you and you are assured that Satan has gone (Phil 4:67, Col. 3:15).

Remember last week’s memory verse?—of course you do! Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant] (James 4:10). Well, it comes right after todays’ memory verse—James 4:7. When we stand against the Evil One with the Word of God, we are saying that we believe God’s Word is true and that it will operate in our lives, just as He says it will. In other words, we are humbling ourselves under the authority of the Word. Interesting how God links it all together for us, isn’t it.

When we trust God’s Word to perform exactly as He has told us it does, it pleases Him greatly, for: without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out] (Heb. 11:6). The reward, is not only the application of the Word in our lives, but a more intimate association with our Father. And in the end, that is His desire for us.

God doesn’t just want children (Rom. 8:17), He wants to bless His children with everything that He has. But in order to do so, we have to carry out our side of the covenant. We have to get into the throne room (Heb. 4:16), and spend time sitting next to our Father and Big Brother Jesus (Col. 3:1, Eph. 2:6). There, to talk and listen to Him. It’s no different than getting to know anyone else. We have to converse, read His writings, and listen to what He has to say. Don’t wait. Get started today. Only good will come of it (James 1:13-18).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 364 People of Promise 7 Humble Yourself

Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant] (James 4:10). Now there’s a promise. I like the idea of being exalted (lifted up) by God. No one else will every be able to exalt us the way He does. It’s a fabulous promise, but like all of God’s promises, it requires us to use our free will to do what is necessary to gain the outcome of the promise. That is, we have to humble ourselves.

Peter said it like this: Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully (1Peter 5:6-7). Notice in this passage, Peter describes how we humble ourselves: we give it all to God. This is reminiscent of Paul’s writings to the Philippians: Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7). It is also a directive from Jesus. For example, about the events of tomorrow, Jesus said, So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble (Matt. 6:34).

It seems that anxiety about, and fear of, the future is not something that God wants us to keep on our plate. Like the bones left over from a big steak meal, our anxieties and worries are to go onto the scrap heap. When we do, in fact, get them into God’s hands; we have humbled ourselves before Him. Why, because we are putting all our trust in Him, and not in ourselves. Remember, whomever or whatever you believe is your God. It will direct your thinking and your actions (Rom. 6:12). So if you are anxious about some upcoming event, then that event controls you. You will think about it, you will wring your hands over it, you may lose sleep over it, you will hold it in the forefront of your thoughts—it will possess you.

That is not what God wants for you. Dump it on Him. Make Him the God of your universe. Let Him help you to get through the tough times. Yes, most likely you will have to face the challenge head on, but when You have confided all your fears and anxieties in God and asked for His help, He will not leave you alone. He will walk through the difficulties with you and not only help you get through, but also help to make the outcome the best possible. Again, I’m not saying that the difficulties will go away. Every once in a while, God is able to orchestrate events such that the difficulties disappear. But usually, we have to jump right in and get ‘er done. That’s where having a hold on God’s hand makes it ever so much easier.

Having humility is not the same and going around saying such things as “I’m not really any good, after all, I’m just an old sinner saved by grace.” No, that’s not humility, that another “…ity,” stupidity. Humility is that state of recognizing (1) God is the Creator and we are the created, (2) He is able to do all things, we are able to do only a few things, (3) He died on a cross to give us life, when all we could offer was death, (4) He loves us beyond our capacity to understand, we only love what we understand, (5) We honestly want God as our Father; He honestly wants us to be His children, (6) His plans for us are way better than our plans for Him, (7) We are not afraid to tell others we love Him, and why we love Him.

Until these things are realized in our lives, true humility will not exist in us. We have to give it all to God and position ourselves in His care, as children do with their fathers. When this happens, and we freely engage Him with this attitude in our hearts, then He can exalt us. Of course, the question becomes what exactly does exalt mean: The dictionary defines it as to praise or to promote someone; to intensify or stimulate something. The Greek word that we translate as “exalt” is hupsoo. I means to elevate or lift up, and some translations say lift up rather than exalt.

Interestingly, when we put God first in our lives, we are “exalting” Him. We are lifting Him up into the Supreme position in our lives. David wrote: O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together (Ps. 34:3), and Isaiah wrote: O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things, even purposes planned of old [and fulfilled] in faithfulness and truth (Isa. 25:1). When we exalt God, we choose to make Him #1, and ourselves #2. This way, He has control. If we don’t put Him on top, then He can’t lift us up. God never gets under us to push us up. He always pulls us up.

