The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolutions or Regeneration?

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! - Romans 7:24-25a

Every year on New Years Eve people make New Year’s Resolutions promising to change themselves for the better. But New Year’s resolutions are doomed to failure. If people want to change they don’t need resolutions, they need regeneration.

How Successful are New year’s Resolutions?

How successful are New year’s resolutions? Statistics in a study from the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2002 showed the following:

• 40 to 45% of American adult make one or more resolutions each year.
• Among the top new years resolutions are resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and stopping to smoke. Also popular are resolutions dealing with better money management / debt reduction.
• The following shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:
- past the first week: 75%
- past 2 weeks: 71%
- after one month: 64%
- after 6 months: 46%

Another study at the end of 2005 estimated that 97% of New year’s Resolutions do not work. In this study entitled New Years Resolutions: Why Don’t They Work ? Michael York of the Michael York Learning Center, theorizes the reason why resolutions don’t work is because people expect to fail and that they don’t know how to properly set goals in order to keep their resolutions. But I would say that the reason people don’t expect to keep their resolutions is because they have learned from experience that they can’t keep their resolutions and no amount of proper goal setting is going to change that.

So what’s the answer; how can we change for the better? The answer is that we need regeneration not resolutions.

Why Resolutions Can’t Work

The reason why a resolution can’t work is because it depends on me, myself and I; it depends on my own “strength.” The Bible refers to this self-centered dependence upon self as the flesh. Paul was inspired to speak of the predicament of the flesh when in Romans he writes:

Romans 7:18-24 - 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Do you see the futility of relying on your own strength to try to do good things? The New Living Translation (more of a paraphrase) of the Bible renders this portion of scripture in the following way:

18 I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. 19 When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. 20 But if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it. 21 It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?

These words express the futility, frustrations and ultimate failure of attempts at self-reformation and that is exactly what a New year’s resolution is. The reason such attempts at change are doomed to failure is because they depend on an inadequate power source, the sinful self. Read what the Bible says about our self, the me, myself and I of who we are:

Genesis 6:5 - 5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
• Job 14:4 - Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!
• Job 15:14-16 - “What is man, that he could be pure? And he who is born of a woman, that he could be righteous?15 If God puts no trust in His saints, And the heavens are not pure in His sight,16 How much less man, who is abominable and filthy, Who drinks iniquity like water!
• Psalm 5:9 - For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; Their inward part is destruction; Their throat is an open tomb; They flatter with their tongue.
• Psalm 51:5 - Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
• Isaiah 64:6 - But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.
• Jeremiah 17:9 - “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
• Mark 7:21-23 - 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
• Ephesians 2:1-3 - And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

These verses are ample evidence that anything that depends on this flesh is doomed to fail to reach its goal. If that is the case, then how can a person change successfully?

Regeneration the Way to True Transformation

Sometimes we can have what we believe are the best of intentions, but they are the wrong intentions. Our motives are not always what they ought to be. We may want to change, but if our motive is only to please our self, then we are only compounding our problem and off the mark. What we need is an entirely new way of looking at things and an entirely new way of doing things. What we need is REGENERATION.

Okay, you might be thinking, how do I get this regeneration? If you want to change for the better you have to realize the following.

First, realize your real problem is sin. Sin is the destructive cancer like thing within you that is keeping you from successfully changing for the better. The Bible says:

Romans 3:10, 23 - 10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; . . . 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Sin keeps us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and it is God alone who can work true change in us. Sin keep our focus on sinful self where we will wallow in defeat and despair.

Second, realize only spiritual birth or spiritual life can make a true lasting eternal change in you. It is the gospel that is the power of God to save us from sin (Romans 1:16). Just as we are physically born, we must be spiritual born again if we are ever to be changed from our present state of futility and out of focus sin life. Before we are spiritually born again we don’t even understand our true need (1 Corinthians 2:14). We need to be born again, we need to be spiritual born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 5). Another word for this spiritual enlivening experience is regeneration and refers to it in the following way:

Titus 3:3-7 - 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

As you can see this is not something we can work in ourselves, which leads us to the next realization.

Third, realize regeneration is a work of God offered by His grace through faith in His only Son Jesus. The Bible says that salvation is a work of in that He convicts us of our sin and our need of salvation (John 16:8-11). It is God who draws us out of our sin to Himself (John 6:44). And God draws us to Himself by dealing with our sin through faith in Jesus (John 6:29). Here is the beauty of how God resolves our sinful predicament. He has sent Jesus to pay for our sinful debt (because we are unable to pay that debt off on our own). And He has done away with our sin as we put our faith in Jesus and His work (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is why at the end of Paul’s passage in Romans 7 he is inspired to proclaim:

Romans 7:24-25a - 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

It is a glorious thing to turn over the reigns of your life to God. We’ve been slipping and falling and totally off track. We need to get into God’s car and let Him do the driving, which leads us to our final realization.

Fourth, realize you need to repent or turn humbly to God from your sinful self ways and rely fully on God’s gracious provision and strength. We can’t work our way out of the mire of our sin (Psalm 69). It is only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ that this regeneration can occur (Ephesians 2:4-9). If we turn from our self efforts and self interests to God then we can expect times of refreshing from the Lord (Acts 2:38-39).

It has been said:

Our lives are fields that primarily contain weeds. We cannot produce strawberries. We can mow the weeds, but that effort alone will never produce acceptable fruit. If we really want that fruit we will have to go deeper. We must plow up the whole field and start again with new plants.

We can’t change by resolution. We need the regenerative work of God to change.

But I’ve Done that and I’m Still Failing and Faltering
Sometimes those who have experienced regeneration continue to have difficulties in their lives; why is that? Those who have received God’s gracious gospel provision in Christ need to realize a few things too.

First, realize transformation is only begun at regeneration and is a life long process. The Bible refers to Christians as “being sanctified” (Hebrews 2:11; 10:14). Change is a process that God works in us over time as we live a life of surrender to Him (Romans 12:1-2). Regeneration is when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell a person (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20). It is the Holy Spirit that helps us to overcome our weaknesses (Romans 8:26). The work of the Spirit in us is to transform us into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). This is God’s purpose for us and should be our goal and target in life.

Second, realize the problem is that many who have been regenerated continue to live to please self rather than to please God. There are what are called carnal Christians who live to please themselves rather than to please God. The Christian who lives to please self will only find discord and disruption in their lives much the same as before they were regenerated (1 Corinthians 3:1-4; James 4:1-6). To overcome this problem the Christian must turn their focus on God and seek to please Him by faith (Hebrews 11:6). Paul explains this well when he is inspired to write:

Romans 8:1-9 - There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

When we are regenerated through faith in Christ we are called by God to walk no longer after the things of the flesh or to walk in the power of the flesh, but we are called to live in the Spirit (8:1). It is this life in the Spirit that can set us free from our futile fleshly lives (8:2). God does away with the destructive and depressing affects of sin in a person through faith in Christ (8:3-4). This new life of spiritual regeneration is an entirely new way of life and an entirely new way of looking at life (8:5). If we continue to have a fleshly mindset after regeneration we will continue to experience its destructive and depressing ways (8:6). It will hinder our relationship with God (8:7) and prevent us from pleasing God (8:8). In fact that is exactly the issue; in our flesh we seek to please self; in the Spirit we seek to please God. The truth is when we seek to please ourselves no one will be happy. But when we seek to please God everyone benefits. Without the Spirit in your life, you don’t even belong to God (8:9), which leads us to our final realization for the believer.

Third, realize victory comes through abiding in Christ. The closer we come to Jesus the more power we will have over sin in our lives. We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). In other words, get as close to Jesus as possible, as close as your very clothes, and you will have more and more power over the flesh. Drawing close to Jesus is the way of escape from many a problem issue in the life of the Christian (1 Corinthians 10:13). Jesus put it this way:

John 15:4-5, 7-8 - 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. . . 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

We need to “abide” or stick close to Jesus. When we get away from Jesus we shrivel up spiritually like a piece of fruit plucked from a tree. If we stay connected to Jesus, we will grow and become fruitful in Him.

How do we do this? How do we abide in Jesus?

The key is in the words “My disciples.” A disciple is a learner who studies the words of Jesus (verse 7 i.e. the Bible) and surrenders to the Spirit to apply those words to their lives (John 8:31-32, 34-36). Disciples also “ask” (verse 7) or pray because prayer is a declaration of dependence on God and a means of relating verbally with God in Christ. A disciple lastly does all they do to bring glory to God which is the culmination of spiritual fruitfulness (verse 8). The more we seek to bring glory to God the further away from self we move. The further away from self we move and the closer we come to God, the more power to live victoriously in life we will experience.

In his book The Power of the Spirit, William Law, writing in the early 1700s, makes the following statement about the church living in the flesh rather than the Spirit:

A letter learned zeal has but one nature wherever it is, and can only do that for Christians which it did for Jews. As in ancient times it brought forth scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, and crucifiers of Christ; as it afterwards brought forth heresies, schisms, popes, papal decrees, images, and anathemas; so in Protestant churches it will do the same things, only under different names. The empty idolatry of Rome will show itself even without crucifixes and indulgences. Images of wood and clay will only be exchanged for images of doctrines. Grace, works, imputed sin, imputed righteousness, and election will all have their worshipping advocates, dividing the body of Christ in their very zeal to defend their own good opinions about Scripture doctrines. And so great will be the blindness thus generated that every kind of gossip, slander, and hatred will be pursued by brother against brother, all of it done in the name of Him who prayed that we might be one. . . . Our divine Master compares the religion of the learned Pharisees to ‘whited sepulchers, outwardly beautiful, but inwardly full of dead men’s bones.’ How was it that a religion so serious in its restraints, so beautiful in its outward form and practices, and commanding such reverence from all that beheld it, was yet charged by Truth itself with being ‘inwardly full of hypocrisy and iniquity’? It was only for this one reasons: because it was a religion of self. Wherever self has power and keeps up its own interests, even in teaching or defending sound Scripture doctrines, there is that very same Pharisee still alive whom Christ with so much severity of language constantly condemned. The reason for such heavy condemnation is that self is the root and sum total of all sin. Every sin that can be named is centered in it. Self is nothing else but the creature broken off from God: the power of Satan living and working in us the sad continuance of that first turning from God, which was the whole fall of our first parents. (Emphasis added.)

