Let Jesus Answer the Door

Do you struggle with temptation or fear or with just serving the Lord?

Would you like to find a break through to more dynamic Christian living, a deeper and closer walk with the Lord Jesus?

I certainly want that.

About a month ago I was reading J. W. Phillips’ excellent book Pursuing a Divine Life in Chapter 12 “Getting God’s Grace,” when I read on page 210 a quotation from John Hunter’s book Limiting God:

… my daily Christian life is a moment by moment experience of receiving Christ. Whatever problem, fear, anxiety, temptation, or frustration comes into my life, it isn’t my job to meet it. My job is to expose the whole situation to Christ Jesus the Lord, and then to walk believing that what he has promised he will also perform.

Every believer has Jesus Christ within, dwelling there permanently via the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote it eloquently:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and 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 delivered Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20, NASB).

Jesus Christ within us is a powerful force.

Paul explains in this verse that he died with Christ (when He was crucified, see Romans 6), and now Jesus lives within him. So that the life Paul was living he was living by faith in Jesus the Son of God. He drew his strength, not from himself, his old man, or his flesh. He placed no confidence in himself but looked to Jesus for the power to live for Him (Hebrews 12:2; John 15:5).

I decided to try it out.

So the next time one of the old familiar temptations came against me, I remembered this teaching, and I prayed, “Lord Jesus, I can’t resist this on my own. I’m asking you to face this temptation for me.”

Death to Temptation

Right after that, that potent temptation lost its power, like a popped balloon losing its air. It was dead. Since that victory over a difficult temptation, I have been praying that prayer in so many words whenever I know I am approaching a situation when the temptation is likely to occur. Again success!

That He may be All

I had previously read a similar point in F. J. Huegel’s also excellent book Forever Triumphant (on page 55):

To the degree in which it is not I, but Christ, will the Christian be swept along by the heavenly stream of victory…Victory means a day-by-day and a moment-by-moment life of full surrender and obedience to Christ, a willingness to be nothing, that He may be All…

What a blessing!
“…by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption…” (Corinthians 1:30, NASB).  He is all that and much more, and He is in us right now, just as we are in Him right now (Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17). And we can, at any moment, by faith draw on His power, His grace, His help–and He will go to bat for us.

So when temptation comes knocking… I ask Jesus to answer the door.

Have you had or come across insights that brought break-throughs in your life?

Mentor, Tour Guide, and Confidant

Do you want more of God in your life?

Has life been difficult?

There is an easier way to live.

It depends on how you see God.

I’ve spent a lot of years learning how to write and how to paint, mainly watercolors. And I’ve wanted to pass on that knowledge to others, particuarly my grandchildren. And I have been able to at times, thankfully.

My thinking is that if I could just inspire them to find something they want to get good at and work hard at developing the skill, acquiring the knowledge, they could be really great at it by the time they made it to adulthood.  In other words, I want to mentor them. And I have at times.

But I would never want to force them to follow my advice. Instead, I want them to see the wisdom of it and choose to follow it, even dedicate themselves to following that sort of pathway, if they will.

Although God wants to be much more to us, He does want to mentor us.

Let’s say I came into some money and decide I want to take a vacation in France. Now I’ve never been there, so I decide that having a tour guide would be a good idea. That way I could have on hand some help in choosing the best spots to visit or even spend time at. I could avoid unsafe areas.

Also that guide could also fill me in with background information on places visited, maybe even some of the relevant history, as well as provide reliable directions and advice to make my stay as fulfilling as possible.

Advice I’m free to choose to follow or not.

Although its a very imperfect analogy, the Holy Spirit wants to be our tour guide.

Everyone needs a friend, someone to talk to, confide in, someone you can trust totally and who knows you and understands you. Someone you like to spend time with, fellowship with, enjoy being with.

Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24, NASB). By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God” (Hebrews 11:5, NASB).

Abraham was God’s friend (Isaiah 41:8).

David wrote those beautiful Psalms, some of them at least, while alone with God, shepherding those sheep, and at other times. He walked with God, had faith in God.

Incredibly, astoundingly, God wants to be your friend.

How do you see God?

