Sunday, July 22, 2018

We Can Know and Believe God's Will for Us

"13Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:13-17)



A friend of mine, a fellow brother in the Body of Christ, often says "The Lord willing", or "God willing" about events that will come his way in the future. He referred to the above passage in the Epistle of James in the New Testament.

I didn't find rest in those statements, because we have many promises in Scripture about a good, hopeful end for ourselves, and we don't have to wonder:

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." (Jeremiah 29:11)

In the proverbs, we learn:

"But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Proverbs 4:18)

How about the promises we have in the New Testament:

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)

and then

"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Romans 8:37)

And let's not forget this wonderful passage:

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all." (Psalm 34:19)

Paul the Apostle would claim the above promise for himself in his final epistle, the his second letter to Timothy:

"Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me." (2 Timothy 3:11)

So, whats going on?

Let's consider the audience based on previous sections of the passage.

First, James writes:

"4Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God." (James 4:4)

Believers in Christ Jesus are no longer sinners. They are saints, their are beloved children (cf. Romans 8:15), heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ Jesus (Romans 8:17).

Also, keep in mind that James writes his letter "to the twelve tribes scattered abroad" (James 1:1).

He is writing to a Jewish audience, and there are Jews who believe in Jesus, and there are Jews who do not believe in Jesus yet--and there are Jews who are trying to hold onto the law while believe in Jesus. It cannot be that way.

Hence the term "adulterers" in James 4:4, and why James refers to double-minded twice in his letter (James 1:8; 4:8)

James' exhortation is to unbelieving Jews, or to Jews who are caught between Moses and Christ Jesus, not settling in believing on the Son of God fully.

Also, bear in mind that James is indicting those who boast about their future, who declare based on their own efforts and intellect that they will "do this or that". James is not writing about believers in Christ Jesus. We can know God's will for us, in fact:

"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 2)

"Rejoice evermore. 17Pray without ceasing. 18In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

We can know and believe God's will for us. We do not have to fear the future, nor should we fear that our lives will be lost or taken from us all of a sudden. We have Jesus, our High Priest Forever, and all the blessings which come with Him (Ephesians 1:6).

Saturday, July 21, 2018

God Defends Us, Even When It's Our Fault

"The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;" (Psalm 20:1)



God is not just interested in defending us.

He wants to promote us!

The word "defend" is "sagav" in the original Hebrew, and it means "to lift up, to defend, to exalt."

He places us high above the troubles and promotes us, grants us His glory at the same time.

In fact, today, because of all that Jesus has done, we are seated in heavenly places in Christ, at the right hand of the Father:

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:" (Ephesians 2:4-6)

Now, notice how David refers to God as "The God of Jacob."

Let's recall that the name Jacob means "Supplanter", or "cheater."

He gained the First-Born blessing by deceiving his father. When Esau was approaching him and his family, Jacob put the least favored wife and the maids ahead of his favored wife Rachel. He also wrestled with God, trying to force outcomes to work his way through his efforts, rather than trusting in God's grace. When the prince of Shechem and his man capture his daughter and raped her, Jacob was willing to give away his daughter in marriage rather than defend her honor and wage justice against the prince of Shechem. His two sons Simeon and Levi would wipe out the entire city. Instead of remaining content that his sons had done something to restore the honor of their sister and his daughter, Jacob selfishly mourned:

"Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house." (Genesis 34:40)

Yet for all his failings, for all his falling and his folly, God continued to bless, favor, and promote Jacob and his family and his descendants.

God does not bless us for anything that we have done. God does not look out for us because we deserve it. God looks out for us because He is good, and because He is gracious.

Consider Jacob's prayer before Esau's arrival:

"9And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the LORD which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: 10I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands." (Genesis 32: 9-10)

Jacob threw himself on God's grace. He didn't deserve anything. He just said "God, Help me!"

Then notice what Jacob credited for all the good that had come to him:

"10And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. 11Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it." (Genesis 33:10-11)

Because the LORD is "The God of Jacob", He blesses and cares for us even when our own wrongdoing has hurt us. He will lift us up, promote us and protect us because of His grace, not our goodness, not our efforts, and even our predicament is our fault.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Redemption is About Everlasting Grace

"8In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer." (Isaiah 54:8)



God is all about grace, and His grace is everlasting, eternal.