Unfortunately what William Law wrote 300 years ago was not heeded by much of the church and today we have a church that is more carnal and centered on its sarx, than it is filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We cannot afford to allow our flesh to rule us; we need the Spirit to overcome it and empower us to do all that God has wonderfully laid out for us to do. If you are a Christian and have slipped back into the futility of a life lived for self and in the weakness of self, surrender to God anew and He will empower you to victorious Christian living. That would be a great way to start a new year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Highly Favored

Luke 1:28 - 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

Ephesians 1:6 - 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

When we look at the Bible account of the incarnation of Jesus we see that Mary was referred to by the angel Gabriel as “highly favored.” The words “highly favored” (χαριτόω - charitŏō, khar-ee-tŏ´-o) come from a single Greek term and mean to give grace, to bestow favor, “ to endue with special honor; make accepted, be highly favored.” God looked down on Mary and bestowed special honor on her by showing she was acceptable to Him for a very special task.

Some people have taken this “highly favored” reference to Mary and exalted her to a position of adoration and even worship. But the Bible tells us to worship God alone:

Exodus 34:14- 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

Matthew 4:10 - 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”

Revelation 19:10 - 10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Revelation 22:9 - 9 Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”

It’s important we have a correct understanding of what it means to be highly favored. And there is a blessing for us in this understanding.
When we look at Mary, the words spoken to her by others, and the words of response she herself gave to her “highly favored” status, it gives us insight into this status. What did being “highly favored” by God mean for Mary?

1. It meant she was “blessed” – Luke 1:28b
2. It meant she was troubled by her encounter with God’s messenger – Luke 1:29
3. It meant she was afraid – Luke 1:30a
4. It meant she had found favor with God – Luke 1:30b
5. It meant being called to fulfill God’s purpose – Luke 1:31
6. It meant connection with a King (Jesus) – Luke 1:32-33
7. It meant not understanding – Luke 1:34a
8. It meant being challenged culturally – Luke 1:34b
9. It meant being empowered by the Holy Spirit – Luke 1:35
10. It meant full surrender and trusting God for the impossible – Luke 1:36-38

Later in what is called Mary’s Magnificat we see more of Mary’s response to her “highly favored” status when she says:

Luke 1:46-55 - 46 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. 49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

In these beautiful words we see Mary’s response to her “highly favored” status was to Magnify, rejoice and worship the LORD – Luke 1:46:

1. Because God was her Savior – Luke 1:47
2. Because God regarded her even though she was lowly - Luke 1:48a
3. Because God’s other generations to call her blessed – Luke 1:48b
4. Because God had done great things for her – Luke 1:49a
5. Because God’s name and His works are holy (unique; special) – Luke 1:49b
6. Because God is merciful – Luke 1:50
7. Because God supports the humble and defies the proud – Luke 1:51-52
8. Because God fills the hungry and empties the rich – Luke 1:53
9. Because God is faithful to fulfill His prophetic word – Luke 1:54-55

Mary’s response was to worship God, not draw others to worship her. We can learn a lot from Mary’s humble surrender to God and humble worship of God.

But where is the blessing in all of this for us? What does this matter to us? Mary’s response to her “highly favored” status matters to us and is a blessing to us because God uses the same word in regard to us; His followers.

In the opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he is inspired to write:

Ephesians 1:6 - to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

The phrase “made us accepted” is a translation of the same Greek term (χαριτόω - charitŏō, khar-ee-tŏ´-o) used with Mary in Luke 1:28. Mary is “highly favored,” but so are we! Therefore we should understand God has given us the honor, grace and favor, the privilege to serve Him. That’s incredible! But what does that mean to us?
When we look at the context of Ephesians 1:6 it should cause us to burst into our own Magnificat as we consider the grace and favor God has bestowed on us. Look at what God has done for us:

Ephesians 1:3-14 - 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

A summary review of these verses reveal some of the particulars of God’s highly favored status bestowed on us:

1. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ – 1:3
2. We are chosen in Christ to be holy in His love – 1:4
3. We are predestined to adoption as His sons by Jesus Christ – 1:5
4. We are accepted in Jesus our Beloved – 1:6
5. We are redeemed from sin through His blood – 1:7a
6. We are forgiven our sins in Christ – 1:7b
7. We are products of His wisdom and prudence – 1:8
8. We are enlightened about His will, good pleasure and purpose for us – 1:9
9. We are included in God’s plans of bringing all together in Christ – 1:10
10. We are receivers in Jesus of a rich inheritance – Ephesians 1:11
11. We are worshipers who get to bring praise to God’s glory in Christ – 1:12
12. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit who gives us assurance that all of this is real and will be fully realized in the culmination of God’s plans – 1:13-14.

What a glorious thing it is to be highly favored by God! Like Mary we should humbly bow in full surrender to the Lord. We should surrender for God to use us as He sees fit. And then we should worship and praise Him for the honor and privilege of what He has called us to do in life. You are highly favored by God! He has made you accepted in Christ! Rejoice! Worship Him! Serve Him! Enjoy!

Friday, December 24, 2010

One Solitary Life

He was born in an obscure village,
the child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village,
where he worked in a carpenter shop
until he was thirty.
Then for three years
he was an itinerant preacher.
He never set foot inside a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles
from the place he was born.
He never wrote a book,
or held an office.
He did none of these things
that usually accompany greatness.
While he was still a young man,
the tide of popular opinion
turned against him.
His friends deserted him.
He was turned over to his enemies,
and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross
between two thieves.
While he was dying,
his executioners gambled
for the only piece of property he had -
his coat
When he was dead,
he was taken down
and laid in a borrowed grave.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone,
and today he is the central figure
for much of the human race.
All the armies that ever marched,
and all the navies that ever sailed,
and all the parliaments that ever sat,
and all the kings that ever reigned,
put together
have not affected the life of man
upon this earth as powerfully as this
“One Solitary Life”.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Meaning of Christmas by A.W. Tozer (Warfare Of The Spirit, Chapter 22)


That there were in the world multiplied millions who had never heard of Christmas did not matter to our poet for the purpose of his poem. He was expressing an emotional fact, not a statistical one.

Throughout the Western world we tend to follow the poet and approach Christmas emotionally instead of factually. It is the romance of Christmas that gives it its extraordinary appeal to that relatively small number of persons of the earth’s population who regularly celebrate it.

So completely are we carried away by the excitement of this midwinter festival that we are apt to forget that its romantic appeal is the least significant thing about it. The theology of Christmas too easily gets lost under the gay wrappings, yet apart from its theological meaning it really has none at all. A half dozen doctrinally sound carols serve to keep alive the great deep truth of the Incarnation, but aside from these, popular Christmas music is void of any real lasting truth. The English mouse that was not even stirring, the German Tannenbaum so fair and lovely and the American red-nosed reindeer that has nothing to recommend it have pretty well taken over in Christmas poetry and song. These along with merry old St. Nicholas have about displaced Christian theology.

We must not forget that the Church is the custodian of a truth so grave and urgent that its importance can not be overemphasized, and so vast and incomprehensible that even an apostle did not try to explain it; rather it burst forth from him as an astonished exclamation:

Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations;
was believed on in the world,
(1 Timothy 3:16)

This is what the Church is trying to say to mankind but her voice these days is thin and weak and scarcely heard amid the commercialized clangor of “Silent Night.”

It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas and so few stop to inquire into its meaning; but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import. The same man who will check his tires and consult his road map with utmost care before starting on a journey may travel for a lifetime on the way that knows no return and never once pause to ask whether or not he is headed in the right direction.

The Christmas message, when stripped of its pagan overtones, is relatively simple: God is come to earth in the form of man. Around this one dogma the whole question of meaning revolves. God did come or He did not; He is come or He is not, and the vast accumulation of sentimental notions and romantic practices that go to make up our modern Christmas cannot give evidence on one side or the other.

Certain religious teachers in apostolic times refused to believe that Jesus was actually God come in the flesh. They were willing to exhaust the language of unctuous flattery to describe His glorious manhood, but they would have none of His deity. Their basic philosophy forbade them to believe that there could ever be a union of God and human flesh.Matter, they said, is essentially evil. God who is impeccably holy could never allow Himself contact with evil. Human flesh is matter, therefore God is not come in the flesh.

Certainly it would not be difficult to refute this negative teaching. One would only need to demonstrate the error of the major premise, the essential sinfulness of matter, and the whole thing would collapse. But that would be to match reason against reason and take the mystery of godliness out of the realm of faith and make of it merely another religious philosophy. Then we would have rationalism with a thin Christian veneer. How long before the veneer wore off and we had only rationalism?

While faith contains an element of reason, it is essentially moral rather than intellectual. In the New Testament unbelief is a sin, and this could not be so if belief were no more than a verdict based upon evidence. There is nothing unreasonable about the Christian message, but its appeal is not primarily to reason. At a specific time in a certain place God became flesh, but the transcendence of Christ over the human conscience is not historic; it is intimate, direct and personal.

Christ’s coming to Bethlehem’s manger was in harmony with the primary fact of His secret presence in the world in preincarnate times as the Light that lighteth every man. The sum of the New Testament teaching about this is that Christ’s claims are self-validating and will be rejected only by those who love evil. Whenever Christ is preached in the power of the Spirit, a judgment seat is erected and each hearer stands to be judged by his response to the message. His moral responsibility is not to a lesson in religious history but to the divine Person who now confronts him.

“Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.” But Christmas either means more than is popularly supposed or it means nothing. We had better decide.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No Room?

