The Grace of God that Brings Salvation

For June 5, 2022
I am appalled by the heightened lawlessness, hostility, and violence where people should express civility, emotional maturity, and understanding. Although some would argue that humanity is growing into a morally responsible creatures and that life is getting better for humans everywhere. Yet—by nature—the human heart is desperately wicked; filled with hatred, greed, pride, lasciviousness and all forms of evil. And that outside of the transforming power of Christ, we are left to our own morally detestable devices.

But when a person feels the full weight of their guilt and shame associated with living a life of sin and selfishness, along with the emptiness from ignoring and rejecting God and godly things, they can realize that the only person who can deliver us is Jesus Christ the Son of God,

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:9-11 (NIV)

When we come to Christ, by faith, the Holy Spirit enables us to grow into morally astute practitioners of the Christian faith who refrain from exploiting others. With our growing moral consciousness, we produce the living fruit that validates our Christian witness,

A person who has genuinely repented will stop doing evil and begin to live righteously. Along with a change of mind and attitude, true repentance will begin to produce a change in conduct.1

We become new creatures in Christ and literally turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). In the home, we attend church regularly, read God’s Word, serve the Lord and others, and pray as uniquely gifted members of one homogeneous entity, safe from sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, as we treat each other with dignity and respect and not as objects of personal gratification.

The family is not exempt from sickness, poverty, death, and other life issues that affect us all. We can remain true to God and each other by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ to meet every need.

In the workplace, we are God’s faithful stewards. We are reliable and responsible for company resources, we submit to authority, we follow instructions, and we do not express petty sentiments toward our coworkers. We are also positive, exemplary team players who celebrate the achievements and comfort the distresses of our colleagues.

In addition, we are prompt, work hard, take only allotted breaks, leave when scheduled, and never defraud the company with bogus sicknesses or injuries to get time off or to collect disability payments. Trustworthy with the Lord’s resources, we will receive His eternal commendation.

Using Jesus Christ as our role model, we can improve our social condition by advancing the causes of others and treating people with the esteem and dignity they deserve. Understanding that God created us as equals in His image, we show it is possible to interact with others with sincerity, honor, and respect, regardless of class or gender.

Giving and receiving forgiveness is at a premium as we avoid keeping records of past wrongs as self-appointed judges, since we are equal debtors in the sight of God. Jesus rightly says in John 8:7 (NLT), ”All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

Our new life influences all areas of our daily human interaction as expressions of Christ’s love through responsible service to others. Exploitation, euthanasia, abortion, violent assaults, and degrading media have no place where Christ’s scepter of righteousness rules our hearts,

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 (NKJV)

The unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God and we are bought with a price and belong to Him only (1 Corinthians 6:9, 20). The Tree of Life reflecting in us can heal the nations, as God promised in Revelation 22:2.

Our understanding of who we are from God’s perspective enables us to practice a pure religion that is Spirit-driven and undefiled before God and the world. Won’t you trust Christ today as your personal Savior and experience the grace of God for yourself? Your world, and that of others, will change in ways you can’t begin to imagine.

What a Wonderful Savior!

Forgiveness Is Personal With Eternal Consequences!

For May 22, 2022
In Matthew 18, Jesus Christ offers a timeless lesson on forgiveness that features a somber warning to those who will not forgive others. His parable’s central message is that God forgives us—through faith in Christ—and He expects us to forgive others likewise.

A comparison and contrast between the Forgiving King and the Unforgiving Servant reveal some startling implications.

The man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart. Matthew 18:28-35 (NLT)

One initial impression notes that the servant imprisoned his fellow servant to recover the money by doing whatever was necessary to collect any outstanding debt. However, as we study the passage, it becomes clear that the Lord is teaching a profound lesson on forgiveness: We should have compassion on others, even as He has shown pity towards us!

We tend to keep track when we are offended and we bear grudges when we should overlook the offense and forgive the offender. We also construct a “sin sliding scale” by comparing sins as if one is more heinous than the other. Such comparisons are futile since all of us have sinned and are equal debtors in the sight of God. (Romans 3:23)

The parable begins with the Forgiving King reckoning a servant who owed ten thousand talents. The talent was the largest measurement for precious and non-precious metals for the Jews. Its weight ranged anywhere from 90 to 120 pounds, (or what a “normal man” could carry), and it represented the wages a common person earned over a “lifetime.” The value of a talent was worth somewhere between $1,000.00 and $1,500.00 in today’s US dollars. Multiply this by ten thousand, and we have a debt ranging between $10 and $15 million to illustrate our sin debt and how much the Lord forgives us.

In this parable, God is the Forgiving King who loves and forgives us in ways that are far beyond our comprehension. We take for granted the enormity of our sin debt, which has been canceled through the redemptive work of Christ. He exercised special, individualized care to blot out our sin debt and restore our lost fellowship as our great High Priest, as Hebrews 9:11-12 (NLT) tells us,

So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.

