Not Me …..

“Not me!” A familiar phrase for anyone who spends much time around kids. Generally, it’s said because someone is in trouble, but consider what the Apostle Paul wrote, and what Jesus said:

“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 gave Himself up for me.” – GALATIANS 2:20 NASB

Not me!

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” – JOHN 10:27‭-‬29 NASB

Was they making excuses so that we could live however we pleased? Knowing that our salvation is permanent, a ‘done deal’, so we can say and do whatever comes to our mind, without regard to anyone else? It appears that many who claim to be Christians use these scriptures just that way.

Joe McKeever, preacher and writer at crosswalk.com and http://www.joemckeever.com writes this:

The person who goes on sinning as before, as 1 John puts it in several places, is not saved and never was. (Emphasis mine)

The person who has no desire to live close to the Lord Jesus and to please Him and never has had, is probably not saved and never was.

However, that said, we say without fear of contradiction that in Heaven there will be people we never expected to be received. We will be surprised again and again. And, just as certain, there will be people we expected to find in Heaven who never made it.

God is the judge and not us. We see through a glass darkly, the same way we do everything else. We see doctrine through that darkened glass also, and no doubt get some things wrong.

Let us always come with humility to these matters of eternal significance. And let us pull back from the foolish who have all the answers and tolerate no dissent.

He’s right. When I accept Jesus as my Saviour, I’m asking Him to walk with me in my life, guiding my path and my decisions. Does that mean I’ll always do and say the right thing? Not at all! My free will, my stubbornness, and my vanity will continue to get in the way and trip me up, and I will want to yell “It’s not me! I didn’t do it!” …… I need to let go of all that and allow myself to relax in the arms of Jesus, He Who lives in me.

Not me, but HIM! Image from Pinterest.com

What GOD Has Done

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – ROMANS 5:6‭-‬8 NASB

Verse 7 is profound: “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.” Would you offer your life for someone you know only by reputation? It’s easy (for me) to say I would die for a family member, but if it really came down to it, would I, really? Would you? It’s difficult to say how we would truly act in any dire situation until we are acrually faced with it. For family, I’d like to think that I would step up without hesitation, but for someone whom I don’t know, or particularly care for? Probably not – or if I’m honest, I would have to say no.

That, however, is precisely what God has done. He stepped up and died a gruesome death for me, and for that person who denies Him. Do you ever thonk about that? As a Christian, I’ve put thought into the fact that Jesus died for me. What about that person who is covered in tattoo’s and every other word is a curse word or obscenity; who delights in torturing animals and people? Think about that for a minute. Jesus Christ, the Living Lord, left Heaven behind to die for that person!

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

“if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” – ROMANS 10:9 NASB

Get it?

Get it!!

Of First Importance….

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…..” – 1 CORINTHIANS 15:3‭-‬4 NASB

This is of first importance. Aside from this, does anything else in this world really matter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of GOD; that He was born of a virgin and lived as a human so that He could be hung on the cross, the ultimate and final sacrifice for our/your sins? Do you believe that He came out of the grave on the third day, triumphant over death? If you do, congratulations!!! By believing this, we get to spend the rest of our lives and forever more with our Saviour! Can it be so simple? Hallelujah; yes!

For those who don’t believe ……. Why? What is keeping you from believing? Is it that Jesus can be God and man in one person, Son of the Creator of the Universe and a young, human, woman? Is it the idea of the virgin birth, or is it the idea of a Creator, rather than the “science” of the Big Bang Theory*? (*I challenge you to look up the definition of the word theory. It’s a hypothesis, a speculation; i.e. a guess, “without any assumption of truth.”) I’m not a scientist, nor do I claim to be a great intellect; however, I can (and do) read voraciously. If you need scientific proof of a greater power and a created universe, there is plenty of compeling evidence to be found. I won’t argue between a 24-hour 6 day creation and a “big bang” because we don’t know. I will say this: I believe both!

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – GENESIS 1:1 NASB

Were you there? He created the heavens and the earth out of nothing….. the atoms colliding had to come from somewhere, and, BANG, there it was! But, moving on to Jesus….. If God could create the heavens and the earth from nothing, why couldn’t He have His Son born to a virgin in order to save His people (that would be us, the human race) from our bad decisions? Giving us free will when He created us was His decision, because He wants us to choose to love Him and have a relationship with Him, just as we choose the humans we have relationships with.

Are you just not sure that Jesus really rose from the grave? Do you want to, can you, refute the testimony of hundreds of first-hand accounts, eyewitnesses to His resurrection?

“….. and {after} that He appeared to Cephas [Simon Peter], then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep [died]; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me [Paul] also.” – 1 CORINTHIANS 15:5‭-‬8‭

Still have doubts? I promise you that those doubts come straight from our enemy, the Father of Lies, who wants nothing more than to have you reject the Gospel. The enemy wants us to question the Bible, and especially to question the New Testament and its eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. If he, the enemy, can get you to doubt and to question, he wins. The enemy knows that without Jesus, His sacrifice and resurrection, we have nothing. We know that with Jesus, with His sacrifice, we have everything.