From now until Christmas there will be a constant mad rush to buy, buy, buy, which will only be followed in the new year by efforts to pay, pay, pay (unless you buy into the plan that puts your payments off for an extended period of time – that only prolongs the agony). This is the season when people scurry about in the squalid frenzy to shop. Shopping and holiday preparations this time of year threaten to crowd out everything else in our lives. If you listen you’ll hear mothers pushing their children in shopping carts snap at their antsy (aggravating?) inquisitive children, “Be quiet! Don’t you know I’m shopping for Christmas gifts?” Or, “Shut up! Don’t you know I’m looking for gifts for baby Jesus?” Driving can be a hazard too as people have thoughts of a million things to do coursing through their minds. Obligation and fear of offending someone will drive people to get gifts. We’ll wrack our brains to make sure all our bases are covered and no one is left out.

All of this frenzy begs the question, “Will there be room for Jesus in your life to celebrate His birthday?” I mean, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. It is His birthday (though December 25th is not supported by historical and scriptural evidence as being the actual birth date of Jesus – that’s another teaching). Many people eliminate Jesus from the season by avoiding the use of Christmas” and inserting, “Seasons Greetings,” and “Happy Holidays.” Even Christians can get caught up in the rush to spend rashly. If there’s no room for Jesus in your holiday season, it wouldn’t be the first time there was no room for Jesus. The first time He came there was no room for Him. I’d like to change that situation. I’d like for us to change our holiday season into a holy-day season, (which is really what the word “holiday” is supposed to mean). The birth of Jesus should be a holy time. The tool to bring this change is a verse from God’s word.

In the Gospel of Luke it states:

Luke 2:7 – “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

This verse about the birth of Christ contains three central aspects of the Christmas story that will help us get back to the holiness, the specialness of the season.

Incarnation - “And she brought forth her firstborn Son”

We should understand that God reveals to us in His word that Jesus preexists eternally and is fully God (John 1:1, 2, 14-15). The incarnation of Jesus does not make Him less than God according to clear statements throughout the Bible. The deity of Jesus is testified to and supported in numerous portions of scripture. One of my favorites is as follows:

• Romans 9:5 – “of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.”

Christmas is about the historical account of the incarnation of God in Christ. Just think of it, God in the flesh. That really is an incredible thing. God of the universe; all powerful; all knowing; ever present; with us in Christ. God is not distant but is present. He’ll never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). God wants us to know Him and has taken steps that we can know Him personally. The incarnation testifies to this truth. And indeed Jesus said the crux of eternal life is, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

Knowing God is the bottom line. You can talk about religion, ritual and a host of other things, but if what you do fails to help you know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, it’s for the most part worthless. In heaven there won’t be Catholics, Calvary Chapel people, Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, or any other man made labels for people. In heaven there will only be those who have repented of their sins and through faith in Christ entered into God’s eternal life of knowing Him. Do you know Jesus? Examine yourself to see if you can answer that question with a “yes” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Humiliation –“and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger,”

Christ’s coming into the world testifies to the humility of Jesus; His willingness to come as a servant to do God’s will. We see this in such verses as:

• 2 Corinthians 8:9 – “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
• Philippians 2:5-11 – “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,10 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,11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

An interesting story is told about an 18th century incident:

In the fall of 1775, the manager of Baltimore’s largest hotel refused lodging to a man dressed like a farmer, because he thought this fellow’s lowly appearance would discredit his inn. So the man left and took a room elsewhere. Later, the innkeeper discovered that he had turned away none other than the Vice President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson!

Immediately he sent a note to the famed patriot, asking him to return and be his guest. Jefferson replied by instructing his messenger as follows: “Tell him I have already engaged a room. I value his good intentions highly, but if he has no place for a dirty American farmer, he has none for the Vice President of the United States.”

How many times do we similarly turn away the things of God and His plans because they are too “dirty” for us? What do you think about when you contemplate the humility of Jesus? Do you even think about that? You should. We are called to follow in the humble servant hearted steps of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). It is possible to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection. But I have learned that when I really get to know Jesus, it is in the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10). That’s the “dirty” part, the part where we have to get down in the dirt of life and serve the Lord. Have you thought about the humility of Jesus? What does it mean to you?

Providence and Stupification – “because there was no room for them in the inn.”

The last issue this verse speaks of is the providence of God. In Galatians we are told that the incarnation of Jesus was all according to a plan of God:

• Galatians 4:4-5 – “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

The birth of Jesus Christ is fulfillment of an incredibly miraculous plan of God to reveal Himself to humanity in His fullness in Christ (Colossians 1:15-19). His virgin birth and place of birth are among the details God testifies to in His word. When we consider the details of God’s providential planned incarnation it is really amazing.

Historically it was just the right time for Jesus to come. Two commentators make the following observations about the timing of when Jesus came to be “God with us”:

The proper time had arrived for both God and man. The time appointed by the Father and foretold by the prophets. It was a time of outward prosperity and inward corruption. The religions of the world were spiritually bankrupt, devoid of power to change men’s lives, and had degenerated into feeble superstitions and meaningless rituals.

This “time” was when the Roman civilization had brought peace and a road system which facilitated travel; when the Grecian civilization provided a language which was adopted as the lingua franca of the empire; when the Jews had proclaimed monotheism and the messianic hope in the synagogues of the Mediterranean world.

Prophetically it was just the right time for Jesus to come. There are a host of prophecies which foretell the birth of Messiah Jesus (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:31-35). There are prophetic scriptures which foretell of Jesus coming eight centuries in advance! The coming of Jesus was in line with the timing of the removal from the Jewish religious leaders of the right to order capital punishment (Genesis 49:10), the prophesied forerunner (Malachi 3:21) and Daniel’s prophecy concerning Messiah’s triumphal entry (Daniel 9:24-27).

But the thing I find interesting, no, stupefying, is that with all of this planning it still says in Luke 2:7:

• “ . . . there was no room for them in the inn.”

Doesn’t that strike you a bit peculiar? The Bible tells us that God has a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3) and certainly the time was right for Messiah Jesus to be incarnated. God predicted through the prophets and laid out a perfect plan for revealing Himself to humanity. And still, there was no room for Jesus and His parents the night of His birth. Somehow it seems that with all that planning by God surrounding the incarnation of Jesus that He also would have planned for Him to be birthed in a suitable place. Did God simply forget or overlook this aspect of the incarnation? I don’t think so. I don’t think there was “no room” for Jesus by accident. I believe God wants to teach us something from this.

What do we learn from “no room in the inn”?

There are a number of things we can and should learn from there being “no room in the inn.”

First, God’s ways are not our ways. God works in ways that we often find stupefying, surprising, amazing, perplexing, even confusing. In Isaiah it states:

• Isaiah 55:7-11 – “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

In Romans 12:2 it tells us not to be conformed to the world. A reason for this is that God regularly works in ways that the world and even in the religious community can not relate to. The ways of God are nonconformist and unorthodox by secular and religious standards. Who would have thought that a single Teacher with an inner core of 12 rag tag disciples would turn out to be not only God in the flesh but the Savior of the world? Who would have thought the Savior of the world, God in the flesh, would be born in a stable because there was no other place for his mother to birth? Who would have thought this child would be the way the truth and the life and the only way to eternal life with God? God’s ways are not our ways.

Our problem is that our plan is often opposed to His plan. We fight and struggle and throw our tantrums before the Lord because we don’t get what we want. Like a spoiled child dissatisfied with their Christmas gift we pout and sometimes even shout at God for His decisions. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s plans may keep us from things we think are best for us. But God’s plan is always the best plan. He has only the best of intentions for us. If He says, “No,” to a request of ours, it is only because He has something infinitely and eternally better for us. Who would you rather depend on, someone (like yourself) who is finite, limited in understanding and capability, or Someone who is infinite, unlimited in understanding and all powerful, like God? I don’t know about you, but I’m going with God not me or you. Don’t throw a tantrum, trust the LORD.

God is able to accomplish His will no matter what. Like the story of Mrs. A. E. Gadsby of Niagara Falls, Canada, who in December 1940 mailed a Christmas parcel to her daughter in Prestwick, Scotland. The ship carrying the mail was torpedoed off the west coast of Ireland, but a favorable tide floated the package and unerringly cast it ashore on the beach of Prestwick. The contents were soaked but perfectly usable. The address was still legible and the package reached the addressee two days after Christmas. God has a plan and He will work it out come hell or high water (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Hope in Him (Psalm 42).

Second, God incorporates human free will in His plans. Human free will does not take God by surprise, but it does make for an interesting journey in God’s plans. Because of human free will Joseph in Old Testament times was sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned, forgotten for a time, exalted to the second in command in the Egyptian empire and ultimately used by God with all of his hardship, for God’s good purposes to preserve the Messianic line (Genesis 50:20). Because of human free will there was an innkeeper who had no room for Jesus to be born in. Because of human free will Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest and most trusted disciples. Yet God used all of this to bring salvation to the world through His Son. God uses human free will and because of that we can’t always see His plan at first. God unfolds His plan bit by bit in order according to His plan, true to His will. Next time you are confused and can’t understand what is happening, trust in God, hope in God, love the Lord and He will bring out His good plan (Romans 8:28).

Christmas can be a difficult time of year. Memories of lost loved ones are harder to deal with during this emotional time of year. Family tensions can run high, especially between saved and unsaved. Through it all remember God has a plan. Hope in the Lord and He will get your through (Psalm 37; 43; 44).

Third, obstacles don’t necessarily mean we are out of God’s will. What if Joseph and Mary said, “Okay, there’s no room here for us to have the baby, let’s go to the next town”? If they had done that Jesus would not have been born in Bethlehem according to Messianic prophecy (Micah 5:2) and He would have been disqualified as Messiah. But they trusted in the Lord and made due with what God provided. There is no record of any complaints on their part. There is only a record of humble submission. Christmas is a time notorious for combustible complaints. God’s word tells us to “do all things without complaining and disputing” (Philippians 2:14). Maybe we should take action so that there’s room for Jesus but no room for bad Christmas attitudes.