Notice that Isaiah prophesies about this everlasting kindness, or "chesed" in the original Hebrew, right after he speaks about Jesus our suffering Messiah, who was crushed for iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace (cf. Isaiah 53)

The grace that we receive from Christ Jesus is not a one-time thing, either.

Paul invites us to receive and keep receiving the twin gifts of righteousness and grace: 

"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17)

and also

"Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:" (Romans 5:20)

Notice that whatever the sin, the failure, the cause of God's wrath may have been, God's grace is overbounding, overflowing, ready to wash over us all the more and bless us!

"But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." (Amos 5:24)

We have been redeemed in Christ Jesus, and let us never stop receiving His everlasting grace!

"10For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee." (Isaiah 54:10)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Grace of God is the Whole Counsel of God

God is all about Grace.

We see that God wanted to bless, bless, and bless again in the very beginning.

"In the Beginning, God created the heaven and the earth."

"created" is the word "Bara". In Hebrew, "Barack" is the word "to bless".

Creation, blessing, all of it is wrapped up together.

God provided everything before He had even created man.

Now, let's fastforward to the Book of Acts.

Before Paul would leave for Jerusalem, he told the elders of Ephesus that he would never see them again.

He outlined for them what was the principal issue to preach and teach when it comes to Jesus:

"24But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24)

Notice that the Gospel is all about Grace.



A few verses before this statement, Paul says:

"Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21)

The Gospel is for Jews and Greeks. There is no partiality with God, for He desires that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4).

Repentance is all about believing in Jesus Christ. Notice that repentance is not about screaming and yelling, saying a bunch of "I'm sorry" and "Please forgive me"s. We need to change our minds (the literal meaning of the original Greek word "metanoia) about God, we need to realize that God is no longer mad at us for our sins because His Son became sin, that we would be made the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Paul mentions the grace of God once again before departing:

"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." (Acts 20:32)

The whole counsel of God is wrapped up in God's Grace.

From the outside, God provided and inclined for man to receive all things from Him.

And then at the very end, we read from John the Beloved Apostle:

"21The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." (Acts 22:21)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Our Minds Can Rest: Jesus Did a Perfect Work

The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) when we confess our sins--that does not mean that we must keep on confessing.

For the Jewish mind throughout the Old Testament, the confession of sins was a basic acknowledgement that we have sin, that a sin nature has been imputed to us because of Adam.

Today, we are in Christ, friend from the sin and condemnation of Adam.

Check out what 1 John Chapter 2 reads, for those who still believe that 1 John 1: 9 means continual confession of sins to be forgiven:

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:1-2)

Notice that John does not say to "my little children" to confess sins to be forgiven. Remember also that throughout Paul's writings, not once does Paul charge his readers, the fellow believers in the body of Christ, to confess their sins to be forgiven.

Our minds need to be able to rest in the grace of God, that through His Son Jesus all our sins have been purged, paid for, and put away.

We find this revelation in Isaiah:



"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." (Isaiah 26:3)

The word "stayed" is first mentioned in the verse below:

"And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?" (Genesis 27:37)

God is our sustainer, our provider. We need never worry about how we will get through our days, what we will do in the face of lack, because our Lord Jesus is watching out for us.

The second mention of "stay" appears in this verse:

"And thou shalt cause a bullock to be brought before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands upon the head of the bullock." (Exodus 29:10)

Here, the priests put their hands on the head of the animal sacrifice. The animal would take the sins of the man offering the sacrifice, so that the animal would be punished for the sins, and the man would leave the altar of sacrifice knowing that his sins were atoned.

Today, we have Jesus, who not only atoned, i.e. covered for our sins, but His sacrifice put away all our sins forever!

"11But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:11-14)

The blood of animals atoned for sin, but the blood of Jesus purges our conscience, that we no longer feel the need to have to do something to make ourselves right with God!

And there's more:

"4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." (Hebrews 10:4)

and then

"But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Hebrews 10:12-14)

We have forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus. We need never feel that we must punish ourselves or worry that we need to still pay for the wrong things that we have done.