So when we truly position ourselves under Him, God will elevate us or lift us up from where to where? Here are a couple of answers. Wait for and expect the Lord and keep and heed His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; [in the end] when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it (Ps. 37:34). Prize Wisdom highly and exalt her, and she will exalt and promote you; she will bring you to honor when you embrace her (Prov. 4:8). The real exaltation is not to raise us up in the eyes of other humans. That would very likely trigger pride, not a good thing. The exaltation is to raise us up in (1) our relationship with God, (2) our ability to function with Him, (3) our ability to help others see the Truth, (4) our ability to use God’s Truth in our lives on a day-to-day basis. And that’s a lot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 362 People of Promise 6 Seek First

As we have noted, salvation is a three-part process. (1) Justification is the cleansing that occurs when we accept Christ as or Lord and Savior. In this process, God wipes away all trace of our rebellion against Him (our sin), and makes us the righteousness of Christ, Himself (Heb. 10:17, Gal. 3:24). (2) Sanctification is the process by which we become more in tune with God and His desires for our lives. We learn to live by His guidelines, and not by the ways of the world. This should be a continual process in which we work hand-in-hand with God in order to grow in wisdom and understanding about our life in Christ. It is a process whereby we show God our resume—spelled RSMMA—Read, Study, Meditate, Memorize and Act on His Word (John 15: 3. 17:17, 2Tim. 3:16-17, 2:15). (3) Glorification is again an act by God whereby we will receive a resurrected body and live in the glory of His presence for all eternity.

Note that both justification and glorification are sovereign acts of God, but sanctification is our responsibility. This is the area where our free will comes into play. We can choose to work with God, or not. We can choose to work at our sanctification, or not. We can choose to be more like Christ and less like our old human nature, or not. We can seek God’s face or work at becoming more and more successful in the ways of the world. Jesus noted that God knows we need food and clothing and the other items necessary to live in our culture. He also told us not to be anxious about acquiring “stuff,” but to really dig in and get to know Him. When we dedicate ourselves to knowing God, He will make certain that we get the things we need for our lives here on earth. Jesus expressed it this way, Seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides (Matt. 6:33).

Now, we need to take a few moments and consider all the implications of this statement. First, it does not say that we will not have to work; that all we need will just fall from the sky and into our greedy little hands. No, it says that when we seek God’s face as our primary life’s focus, He will be certain that the things we need are added–as in a good job so that we can provide for our families. As in a job that we enjoy and that provides a comfortable place for us to spend our days. We will be able to use or natural talents and skills to not only provide for our needs, but to bring honor and glory to God.

As an aside, God does not need our honor and glory. He really needs nothing from us. He is complete in Himself. So why do we need to bring honor and glory to God? Because when we do, it shows that we love Him with all our hearts and minds. We want to honor Him because He is so good to us, and loves us so very, very much. We give honor and glory to our Father, not because He needs it, but because we want to do it! God puts His Agape love in us when we become His children, and Agape changes our character so that we want to give God the best we have without regard to consequences to ourselves.

When we make seeking God’s Kingdom first in our lives, then we are on the right road, because sanctification is growing up in our relationship with God. And So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you (Luke 11:9). That’s a wonderful promise. But the inverse of that promise is also a true promise. Don’t ask, don’t seek, don’t knock, and the door will stay closed. God not will not, nay He cannot, open the door unless we use our free will to ask to be let in. This is why we need to clearly, clearly, clearly, understand and acknowledge that the responsibility is ours, not God’s.

I would be like someone giving you a car filled with gas and a credit card to buy as much gas a you’ll ever need, and you simply sit there and whine because the person who gave you the car and card isn’t driving you all over the place. That would be pure foolishness. God gives us His Word, His promise to be with us always and teach us, His promise to bless our efforts, and we sit and whine because He doesn’t just open up our skulls and pour the information in.

There simply is no other way to acquire information except to work at acquiring it. In 1994, when I renewed my relationship with God, I knew that I had to read and read and read the Bible and everything that I could lay my hands on regarding His Word. I asked God to help me, and pour His understanding into me so fast that I would get stretch marks on my spirit. Don’t ask unless you mean it. My poor Bible is falling apart, yet I am loath to get another because I have so many notes in the one I started with in 1994. And yet, there is always more. If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven [perfect as He is] give good and advantageous things to those who keep on asking Him! (Matt. 1:11).