Suffering and Rejoicing

Are you in the midst of a trial? Stress? Anxiety? The temptation to give into fear, maybe even despair?

Trouble is always tough. Suffering is never easy. It tempts us to ask, “Why? Why me? Why is this necessary?”

But there is a key way to respond to such trying times: When we learn to regard difficulties and suffering as precious—as crazy as that sounds—the way is cleared for us to move on with God and become more like Jesus. That is spiritual progress, that is growth toward maturity.

Let’s look at a passage in the Bible spells this out very clearly: 1 Peter 1:3-9

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

“Hope” comes with being born again and the belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That hope clings to the understanding of what we will be and what we are becoming right now. In the future we will have bodies like Jesus’ resurrected body. Right now we are undergoing a process—God the Holy Spirit is working in us to make us like Jesus Christ in our souls (also called sanctification).

4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

The inheritance is the goal

As a result of the completion of our salvation—the whole process, being born again, made like Christ and given a body like His—we will receive an inheritance. And that inheritance will make anything in this life currently here on earth, any worldly thing we hold precious here and now, in comparison look pitifully weak and unimportant. We will wonder why we thought it all was so important and vital to us and our happiness. Our inheritance will be eternal; it will not perish, dwindle away or become in any way less wonderful. It will be pure and holy. That inheritance is reserved in heaven for us—where our real life is (Col. 3:3).

Meanwhile, God’s power protects us

And for now, we are protected by God’s unlimited power through our ongoing faith in Him with the full unveiling of our salvation in the future, “in the last time.”

It’s never easy to go through troubles and suffering. Yet, in the midst of it all and in spite of it all, God protects us through our connection with Him, which is our faith, our belief in Jesus, our trust in God.

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

A most beautiful expression of faith is to be able to rejoice in the midst of suffering and trials. It goes against reason and worldly “wisdom” to do that.

7 that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

Metal workers have their reasons

There are two reasons that metal workers put gold in a furnace of fire: (1) to test it and show its quality and (2) to refine, purify it. (from MacLaren’s Commentary, Expositions of  Holy Scriptures, 1 Peter 1:7).

But it just doesn’t make sense!

Why, then, is this illogical rejoicing possible? It is possible when, by faith, you realize that trials and suffering are indeed precious because that very faith, as feeble as it may seem to be to you and me in the heat of such a battle, is being perfected, refined. And when your faith has be revealed by the trial to be genuine with God’s seal of approval on it, you will indeed see it as more precious that the purest gold.

8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (NASB 1977 edition)

And we have, too, this promise:

“10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10, NASB).

May we all be forewarned. Troubles will come.

But may we also be prepared to give glory to God…

…by trusting Him in the midst of it all and dare to rejoice–and even thank Him. That can bring “joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

Grace our Best Teacher

While on my exercise walk this am, I read and meditated on one of my 3×5 memory cards, this one Romans 6:12-14, and especially verse 14: “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.”

As I thought about it, I realized that grace is not only a free gift and enabling to live for God but also a “tutor.” I recalled the verses in Galatians: “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (3:23-24).

Now like a “tutor,” Grace teaches us, and salvation–all of it, justification, sanctification, glorification–comes to us in Jesus Christ, in His Grace. And it comes by faith. Even more, we learn about God through the lessons of His grace, and those lessons continue throughout life, for God is very gracious, continually gracious.

Sad when we do not realize that we are not under law but under Grace, especially when we try to earn God’s favor, try to please Him via our own efforts. Jesus Christ is our favor, and righteousness, our good standing with God, and wisdom, and faith and so much more.

And Grace is the power that enables us to “not let sin reign” (Rom. 6:12) in our mortal bodies and to enjoy serving God in the newness of life, walking a life in the power of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, beyond the way mere men walk (1 Cor. 3:3). It comes from the Grace of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 1:14; 2 Cor. 9:8; Rev. 22:21). His life is power, and we come into that power through faith.

Do you know that we can experience Resurrection life now–and to an extent even in our bodies now?: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwell in you” (Rom. 8:11).