Fourth, there is an enemy who wants to shut Jesus out. The devil wants to destroy Jesus and all who love Him. We see this in the slaughter of the innocents ordered by Herod (Matthew 2:16-18). Herod and many other people in history have been enemies of Jesus and His people. But the ultimate enemy of Jesus is Satan. Of Satan it is stated:

• 1 Peter 5:8-9 – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”

Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). We have an enemy and he seeks to distract, deceive and destroy everything connected with Jesus. The enemies’ objective is to make sure there is no room for Jesus in your life. Don’t let him cheat you of the blessing of the presence of the Lord! Make a conscious effort to have meaningful devotional times with the Lord each day during this time of year. This will help you make room for Jesus each day. It will help you cultivate spiritual sensitivity to how Jesus might want to use you to help others make room for Him.

Fifth, not everyone has room for Jesus. Jesus knocks on the hearts of all people as it states in Revelation:

• Revelation 3:20 - “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Jesus especially knocks on the door of the church seeking to come in and fellowship. But not everyone has room for Jesus. Some have their own petty ideas or agenda to follow. Others are too proud and want to worship themselves rather than Jesus. And still others want to rule on the throne rather than have Jesus be Lord. When Jesus knocks, open to Him. He is the reason for the season. Don’t forget that. Don’t be cheated out of the presence of Jesus this Christmas (Colossians 2:8, 23).

Sixth, when we encounter obstacles we should follow the leading of the Spirit. Mary and Joseph were humble enough to follow the Spirit. They didn’t come to Bethlehem expecting to have Mary give birth in a stable. But that is where the Spirit led them and that is where they went. The Spirit will never lead in a way that is contrary to God’s word. In fact the Spirit most often leads us by the word of God (Romans 8:14). We discover God’s will by giving ourselves to Him as living sacrifices. Top discover His will we have to be dead to ourselves and our own agendas and alive to Him and His will (Romans 12:1-2). Get up and off of the throne of your heart and make room for Jesus! He alone is suited and worthy to be your Lord.

Seventh, do you have room for Jesus this Christmas? Jesus said:

• John 8:12 – “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart right now. You may have never paid attention to His knocking but now He is getting your attention. Will you open the door of your heart and invite Him in? It’s simple:

Admit you have sinned against God’s holy law and deserve eternal damnation (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

Acknowledge that Jesus died for your sins upon the cross; He died in your place on the cross; He paid the penalty you deserved for your sins on the cross.

Ask by faith God to forgive you of your sin based on your accepting what Jesus has done for you on the cross (Romans 6:23; 5:8).

Advance in the Spirit (who is now in you) and depend on God to help you bear spiritual fruit and live for Jesus.

Perhaps you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior but there are still rooms in your house that you have yet to give Him full access to. Jesus is knocking on those doors to. He wants to go in and clean house. Will you let Him in? He wants to shine His light throughout your heart and life. Will you let Him in?

We can learn a lot from that short verse in the gospel of Luke. But the thing we need to consider is do we have room for Jesus in our lives, in all of our lives? That’s the question before us right now. Have a meaningful Christmas and make room for Jesus!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Presence

Christmas Presence. That’s not a misspelling. Though we might feel as though Christmas is primarily about getting and giving presents, it is supposed to be so much more than that. In fact, Christmas is supposed to be primarily about a presence. When the angel of the Lord was announcing the birth of Jesus to Joseph he quoted Isaiah saying:

Matthew 1:23 - Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (cf. Isaiah 7:14; 9:6).

Christmas is meant to celebrate Immanuel, God with us, the presence of God, Christmas presence.

In our secularized Christmas it’s not surprising that the presence of God has been hijacked by presents. In 2009 the buying frenzy included the following statistics:

• For the holiday season from November 1 to December 20, US online retail sales reached $24.8bn, a 4% increase over the same period in 2008.
• Spending on 'Green Monday' December 14 was $854m, 1% less than the previous year, but the three following days each surpassed $800m.
• Tuesday, December 15 set an individual day spending record with $913m. By comparison, spending on Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) was $887m.

Christmas is big business. The livelihood and continued existence of some companies and businesses is determined by sales during the Christmas season. The result is pressure to buy, buy, and buy. We are inundated with commercials and “great buys” and “sales,” and a host of other marketing propaganda to get us to spend, spend, spend. Now there’s nothing wrong with giving. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Getting is not that bad either. But when the material aspects of this sacred holy day of Christmas crowd out the core purpose of it, we need to reassess and get back on course. If we miss the presence of God at Christmas, we’ve missed Christmas.

How’s your Christmas spirit? Or more importantly, are you in the Spirit this Christmas? Are you focused on the presence of the Lord or presents under the tree? Maybe you’re just having a real hard time sensing the presence of the Lord this year. Maybe you’re grieving the loss of a loved one. Maybe you’ve lost a job or are in danger of being laid off. Maybe you’re finances are so deep in debt you can’t imagine going further into debt for Christmas presents. Maybe, for whatever reason, you have a severe case of the Christmas blahs. There’s cure for that. The cure is Christmas presence. Let’s look at what God says in His word about His presence, the reason some people don’t sense it and how we can enter into and live in the presence of the LORD. Let’s ask a few questions and answer them. Hopefully we will, with God’s help, experience true Christmas presence as a result.

Where is the presence of the LORD? The presence of the LORD is everywhere. The Bible says:

Psalm 97:5 - The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

• Psalm 114:7 - Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the God of Jacob,

• Psalm 139:7-10 - Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.

God’s presence is everywhere. The theological term for this is omnipresence. God is everywhere all the time. You can’t escape God’s presence.

What is the presence of the LORD like? In Psalms the presence of the LORD is described in the following way:

Psalm 16:11 - You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

It should be noted that on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles and disciples of Jesus in power that Peter quoted this verse in his Pentecostal message that led to the salvation of thousands (Acts 2:28). That sounds pretty wonderful; that’s something that everyone should yearn for and live in. The presence of the LORD is the greatest present. But why don’t people seek out the presence of the LORD?

Hell is described as being removed from the presence of the LORD. In scripture it states:

2 Thessalonians 1:3-9 - We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,

The greatest punishment is being removed from the presence of the LORD. If God’s presence is so great why then do some people run away from it or just don’t care about it?

Why don’t we sense the presence of the LORD? Why do some people flee from the presence of the LORD? Why don’t we sense God’s presence? Why don’t we feel it or experience it? The problem is not with God. He is not limited in any way or absent from any place. The problem is with us. Why can’t we sense the presence of the LORD? The simple profound straightforward answer is sin.

There was a time when humanity was first created that God walked and fellowshipped with us. It was a beautiful loving time of fellowshipping with God in His presence in the Garden. But Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God (Gen. 3). The consequence was our first parents no longer felt comfortable in the presence of God:

Genesis 3:8 - And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Sin caused a great disconnect between humanity and the presence of God. When we disregard God’s word and act like Adam and Eve we too will feel uncomfortable in the presence of the LORD.

IT should be mentioned that sometimes even Christians miss the presence of the LORD. This may be due to simply living in fallen bodies affected by planetary sin, or the physical problems connected with the physical fall of creation under the influence of sin (Rom. 8:18f.). But there are other times when we are indeed to blame for not experiencing the presence of the LORD.

Cain and his jealous unloving self-centered premeditated murder of his brother Abel resulted in departing from the presence of the LORD:

Genesis 4:16 - Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.

When we act like Cain in a jealous unloving self-centered manner, we too will be sent from the presence of the LORD.

Rebellion against God leads to people fleeing from the presence of the LORD. Jonah rebelled against God’s call and tried to flee the presence of the LORD. He was tracked down by God with a serious storm and great fish at sea (Jonah 1:3, 10). That got his attention and finally he turned back to God (cf. Jonah 1-4).

Sin desensitizes us to the presence of the LORD and its blessedness.

Satan exacerbates the departure from the presence of the Lord by coming into the presence of the LORD himself to bring accusations against Gods people (Job 1:12; 2:7).

And sometimes we sinfully simply forget to make God a priority in our lives. The following poem makes this point:

Into The Day

I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
I didn’t have time to pray.
Troubles just tumbled about me
And heavier came each task.
Why God doesn’t help me, I wondered,
He answered, “You didn’t ask.”
I tried to come into God’s presence,
I used all my keys at the lock.
God gently and lovingly chided,
“Why child, you didn’t knock.”
I wanted to see joy and beauty,
But the day toiled on grey and bleak,
I called on the Lord for the reason—
He said “You didn’t seek.”
I woke up early this morning
And paused before entering the day.
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.
—Author Unknown

How can we experience the presence of the LORD? The answer is that we need to repent of our sin. In the New Testament at Pentecost Peter in the power of the Spirit said:

Acts 3:19-21 - 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

If we want to experience the presence of God we need to repent of our sins. The word “repent” (μετανοέω -mĕtanŏĕō, met-an-ŏ-eh´-o) means to reconsider, to think differently, to change one’s mind. Repentance is a change of heart that leads to a change in life. The word “converted” (ἐπιστρέφω - ĕpistrĕphō, ep-ee-stref´-o) means to return, turn back, convert. The idea is to come back to what God’s original intent was for you. God wants us to live in His presence with Him. When we repent God blots out our sin on the basis of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection that verifies it satisfies God’s just requirement for the forgiveness of sin. With sin removed we can enter the presence of the Lord. This is beautifully expressed in the inspired words of Hebrews which state:

Hebrews 10:19-23 - Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

The reference to the “Holiest” brings to mind the epicenter of the Temple where God made His presence known to Israel. Once a year only the High priest on the Day of Atonement could enter this room where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. He could only come with the blood of sacrifice and made atonement for the nation. Now through Jesus we can come into the presence of God all the time by the blood of Jesus. This is an incredibly rich blessing. It is an expression of the lavishness and abundance of God’s grace. This is the culmination of God’s dealing with the separation caused by sin. Now we can come into His presence all the time through the blood of Jesus. Hallelujah!