When we pour ourselves out before the Lord, and ask Him to pour Himself into us, He does so. When we hold back and keep some areas of our lives “secret” from Him, or when we just don’t want to work at learning His Word, then even what we do have is lost to time and our memory. And [said Jesus,] I tell you that to everyone who gets and has will more be given, but from the man who does not get and does not have, even what he has will be taken away (Luke 19:26). It is not God who takes it away, but rather our involvement in seeking the things of the world rather than seeking the things of God that causes us to gradually lose what little information about God that we do have.

 

Lesson 362 People of Promise 5 Salvation

Addendum to Lesson 361: before we look at today’s topic, let me made a couple of notes about “Once Saved, Always Saved.” First, one has to be saved. Really saved. Mumbling a few words to God about your life condition, or praying a half-hearted confession because someone pressured you to do so, is not being saved. Saying you are saved, and not having any chance in your actions, words, and life outlook is not being saved. One must ask in true sincerity, and really desire to be God’s child. If so, then God answers, immediately with a resounding, YES. Once God says “yes” He will never let go of you. And when we are His children, we will want to do what He wants us to do. We will change. We will exhibit His love, His concern for others, His tenderness and gentleness of spirit, and all His other characteristics. We will want to study His Word to learn more about Him, and we will want others to become His children. From God’s side, He will never let you go; Satan can’t snatch you out of His hand, other people can’t snatch you away. Once you are His, you are His. Of course, we have total “free will,” and can do whatever we want to do. One could tell God they don’t want to be His child anymore, but I just can’t imagine anyone who knows God rejecting Him.

 

Now, to Salvation. Salvation is not the same as the single point in time when one makes Christ the Lord and Savior of their life. That single point is the new-birth (John 3:5) or “conversion,” when our old human nature is crucified with Christ and we are given a new nature (spirit) permanently linked to the Spirit of Christ (Gal. 2:20). That single point in time, when we are ”born again,” is the starting point of salvation.

Salvation is a three-part process: (1) justification, (2) sanctification, and (3) glorification. The instant that we make Christ the Lord of our life, we are justified. That is, God wipes away all the things in our past that are not of Him. For we hold that a man is justified and made upright by faith independent of and distinctly apart from good deeds (works of the Law). [The observance of the Law has nothing to do with justification] (Rom 3:28). For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation (Rom. 10:10). He then goes on to say, And their sins and their lawbreaking I will remember no more (Heb. 10:17). Justification—calling us innocent—is purely God’s doing, His free gift to us. Jesus bought and paid for this by His death on the cross, and He wants us to have it.

Justification makes us righteous before God. That is, we have the right to come boldly into the Throne Room of God, Himself, and talk directly to Him (Heb. 4:16). It was not advisable to do this to earthly kings. Anyone entering the throne room without being called in by the king was to be put to death—after all, how was the king to know the intent of the person who came in uninvited (Est. 4:11). So, the idea that God was making His Throne Room wide open to every one who has received Christ as Savior is a rather startling one. But the reason He has done so is very simple. When we are born again, we become God’s children, heirs of God and coheirs of Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:17). And God loves His children and wants them around Him as much as possible.

As children, who He has declared righteous through their faith in Christ, we have the right to stand before Him and talk to Him directly. There is no need for any human intermediary. In the Old Testament, the priests were the intermediaries between God and the people, but God has made every one of His children to be a priest (1Peter 2:9, Rev. 5:10). We can burst right into the Throne Room of the King, singing and dancing, celebrating a life of love and thanksgiving in Him, and have any sort of conversation with Him that we want—and He will listen.

As justified children of the Lord Most High, we have the responsibility to carry out the second aspect of salvation—sanctification. This is just a long word that means to grow up in our relationship with God. When we are born again, we are, quite literally, babes in Christ. To grow, we need good food and drink, and that is the perfect Truth of God’s Word. In His Last Will and Testament (John 17), Jesus asked the Father to Sanctify them [purify, consecrate, separate them for Yourself, make them holy] by the Truth; Your Word is Truth (John 17:17). And He had earlier told His disciples, So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in Him, If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).

