It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 3

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In the last post of this series we left off talking about how God has adopted us by making us accepted into His family. I want to continue this by talking about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart and that is redemption.

5. He has redeemed us (Ephesians 1:7)

Humanity is scarred and tainted with sin. Adam took a bite of the forbidden fruit and stained humanity with his rebellion. Since then all of humanity has been totally depraved. Before Christ saved us we were dead in our sin. I’m not sure how much the church today understands that. We were DEAD in our sin. There was nothing alive about us. An accurate picture of redemption is God taking a dead man and making him alive. RC Sproul describes this process better than I ever could.

“God just doesn’t throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up on the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive.” – R.C. Sproul

Here’s a few verses in Ephesians that describe this:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – [Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV]

I don’t like to say that I found God or I found Christ, prefer to say He found me because I when I was dead in my sins, I was just that, dead. Dead men can’t choose anything. God had to reach below the bottom and pick me up and save me. It’s only through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ do we have redemption and salvation. What I really love about Ephesians 2 is that in the first three verses Paul talks about our sinful state and in verse four he makes this transition:

“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– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” – [Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV]

The first two words just stick out to me. “But God.” “I was headed down the wrong pathway, but God…”, “I was on my way to Hell, but God..”, “I was stuck in my sin, but God…” What a wonderful thing to know that we don’t have to have a period at end of those sentence but instead we can have a “but God…”. This is truly the story of our redemption: God bringing a dead corpse back to life by simply breathing the power of the Holy Spirit over him. I love what Adam Clarke’s Commentary says about Christian redemption.

“God has glorified his grace by giving us redemption by the blood of his Son, and this redemption consists in forgiving and delivering us from our sins; so then Christ’s blood was the redemption price paid down for our salvation: and this was according to the riches of his grace; as his grace is rich or abundant in benevolence, so it was manifested in beneficence to mankind, in their redemption by the sacrifice of Christ, the measure of redeeming grace being the measure of God’s own eternal goodness.” – Adam Clarke Commentary

I hope this has blessed you and encouraged you. Always remember that you are loved by the King of Kings and you are special in his sight.

Finding the Strength

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” 
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

I won’t go into a lot of details about what happened. There’s much I could tell, but it doesn’t need to be told. On February 22, I left my home of Pottsville, Arkansas for what I thought would be the greener pastures of Altura, Minnesota. I went to go be with my fiance of four years and we were finally going to get married. I will leave it at this: we mutually decided that it would be best if we broke up. I tell you all of this to tell you that after being broken, I am finding the strength to come back home and start over. In this I’ve questioned God and received no answer. I’ve disappointed myself and I’ve disappointed my loved ones. I feel as though I have nothing left except and I suppose, in the end, that’s all I really need. I don’t need man’s approval. I need God’s approval and forgiveness and I believe I have that now. We all make mistakes. I just need to take the life lessons I’ve learned and move on. 

Waiting at the BP gas station in Plainview, Minnesota, I opened up my Bible and read Jeremiah 12:1 in this translation. 

“You will be in the right, O Lord,
   when I lay charges against you;
   but let me put my case to you.
Why does the way of the guilty prosper?
   Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” 

–  [Jeremiah 12:1 NRSV]

The first thing that I noticed were the words, “You will be right…”. Jeremiah is complaining to God and before saying anything he admits that God will be right no matter what he says to Him. This begs the question, why are you going to argue with someone that you know will be right in the end. The only conclusion I can think of is that it just makes you feel better to get your feelings off of your chest. When I talk to God about my situation I know that He knows what is best. I know that it is His will and for my betterment to go through what I’m going through but sometimes it just makes me feel better to bring my case before God to just talk and bring my case before him because I know He loves me and in the end, He will still be just and loving. 

“…you have judged in my favor;
    from your throne you have judged with fairness.” 

-[Psalm 9:4 NLT]

Confessions: Unforgiveness and Bitterness

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” – [Ephesians 4:29-32 NLT]

I know a lot of times I post about theology but there are other times, like now, that I just like I need to share with you from my heart. Recently, I’ve discovered that I’ve been holding unforgiveness and bitterness in my heart against some people that I didn’t even know that I had resentment against. I’ve just been talking a lot of things through lately with myself and someone else that I love dearly and I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t hold unforgiveness back in my heart anymore over something that happened two and a half years ago. Holding a grudge is only destructive to the person who is holding the grudge. There’s nothing that you gain from continually being angry over things that don’t affect you anymore.

In these verses in Ephesians we find Paul talking to the church at Ephesus instructing them not to use foul or abusive language. I like what the Good News Bible says in verse 29:

“Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.” – [Ephesians 4:29 GNB]

After reading this and continuing to read in verse 30, you find that using harmful words is in conjunction with grieving the Holy Spirit. God gave us a tongue to use wholesome speech for His glory. We’re supposed to use positive words to help people and be blessing. Lately, I’ve been guilty of complaining too much when I’ve been blessed far beyond what I deserve.

What I find interesting is that these ‘harmful words’ are not only in conjunction with grieving the Holy Spirit but apparently they are also connected with bitterness and unforgiveness. The reason they are connected is because in Luke it says:

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” – [Luke 6:45 ESV]

If we really speak what is out of our heart then if our speech is negative then we need to examine our heart. The word for ‘harmful’, in the Greek, literally means something that is putrid or rotten. When I think of something that is rotten I think of something that is dead. When we hold unforgiveness in our hearts it will come out in our speech and we will hold on to dead issues that cause our hearts and our speech to be rotten and it will cause the hearers of that speech to feel rotten as well about your situation. But when our speech is good it will do good to those that hear it. The word for ‘good’, in the Greek, is the word charis which is also used for the word, grace. This leads me to believe that when our speech is good and wholesome it communicates something to the hearers about the grace of God. As your thinking about this, let God begin to melt your heart and take out things that don’t need to have any place there. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed!