 Immediately after the Unforgiving Servant left the king, he met another servant who owed him 100 denarii. The denarius was the most basic unit of Roman coinage and equaled a normal day’s wage of approximately sixteen or seventeen cents in today’s US money.1 When multiplied by one hundred, we have a minuscule debt totaling no more than about seventeen dollars.

Compared to the massive debt forgiven, this minuscule debt could have been easily forgiven—and forgotten. But instead, the Unforgiving Servant explodes in anger and assaults his fellow servant by grabbing him by the throat, violently choking him, and yelling: “Pay me what you owe me!” (Matthew 18:28)

The unfortunate fellow servant acknowledges his debt, and he begs for mercy: “Have patience with me and I will repay you!” Although both servants made similar requests for mercy, there were two vastly different outcomes.

As equals, we should forgive and forget offenses because God forgave and forgot ours at Calvary. The Lord commands us to express His kindness toward others, especially those who need our forgiveness. Although sometimes forgiveness is difficult for us, Jesus warns it is required to secure God’s forgiveness. Thus, He requires us to extend forgiveness equally—to those who ask for forgiveness—and to those who do not ask for forgiveness in all other areas of our daily, human interaction.

Matthew 18:15-17 outlines a three-step process that can guide us towards radical forgiveness for church settings that can be modified for everyday use,

      1. Contact the offended person(s) for reconciliation.
      2. Use a mediator or mediators to help clarify the issue(s) to everyone’s understanding.
      3. Utilize appropriate church leadership (i.e., pastors, deacons, elders, etc.), who are led by the Spirit to resolve the matter through the Word of God and prayer.

The Unforgiving Servant suffered the consequences of his actions as the Forgiving King imposed severe punishment. The Bible rightly teaches, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31 NLT)

Performing the ministry of reconciliation is part of a lifelong process of spiritual wholeness and harmony. Won’t you show God’s love towards others today through your forgiveness, to the degree and magnitude He’s forgiven us? Our world needs it today—as do we.

What a Wonderful Savior!

My Peace I Leave With You!

For May 8, 2022
Through Jesus Christ, we have been reconciled to God and can have peace with Him forever,

I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:25-27 NLT).

Jesus also promises,

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33 NLT).

Regarding the peace of God, one commentator writes,

[Peace with God] expresses the state of reconciliation. Sin is the source of all discord and war between man and God, and between man and man; and hence there can be no peace until this curse is removed. All other peace is an idle dream and illusion. Being at peace with God, we are at peace with ourselves and with our fellow men.1

Our peace with God is complete and eternal. We have been accepted into His holy and righteous presence and are no longer at odds with Him because of our sinful past. Jesus says He will repel no one who comes to Him by faith (John 6:37).

Being under conviction of our imperfect and sinful condition, we—for the first time—can realize how fallacious and destructive our human pride can be. We also see the irrationality of immoral behavior considering God’s moral commands, and the futility of expressing apathy towards Christ and rebellion towards God. Once we truly envision who we are as sinners and who God is as holy, we can humbly confess that we will never satisfy God’s righteousness with our own strength.

In this reflective state, God’s Holy Spirit sensitizes our hearts about our critical need for a Savior, whose righteousness exceeds ours and satisfies God’s righteous standards, which are still in effect, despite the latest popular opinion polls.

The Spirit helps us realize that without Christ, we are under eternal condemnation because we are “born in sin and shaped in iniquity” as the byproducts of this fallen world. (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:1-3). The Spirit also draws us to accept Christ as Savior and Lord because He paid our sin debt and redeemed us back to God, so that we can experience His peace forever.

Peace translates into a clear conscience that frees us from our sinful past and opens new future opportunities beyond our wildest dreams. The Spirit provides us with peace and tranquility to dispel our anxieties and fears so that even when we face turmoil, we can be at peace and have sleep that is sweet (Proverbs 3:24).

The Helper replaces our worries, anxieties, and fears with His calm assurance and ease as we concentrate on the Lord,

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV).

Adversity, difficulty, and temptation do not devastate us because the Helper within us, sustain us. God is faithful, and He has promised not to allow anything to overwhelm us,

God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT).

With His peace, we can be peaceful toward others by not expressing ill will. The Lord sees all our works, both good and bad, and He will avenge accordingly (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19).

Ours is a perfect peace that will last forever. It is not attached to circumstances but subject to His sustaining work in us. Herein lies our source of optimal comfort (my emphasis),

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things… and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:4, 6-9 NIV).

Our past is irrelevant, since it has been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). We stand, totally reconciled by the blood of Jesus Christ. We were once enemies, but now we are at peace with Him. This is God’s grace, and it is truly amazing. Won’t you give your heart to Jesus Christ, and experience His lasting peace today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

On Finishing Well

For May 1, 2022
At this point in our human history, with world events such as wars and rumors of wars, hatred, immorality, pestilence, famine, etc., we are close to living out Revelation 20:7-8 (NKJV),

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth.