Disciples are those who are disciplined—not punished—but willing to work and dig in and progress in the Word (Heb. 6:1-2). Athletes are disciplined—they work hard, they are dedicated, they don’t give up, they train, and train, and train. Paul understood this need to really dig in and stay in the Word when he wrote to Timothy, Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth (2Tim. 2:15).

That’s because Paul understood that Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work (2Tim. 3:16-17).

Sanctification is not a one-time process, it is an ongoing, never-ending, go-as-fast-as-you-want (or can), work-at-it-every-day, honoring-the-King process. In the first part of the book of Philippians, Paul encourages his readers to Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] (Phil 2:5). That is why, a bit larger he instructs them, Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ) (Phil. 2:12).

He is not telling us that we have to work at keeping our new birth in Christ, he was telling us to work at our sanctification. Jesus told His disciples and those nearby, you therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48). Perfect meaning mature in thought, word, and deed, and able to discern good from evil and choose the good (Job 34:4, Rom. 12:2, 12:9, Heb. 5:14). That only comes about when we read, study, meditate, memorize, and then apply God’s Word to our lives.

The third element of salvation is glorification (Rom. 8:30). This is our final transition into the fullness of God; it is bringing us into full heavenly condition and dignity. It occurs after our physical death, and brings us permanently into God’s presence, and it fully God’s doing. Eventually it means that we will receive a new, “resurrected” body like that which Christ has. Beloved, we are [even here and] now God’s children; it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know that when He comes and is manifested, we shall [as God’s children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He [really] is (1John 3:2). Glorification means that we shall bask fully, and eternally, in the wondrous outflowing of His presence. It is something that Jesus specifically gave us in His Last Will and Testament (John 17:22). It means unending association with the One and Only God of the Universe. That will be the ultimate culmination of the process that starts the moment we give our lives to Christ.

 

Lesson 361 People of Promise 4 Once Saved

There is a belief in some churches that God can and might withdraw His saving grace from anyone at anytime. This is a foolish legalistic, man-made regulation intended by an unscrupulous person to control other people, it is not God’s plan. He did not send Jesus to die on the cross so that those who believe in Him will have to be in a constant state of anxious wonder and perplexing, conflicting thoughts about our salvation. Jesus either came to free us from Satan’s grasp, or He didn’t.

Jesus told us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6); He didn’t say, I might be the Way, perhaps what I say is Truth, perhaps not, and I have the Life you want, but you’ll never really know if you’ve got until you get to Heaven or end up in Hell. What the heck kind of salvation would that be? Stupid salvation is what it would be; in fact not even salvation. It would be a constant state of anxiety, worry, and fear. That exactly what Jesus came to do away with (Matt. 6:31-33, Phil 4:6-7, 2Tim. 1:7, 1John 4:18).

Jesus was very, very specific about once saved always saved. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all [else]; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are One (John 10:28-30). It just can’t be any clearer, all y’all. Either you believe Jesus or you don’t! When He said that He gives us salvation and we will never lose it, He meant precisely that. There can’t be any other way to take what He said, other than to believe Him and accept His Word as the Truth (John 14:6).

And that through Him everyone who believes [who acknowledges Jesus as his Savior and devotes himself to Him] is absolved (cleared and freed) from every charge from which he could not be justified and freed by the Law of Moses and given right standing with God (Acts 13:39). In this [union and communion with Him] love is brought to completion and attains perfection with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment [with assurance and boldness to face Him], because as He is, so are we in this world (1John 4:17). This is the way it is. By no means! Let God be found true though every human being is false and a liar, as it is written, That You may be justified and shown to be upright in what You say, and prevail when You are judged [by sinful men] (Rom. 3:4). If God said it, it is true, true, true because God does not change (Ps. 15:4, Mal. 3:6).  He is the same, yesterday, today, tomorrow–forever (Heb, 13:8).

True, even though we have received Christ as Lord and Savior and are 100 percent inducted into the Kingdom, and are fully heirs of God and coheirs of Jesus (Rom. 8:17), we can still do things that go against our covenant with God. We are not perfect, and we can and do violate our agreement with God. But as His children, we have the option of getting 100 percent in right standing with our Father immediately, by truly repenting of our violations (turning from them in revulsion at our actions) and asking to be washed clean and bright in the Blood of the Lamb (1John 1:7-9, Rev.7:14).

