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Rules Or Relationship?

Photo by Christina Wilson

 

What Is “Salvation” Anyway?

 

Quick Peek: Salvation is not automatic by our meeting a certain set of requirements. God does not say, “Do this, this, that, and the other, and I’ll stamp you saved,” but he does say, “Come to my Son, and my Son will save you.”

Galatians 3:11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” (NIV)

 

Body: The law, the Ten Commandments, is a thing. It’s a set of rules. It’s non-living, not a person, not a sentient being; it’s non-interactive. It has no soul nor mind, no receptors. The Ten Commandments have no awareness of anyone’s reading and obeying or not reading and obeying. There is no consciousness. The Ten Commandments have no power to save or not save. They make no choices.

But God is Person. God is sentient. He is personal being. God as creator judges his creation. A righteous man or woman is declared so, and is saved and lives, because God says so, since he is the only one with whom anyone must deal. God makes alive, God declares. The law can do nothing.

I am saved by God’s relationship with me, my relationship with him. Salvation is relational by means of faith. Through faith is how I relate to the person of God. This is by God’s choice. He chose faith as the vehicle for people to relate to him.

Do I have faith in God? Have I put my hope and trust in God? Have I turned to God and begun speaking with Him? Has God spoken into my heart? Do I have an ongoing, active relationship of trust and love with Jesus Christ, God’s Son, his Mediator between himself and humanity? If so, then I am saved.

John 20:31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (ESV)

Further Verses: Romans 8:1-17

This post is a rewrite of an earlier post by the same author at Berean Digs

Turning Back to Thank and Praise the Lord: Psalm 18:1

Turning Back to Thank God

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Outline of Series

Devotional

Luke 17:12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? (ESV)

 

Psalm 18 prophetically announces to the Hebrew world of its day that Messiah would be raised from the dead. (Psalm 18 Bible Gateway) Verses 4-20 dramatically portray God’s direct actions in rescuing his Son from death and the grave. The reader sees God resurrect his Messiah. (Psalm 18: Resurrection of Christ)

When God rescued the psalmist King David from his near death experiences, King David took the time to share his victory with the Lord. Yes, as the one leper out of ten in the verses above in Luke, David turned back to thank and praise the Lord in worship.

Psalm 18:1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD rescued him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, O LORD, my strength.

Turning back to thank and praise God for the victories and rescues he supplies serves an important spiritual function.

Both King David and Christ spoke directly to God, recounting the details of God’s actions in saving them. The sharing of our hearts with God amounts to fellowship with him. We invite God directly into our experiences, where indeed he has been all along. Telling God detail by detail how he helped us in specific situations for which we prayed gives God an opportunity to respond and confirm to our hearts that indeed it was he who helped.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs– heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom 8:16 ESV)

Who doesn’t need such reassurance that our faith in God has been properly placed?

I know that for me, when I am pressed under in great pressure, it is easy to cry to the Lord, pouring out my heart to him in earnest prayer. Then suddenly, when the situation changes and I am safe and happy again, it is also so easy for me to go running off in joy for the freedom from pain and fear. I want to leave as quickly as possible those dark places and move on with my life.

But when I do that I’m the one who misses out on all that Romans 8:16 offers. Also, I rob God of his pleasure in receiving me into his home of worship.

Psalm 22:3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. (Psa 22:3 ESV)

The devotional exercise for this morning is to ask myself, Do I quickly run to God to tell him all about the details of the victory he just gave me, to tell him of his actions in rescuing me from my pit, just as the psalmist in Psalm 18? Or, do I forget and go running off to accomplish the next item on my agenda, just as the nine lepers in Luke 17, who forgot all about the Lord once they were healed?

For my own benefit and for your pleasure, Lord, I pray that you would work into me more of the psalmist’s response in Psalm 18.

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Believing the Promise

It seems there’s enough going down in the world and among Christians that good words are in order. It’s all I can do to keep my sea legs steady and try to love those around me constantly and selflessly (oxymoron). Anything that passes beyond that in terms of perfecting my spirituality is out of reach for me now.

This verse struck me the other day:

Luke 1:45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Elizabeth, while pregnant with John the Baptist, spoke these words to Mary, pregnant with baby Jesus. Elizabeth was Mary’s older relative. Both of these women had believed the promise of the Lord, and we see them here rejoicing and fellowshipping with each other.

Zechariah had received the same promise as his wife Elizabeth but had not believed. At this moment, he was struggling with being mute, a condition inflicted on him by the angel Gabriel, God’s messenger to Zechariah, for having questioned the promise by demanding proof, or a sign, as though the vision of the mighty Gabriel were not sign enough! He missed the joy of belief.

Another example of one whose disbelief led to misery was Thomas, who refused to believe that Christ had indeed risen from the dead, just as he had promised he would. (See John 20:19-31)

Zechariah the doubter RECEIVED what was promised, and Thomas the doubter RECEIVED what was promised. What they lost was the peace, comfort, and joy of anticipating the promise’s fulfillment, because they didn’t believe.

When God promises, the promise’s fulfillment is not based upon our belief–it’s based upon the nature and character of God.