May we realize that the way to walk in victory, the way to please God, is to surrender ego to God and know that we stand by grace alone. We can get there on our own. But because Jesus is in us and we are in Him, we can get on with the challenge of becoming in our very souls like Jesus Christ. Not by working to earn it or struggling to produce His character in us, but by believing. So that we can “know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10).

May we walk the walk of faith today and every day.

When Times are Tough, Rejoice!

Are you going through a difficult time right now? Does you life seem to be nearly falling apart? Have you have a hard experience lately?

Everyone suffers.

I read somewhere once that “all people suffer.” This life is hard at times, sometimes really hard. Don’t we all ask at times, “Why me? Why, God? Why this? Why now?”

Peter wrote to people who were suffering.

The Apostle Peter wrote to Christians who were undergoing severe persecution. They must have asked those questions too. They were undergoing “fiery trials.” They were being slandered. There was the real possibility of fearful persecution from the Roman Empire. Christians were being martyred by Nero in Rome.

Peter’s epistles are a good read for tough times.

In the following verses Peter wrote some remarkable things…

1 Peter 4:12-14:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (NASB)

Rejoice!

He advises us to rejoice! Seems crazy, doesn’t it–certainly from a this-world perspective. We’ve heard the verse so many times, “All things work together for good…” (Romans 8:29), but at times that can be hard to believe.

But Peter counsels us: Don’t be surprised when difficulties come. Instead rejoice, be rejoicing even in the midst of it. Why? So on that glorious day in the future when Jesus is fully revealed, you will be able to rejoice a lot and with exaltation in the victory you obtained by your God-pleasing attitude. “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12, NASB).

Believe God now.

You see, then we will be with the Lord, and we experience the blessings of those many trials, especially the ones we endured with a good attitude and with faith in God.  In fact, with Peter we will consider them precious…

More valuable than gold

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”  (1 Peter 1:6-9, NASB)

More precious than gold refined by fire. That’s a strong statement. How would you like to have a chest full of pure gold coins in your possession right now? That would be exciting, right?  Yet Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says those troubles we hate and all too often fear, are that precious.

Fit for Ministry

One last point: Just like Jesus, who went through the terrible suffering of His cross, can be touched by our troubles and weaknesses and is so able to help us (Heb. 2:18; 4:15), just like the Apostle Paul suffered a lot and yet, it fitted him for such an abundant ministry to believers then and now (Col. 1:24), so our troubles when we endure them with the best attitude (the rejoicing of faith) fit us to be a blessing to others.

And isn’t that a good definition of ministry: being a blessing to others?

I also read once that we should not “waste our sorrows.” How true. So let’s, you and I, remember that God is indeed in control, that we can indeed trust  Him, and set our hearts to do that. (1 Peter 4:19; Heb. 12:4-11.)

 

Believe in God, Daily Trust in Him

Ever wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep? Or, maybe it’s late and night and troublesome thoughts make it hard for you do dose off? That happens to me, and it happened the other night.

Something was disturbing about a dream, and I woke up. My pulse was throbbing, and I knew I would be awake for a while. Pondering that dream quickly lead me to fearful thinking.

So I sought the Lord, and He brought a small section of Scripture verse to my memory:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. “Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.
(Matthew 10:29-31, NASB)

And I thought, everything about us is important to God, so much so that the hairs of our heads are numbered. That’s detail.  God even takes note when a sparrow dies. And we are much more valuable to Him than sparrows.

My next thought was that many things happen in our lives. At times I am convinced that God has a program of events for us to live through, a trouble here, something to worry about there (along with plenty of good times thrown in). But challenges for us to overcome in faith. But the key is this: God is in control.  He’s not asleep at the switch. He knows what is going on. And if He allows trouble to come, it comes only because He allows it and it is for our own good.

Whether or not trouble and events are programmed for us, scheduled to come to our attention day after day–I can’t say for sure. But I know one thing we can control: our attitude and reaction to these circumstances and thoughts.

We need to practice trusting Him in the midst of anything we experience. There may be discomfort and some suffering at times, But nothing can harm us ultimately. Our blessed future with Jesus is guaranteed. As long as we believe in Him, He has saved us, is saving us right now, and will save us in the future. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6, NASB).