So, we don’t lose our salvation just because we sin. True, we put ourselves in a bad place with God. It’s not His choice that we’re in a bad place, it’s ours. Remember, He has made all the provision that we will ever need to stay clean and sweet smelling in His presence. He loves us beyond anything that we will comprehend this side of Heaven, but believe His Word when it says that He is Agape love (1John 4:8-116). He is not partly lover of His children and simultaneously a part-time hater of His children. That’s a human attitude that we wrongfully assign to our Father. He is love, period. As such His attitude toward us is always to give the best He has without regard to the consequences to Himself (John 3:16).

But at the same time, He will not, cannot violate His covenant with us. His is not only Loving, but Holy, Righteous, and Just (1Peter 1:6, 1John 3:7, Rev. 16:7). Jesus became the Curse and died on the cross so that we can be free of it (Gal. 3:13-14). When we violate God’s covenant with us (when we “sin”), we put ourselves under the curse of the Law (see Deut 28:1`5-68). We put ourselves there, God does not do that. He has no choice but to allow us to wallow in our own self-made slop. But He stands there, every ready to snatch us from drowning in our own filth. The story of Peter walking on the water is not just a story about how cool Jesus is because He can walk on water and help us to do likewise. It is a story of Jesus’ ability to stay ever above the cloying grasp of the things of this world and to immediately snatch us out of its grip if we just call out to Him, setting us back on our feet and instantly getting us back, clean and righteous, onto solid footing in His Kingdom (Matt. 14:28-32).

At another time a huge storm rose up as they crossed the Lake of Galilee. Jesus slept in the rear of the boat, exhausted from His nearly ceaseless care and concern for the people. His disciples woke Him in panic, and he calmed the storm and asked them why they were so frightened, not trusting that He wouldn’t let them die in the storm (Mark 4:37-40). Jesus is not, I repeat, not going to allow us to drown in our own, self-inflicted disobedience. He is always there, right beside us, to snatch us away from Satan’s grasp. BUT, we have to repent of what we’ve done and ask to be snatched away.

There are those who never grow in their relationship with God. They give their lives to Christ, but never spend the time or energy to really develop their relationship with Him. They struggle through life, trying to do their own thing for God, never seeking His face, never asking Him to guide them, never getting beyond that first basic step of salvation (I know that stage well, I was there for many years). But they are still saved, and God will not cast them aside. All of us will go through a “trial by fire” that will test everything we have done. Those things that we have done hand-in-hand with God will get through the fire, those things that we do, hoping to please God but not involving Him, will be burned up. We will get through, smelling of only a hint of smoke, or smelling strongly of the smoke of the trash that had to be burned off of us—but we will get though (1Cor. 3:13-15).

Want to get through with little or no smell of the smoke of God’s cleansing fire? Stay clean by repenting any time you know you’ve acted against God’s will. Besides, we want to stay spotlessly clean (righteous) before God so that our prayers have great power and can help others as God wants us to do (James 5:16).

Stand strong in the Truth that once God gives you His salvation, you are eternally His, period. Then, stay clean and empowered by repenting of any covenant violations, allowing Jesus to snatch you out the filth of the Curse of the Law whenever you get into a bad place.

 

Lesson 360 People of Promise 3 Trust Him

Legalism is a human approach to God, which holds that we have to try to please Him with what we do. If we can manage to “keep God happy” then we will get into Heaven. But God has very precisely told us that we have all become like one who is unclean [ceremonially, like a leper], and all our righteousness (our best deeds of rightness and justice) is like filthy rags or a polluted garment; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away [far from God’s favor, hurrying us toward destruction] (Isa. 64:6). Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives (Rom. 3:23).

What makes us think that we have anything or can do anything that God doesn’t have or can’t do? What makes us think that God sits on His throne keeping a debit and credit ledger of our lives? If there are more credits than debits, then we get into Heaven? And what is each act of goodness worth relative to each act that displeases God? Do we have to help two old ladies across the street to make up for a curse word used in anger? Or maybe it’s three old ladies? Such logic is the logic of uninformed non-thinkers. It’s just foolishness.

If we want to live a life that is pleasing to God, then we need to put our absolute trust in Him and His ability to accomplish all He has said He can and will do in our lives. For, without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out] (Heb. 11:6). Notice the promise that this important verse contains: He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him out. God doesn’t want a bunch of robot children, busily trying to keep Him happy. An earthly tyrant might desire such foolishness, but not the God of the universe.