We need to forsake our sinful ways and ask God’s forgiveness through faith in Christ. That forgiveness is offered to us as a free gift of God by His grace (Eph. 2:8-9). When we do that Acts 3 tells us our sins will be blotted out and “times of refreshing” will come “from the presence of the Lord.” That’s what Christmas is all about.

Isn’t that what we need this Christmas, a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord? The word “refreshing” (ἀνάψυξις - anapsuxis, an-aps´-ook-sis) means literally rest relief, refreshing, recovery of breath, revival. Do you want to experience a revival that flows from the presence of the Lord? Go to God in prayer and ask Him to search you and then repent of any sin He points out (Psalm 51; 139). Then times of refreshing will flow into you from the presence of the Lord. We need a revival. Our nation needs a revival. It will come through repentance and conversion by God’s grace through faith in Jesus.

Recently on You Tube there was a video clip of a “random act of culture” performed by the Opera Company of Philadelphia (event of October 30th, 2010). They went to a mall and performed the Hallelujah chorus of Handel’s Messiah. It was beautiful and on the surface inspiring. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. But when the end credits were given listing the participants, among those involved were the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus. Handel was a godly man who felt his work The Messiah was from God. What would he think about gay men performing his glorious work? What does God think about those who disregard His word, rebelliously live in a way He calls sinful, and not only that but promote their sinful lifestyle as acceptable enough to sing praises to Him? Through Isaiah God said, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; . . . Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20, 21). I don’t mean to single out homosexuality as the worst of sins but it is sinful according to God (e.g. Romans 1:18-32; 1 Co. 6:9-11).

It is very revealing that those living in such sin feel no qualms about singing praises to God Almighty. What must they have thought when they were singing “King of kings and Lord of lords . . . and He shall reign forever and ever . . . Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”? It’s hypocritically sinful to sing of God’s reign and lordship while living in rebellion to His word by the sinful lifestyle you persist in. And doing so with an attitude that nothing is wrong compounds the sin and affront to God. It’s defiance not praise. How can a defiant sinner praise God? God says He won’t hear those who “regard iniquity” in their heart (Ps. 66:18). “Iniquity” (אָוֶֶן ˒âven, aw-ven’) is wickedness, evil. Those at the event may have enjoyed what they heard (some not knowing who was participating and others willfully excusing those who should not have participated), but God did not hear it. It is an indictment of our godless society that people can disregard what God calls sin and then mock Him by singing praises to Him. If we want the presence of the Lord there must be repentance. Without repentance there is only God’s “Woe” to look forward to.

Notice that when we repent of our sins not only will we receive refreshing from the presence of the Lord but Jesus will come to us; we will come close to Him and experience His abiding presence. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing. With Him nothing is impossible (cf. John 15). Come into the presence of the LORD.

Examine yourself and let God point out any sin in your life. Don’t be too quick to think you are without sin. The apostle John was inspired to say if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and if we say we have no sin we make God a liar (1 John 1:8, 10). We need to humbly go before God and ask Him to search us and point out any sin that is keeping us from His presence (e.g. Psalm 139:23-24). If we casually allow sin to go persist in our lives, God will wait and let us try to live without His presence until we confess and repent of our sin (Psalm 66:18). If we confess our sins God is faithful and will forgive us (1 John 1:9). If we want to experience the presence of the Lord we must confess and repent of our sin.

Repentance to conversion by God’s grace through faith in Jesus leads to two other practical ways to come into the presence of God. The two particular times God’s presence is manifested according to scripture is in the praises and fellowship of His people.

In Psalm 22:3 it states, “But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.” What is interesting about this verse is that the word “enthroned” (yâshab, yaw-shab’) means literally to sit, to dwell, to rest, to remain, or to sit down. It is translated enthroned because of the idea of God’s people seating God on His throne when they praise Him. Some translations translate the word “inhabit” (e.g. KJV). When we apply the broader meaning of this word the idea we learn is that God dwells with, rests with, sits down in the midst of His people when they praise Him. If you don’t sense the presence of the Lord, praise Him! Praise is enthroning God. We may not feel like praising God but when by faith we do, it ushers in the presence of the Lord.

A second time God’s presence is manifested is when God’s people gather together. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there In the midst of them” (Mat. 18:20). The word “midst” (μέσος - mĕsŏs, mes´-os) means in the middle of, in the midst, before them, or between them. Fellowship is another way to usher in the presence of the Lord. Fellowship is gathering together “in My name,” or the name of Jesus. That means believers gathering together with Jesus as the center of attention. It is not merely hanging out. Fellowship is a much richer gathering than that. When believers come together in fellowship they share about Jesus. They may study His word or worship or talk about what the Lord has done or is doing in their lives or even what they hope Him to do, but Jesus is in the midst of them. Fellowship therefore ushers in the presence of the Lord. When people are depressed or discouraged they tend to isolate themselves from others. That can lead to a sense of loneliness. We may want to get alone with the Lord and that is fine. But another way to come into the presence of the Lord is to gather together in fellowship with other believers. We need to heed the words of Hebrews which state, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-5). Fellowship ushers in the presence of the Lord.

How should we respond in the presence of the Lord? Once we are in the presence of the Lord how should we respond? Scripture tells us:

Respond to God’s presence with silence -

Zephaniah 1:7 - Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD; For the day of the LORD is at hand, For the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests.
It’s always good to spend some alone time quietly before the Lord. Get alone with Him and take in His awesome splendor.

Respond to God’s presence with reverence -

Haggai 1:12 - Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him; and the people feared the presence of the LORD.

The fear referred to here is reverence for the Lord. The context of the verse is speaking of the disobedience of the people and God’s discipline of them because of that. They are now returned to the holy City of Jerusalem and commencing with the rebuilding of the Temple of God. As God has mercifully brought them back from captivity the leaders and the people are now humbly committed to follow the Lord. God’s word to them was, “I am with you, says the LORD” (Haggai 1:13). God is with you too. Sit reverently before the Lord and thank Him for His presence.

Respond to God’s presence with humility -

1 Corinthians 1:29 - that no flesh should glory in His presence.

God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5-6). We need all the grace of God we can get. James states, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8). In humility we come into the presence of the Lord.

Respond to God’s presence with thanks -

Psalm 140:13 - Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; The upright shall dwell in Your presence.

There is so much to be thankful to the Lord about. If you can’t think of anything to thank the Lord about, start with thanking him for your very existence. Paul spoke to the Athenians quoting one of their own poets saying, “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Paul applied their teaching to open their eyes to the gracious provision of God in their lives. God sustains all people (e.g. Mat. 5:45). He hopes as many as possible will turn to Him to spend eternity with Him in His presence (2 Pet. 3:9). Every good gift comes from God (James 1:17). We have a lot to be thankful for. Come into His presence with thanks.

In another African dialect, the Karre, the expression for thankfulness is “to sit down on the ground before” another. A thankful Karre will go to the home of his benefactor and sit on the ground before his hut. No word need be spoken; his silent vigil signifies his gratitude. The man who is thankful to God, therefore, sits before God to enjoy his presence. He is never satisfied merely to tip his hat to God as he passes; gratitude demands that he seek God’s presence and fellowship
. —Roger William Thomas

And we should respond to God’s presence with worship:

Psalm 100:2 - Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.

All of our responses to the presence of the Lord are summed up in worship. For all the Lord has done for us, we ought to worship Him. Since God inhabits the praises of His people, worship creates a cycle of His presence for us to dwell with Him in. Worship is the climax, the hallelujah chorus of experiencing the presence of the Lord. Glory! Glory in His presence. Glory to God in the highest!

Christmas is more than presents. It is, or should be, about the presence of God. It is about Immanuel, God with us, the presence of God. I pray you have a merry Christmas presence. God bless.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tell The Washington Post: "Stop Supporting Smithsonian Smut!"

The Smithsonian Institute is showing an "art" exhibit entitled "Hide and Seek" which contains blasphemous and immoral images including a portrait of ants crawling on a crucified Christ. The Media Research Center is facilitating efforts to take a stand against this garbage. It's incredible that some contend that such perversity is actually art.

The verses that come to mind are - "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (Isaiah 5:20-21). While this is not altogether surprising given the downward spiral our nation is taking, it does not mean we should stand idly by and permit such sin to go unchallenged.

What can we do? First, I encourage you to watch the 7 minute video below of a CNN interview:

Second, I encourage you to take a stand by halting any donations to the Smithsonian you may be making. Third, I encourage you to get more information on this situation and send a protest email to the Smithsonian by going to the following link (cut/paste link to your browser) -

Keep it all in prayer and take a stand. God bless you all.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Compromising Our Military with Don't Ask / Don't Tell

Watch this video interview between Tony Perkins of Family Research Council and General Clark Mundy former commandant of the Marines and member of the Joint Chiefs. General Mundy gives insight into the danger of repealing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy concerning homosexuals in the military. Keep it all in prayer and contact your legislator.

Why Did Jesus Come?

Christmas has become such a busy time of year with decorations, parties, shopping, cooking and such. There is a magazine called Garbage magazine and years ago it gave the following stats about Christmas:

Americans used 28,497,464 rolls and sheets of wrapping paper, 16,826,362 packages of tags and bows, 372,430,684 greeting cards, and 35,200,000 Christmas trees during the 1989 Christmas season. Garbage Magazine, quoted in Signs of the Times, 12-1991, p. 7.

Who can doubt that the garbage produced by Christmas today is even greater? Jesus didn’t come to produce garbage. But why did He come?

With all the activity it is easy to forget about the meaning of Christmas, the reason for the season. Why did He come? Why did Jesus come? If we really want to know the reason for the season we should go to Jesus and see what He said. What did Jesus say was the purpose of His coming? The specific phrase, “I have come” (in which Jesus indicates why He came), is uttered by Jesus 10 times in the gospels. Let’s look at what Jesus said about why He came.

