Reflections on the Valley of Vision: Sincerity, Part 2: Commentary on the Prayer

reflections-of-sincerity


“You desire truth in the inward being;

Therefore teach me wisdom in my secret being.”
– Psalm 51:6, NRSV

(Full prayer may be read here)

In my last post, I shared some thoughts on sincerity and authenticity, and I ranted about Christians who don’t seem to appreciate authentic Christianity. Maybe they only want authenticity when it’s nice, neat, and doesn’t have to do with struggling with the really dirty sins. Regardless of the reason, I’ll probably rant about it later in another blog post or even on the podcast. Right now, I mostly want to talk about the Sincerity prayer found in the Valley of Vision.

The Elector of Saints


“Elector of Saints,”
Notice how the prayer opens up. It addresses God as Elector of Saints. The prayer recognizes the sovereignty of God in the election and predestination of His people. If you read the Bible and believe in the inerrancy of Scripture then you can’t deny that God is sovereign in salvation and the author of this prayer is making it clear that he is thankful for this divine sovereignty.

Blessed is the Man…


“Blessed is the man whom thou choosest
     and callest to thyself.
With thee is mercy, redemption, assurance,
   Forgiveness;”

When I read this portion of the prayer, my mind immediately goes to Romans 4:4-8 (particularly verses 7 and 8) which reads like this:

“Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” – Romans 4:4-8, NRSV

In this prayer, we acknowledge God as the one who elects His saints, and calls them to Himself by grace through faith. Pay close attention to verses 4 and 5. Verse 4 states something that’s common sense. We know that if someone works then they deserve a wage, and when you give the worker their wage that is something that they have earned by their work. Then Paul contrasts that idea in verse 5 when he says that God justifies the ungodly without works so that when faith is granted to them God counts it as righteousness. I think the NIV communicates verse 5 the best when, instead of using the word, “reckoned,” it uses the word, “credited.” God “credits” righteousness to us according to the very faith that He grants to us.

Now, when we examine justification, we see in Romans 5:1 we see that the only way a person can be justified is by faith. So, where does the faith come from? I believe we just established that faith comes from God.

So, we see Scripturally that God calls us, and justifies us by faith that He grants to us therefore we say with the Puritans in our prayer, “With thee is mercy, redemption, assurance, forgiveness.”

Deliverance from the Pit


“Thou hast lifted me, a prisoner, out of
   the pit of sin
 and pronounced my discharge,
   not only in the courts of heaven,
   but in the dock of conscience;
 hast justified me by faith,
   given me peace with thee,
 made me to enjoy glorious liberty as thy child.”

The beginning of this passage of the Sincerity prayer seems to be inspired by the words of Psalm 40.

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
   he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.
3He put a new song in my mouth,
   a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
   and put their trust in the Lord.”
– Psalm 40:1-3, NRSV

Psalm 40 gives us a picture of God’s delivering power. In the Sincerity prayer we see the author using the idea of a pit to describe sin, and I think it’s important to note that right after he talks about the ‘pit of sin’ he says that God has ‘pronounced [his] discharge not only in courts of heaven, but in the dock of conscience.’ The author has a clear understanding of his assurance. In this prayer the author points out that Christ not only declares us righteous before our Father in heaven, but He speaks to the storm of thoughts that ask these questions:

“What if Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t enough?”
“What if I can’t really be assured of my salvation?”
“What if I have blown it and presumed the grace of God too many times?”

One of my favorite quotes is from Jon Acuff. If you know anything about Acuff you know that he’s a Christian comedian and is very quick with his witty observational humor, but he made a very serious statement: “”It is finished.” May those words land on your bones for the nights when fear tells you the cross was a beginning and you must finish grace.” I almost want to speak in tongues every time I read that. God’s grace is sufficient bring us up from the pit of sin. It is finished.

And notice the last part of this section, the author says that God has made us to enjoy glorious liberty as a child. We’re free. I can spend a dollar on a scratch-off lotto ticket (as unwise as that may be) without some old fart telling me that I’m “scratching my soul into hell.” (Yes, I’ve actually heard that in the pulpit.)

I can have a cigar and a scotch to the glory of God. I’m not free to rebel against God because I won’t want to rebel against God. A circumcised heart has no desire to turn away from the One that has set it free.

Assurance, Sincerity, and the Difference Between These Two Animals


“Save me from the false hope of the hypocrite:
May I never suppose I am in Christ unless I am
   a new creature,
 never think I am born of the Spirit
   unless I mind the things of the Spirit,
 never rest satisfied with professions of belief
   and outward forms and services,
     while my heart is not right with thee.
May I judge my sincerity in religion
 by my fear to offend thee,
 my concern to know thy will,
 my willingness to deny myself.”