God wants us to trust Him so that He can pour all He has into our lives. Seems like an odd attitude for a “god” to have. In fact all “gods” except the One True Living God, Yahweh, demand tribute of some type. God, on the other hand, wants to give everything to us. Yahweh is the only One Who is truly concerned with helping us to become better; to become more than we could every be without Him. As such, when we put our trust in Him, He “rewards” us with a new life in Him.

As we’ve noted in past lessons, we have to make the decision to trust Him, and to come to Him through the door that Christ Jesus has made for us. For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love (Gal. 5:6).

David and the other Psalmists were almost obsessed with the idea of trust, and Psalm after Psalm relays the message of trust in the King of kings. Here are a few to consider:

Psa. 18:30 As for God, His way is perfect! The word of the Lord is tested and tried; He is a shield to all those who take refuge and put their trust in Him

Psa. 56:11 In God have I put my trust and confident reliance; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Psa. 62:8 Trust in, lean on, rely on, and have confidence in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is a refuge for us (a fortress and a high tower). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

If we really trust our Father fully, then we will dump all our cares on Him and rely on Him fully to accomplish all that He has for us to do. Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 46:7). Can you, will you put that kind of trust in God? He is certainly deserving of it. I know it’s hard for us humans to give Him that much access to, and control of, our lives; we not only need to do that, but we are foolish if we don’t.Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding (Prov. 3:5).

In fact, a necessary part of our everyday prayers should be to give our lives, our work, our thought, our actions over to God. If we do, only good can come of it. Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass (Ps. 37:5).Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed (Prov. 16:3).

We have work to do. We’re not to just idly stand by, waiting for God to bless us. No, we are to get busy. If we really believe what God says, then we will launch out and accomplish His Kingdom purpose for us. Jesus gave us the very first step in our Kingdom work, regardless of who we are or what it is that God has assigned us to do. This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger (Jesus—GB)] (John 6:29).

Pour your trust completely into God’s Servant, our King, our Savior, our Lord of lords, Christ Jesus, and allow God to pour into you all He has prepared just for you.

 

Lesson 359 People of Promise 2 Choose Life

God has made it very clear that He has given us the absolute right to choose—anything and everything. He will not interfere in our choices unless we ask for His help and guidance. He encourages us to choose life (Deut. 30:19), and has made provision for every person that wants life and not death. This provision has been made for us through His one and only begotten Son, Christ Jesus. Jesus was very clear about this when He said, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me (John 14:6). It might seem odd to claim John 14:6 as a promise, but it is. Jesus is promising that all who want access to the Kingdom of Light can have that access through Him. What Jesus says is the Truth (absolute truth), and He is the Way to Life. Not our physical life, that comes from our parents, but eternal life in the presence of God. He is also promising that anyone who does not rely on Him will not enter the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Love and Light, but will receive the same judgment as Satan.

All of us are designed as spirit, soul, and body (1Thes. 5:23); we are three part beings built in the three-part mold of God (Gen. 1:26). God designed our spirit to live eternally with Him. When Adam bowed his knee to the authority of Satan, humanity came under the rule of the Evil One, and Satan became the god of this world (2Cor. 4:4). When we rely on the things of this world, things from others, or things from Satan and his minions, we are rebelling against God (Col. 2:8). As we noted in the last lesson, whomever you believe is your god.Furthermore, whatever judgment has been made against these other gods is the same judgment that is meted out to all who trust in these other gods (John 3:17-18).

When we live in rebellion against God, we live in a spirit of death. That is, a spirit that is eternally separated from God. Hell is the place where those who have a spirit of death will live eternally. It is a place without God. A place of infinite darkness. I once asked God if He would please let me experience what Hell is like. He asked if I was sure I wanted to do that. I told Him, yes, and instantly I was in a place of darkness beyond imagining. I’ve been on cave tours where the guide shuts off all the lights. I literally could not see my hand in front of my face. But this was different. Not only was it totally dark, but I could feel the darkness. And it was not a good feeling. It was a foreboding, evil, clammy, cloying, penetrating darkness that pierced every fiber of my being, including my thoughts. Thank goodness God only allowed me to experience enough to get a very brief, momentary feeling of it. I do not want to feel it again, and I certainly don’t want to spend eternity is such a place.