Why did Jesus come? Jesus came to give a message. Jesus said, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”(Mark 1:38; Luke 4:43). He came to preach. Jesus even gave the content of His message saying He came to bear witness to the truth (which is the word of God according to Him - John 17:17). He said, “. . . for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37). Have you heard His message of truth and have you received it by faith?

Jesus didn’t only communicate His message verbally, but He communicated it by His nature. Jesus said He came in His Father’s name: “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.” (John 5:43). To come in someone’s name meant you came as a representative; you came in a way to convey the will and nature of that person. Jesus came in His Father’s name in that He revealed the nature of God because He was and is God in the flesh (John 1:1-2,14; 10:30; 14:6-11; Colossians 1:19; 2:9-10). That is the real communication of Christmas.

Why did Jesus come? Jesus came to divide. It is common to think that Jesus came to unite, but in fact Jesus’ own words indicate He came for just the opposite purpose; He came to divide. The evidence of this provocative statement is found in Matthew 10:34 where it states, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” Jesus goes on to say that there would be family division because of Him (see Matthew 10:34-39). Family gatherings at Christmas can often erupt into all out war. But the tension and stress and division Jesus is talking about here is not caused by family squabbles or wrong or bad gifts, it is caused by taking a stand with Jesus.

Our hearts are often filled with divided loyalties. We are divided between the world and Jesus; our own self centered desires (lusts) versus our relationship with Jesus. In the process of change for the better, for something to be made right, it must often first be broken down. Sometimes before peace comes, there is a battle, even a war (e.g. Before Romans 8, there is a Romans 7). A divided heart has to be broken before it can receive what God has for it (Joel 2:12-14). Jesus is either Lord of all in your life or He is not Lord at all. For Jesus to do His work in your heart, in your life and beyond that to your family and loved ones, He must be first and Lord. If Jesus is not Lord in your life, when He gives instruction by the Holy Spirit, you may not follow it, or you may only partially follow it and make things worse than they already are. You have to lose your life in Him. You have to totally trust in Jesus for Him to work effectively in you (Acts 8:37).

A time will come when we will need to take a stand for Jesus in the presence of our unsaved family members and friends. We are not to take such a stand in and unloving insensitivity or harshness. That would bring shame to the name of Jesus. But we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15; 1 Peter 3:15-16). We need to put Jesus first and care more for the lost souls of family members than merely keeping the peace or status quo of Christmas. That is the real challenge of Christmas.

Why did Jesus come? Jesus came to do God’s will. Early in His ministry and life Jesus said: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38). To accomplish God’s will Jesus would have to give His life as a ransom, a payment to God’s justice for the penalty of sin (Matthew 26:36-46; Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21). It is because of Jesus’ obedience and sacrifice that we can be saved from our sin (1 John 1:7, 9; 2:1-2). That is the real compassion of Christmas.

Why did Jesus come? Jesus came “for judgment,” to be the deciding factor in life. Jesus said: “For judgment I have come into this world, . . . ” (John 9:39a). Not everyone accepts that Jesus is God or even that they are separated from God because of their sin. Jesus came as the deciding factor; He came that those who are genuinely seeking can find eternal life in Him and that those who are playing games will be exposed for their hypocrisy. Jesus is the fulcrum, the watershed, the deciding factor in your eternal destiny. What you do with Jesus will determine whether or not you remain lost in or are saved from your sin. Give Jesus your heart; trust your heart to Him and He will give you a new heart suited for eternal life with Him (Jeremiah 17:9-10; Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26). That is the real call of Christmas.

Why did Jesus come? Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. The result of Jesus sacrifice was to disarm Satan and ultimately all his works. The New Testament says: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8; see also Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14). Never forget that you are in a spiritual (Ephesians 6:10-18). Satan is a loser and he knows it. But he still has some fight in him. Christmas time is a battle of the bulge in more ways than one. That is the real combat of Christmas.

Why did Jesus come? Jesus came to comfort the hurting. Remember, though there is often pain in following Jesus, He will not let you be tested beyond what you are able (1 Corinthians 10:13) and He will not allow you to be broken beyond repair. Whatever breaking God allows in your life will be used for His good purposes (Romans 8:28-29). Of Jesus it was said, “A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20; Isaiah 42:3). Trust Jesus with everything. That is the real comfort of Christmas.

Why did Jesus come? Jesus came to serve and redeem the lost world. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45; see also John 3:16-21). Jesus said: “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). Some go on search and destroy missions; Jesus went on a search, save and disciple mission. And we are called to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). That is the real commitment of Christmas.

That is why Jesus came, that mission was begun at Christmas, the birth of Jesus. Jesus came a long way for you and me. Jesus gave a lot for us; He gave His life so that you and I and every sinner could be brought out of darkness into God’s light and experience salvation from our sin, by God’s grace through faith in Jesus. Has His mission been accomplished in you? Jesus has a gift that surpasses any Christmas gift you’ve ever known, life in Him. To receive that gift of life is as easy as ABC, all you have to do is:

Admit you are a sinner (like all humans are) – Romans 3:23. Understand that sin left unattended to will lead first to physical death and then eternal death (eternal separation from God) – Romans 6:23a; Ezekiel 18:4. Turn from your sinful life to Jesus and God will give you a fresh start (Acts 2:38).

Believe and receive Jesus as your Savior (Romans 6:23b; Romans 8:9-10). Don’t depend on your works, they can’t deal with your sin, depend on Jesus; Jesus completed work on the cross is what deals with sin (Ephesians 2:8-19; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Titus 3:5).

Commit your life wholeheartedly to Him; live for Him (Acts 2:42; 8:37; Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6).

M.R. Dehaan, founder of the Radio Bible Class wrote the following poem that is a good summation of the reason Jesus came.

Can This Be Christmas

What's all this hectic rush and worry?
Where go these crowds who run and scurry?
Why all the lights -- the Christmas trees?
The jolly "fat man," tell me please!

Why, don't you know? This is the day
For parties and for fun and play;
Why this is Christmas!

So this is Christmas, do you say?
But where is Christ this Christmas day?
Has He been lost among the throng?
His voice drowned out by empty song?

No. He's not here -- you'll find Him where
Some humble soul now kneels in prayer,
Who knows the Christ of Christmas.

But see the many aimless thousands
Who gather on this Christmas Day,
Whose hearts have never yet been opened,
Or said to Him, "Come in to stay."

In countless homes the candles burning,
In countless hearts expectant yearning
For gifts and presents, food and fun,
And laughter till the day is done.

But not a tear of grief or sorrow
For Him so poor He had to borrow
A crib, a colt, a boat, a bed
Where He could lay His weary head.

I'm tired of all this empty celebration,
Of feasting, drinking, recreation;
I'll go instead to Calvary.

And there I'll kneel with those who know
The meaning of that manger low,
And find the Christ -- this Christmas.

I leap by faith across the years
To that great day when He appears
The second time, to rule and reign,
To end all sorrow, death, and pain.

In endless bliss we then shall dwell
With Him who saved our souls from hell,
And worship Christ -- not Christmas!

God bless you with His coming and have a meaningful Spirit filled Christmas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Just in Time

Christmas is a busy time of year. We decorate both inside and out of our homes. We shop, shop, shop, and then wrap, wrap, and wrap some more. Then we hide it all and wait for the unwrapping frenzy. We take time to visit and to prepare for visitors. We rush here and rush there. We try to fit church into all of it but too often it is crowded out. There’s so much to do and so little time. Christmas is about timing. It’s been like that from the beginning.

God in His word says there is a time for everything (Eccl. 3:1). God has a plan. He has a plan for this universe, for nations and a plan for each individual (e.g. Jeremiah 29:11-13). God is orderly not chaotic (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). He is not a fly by the seat of the pants God. God works things out in intricate details. God does things with perfect timing. The incarnation of Jesus is a perfect example of this.

We can take tremendous encouragement and hope from God’s orderliness. At times in life it seems as though things are out of control. We can’t make rhyme nor reason out of the events of life. But we can be sure that God is in control and He does have a plan that He is working out.

It’s true that it seems as though God stretches the faith of His people by waiting until the last possible moment to bring rescue and reason to the events of life. But even when things get harry, we can rest assured that God has a plan and just in time He will assert His will and authority to fulfill that plan.

When I was a young boy I used to like to watch westerns. Roy Rogers and his faithful horse Trigger were favorites of mine. The Long Ranger and Tonto were also high on my list of must-see programs. I also enjoyed Rin Tin Tin the German Shepherd dog. All of these characters had one thing in common that made them all worth watching. You knew that no matter how bad things looked, they would always save the day just in time.

You may feel as though you’re in a hopeless situation. No matter how hopeless things look, God has a plan, God is in control, and God will save the day just in time. That doesn’t mean we won’t suffer loss. God’s plan and our plan conflict at times. What we have to remember in such situations is that God’s plan is the best plan. We have to trust the Lord’s leading and plan, even if it means we have to suffer in some way. God’s ultimate plan is to conform us to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). That can be painful at times. But it is always worth it to wait on the Lord for we are His poetry, a beautiful work of art (Ephesians 2:10).

As we mentioned before, Jesus is a perfect example of how God works. What might seem as though it is just in time to us is only the fullness of time to the Lord and His plan. And the fullness of time of the Lord is always just the right time. That’s what the apostle Paul is inspired to write in his letter to the Galatians where he states:

Galatians 4:4-7 – “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he argues against the idea that a person can make themselves righteous before God by keeping the law by good works. He argues that a person is justified through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16). He also argues that once a person is saved that they do not rely on their own effort and strength anymore than they did to be saved, but instead rely on the Spirit in them “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 3 and 5).

But these two verses from Galatians capture the awesome plan of God that at just the right time God sent Jesus to redeem the world. These verses tell us some very incredible things about God and His plan.

The Fullness of God’s Time

There is a time set by God for all things (Ecclesiastes 3). God is not One to dilly dally or meander around with no regard for timing. No, not at all, God keeps a schedule for His sovereign plans.