For a long time, I would still have lingering panics about how I felt. "What if? What if?" still clouded my mind, and I would remember how I had felt in years past, and how I could not get out of that sense of upset and alarm for the longest time.

That is the truth warfare which plagues all of us, including Christians.

Paul was not mincing the fact that we have warfare all around us.

But our weapons against the attacks of the enemy are powerful!

"(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" (2 Corinthians 10: 4-5)

We find peace, we find full prosperity, because in our minds we have rest. We know that all our sins have been perfectly paid for at the cross, and we need never wake up and wonder every day if I still have to do something more to make sure that before God I am justified:

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Be Honest With God: Tell Him If You Don't Trust Him

"9If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

"10Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me." (Psalm 139: 9-10)



This verse is pretty compelling.

Essential, David declares that the more we try to run from God, the closer that we get to Him!

People who try to run from God, who don't want to believe in Him, but at the same time resist and fight against Him, are actually demonstrating faith in Him.

They recognize His existence.

But faith is about so much more, that we believe He is a rewarder:

"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

Now, if we are facing hard times, it's OK to admit to God that we don't trust Him, or at least that we are not sure He can accomplish a great work in our lives and in our times.

Abram asked God how He was going to grant him a grand inheritance:

"2And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?" (Genesis 15:2)

God didn't get angry with Abram, but showed him the stars in the heavens. Then God cut a covenant with Himself (through His Son Jesus) to affirm His promise.

"17And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces." (Genesis 15:17)

Let's fast-forward to the days of the prophets. Jeremiah was particularly skeptical about God's restoring the Israelites to their land, even while the Babylonians were surrounding Jerusalem.

Yet God instructed Jeremiah to redeem land from one of his relatives. Jeremiah praised God, and he acknowledged the great things that God has done for His people, and then he saw the terrible things that they had done to break their covenant with God.  After all of this, Jeremiah's concerns pierced through:

"24Behold the mounts, they are come unto the city to take it; and the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans, that fight against it, because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence: and what thou hast spoken is come to pass; and, behold, thou seest it. 25And thou hast said unto me, O Lord GOD, Buy thee the field for money, and take witnesses; for the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans." (Jeremiah 32: 24-25)

God did not shut down Jeremiah, but reminded him of who He is:

"26Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying, 27Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:26-27)

Is anything too hard for God?

Be honest with God, that you are struggling to believe that He can accomplish what you need in your life.

Jesus brought His faith in to assist the faith of a father distraught over his son:

"22and many times also it cast him into fire, and into water, that it might destroy him; but if thou art able to do anything, help us, having compassion on us.’ 23And Jesus said to him, ‘If thou art able to believe! all things are possible to the one that is believing;’ 24and immediately the father of the child, having cried out, with tears said, ‘I believe, sir; be helping mine unbelief.’" (Mark 9:22-24, Youngs)

Jesus is always believing, even when we struggle to believe. God knows our frail state, and He understands our weaknesses.

But that does not mean we cannot run to Him:



"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Look Unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of Faith

"1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12: 1-2)



It's about believing in Jesus, and seeing Him only as our source, our life, and everything else.

If we are looking at our troubles, then we are making them greater than Jesus.

And that is not faith:

"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

It is nonsensical, unthinkable that we look at our troubles and our times, as though God is not greater, able to overcome all those setbacks we face in our lives:

"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD." (Isaiah 54:17)

and then

"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Romans 8:37)

However, it's really hard to show God that we will really trust Him if everything is just fine, and then we can rest on our own resources get us through the harder times.

Pastor Brian Houston was sharing how these tough times are actually great times, because they "force" us in a way to trust Him completely.

We cannot look to our own resources if we do not have any.

We have to open our eyes and see that He who is with us is greater than the opposition that is against us:

"16And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. 17And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." (2 Kings 6:16-17)

and

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)

Do we really believe that? Can you see His resources pulling through for you, when you see that you have nothing to help you?

Do you see Him who has been from the beginning, or are you still looking at what you have?

Will you trust in God's favor, or do you insist on trusting your own fervor?

For me, I want to see and receive more of God's favor!

"Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee." (Psalm 63:3)

His Chesed Grace is far more important than our lives, because we cannot have life without His grace!

"But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Corinthians 15:10)