Because Satan was able to enslave humanity, God built a way for humans to be restored to His original design. This plan required that Jesus would have to die in our place. The death of just any human would not do. Jesus was a special human, one who could live a life without rebellion against the Father in any way, shape, or form (Heb. 4:15). He had to be perfect so that He could be the once-for-all sacrifice that opened the door of humanity’s access to God’s eternal presence. He had to pour out His blood on the cross, as a sacrifice for us (Lev. 17:11). But once that was done, our access to God was assured, and all we have to do is ask for eternal life, and we can have it.

Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart believe (adhere to, trust in, and rely on the truth) that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation. The Scripture says, No man who believes in Him [who adheres to, relies on, and trusts in Him] will [ever] be put to shame or be disappointed. [No one] for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek. The same Lord is Lord over all [of us] and He generously bestows His riches upon all who call upon Him [in faith]. For everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [invoking Him as Lord] will be saved (Rom. 10:9-13).

 

This brings us to another great promise that almost everyone can quote, but which not everyone takes advantage of: For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life (John 3:16).

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus told us that the gate to eternity with God is narrow: Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it. But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it (Matt. 7:13-14). In the Gospel of John, He told us exactly how wide that gate is: I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door for the sheep. All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not listen to and obey them. I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture (John 10:7-9). The door to an eternity with God is precisely as wide as Jesus’ shoulders, and no wider. We come to God through Jesus; there is no way around Him. There simply is no other way except through Jesus. When we believe this and cling to it, making Jesus Lord of our life, then He opens the door and welcomes us in with a great celebration (Luke 15:10). And there is salvation in and through no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by and in which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Lesson 358 People of Promise 1 It All Begins

        A promise is a pledge of assurance of some future occurrence. For example, when someone says, “I promise that I’ll take you to the movies on Saturday,” a pledge (going to the movies on Saturday) is being made. The only real assurance that one has of the fulfillment of the promise is the reliability of the one making the promise. Come Saturday, the person making the promise may have to work, and then the promise cannot be fulfilled. Such broken promises are a part of all human relationships.

But broken promises are not part of God’s character, nor our relationship to Him. When He makes a promise, it will be fulfilled. Let God be found true though every human being is false and a liar, as it is written, That You may be justified and shown to be upright in what You say, and prevail when You are judged [by sinful men] (Rom. 3:4b). God’s promises are made by covenant, that is, it is an agreement in which all parties involved pledge to keep the terms of the agreement. Further, God’s covenants are “blood covenants.” The person violating the terms of the agreement is subject to death. God never violates His covenants, but human do it all the time. “Sin” is human rebellion against God’s covenants, and the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23).

God is a God of promises. There are well over 4,400 that He makes in His Word. This year’s series of lessons is not designed to cover all of those promises. Rather, what we want to do is focus ourselves on those promises that shape our overall life as a child of God in Christ Jesus. Not that any of God’s promises are minor or of less value than the others. God has only good for us. Everything He has for us is good. Do not be misled, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light, in [the shining of] Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse] (James 1:16-17).

The “promise of all promises,” “promise number one,” the one that comes first in our relationship with God so to speak, is “free will.” Before any other promises can be implemented in our lives, we must clearly, very clearly, understand that God can do anything that He chooses, and He chooses to let us make the choices. God has chosen to give humans the right to make their own choices. Humans have the right to reject God or accept Him. Humans have the right to do whatever they choose to do, period.

Scripture notes that two or more witnesses are necessary to establish a fact in law (Deut. 17:6, 19:15). The first of these is Deuteronomy 30:19:).

I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live

As a part of this year’s lesson series, I will give one memorization verse for each lesson. Take the time to get them into your memory. We will often use verses several times as we develop this year’s lessons, so knowing the memory verses will bring more to each lesson. To make this easier, I’ve printed the Memory Verse on the last page along with the Book, Chapter, and Verse. Cut it out, fold it over, tape it, and you have a
3 x5 memorization card.

The second is verse that’s relates clearly shows our right to choose is Joshua 24:15:

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

 

Humans covet the idea of free will, being able to “do it my way,” but what humans don’t want to accept is the responsibility that comes with free will. We want to blame God for everything bad that happens to us, rather than accept the reality of the fact that we often rebel against God, refusing God’s help or His guidance.

We will have problems in this world. We live in a fallen world and have constant pressure against us from people of the world, the emotions of our old human nature, Satan’s minions, and our own personal desires (James 1:14-15). When we turn our face away from God and look to these other sources of information, we come under their influence. Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God)? (Rom. 6:16). Whomever or whatever you believe is your god!