The author believes that the standard for sincerity in our religion comes from our fear of offending God, our concern to know God’s will, and our willingness to deny ourselves. No doubt these are good things and these are signs that God is at work in our lives in a positive way. However, let us be careful not to assume that we can look to these things for the assurance of our salvation. Our assurance is only found in Christ. There will always be someone who fears God more. There will always be someone who is more concerned to know God’s will more than we are. There will always be someone who is more willing to deny themselves than we do.

We can’t confuse assurance and sincerity. In the context of soteriology proper, I would say that sincerity is being sure of the substance that supports our profession of faith and assurance is being sure of what Christ has done to give us that substance.

One Thing Needful: Learning at the Feet of Jesus


“Let not my temporal occupations injure
   my spiritual concerns,
 or the cares of life make me neglect
   the one thing needful.”

At the end of Luke 10, we encounter Jesus teaching in the home of Martha. Her sister, Mary is there and she has chosen to sit at the feet of Jesus while Martha does all the work around the house.

“She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:39-42, NRSV

Without getting into the revolutionary aspects of the thought of a woman sitting at the feet of a rabbi, we see that Jesus is showing us that the “one thing needful” for us is to learn at his feet. The author of the prayer is praying for empowerment to recognize that nothing is more important than learning at the feet of Jesus, and the first step to learning is admitting that we know nothing.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3, NRSV

““Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:28-30, NRSV

Life is a burden and Jesus wants to see that we can’t carry the load on our own. We need Him. The only time we’re going to see any progress in our relationship with God is when we admit that He’s our source of life, our source of salvation, our source of joy. In Psalm 87:7, the New Living Translation poetically says it this way, “As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in you.”

To the Laodecian church, in Revelation 3, Jesus says, “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

How do you convince people that believe they are rich and have need of nothing that they’re actually naked, poor, and blind? Until we can admit that we’re blind we’ll never see Jesus clearly, and we’ll never see that the invitation to sit at His feet and learn is for us.

God’s Dealings


“May I not be inattentive to the design
   of thy dealings with me,
 or insensible under thy rebukes,
 or immobile at thy calls.”

As Christians we have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us and He is the means by which God deals with our hearts, and we must be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Over and over again in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation we are exhorted, “He that hath an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit saith.”

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.” – Ephesians 4:30, NRSV

Ephesians 4:30 is one of my favorite verses because it clearly states that the Holy Spirit has sealed us until the day that Jesus comes back. And what Paul, the author of Ephesians, is saying is that we can grieve the Holy Spirit by harboring bitterness towards others in our heart. We harbor bitterness when we remember the pain and grief that someone else has caused us. Instead of listening to the voice of pain and grief, we must listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and be sensitive, as this prayer says, to God’s dealings with us.

A Holy Art
“May I learn the holy art of abiding in thee,
 of being in the world and not of it,
 of making everything not only consistent with
   but conducive to my religion.”

“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” – John 15:4-6, NRSV

Abiding in Christ is the intention of God for His elect sons and daughters. According to Ephesians 1, God chose us in Christ before the foundations of the earth. (Ephesians 1:4) God’s choice of our election does not alleviate us of any responsibility to abide in Christ, but at the same time because God has chosen us in Christ, we are held firm by His grasp and can never be removed from His hand. It’s a paradox of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility.

Our abiding in Christ doesn’t come from our own ability to stay in Him because we just don’t have that ability in and of ourselves. As an old hymn writer has said, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.” Our ability to abide comes from the fact that the Holy Spirit abides in us. If you read John 15 without considering the context of Jesus’s talk about the Holy Spirit abiding with us in John 14, then you’ll walk believing that abiding is entirely dependent upon you.

This is why we pray. We pray because in prayer, God empowers to keep abiding and to lean on him for our every need. This is the holiest of arts.

Reflections on Psalm 2

“Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king

    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron[b];

    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
– Psalm 2:1-12 (NIV)

So, I’ve been trying to pray through the Psalms for the last couple of days and I just wanted to share my reflections with you on this passage. I’m going to try not to get into the deep theology of the text, and just get to what I felt that God was trying to show me.

This morning as I as was getting ready to the open the store that I work at, Psalm 2:1 just kept going through my mind. “Why do the heathen rage? Why do the people imagine a vain thing?” (I think Scripture in KJV because I was raised on it.) What is the psalmist really asking here?

In this passage, the psalmist is addressing kings and leaders that would try to overthrow the dominion of God in the earth. In Colossians 1, we read about how Jesus has created everything, sustains everything, and is ruling all of creation. Any power or authority that anyone has politically or otherwise comes from God.

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.”
– Romans 13:1-2 (NLT)

So, what does all this mean on a practical level?