Thus, it behooves us to finish well, since our Lord’s return is imminent,

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13:11-14 (NKJV)

We can finish well by furthering the Kingdom of God; living out the principles of Psalm 1:1-4 (NIV),

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Jesus tells about the importance of resisting the Enemy and finishing well in the last days,

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:10-14 (NIV)

None of us will ever achieve spiritual and moral perfection in this life, since we are yet subject to sin’s influence. Nevertheless, we have the wonderful example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who pledges His support and Spirit-power to enable us to live for Him consistently and serve Him faithfully.

The Lord is all-sufficient in supplying our temporal and spiritual needs beyond our comprehension. He protects, provides, and guides us with such precision when we need Him. Each day, we can experience His divine promises given in the following passages,

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” Lamentations 3:21-24 (NLT)

Also,

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NKJV)

The Lord continues to “show Himself strong” for us (2 Chronicles 16:9), especially during times of perplexity, uncertainty, and peril; even when we deserve God’s wrath and condemnation because “all have sinned.” (Romans 3:23) None of our good works should engender our boasting, since they are merely what He expects of us,

When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’ Luke 17:7-10 (NLT).

We can never be “good enough” to earn His consideration. Yet He loves and cares for us deeply.

Thus, we should press on toward the heavenly prize He has in store for all those who love His appearing (Philippians 3:14, 2 Timothy 4:8). There is an old hymn that expresses our charge to live valiantly and victoriously for Christ—especially in these last days,

Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus1
George Duffield, Jr.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross; lift high his royal banner, it must not suffer loss: From vict’ry unto vict’ry, his army he shall lead, till ev’ry foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey; forth to the mighty conflict, in this his glorious day: Ye that are men now serve him against unnumbered foes; let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, stand in his strength alone; the arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own: Put on the gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer; where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long; this day the noise of battle, the next, the victor’s song: To him that overcometh a crown of life shall be; he with the King of glory shall reign eternally.

Our self-centered plans need to yield to Christ-centered, God-honoring, and Bible-based ones. We do not know what the future holds for us, but we know who holds the future in His caring hands. He is always with us, watching over us—even when we’re not aware of His presence and providence.

Ultimately, life will never be a “bed of roses,” but through faith in Christ, it can be exceptionally blessed, nonetheless. And although our “outer house” continues to decay, the “inner person” is being renewed daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). And for this, we can be thankful. Won’t you give your heart to the Lord today and finish strong for Him?

What a Wonderful Savior!

Don’t Play With Fire!

For April 24, 2022
Have you noticed the news reports lately? There have been stunning and unfathomable reports of inordinate levels of insanity recently, in the form of crime and random shootings. I cannot recall another period in our nation’s recent history where there was such a proliferation of crime and random violence as such a common occurrence.

What seems particularly deranged about this behavior is how the individuals committing the heinous acts feel emboldened or even entitled to settle trivial disputes by ending the life of another human being—as if they themselves were God, who is the only one who gives  life and is the only one with the power to take life.

What ever happened to our expressing human decency? What ever happened to people communicating like civil adults? What ever happened to people engaging in rational and reasonable compromise to settle disputes? What ever happened to our showing emotional maturity by agreeing to disagree without resorting to violence?

More and more misguided individuals are playing with fire, since all of us will have to give an account for the deeds we do in this life, whether they are good or bad,

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Matthew 16:27 (NKJV)

On the day of reckoning, one cannot use ignorance as an excuse or as a successful defense,

If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds? Proverbs 24:12 (NKJV)

The ‘playing God’ lunacy is not a recent phenomenon. From the time of Cain, who killed his brother Abel over a religious dispute (Genesis 4:8), we have been discovering new ways to settle our disputes… with violence.

To those deluded individuals who feel they are righteous in their actions, Jesus makes the following observation,

A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. Matthew 7:17-20 (NLT)

Jesus also draws a distinction between His good work and the Enemy’s destructive work,

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (NKJV)

Steal? Kill? Destroy? Sound familiar? It appears that these folks are agents of Satan as they wantonly and maliciously steal, kill, and destroy for their own nefarious purposes.

However one day—very soon—they will join their Leader and face a final retribution,

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:10-15 (NKJV)

Over six-thousand years of human history, God’s Word has been found to be  true and reliable, and its warnings are to be heeded.

Thus, I would never play with fire by assuming to be Creator and Sustainer of all that is living, and fall into the hands of an angry God in the process. There is but one God who has given us one Lord and Savior who is Jesus Christ. One day, He will be the Righteous Judge and dispense His eternal justice,

For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Romans 14:7-12 (NKJV)

Further,

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 (NKJV)

People will be burned—forever—playing with fire. We must acknowledge God as the only giver of life, and accept His means to abundant, eternal life through Jesus Christ. Only through our faith in Him can we find true fulfillment and happiness; in this life and the next. Won’t you surrender your life to the Lord Jesus Christ today and find true and lasting peace?

What a Wonderful Savior!

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