Historically it was just the right time for Jesus to come. Two commentators make the following observations about the timing of when Jesus came to be God with us”:

The proper time had arrived for both God and man. The time appointed by the Father and foretold by the prophets. It was a time of outward prosperity and inward corruption. The religions of the world were spiritually bankrupt, devoid of power to change men’s lives, and had degenerated into feeble superstitions and meaningless rituals.

This “time” was when the Roman civilization had brought peace and a road system which facilitated travel; when the Grecian civilization provided a language which was adopted as the lingua franca of the empire; when the Jews had proclaimed monotheism and the messianic hope in the synagogues of the Mediterranean world.
Prophetically it was just the right time for Jesus to come. The coming of Jesus was in line with the timing of the removal from the Jewish religious leaders of the right to order capital punishment (Genesis 49:10), the prophesied forerunner (Malachi 3:21) and Daniel’s prophecy concerning Messiah’s triumphal entry (Daniel 9:24-27).

God Sent His Son Jesus – Preexistent Fully God

This portion of the verse tells us that Jesus existed in eternity before His incarnation. In John’s gospel it testifies to this saying:

• John 1:1,2,14-15 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God. . . . 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”

In Paul’s letter to Timothy he burst forth with a proclamation of the eternal nature of Jesus when he was inspired to write:

• 1 Timothy 1:16-17 – “However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Born of a Woman – Fully Human

God foretold beforehand in the Bible by way of prophecy that the Messiah would be birthed uniquely, born of a virgin. We see this in the following verses:

• Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

• Isaiah 7:14 - “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

• Matthew 1:23 - “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

• Luke 1:31-35 - “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.32 “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.33 “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

The significance of this is expressed in the following observation in a commentary:

“This does not mean, however, that Jesus’ humanity is only a display case for His divinity. Jesus lived out His human life by experiencing all the pressures, temptations, and limitations that we experience (Heb. 2:18; 4:15; 5:2, 7–8). That is why Jesus’ life really is the supreme human success story (Heb. 5:8). Jesus was a pioneer (Heb. 2:10, NRSV), showing in practical terms the full meaning and possibility of human life, lived in obedience to God. In this respect, Jesus is a kind of second Adam (Rom. 5:14–15), marking a new beginning for the human race.
Jesus would have performed a great work if He had done no more than set a perfect example. But His full humanity is also the basis on which it is possible for Him to represent us—indeed, take our place—in dying for us. The Bible makes this clear when it speaks of “one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5–6).”

Born Under the Law – A Jew

Jesus fulfilled and submitted to every requirement of the Law pertaining to His birth and calling (Luke 2:21-27; Matthew 3:13-15).

To Redeem Those Under the Law – Under the Curse of the Law

Earlier in Galatians Paul explains this truth when he is inspired to write:

• Galatians 3:10-13 – “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),”

Each person who has yet to be saved from their sin is under a curse of death (Romans 6:23). It’s as though those who have yet to deal with their sin are prone in a guillotine looking up at a blade that is about to fall and slice away any hope of averting that curse. The curse of sin holds people in a dark state of being which is destined to spiral out of control into an ever more depraved sinful state (Romans 1:18-32).

You may be in such a state. It begins with total unawareness of being under the curse of sin. That’s because the god of this world (Satan) has blinded you to your sinful predicament (2 Corinthians 4:4). The beginning of the good news for you is that the Holy Spirit is reaching out to you to convict you and make you aware of your sinful cursed state (John 16:8-11). God’s desire is to turn you from your dark condition to the light of His word’; to show you that you are under the power of Satan but that there is a way to be saved from that by turning to God in faith. God has a rich inheritance waiting for you. All you have to do is trust Him to receive it (Acts 26:18; John 1:12).

In Galatians 3:10-13 is inspired to reveal that the curse is clearly exposed by people’s inability to obey the entire perfect law of God. God is holy, just and good. Heaven is His abode and heaven is holy. God will never allow any sin into heaven because sin is like cancer, it spreads and grows worse by nature. God’s Law is holy (Romans 7:12). To prove our righteousness and worthiness for heaven some people seek to keep that perfect Law of God. But that is impossible. No can “continue in all things which are written in the book of the laws, to do them.” That puts us in a serious predicament as we are barred from heaven because of the curse of our sinfulness. But God has provided a way to deal with this sinful cursed state. We can be made “just” if we put our faith in God (3:11). Saving faith is described with the acronym Forsaking All I Trust Him. As Paul explains, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),” (3:13). The curse of sin is death. But Jesus took our curse when He died on the cross (“the tree”). He is our Substitute (“having become a curse for us”). He has “redeemed” us, or paid off our penalty and all we need to do to receive the benefits of that saving work of Jesus is to put our FAITH in Him and accept His work on our behalf. Paul put it this way in another letter, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus did this just in time. His redemptive work is just in time for those who have yet to receive Him as their Savior. God gives you the opportunity to be freed from this curse of sin now. But beyond now all bets are off and there are no further guarantees. The Bible says that “Now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). “Now” is just the right time for you to be saved from the curse of sin. “Now” is just in time for you.

That We Might Receive The Adoption as Sons – The Purpose of Jesus

The benefits of salvation are not only salvation from the curse of sin. God always goes above and beyond what we deserve. That is what the grace of God is all about (see “much more” in Romans 5). There is a rich inheritance awaiting those who receive Jesus as Savior.

Under Romans law a child that was adopted into a family had all the rights of a natural born child of that family. There was total equality between natural born and adopted children in the family.

While Jesus is the “only begotten Son of God” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; 1 John 4:9), we can be adopted into God’s family. We will never be equal to Jesus in the sense that we become “God.” Mormons and New Age followers teach human beings can become “God.” No, we will never become “God” but we can experience the rich blessings of having God as our Father (2 Corinthians 6:18). This is God’s promise to those who put their faith in Jesus (Romans 9:8; Galatians 3:29). This adoption is attained through faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:7, 26). This adoption is purely provided by the grace of God (Romans 4:16, 17; Ephesians 1:5, 6, 11). Jesus is the One through whom this adoption can be worked (John 1:12; Galatians 4-5; Ephesians 1:5; Hebrews 2:10, 13). The Holy Spirit in a person is the evidence of having been adopted by the Lord (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). The Holy Spirit bears witness in our hearts when we have been put into this adoptive position with God (Romans 8:16). And being led by the Holy Spirit in life is tangible evidence that we are God’s adopted children (Romans 8:14). When we are adopted into God’s family, we become the brethren of Jesus (John 20:17; Hebrews 2:11-12). Just think of that!

As adopted sons of God we experience the discipline and guidance of God. Indeed the discipline of God is evidence that we are adopted children of God and that He loves us (Hebrews 12:5-11). God’s desire for His adopted children is that they live holy lives (2 Corinthians 6:17-18; 7:1; Philippians 2:15; 1 John 3:2-3).

What does living a holy life mean? It means we will begin to become like our Father in heaven (Ephesians 5:1). It means we trust in God with a child like faith (Matthew 6:25-34). It means we will live to glorify God (Matthew 5:16). It means we will love to speak to our Father in prayer (Matthew 7:7-11). It means we will be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and have a forgiving and merciful spirit about us (Matthew 6:14, 35-36). Children of God seeking to live holy lives wont’ be hypocritical and ostentatious (Matthew 6:1-4, 6, 18).

The children of God have a rich inheritance to look forward to (Matthew 13:43; Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; 4:17; Ephesians 3:6). What we experience now in this life through our adoptive relationship with the heavenly Father is only the tip of the ice burg of our inheritance in Christ (see Ephesians 1:3ff.).

God’s sons are Spirit-filled

Paul goes on to describe more of the awesome benefits of being an adopted son of God saying, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (4:6).

The night before Jesus went to the cross He met with His disciples and one of the last things He taught them about before He went to the cross was about the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples that He was going to pray to the Father and that “another Helper” (literally “one just like Him”) would come to abide with them forever. Jesus said:

• John 14:16-17 – “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”

Jesus used two prepositions in the above passage to describe the relationship of the Holy Spirit with people. The Holy Spirit is “with” a person prior to conversion communicating God’s “truth” and persuading them of their need of salvation. The Holy Spirit comes “in” a person when they accept Jesus as Savior by faith and are born again. The Spirit comes “in” a person to regenerate them with eternal life.

Before we can examine the three works of the Spirit in the life of the believer, we need to consider the work of the Spirit in the unbeliever. The Spirit begins the work of salvation in the unbeliever by convicting the unbeliever of their need of salvation. Once saved, the Spirit begins the sanctifying process.

The Spirit’s Work in the Unbeliever – The Spirit “with” you

The first work of the Spirit in the unbeliever and the world is that of a Restrainer. The Spirit works through the church to restrain evil in the world so that the world is not totally overcome with evil. This is supported by the following verses:

• 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 – “And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time.7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.”

“He who now restrains” is s reference to the Holy Spirit and His work in the world. The Holy Spirit creates an environment where evil is checked enough to allow a person to exert free will to make a decision regarding salvation.

The second work of the Spirit in regards to the unbeliever is that of Convictor. The Spirit convicts the unbeliever of their need of a Savior. Jesus defined this work of the Spirit with the following words:

• John 16:8-11 - “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:9 “of sin, because they do not believe in Me;10 “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;11 “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judge.”

The Holy Spirit “convicts.” The word “convict” is translated from the Greek term ELEGCHO (Strong’s #1651 - ελέγχω elegcho, el-eng´-kho) meaning, “to confute, admonish; convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove.” The idea conveyed by the word ELEGCHO is to “expose; refute, show one’s fault, [and] . . . convincing of that fault.” We find the sense of this term in the following verses:

• John 3:20 - “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

• Ephesians 5:11 – “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”

• 1 Timothy 5:20 – “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”

• James 2:9 – “but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

• Jude 14-15 – “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints,15 “to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

• Revelation 3:19 - “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”

What is it that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of or exposes? The Holy Spirit convicts the unsaved world of three things.