Revelation 1:6 tells us that we are kings and priests unto God. Because we are kings and priests unto God, we always answer to Him for everything we say and do. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures are clear that we will have to give an account for our works (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Matthew 12:36-37; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). When we don’t surrender our lives under the full authority of Jesus Christ we become just like these foolish rulers that David is addressing in Psalm 2. When we try to direct our lives without God we are simply plotting in vain and setting ourselves up for disaster.

Knowing and Praying the Will of God

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” – [Colossians 1:9-12 ESV]

Lately I’ve been thinking about the will of God for my life. I’ve been praying and earnestly seeking Him about some decisions that have to be made, and while I was working on my commentary for Colossians I kept coming across these verses and it occured to me, God’s will for my life isn’t some big mystery that He wants to hide and let me go off on a wild goose chase to find. I would even dare say that it is the father’s good pleasure to share His will with His children for their lives. I believe that God not only wants to share His will with us, but He wants us to want His will. For those of us who have been in church for forever and a day, this sounds like an elementary concept, but the fact is there are people out there who are really trying to figure what God wants for them and they are having a hard time figuring it out because we often make out to be this angry guy living in the attic of the universe ready to strike someone down for even thinking about the word ‘sin’. I was raised under the impression that if I didn’t say the blessing over my food then God would allow it to be poisoned and kill me for being an unthankful wretch. People who are under this impression need to know that God is more merciful and loving than that. He has a deep love for all us and longs for us to know what He has in store for us. As a matter of fact, He even wants us to pray for His will.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples.” – [John 15:4-8 RV]

Normally, I’m an ESV man, but in John 15:7 the ESV uses the word, ‘wish’. The word ‘wish’ to me has almost a fairy tale meaning. As one who studies the Greek, I’m not sure that Jesus was implying that God is like a fairy godmother that grants wishes, but rather He is a loving and generous Father and care-giver that gives us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4).

I love John 15 because it shows us that we will know the will of God for our lives if we continue to abide in Him. What a profound thought that knowing the will of God is a direct result of abiding in Christ.

I want us to look now at Psalm 34:7 and see what exactly God is speaking to us through the psalmist.

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – [Psalms 37:4 ESV]

What’s interesting about this verse is that it doesn’t mean that if you make yourself happy in God, He’ll give us a nice Lincoln or a big house if that’s what your heart desires. It actually means that God will give you the desires of your heart, if your submit yourself to Him.

The Hebrew word for ‘delight’ that is used here is ‛ânag which means ‘to make soft or pliable’. A more accurate translation would be ‘Make yourself pliable before God, and He will give you the desires of your heart.’ When you make yourself pliable before God He can mold you and make you. When He begins to mold you and make you, He often changes the desires of our heart so when God is changing our desires, we begin to want what God wants and then when we pray for what God wants, He gives it to us, because He knows what is best for us.

“The desires of God and the desires of the righteous, agree in one; they are of one mind in their desires.” – John Bunyan

I hope this has blessed you and encouraged you today.

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 4

I’ve decided that I’m going to do something that I’ve not done in a really long time and that is finish a series. So, if you’ve been following me for a while you’ll notice that I’ve been doing a series called, “It’s All About Jesus”. The title is self-explanatory. The material that we’ve been going over is found in Ephesians 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]

According to this passage of Scripture there are nine things God has done for us and they are:

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)

Let’s get started where we left off:

6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)

In the ESV, Ephesians 1:7, 8 read like this:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight – [Ephesians 1:7-8 ESV]

The word ‘lavished’ implies more than enough. It tells me that God didn’t just give me enough grace to get by on but he gave me grace for every day. He gave me more than I needed. He didn’t have to give me more than enough but he did anyway because He really loves me. Just to think that God has shown that kind of love for each and every person is incredible and unfathomable.

7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)

When Paul is talking here, he’s telling us about the mystery of the will of God. How can this mystery remain a mystery if it’s made known to us? To be honest, it can’t. Paul couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He just had to talk in Ephesians 3:6:

“And the mystery is this: Because of Christ Jesus, the good news has given the Gentiles a share in the promises that God gave to the Jews. God has also let the Gentiles be part of the same body.” – [Ephesians 3:6 CEV]

We, who were rejected and kicked out in the cold, are now welcomed by God’s wonderful grace to be his elect people.

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – [1 Peter 2:10 ESV]

8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)

This great inheritance that Paul speaks about is our salvation. God gave this to us as a free gift. I’ve heard a lot of Baptists express this as God giving us a box wrapped in paper and all we have to do is accept it but I’m with RC Sproul on this one:

“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

A dead man can’t receive anything. God has to be the one to bring you to life. Jesus says in John 10:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – [John 10:10 ESV]

A lot of people use this to preach on living a blessed and abundant life. That’s all well and good but people seldom realize that you must have life before you can have abundant life and that’s what our inheritance is: life.