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In our last post we talked about the Christ Hymn found in Colossians 1. In this post we’ll discuss the Praise Hymn found in Ephesians 1 and we’ll compare the two. While the Christ focused more on His preeminence in the cosmos through the church, this hymn focuses for more the redemptive work of Christ for the elect. I believe it’s important that we, as believers, know exactly what it is that we are entitled to through Christ’s atoning work on the cross. There’s nine things are shown here that God has done through Christ’s atoning work.

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Before we get into the details of what each of things mean to us I want you to see the use of the pro noun ‘He’. It is God who has done all of these things for us. It was of no effort of our own that God saved us and made us the elect. If you read in Ephesians later it says:

“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– …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.”  – [Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9 ESV]

Going into this study it’s important to realize that our Salvation has nothing to do with our works. I need grace every day. I mess up a lot. I’m a sinner saved by God’s grace. As sinners, we were never meant to have any kind of inheritance in God’s kingdom but God did these nine things for us and now we have fellowship with Him.

1. He blessed us (Ephesians 1:3)

The verse says that God blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Paul was specific in using the term ‘spiritual blessing’. It supposed that he meant ‘spiritual blessing’ as opposed to a ‘temporal blessing’. We know that God can and will sometimes bless us temporally but what Paul is referring to here are the kind of blessings that never fade. Before I get into specifically what those blessings are I believe that it is worth mentioning where they are and how we get them. If read the verse carefully you notice that Paul said that we have these spiritual blessing in Christ. That’s how we get them, in Christ. Which leads us to the next question where are they? Since we get these spiritual blessings from God in Christ we must remember that Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places. Our Freedom under the new covenant, as New Testament believers, tells that we may boldly come before the throne of grace. What happens is when we pray we have access, by faith, to Jesus who intercedes on our behalf to the Father according to Hebrews 7:25 and 1 John 2:1:

“Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” – [Hebrews 7:25 RV]

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” – [1 John 2:1 ESV]

As far as what the blessings are, we know that they are spiritual in nature. The word for spiritual in the Greek, pneumatikos, is used a lot in the New Testament in reference to the Holy Spirit. This tells us that the Holy Spirit is the one that makes these blessings manifest in our life. So the spiritual blessing is our fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. – [Galatians 5:22-23 RV]

In his Commentary over this passage one writer says:

“But the fruit of the Spirit – That which the Holy Spirit produces. It is not without design, evidently, that the apostle uses the word “Spirit” here, as denoting that these things do not flow from our own nature. The vices above enumerated are the proper “works” or result of the operations of the human heart; the virtues which he enumerates are produced by a foreign influence – the agency of the Holy Spirit.” – Albert Barnes

2.      He has chosen us (Ephesians 1:4)

This is where it gets hairy to say the least. This is Calvinists and Arminians will fight to the death over the issue of Limited Atonement. I do not hold to that position but I will try my best to present you the facts as the word of God makes it clear. The word that is used here for ‘chosen’ in the Greek is eklegō and it implies an active choice as seen in this verse:

“but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – [Luke 10:42 RV]

This word implies an active choosing and the whole debate has been over whether Paul meant that God chose us individually or whether the church is the elect and by choosing to follow Christ, God makes us one of the elect. The Bible doesn’t really harmonize this paradox. Honestly, from studying this subject as long as I have, I ‘ve come to the conclusion is that it’s irrelevant just as long as your saved. I’ll probably have Arminians and Calvinists that will send me emails over this issue but it’s just another day at the office for me. What matters though is that whether it is in general or in particular, either way we are chosen and predestined for a restored relationship with God that will lead to an unbroken fellowship with Him in Heaven that only comes through Jesus Christ.

For the sake of time and energy I’m going to stop right here and continue this thought throughout the week. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed this week!

 

Taking Your City

Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth; and the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth: see, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, and to destroy and to overthrow; to build, and to plant. – [Jeremiah 1:9-10 RV]

Good ministry through a church begins when that church determines that they are going to positively affect the culture in their area. As the body of Christ we always need to be moving, shifting, and reaching out for the sake of the gospel. As one of my dear friends in the ministry once said, ‘we must create, in out environment, a Christ-centered culture.’ The reason I chose Jeremiah 1:9, 10 as the main passage is because when God told Jeremiah that He had set him over nations and kingdoms He actually instructions: pluck up, break down, destroy, overthrow, build, and plant. The way I interpret this passage from the sentence and grammar structure is that through building and planting we will, in the process, pluck up, break down, destroy, and overthrow things that have no place in our culture. Through the courage that was built up inside Gideon, he destroyed the idols of his father (Judges 6:28-31).

We must be influential in culture because now, more than ever, we are being surrounded by a negative culture that is begging for people to conform to it’s worldly ambition and standard of living. Please understand, I am not anti-culture. I am anti-negative culture. As the church, I believe that it’s okay to take something that is positive from culture and redeem it for the preaching of the gospel. Churches do this all the time when they show clips from new movies and present the positive values that the movie teaches.

When Jesus sent out his disciples he knew that what kind of culture they would be going into. He didn’t expect them to be like the Essenes and completely avoid culture forever. He knew that the only way  to get the culture to embrace the gospel was to send them out into it.

All things considered, our objective has been and always will be to preach, pray, prophesy, heal the sick, and raise the dead.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” [Mark 16:15-18 ESV]

For more information please watch “The Elephant Room: Church in the Culture vs. Culture in the Church” on the link below:

http://marshill.com/v/b75oqkn4f75b