God had promised a Savior to Abraham. As a whole, the nation did not believe, neither prior to the coming of Christ, nor when he came. God kept his word. The disbelief of the majority did not stop God from keeping his word. What did happen is that the nation as a whole rejected the fulfillment of the promise. Those who believed received. Had not even one single person believed, God would still have kept his word. His promise is a promise. It’s our joy that gets shortchanged when we doubt.

So the point? Hang on to your blessing! Don’t let it slip through your fingers by doubting. The promise will be fulfilled. There’s great joy and hope in that. God will accomplish in our lives what he has said he would. In these rough times, hang on to your promise. God is bigger and stronger than all our fear, than all that surrounds us in these days.

Blessings!

 

Unless a grain of wheat…

Jesus is the only place where you can find yourself and lose yourself, all at the same time.

God’s Sliding Scale of Grace in Christ

No Virtue Will Get You In--No Defect Will Keep You Out

No Virtue Will Get You In!  No Defect Will Keep You Out!

 

Link: The New Birth–Its Necessity and Its Joy

Link: Concrete to Spiritual: How Jesus Changes the Old Testament to the New

Concrete to Spiritual: How Jesus Changes the Old Testament to the New

Week 4: Spiritual Replaces Concrete

One of the great takeaway lessons we learn from John 3–Nicodemus–and John 4–the Woman at the Well–is that Jesus introduces a Great Shift–the Great Change–away from concrete interactions with his people (physical symbols and types) to spiritual.

This is one of the biggest differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Jesus himself introduced this change, and we see it in both the account of Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well.

The reason the Great Shift occurs with the advent of Christ at the beginning of the New Testament is that the Spirit of God in the later pages of the Old Testament had left the temple and never returned. John the Baptist predicts the return of the Spirit at the time of Jesus’s baptism, saying that Jesus would be the one to baptize people with the Holy Spirit.

Further, in the Old Testament, the Spirit dwelled first in the column of fire by night and cloud by day, which hovered over the Israelites in exile. It next dwelt within the Tent of Meeting, and finally, in the temple. All these are EXTERNAL to the human being. Humans did not have the Spirit of God living within them, and ever since Adam sinned, humankind had lost intimate contact with God and lived separate from him. This is why God needed to talk to his people with concrete, physical symbols–pictures formed by real, historic events. Humankind had become SPIRITUALLY DEAD.

In the New Testament, the promised Holy Spirit arrives, not to live outside humans in the spaces of inanimate objects, but to live within humans in the spiritual spaces of human hearts. This is an enormous change from the Old Testament to the New. It’s a change best described as new wine which no longer fits the old wineskins. (Luke 5:36-38) It is the change from CONCRETE to SPIRITUAL.

In John 3 and John 4, the main protagonists understand Jesus’s words in concrete terms only, that would be to say, in literal terms, using the word “literal” in its modern meaning of something physical, something which can be seen and touched.

  1. Nicodemus interprets Jesus’s words, “You must be born again,” as climbing back into the mother’s womb. (John 3:3-4)
  2. The Woman at the Well interprets Jesus’s words, “living water” as physical water that she could physically drink and therefore physically never thirst again. (John 4:10-15)

In both cases Jesus patiently explains the new spiritual meaning. He pours his new wine into their old wineskins. And as the text shows, he had more success with the woman at the well than with Nicodemus. The woman at the well understood, believed, and went running off to confess her new belief and her discovery of Jesus the Messiah to her fellow townsfolk. Nicodemus, on the other hand, needed more time.

And so we see that God is Spirit and truth, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

……………………………….

For more information on how the Gospel of Christ changes the concrete into the spiritual, read Does Paul Spiritualize the Concrete?: The Great Shift Exemplified in Colossians 2:8-3:4

Jesus and the Big Bang: Prologue John 1:1-18

jesus-is-gods-big-bang

Jesus Christ is the Full Expression of God:

Jesus Is God the Word — John 1:1, 14

Jesus Is God the Creator — John 1:3-4, 10

Jesus Is Life and Light — John 1:4-5, 9

Jesus Is God the Savior — John 1:12, 17

Jesus Is the BIG BANG of God ! Without Jesus, God would not be known — John 1:18

Weeping May Last for the Night, But…

Wildwood Flowers089 1200x600 Joy Morning

There is so much

to weep about in our world recently. Bad things happen as surely as night follows day. (John 16:33) It seems as though our country–along with most other parts of the world–has been experiencing one very long night. Will the violence and human pain never end? Yet for those who find their eternal hope in our great God and Savior (Titus 2:13), Scripture carries the promise of a bright day to follow each and every dark night: “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” — (Psalm 30:5).”

Christians know this biblical promise of God is true, because Christ has already deposited within them the fountain of life and joy–his Holy Spirit (John 7:38; Ephesians 1:13). And this fountain of joy and life is eternal; it can never be quenched no matter how much external circumstances say otherwise. And so we sing–

” “Spring up, O well! — Sing to it!”

Numbers 21:17

Christians know and experience that God’s love and mercy arrive fresh and new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and therefore unquenchable joy is their strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

 

 

One New Man

Col3_11

A Joyful Liberation

 Psalm 30:1 A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.

I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

2 LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.

3 You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.

4 Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

6 When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.”

7 LORD, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

8 To you, LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:

9 “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.

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