9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

I love what Scofield has to say about this in his commentary.

The Holy Spirit is Himself, the seal. In the symbolism of Scripture, a seal signifies:
(1) A finished transaction; (Jer_32:9); (Jer_32:10); (Joh_17:4); (Joh_19:30).
(2) Ownership; (Jer_32:11); (Jer_32:12); (2Ti_2:19).
(3) Security; (Est_8:8); (Dan_6:17); (Eph_4:30).

After reading and studying what a seal was and its purpose, I understood what Paul was communicating. Our salvation is a done deal. God owns me. I’m secure. I’m not going to lose my salvation at the drop of a hat. As a believer, I have the Holy Spirit as a testimony that God will never let me go.

I hope that God absolutely blesses your socks off today. Remember, that you are loved by the Creator of the universe.

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.

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

“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, we left off talking about the nine things that God has done for us through Christ’s blood.

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 started on Predestination, I want to finish up my thoughts about being chosen. We’ve already established that this word ‘chosen’ is an active choosing. It implies that God has chosen us out of a group. We know that the elect are chosen. What find interesting is the word for ‘chosen’ is an active choosing and the word for ‘church’ is ekklesia is ‘ones who are called out’. This is an active calling. Think about it. God has His thumb on you and He’s calling out to be separate from the influence from the world, separate from the negative influence of the culture, separate from the negative influence of society, but even an even greater scale than that, I believe that this is referring to your divine destiny. You are called and chosen to do something great for thing Kingdom of God for such a time as this. What a profound thought that everything that has happened to you whether it is good or bad has been setting you up for great things in God. You might ask me, “How can you say that something bad that’s happened to me has been setting me up?” In Romans there is a promise that all things will work together for good.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – [Romans 8:28 KJV]

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” – [Romans 8:37 ESV]

I like where Paul says at the beginning of verse 28, “we know”. He’s saying that “we are confident; we are fully convinced that God is always working and operating for the good of His people.”

I don’t mean to go all Joel Osteen on you or anything but sometimes you’ve just got to determine within your heart that everything is going to be good in the end because God loves you and He might allow bad things to happen but in the end it will all be good.

3. He has predestined us. (Ephesians 1:5, 11)

Again, this is a touchy subject for Calvinists and Arminians alike. After all of the research and studying I’ve done on it I feel like I should side with Finis Jennings Dake on the issue:

“It is God’s plan that He has foreknown and predestined, not the individual conformity of free wills to the plan. He has called all people and all are free to accept or reject the call (Jn. 3:16; 1Tim. 2:4; 2Pet. 3:9; Rev. 22:17). All who do accept, He has foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son that His Son might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). Those who reject the plan, He has foreknown and predestined to be consigned to eternal hell as an everlasting monument of His wrath on rebels (Isa. 66:22-24; Rev. 14:9-11; Mt. 25:41,46). This is the sum of foreknowledge and predestination.” – Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible

For me, personally, the issue of predestination and election is something that I keep in the open hand. I can take it or leave it. What I mean by the closed hand and open hand metaphor is this: if someone were to put a gun to my head and say, “Do you believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins?” I said “Yes” and take what was coming to me. If someone were to put a gun to my head and say, “Do you believe that man can choose whether he is saved or not?” I’d say, “Wait a minute. Let’s talk about this.” I’m willing to die for Jesus but not over my position on predestination and election. Moving on…

4. He has made us accepted. (Ephesians 1:6)

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” – [Ephesians 1:6 KJV]

I absolutely love Scofield’s position on this verse.

“Adoption (huiothesia, “placing as a son”) is not so much a word of relationship as of position. The believer’s relation to God as a child results from the new birth John 1:12, 13 whereas adoption is the act of God whereby one already a child is, through redemption from the law, placed in the position of an adult son. Gal 4:1-5 The indwelling Spirit gives the realization of this in the believer’s present experience Gal 4:6 but the full manifestation of the believer’s sonship awaits the resurrection, change, and translation of saints, which is called “the redemption of the body” Rom 8:23; 1Th 4:14-17; Eph 1:14; 1Jn 3:2” – Scofield Reference Bible

I don’t care if you’re Pentecostal or not, that ought to make you want to shout and run laps. We are not just adopted but we are made to know that we are accepted by God’s Holy Spirit that causes us to cry ‘Abba, Father’. Sometimes in families where the child is adopted they can’t sense that they don’t belong. Their adopted parents might treat them well and love them dearly but the child knows that there is something different. It’s like they have an innate feeling that those are not their biological parents but with God there is no vacant feeling. He makes feel wanted and when we become saved he plants the Holy Spirit inside to make us know that we are one of His own.

I hope this has helped you an encouraged you today. 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!