We can choose to trust God. In this, our willpower, our personal freedom of choice is vital. When fears attack us, we can say “NO!” to them and reaffirm to ourselves that God is indeed there and on our side and in control. We can choose faith and believe that.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32, NASB.)

So I’m committed to fight fear, stand up to it, and choose to trust God and His Word whenever the need arises.

 

Ephesians Chapter 4: How to Grow to be like Jesus Christ

This continues my “paraphrased Summaries” based on indepth study of Ephesians.

4:1-3  I, Therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to walk in a way that is worthy of the calling with which you have been called, that means with all humility and meekness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4:4-6  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

4:7-10  But to each one of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“Having ascended into the heights,
  He led captivity  captive,
  He gave gifts to men.”

But the (quotation) “He ascended,” what does it mean if not that He also descended into the lower part of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended above all the heavens, in order that He might fill all things.

4:11-16  And He Himself gave the apostles, and the prophets, and the evangelists, and the shepherds and teachers, for strengthening, preparing fully  the saints (you and me) for the work of service for the building of the body of Christ; until we all grow and come into the unity of the faith, and of the full-knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect-complete-mature man, to the measure of the stature (as in a maturity of the same degree) which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 

But speaking the truth in love, we may  be growing into Him in everything who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted together through the supply of every joint, according to the working of each individual part, causing the growth of the body resulting the building of itself in love.

4:17-19  This, therefore, I say and solemnly affirm together in the Lord, that you  no longer walk just as the Gentiles are walking, in the futility  of their mind. After they became darkened in their mind’s understanding and also have been alienated, left out of the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, through the hardness of their hearts, which became callous, He (God) gave them over to wanton excess (indecency, shameless conduct) and they–again, having become callous–which resulted in their greadily working all kinds of uncleanliness.

4:20-24  But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus. You have been taught to put off  the old self which is determined by your former life-style, the one according to the lusts of deceitfulness. instead, be renewed by the spirit of your mind, and put on the your new self, that which has been created according to God’s life-style, that is in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

4:25-32   Therefore, having put off from you falsehood, you are each to speak truth with your neighbor, because we are members of one another. Allow yourself to become angry, and yet stop sinning. Do not let the sun go down on your irritation. and stop giving place to the devil.

The one who steals, steal no longer, but much more so work hard with his own hands what is good so that he might have something to give to one who has need. Stop letting every worthless, rotten word come out of your mouth, but instead speak some good words needed for edification in order that your words might give grace to those who hear you.

And stop grieving the Holy Spirit of God, within whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness and hot anger and wrath and yelling and putting others down —let them be removed from you, along with all wickedness, becoming yourselves kind to one another, soft-hearted , showing grace (forgiving) to each other, just as God in Christ also has given grace (forgiveness) to you.

 

 

 

Chapter 3 God’s Master Plan, Part 2

NOTE: reading my paraphrased summary below can give you an indepth knowledge of the content of this profound chapter of Ephesians.

Think about these things, ponder them, be blessed by them!

(Continuing here with God’s Master Plan:)

3:1-5  Because of this (which I have been writing to you), I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus–If indeed you had heard about the household-management of God’s grace which was given to me for your benefit. That is, I’m writing according to the revelation that was make known to me by the Lord, the mystery, which I have described to you before, and since you are reading them, you can again recognize my understanding of the mystery of Christ that fits together like pieces of a puzzle. This wisdom wasn’t known before to people, but now it has been make plain by his holy apostles and prophets functioning with the help of the Holy Spirit.

3:6-7   (And this is the mystery:) That the people of the nations, the Gentiles, are to be joint-heirs,  joined together in one body, joint-sharers in the promise of Christ Jesus through the Gospel–which I became a minister of, according o the gift of the grace of God given to me by the working of His power.

3:8-9  To me, the least of all saints was given this grace (gift of enablement) to preach to the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what has been hidden from the ages in God–all the things created…

3:10-11  In order that the rich multifaced wisdom of God–according to the purpose of the ages which He made within Christ Jesus our Lord–might be  made know to the rules and authorities in the heavenly realm…

3:12  In Whom (being in Jesus Christ) we have boldness and access (to God the Father) with confidence through His faith.