So, when you believe doubt, fear, jealousy, greed, gossip, anger, lust, and other un-Godly ideas and attitudes, they become your god, and you follow their leading. There is only one remedy for this: faith in God (Heb. 11:6). We have to trust Him fully and turn to Him at every fork in our life’s road. Jesus said He has overcome the world for us, so we need to turn to Him and not to our own ideas, strengths and abilities. He has made us to be overcomers in Him (1John 4:4, 5:4-5), and we need to always keep that in mind. Simply do not allow the things of this life direct who you are and what God has for you. Fight the good fight of the faith; lay hold of the eternal life to which you were summoned and [for which] you confessed the good confession [of faith] before many witnesses (1Tim. 6:12).

No one ever said that fighting the good fight of faith was easy. In fact, it is not easy, but neither is it as hard as some would make it. It’s not easy because it requires us to stay in God’s Word; to be fully grounded in its truths. We have to read, re-read, study, meditate, memorize and quote it (Prov. 4:20-23). When we do, faith springs up like a mighty wind and sweeps away all that would distract us from God’s love and blessing.  That’s because faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself) (Rom. 10:17).

Accept your God-given right to choose, and choose life! Choose God and all He has for you. Let others rely on the trash that the pettiness of the world and Satan offers. For you and your family, choose the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Live your life in the all fullness that God intends for you.

 

In Christ 53 The Promise of the Spirit 10

Before launching into this lesson, go back and reread “The Promise of the Spirit, parts 1-9,” asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you as you read in or order to give you the ability to have perfect insight and depth of understanding in this matter. Ask Him to roust your faith, poke it, prod it, enable it, so that you are truly ready to receive all that God offers. You will not be disappointed if you ask with a sincere heart.

Receiving the infilling of the Holy Spirit is a life-changing event, just as making Jesus your Lord and Savior is a life changing event. It is not something to be treated lightly, but neither is it something that is within the grasp of only a few. It truly is available to all who ask with absolute sincerity and desire. It is God’s will for us, And this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have in Him: [we are sure] that if we ask anything (make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), He listens to and hears us. And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him (1John 5:14-15).

We also know with absolute certainty that The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]. (James 5:16b). Being righteous means being “clean” before God. The Holy Spirit refuses to enter anyone who gives off the fetid odor of putrefying sin.

  1. So, before asking for the infilling of the Holy Spirit, get right (righteous) with God. Forgive anyone that your have not forgiven, if necessary; wipe the slate clean, make a fit dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.
  2. Remember, God sees all and knows the intent of the heart, so get clean and get in the attitude of being ready to receive the Spirit and the evidence of His infilling which is speaking in tongues.
  3. Don’t just get ready, want it so bad you can taste it (it has a very lovely sweet taste, by the way). Make it your highest priority in life.
  4. Then go and have a good old heart-to-heart chat with your Father. Something like this:

“Father, I am so ready to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit that I can taste it! I want to be filled full—every nook and cranny; leave no place in me empty. I give you everything that I am, everything that I have, everything that I will become. Fill me, and then use me as you will. I am yours!”

“I know that speaking in tongues is the sign that You give when anyone is filled with Your Holy Spirit, and I want this ability, not just as a sign, but so I can praise you and pray in the perfect language of the Spirit. I want, no I need as much as life itself, to praise You and honor You in your own language that You pour through me by Your Spirit.”

“I ask Father in the power and authority of the Name of Christ Jesus, the name above every name and the title above every title.”

Then, simply allow the Sprit to speak through you. Don’t force the speech, but don’t deny it either. Don’t feel embarrassed or constrained in any way. This is you and God in the most intimate of associations. If you are at the point in your Christian walk where you feel embarrassed in front of God about anything, then you need to get real. God knows everything already. All He wants from you is honesty. It is honesty that allows you to truly repent. It is honesty that truly allows you to be blessed by God. It is honesty that allows you to ask and receive whatever it is that God has for you. A word that we often see in the Bible that can be equated with honest is humility. True humility is not being afraid to see yourself exactly as God sees you, and then engaging Him to help you become everything that He intends you to become.

Ask and you shall receive (Matt. 21:22, John 16:24, 1John 3:22) and then it’s up to you (Deut. 30:19, Josh. 24:25) to praise God in His language (Ps. 146:2).