First, “of sin because they do not believe in Me.” Jesus paid the penalty (death) for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2); the sin that dams to hell is rejecting the Spirit’s plea to accept Jesus as Savior (Mt. 12:31 – also called the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit). A persons’ eternal destiny is determined by whether or not they believe in Jesus. This is what the Spirit convicts the world of.

Second, “of righteousness because I go to My Father.” Jesus died for the sins of the world and was raised from the dead. His resurrection indicates God was satisfied with His sacrifice for sin. Jesus then ascended to heaven and was seated at the right hand of God demonstrating that He is the standard and only acceptable means by which a person can enter heaven (Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33; 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:11-18; 1 Peter 3:22). The Spirit convicts the world that works are inadequate to make one righteous and gain access to heaven because the standard of righteousness is Jesus, nothing less will be acceptable. Nicodemas was a very religious man but Jesus said he needed to be born again (John 3). The Holy Spirit exposes the futility of trying to do religious works to make oneself acceptable before God.

Third, “of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged.” The Holy Spirit convicts the world that the god of this world, Satan was judged on the cross of Christ (Colossians 2:13-17). The hold of Satan on the unbeliever can be broken when a person accepts Jesus as Savior because when Jesus comes into a heart He is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4).

That is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the unbeliever. What does the Holy Spirit do in the life of a believer?

The Three Transforming Works of the Spirit in the Believer

There are three things the Holy Spirit does in the life of a believer to transform them to the likeness of Jesus Christ. There are three transforming works of the Spirit in the believer. They are as follows.

The first thing the Holy Spirit does in the life of a believer is INDWELLING them at conversion. This is the “in” (Greek EN) experience referred to in John 14:17. In John 3 this work is described as being “born again.” Later in John 4:13-14 Jesus describes this experience as drinking “living water” that quenches the thirst for spiritual fulfillment in every human. In John 20:22 Jesus further describes this experience as receiving the Holy Spirit when He breathes on the disciples and tells them to receive the Spirit. Disciples received the Holy Spirit as Jesus breathed on them. When the Holy Spirit comes to reside inside a person (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), the process (sanctification) of being conformed to the likeness of Christ begins and continues throughout life (Romans 8:29). The Spirit bears witness and communicates the heart and truth of Jesus to the believer (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14). We are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). He works in us (Philippians 2:13). The power of the risen Lord Jesus is in us and it is the Spirit that brings that power to us (Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-21). The love of Jesus works in us by the presence of the Holy Spirit in us (Romans 5:5). All these things are associated with the work of the Spirit in us.

The second thing the Holy Spirit does in the life of the believer is EMPOWERING the believer for service. As the believer is conformed to the likeness of Jesus by the Spirit, like Jesus the believer acquires a desire to be used by God to reach the lost in the world, to minister (Matthew 18:11; Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10). This is the “upon” (Greek preposition EPI) experience described by Jesus as torrents of living water gushing forth from the believer and as dynamic empowerment of the believer (John 7:37-39; Acts 1:8). In order to minister like Jesus, the believer needs to be empowered by God. If the believer seeks to serve in his or her own strength they will be frustrated and fail (Romans 7). They need to be supernaturally empowered and the Spirit provides that power. This power is invisible like the wind but powerful like a tornado (Acts 2). It is a fiery, purifying and cleansing of the heart by God. The believer surrenders their heart to God in faith trusting Him to work to destroy those challengers and hindrances to total trust in God (Acts 2; 15:8-9). The cleansing work of this empowerment attacks inhibitions and barriers between God and the believer. There is an essential empowerment for service subsequent to initial Spirit filling (Acts 1:8; 2). This empowerment involves Spiritual Gifting (Ephesians 4:7-13). This empowerment is the sufficiency of God’s grace revealed powerfully in our weakness (2 Corinthians. 12:9-10). The love of God working not only in us but also through us. This is the second work of the Spirit in the life of the believer.

The third work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is that of ONGOING REFRESHING. The believer needs to be refilled or daily renewed and filled with the Spirit who refreshes and empowers. Those empowered at Pentecost were refilled later (Acts 4). There are subsequent re-fillings and refreshing by the Spirit in the believer’s life. The sense of this ongoing third work is found in Paul’s inspired letter to the Ephesians when he states:

• Ephesians 5:18 – “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,”

The word “filled” is translated from the Greek term PLEROO (Strong’s #4137 - πληρόω pleroo, play-ro´-o) meaning ”to make replete, . . .to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), . . . to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), verify . . . accomplish, . . . complete, end, expire, fill (up), fulfill, (be, make) full (come), fully preach, perfect, supply.” In addition to this definition, the grammatical form of the term “filled” (Present/Passive/Imperative) conveys the thought of an ongoing and constant (Present tense) work that the believer receives or has done to them (Passive voice) that is absolutely essential (Imperative mood). Therefore, to “be filled with the Spirit” means to be constantly, regularly, daily filled up, satisfied, furnished and supplied with the Spirit for one’s daily needs and God-ordained plans.

The impact of such a daily filling is conveyed in the book of Acts where those who had experienced the empowerment of the Spirit at Pentecost again pray for this ongoing empowerment and refreshing. In Acts it reads:

• Acts 4:31 - “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”

The New Transforming Life of the Spirit

This is the newness of the Spirit Paul is inspired to refer to in Romans 7:6. Is the Spirit in you? If you do not have the Spirit, you do not belong to God, you remain in your sins (Romans 8:9). Pray for forgiveness for your sins; put your faith in Jesus; receive the Holy Spirit and be born again.

Have you been empowered to serve the Lord? Are you frustrated and failing in your walk with God? Pray for His power and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Receive it by faith.

Have you been empowered but feel as though you’re running on empty? Pray for a refreshing and refilling of the Spirit in your life. Walk in the Spirit, filled and refreshed daily and receive this regular daily work by faith. Faithful is He who calls you to this and He will do it! (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Sanctified Transformation by Faith

The primary distinction that needs to be made and upon which all success rests, is for the believer to realize that SANCTIFICATION AS WELL AS SALVATION IS BASED ON FAITH. Sanctification is something God does in us. In Paul’s opening inspired words he introduced this point by saying:

• Romans 1:17 – “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

As we mentioned in the introduction to this epistle, God offers salvation to us in a gracious provision through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. A person is saved from their sin when by faith in Jesus Christ they admit their sin, repent of it, and accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Sanctification is no different in that advance with the Lord in the power of the Holy spirit by faith, by putting our trust in God to do what He has promised to do in and through us which is, conform us to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29) and use us as His instruments of righteousness to reach a world lost in sin (Romans 12-16).

Read the role of faith in God’s work in us in the sanctification process of life described in the following additional verses:

• Acts 15:8-9 - “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us,9 “and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”

• Acts 26:18 – “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”

• Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

• Galatians 5:5 – “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”

The sanctifying process of God in the believer takes place as the believer puts their faith and trust in God to do it. We surrender in faith to the Holy Spirit to do His holy work in and through us.

Not a slave but a son and heir

Paul concludes in verse seven saying, “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” A slave is forced to obey, a son obeys out of love for the Father. A slave is motivated by judgment, a son is motivated by love (1 John 4:17). This is a key distinction to make in the life of the believer. A slave depends on his own strength, a son depends on and looks to his father’s strength and authority. A slave does not operate int eh fullness of the benefits of the Father, a son does. Are you motivated by a fear of judgment or by the love of God?

How can we know if we are operating in the fullness of the Father’s benefits, in the fullness of the Holy Spirit in us? In Galatians five Paul contrasts “the works of the flesh” with the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:19-26). These verses tell us that love is the difference. Paul writes a great deal about love in his letters (e.g. Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 13; 2 Corinthians 5:14-16; Ephesians 3:13-21). When we rely on our own strength like a slave the end product is often something that either looks like or is what is described in the Galatians 5 list of the “works of the flesh”:

Galatians 5:19-21 - 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

That’s not a pretty picture. But that is exactly what we see in the world around us and too often in the church itself! Are you working in the flesh, in your own strength? If you are these things will crop up in some way in either thought, word or deed.

The fruit of the Spirit are wholly different:

Galatians 5:22-26 - 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

There is often some confusion in the understanding of this passage. Notice the word “fruit” is singular. Paul is not giving a list of fruits. The plural word “fruits” is found elsewhere in the New Testament (Matthew 3:8; 7:16, 20; 21:41, 43; Luke 3:8; 2 Corinthians 9:10; Philippians 1:11; James 3:17; and Revelation 22:2). But the singular “fruit’ is used by Paul here. Therefore, Paul is not inspired to give us a list of different fruits of the Spirit, but rather a full description of different aspects of the fruit of the Spirit which is love.

I came across an interesting comment on the fruit of the Spirit. I found it in a small pocket Bible where it states:

“The fruit of the Spirit is love.” Only as we live in love can we fulfill the will of God in our lives. The believer must become love-inspired; love-mastered, and love-driven . . . .Without the fruit of the Spirit (love), we are just a religious noise . . . .

“The fruit of the Spirit is love,” and it is manifested in joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control:

1. Joy is love’s strength.
2. Peace is love’s security.
3. Longsuffering is love’s patience.
4. Kindness is love’s conduct.
5. Goodness is loves character.
6. Faithfulness is love’s confidence.
7. Gentleness is love’s humility.
8. Self-control is love’s victory.

A Holy Spirit-controlled man needs no law to cause him to live a righteous life. The secret of a Spirit-c0ontrolled life is found in dedication to God. Put your all on the altar, and the Holy Spirit will fill your heart with the love of God.”

All of this is what God wants to work in you. Isn’t it awesome? Isn’t it magnificent? And if you haven’t experienced the rich blessings of our inheritance as adopted children of God, now is just the right time for you to do so. God is reaching out to you. He may be reaching out to you just in time. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. No further opportunity is guaranteed or promised. Now is the time of salvation. Now, just in time, God is offering you the chance of a life time. In fact your eternal destiny is in the balance. Just in time God has come to save the day for you. Take His hand and join His family. Just in time is the right time for you to do this.