3:13  Therefore, I ask you not to be discouraged by my tribulations, which are for you, on your behalf–which is your glory (that is, it shows how much God cares for you that he allows me to go through such suffering on your behalf).

3:14-15  Because of this grace (this knowledge given to me by God freely so that I can minister it to you), I am continually bending my knees to the Father in prayer, Who is the father-source of every family named, whether now in  heaven or on earth…

3:16-18 [And this is my prayer for you...]  that He might give you, according to the measure of the riches of HIs glory, the gift of ongoing strengthening with (His) power poured by His  Spirit into your inner man, so that Christ may thoroughly  settle down comfortably without your hearts throuigh your ecercise of faith–and so that His love then established as a lasting foundation there–and in turn, so that you may be strong enough to understand with all the saints with is the breadth and length and height and depth [of God's love and His wonderous plan for you and all believers]…

3:19 and as a result [of my answsered prayer for you] that you come to know in your experience the love of Christ which transcends, goes beyond all knowledge, in order that you may be filled up with all the fullness of God. [Awesome thought!]

3:20 Now to the One who is constandly able to do all things super-abundantly beyond what we are asking or even thinking, according to His power that is itself working within us–to Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations of the ages of the ages. Amen.

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Now that’s a strong prayer, made perfectly within the context of the mystery Paul has made plain above. How can we walk in light of all of that? In joy, and fellowship with God and His Son, and in service.

 

Chapter 2 Stuck in Sin then but Made God’s Temple now

Here’s a “paraphrased-content-summary” of Ephesians chapter 2.

Use it, if you like, to review the contents and teaching re this chapter quickly.

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(2:1-4)  And you were dead, living in your wrong doings, your sins, walking in them, obeying the standards of this world’s culture, that is the standards of the ruler of the authority of the air (the devil), the spirit who is now actively working in the sons born of disobedience (the unsaved). That means obeying the lusts of your flesh and its decisions and thoughts and intentions–being children of anger in your very nature, like all the rest.

(2:5-9)  But even in that terrible situation, living in a state of death, ongoing wrong deeds, God made us spiritually alive together with Christ–by grace you are now saved, an ongoing condition. And, not only that, but He raised us up together with Christ and made us sit down with Him in heaven, in order that he might display in all the ages, all the time to come, the transcending riches of His grace–the kindness and goodness He showered upon us because we are now in Christ Jesus: For by grace you are saved right now–an accomplished fact. And that was through faith–not for something you did or deserved: you’re not the source; God’s gift is. Again, the source of your salvation is not works, anything you can do. This is so that no one can brag.

(2:10-12)  For we are His creation; we were created with Jesus Christ with the intent that we do good works (our salvation is God’s “doing,” not ours). Good works were prepared beforehand so that we could do them and live in them. So constantly remember this: before you were Gentiles by birth and separated from Christ, and that means excluded from God’s people, foreigners when it came to God’s promises to His people, and that also means you were without hope, without God in this world.

(2:13-16)  But now, even though you were a long way off, God brought you near by seeing to it that you were placed within Christ Jesus, within His blood. For being in Him is what matters–He is our ongoing peace with God. God has broken down the wall that was between Jew and Gentile and has made us one. There is no need for hostility now. He set aside the ritual requirements of the Mosaic law so that He could create One New composite Man, who is very different. Thus He made peace.

So this means he reconciled Jew and Gentile in one mega-body through the cross of Jesus Christ, and that means killing that hostility.

(2:17-22)  So when Jesus came, He announced the good news of peace to you who were far off and peace to the ones nearby. Consequently, through Him we both, Jew and Gentile, have and are continuing to have access in the one Holy Spirit to God the Father. Therefore, you are no longer foreigners and sojourners. Rather you are fellow-members among the holy ones (saints) and part of God’s family. God’s household was built on the teaching foundation of the apostles and prophets, but Christ Jesus is Himself the key part of that foundation, the essential foundation. And in Him the whole “building” is currently being  put together and is growing into a holy temple in the Lord. This means too that you are His temple, the very dwelling of God–once again, in Him.