Choose wisely. Remember what is of First Importance.

Image: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, c. 1601–1602. Wikipedia

Scariest Words

What are the scariest words you have ever heard? You’re fired? You’re hired? Marry me? …… We’re pregnant? Your loved one is dying?

All of those words have definite impact on our lives, but I don’t think they are the scariest you’ll ever hear. Knowing just how flawed and imperfect we are as humans, try these:

“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He Who said, “do not commit adultery,” also said, “do not commit murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the Law of Liberty.” – JAMES 2:8‭-‬12 NASB

No matter how good we are, we are guilty of breaking all of God’s laws. ALL of them. Ever told a “white” lie? Took a paperclip that really didn’t belong to you? Shared a bit of “harmless” gossip? “Admired” someone of the opposite sex just a tad too long? Became angry or took offense at some slight? By stumbling on one point of the Law, we become guilty of breaking it all.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary: “According to the covenant of works, one breach of any one command brings a man under condemnation, from which no obedience, past, present, or future, can deliver him. This shows us the happiness of those that are in Christ. We may serve him without slavish fear. God’s restraints are not a bondage, but our own corruptions are so. The doom passed upon impenitent sinners at last, will be judgment without mercy. But God deems it his glory and joy, to pardon and bless those who might justly be condemned at his tribunal; and his grace teaches those who partake of his mercy, to copy it in their conduct.” (Emphasis mine)

According to my understanding, the Law of Liberty is the Gospel. Through the Mercy shown to us in and through Jesus Christ, we receive forgiveness…… but we must accept that Mercy, that Gift, in order to receive His forgiveness, and to be freed from the final judgement of the LORD. I don’t want to be seen as a “good” person! I want people to see – and know – that I am forgiven; and how I am forgiven. That’s why we must share the Gospel. “Good” can never be good enough; only forgiveness will suffice in the end.

Are you good, or are you forgiven?

To Sum It Up:

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, “The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.” (“Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.” – PSALMS 34:13‭) – 1 PETER 3:8-‬10 NASB

Peter uses these verses (including v. 11-12) to summarize chapters 1 and 2, and the first few verses of chapter 3. He was writing to a group of exiled Jews who were living far outside of their homeland (“foreigners, aliens, and exiles,” 1 Peter 1:1, depending on the translation), who were under pressure because of their status (1 Peter 1:6). He wants us to see that there is a good life for us here on earth, regardless of the problems we are facing. When we follow these suggestions, our hearts are able to enjoy the good in our lives rather than being focused on whatever is happening externally. The psalm Peter quotes, Psalm 34, was written by King David after he had to pretend madness in order to escape from those who were prepared to kill him (1 Samuel 21). We don’t have it so bad when we look at things in context!

We always have a choice as to how we react and resond to the events in our lives. We can choose to see the good and love life; to enjoy what we have, or we can endure it, or we can attempt to escape it. I’ve tried enduring, and it is just that – enduring. No joy. Escaping doesn’t work, either. I promise you, no matter how you try to escape, distance or mind-altering substances or food or sex or shopping or work, it is all right there, still the same! Choose joy, because it is a choice! I was recently having a conversation with a pastor about my current situation (it isn’t all that pretty….) and I ended it by saying that I am very blessed. He expressed some surprise, saying that few people say that. I choose joy, because I have lived the alternatives, and I don’t like them. I’m not a saint! I admit to being depressed and feeling sorry for myself at times, but then I look around and see others who have it so much worse than me. If you are struggling, stop looking at what you don’t have, and see what you do have. It can be eye-opening. Don’t miss the good life GOD has given you!

Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – JOHN 10:10 NASB

Choose JESUS and choose Life Abundant!

Disclaimer: I often use my notes from our pastor’s sermons (with his permission). Dr. Hitchcock brings the gospel alive for me, answering questions I have and bringing more questions to my mind. The thoughts I carry away cause me to read and research the scripture and Bible commentaries, and I always come away with something new! If you would like to hear the original sermons (without any mistakes I might bring!), go to Sermon Archives at http://faithbibleok.com/ The Good Life – we are currently in the Still Standing series by Dr. Mark Hitchcock. We are truly blessed with all of the Bible teachers and books and commentaries that are available for us.

Have You Prayed About It?

“Have you prayed about it?”

Whenever we have a question or concern, or we are worried about something, that phrase should be the first thing that pops into our mind.

“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the LORD; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the LORD will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” – JAMES 5:13‭-‬18 NASB

Billy Graham wrote: “Faith pleases God more than anything else. The Christian life is dependent upon faith. We stand on faith; we live on faith. Faith is loved and honored by God more than any other single thing.

The Bible teaches that faith is the only approach that we have to God. No man has sins forgiven, no man goes to heaven, no man has assurance of peace and happiness, until he has faith in Jesus Christ.

You may be saying, “God, I believe you are a great person, but I do not believe your Word; I do not believe what you say.” In order to please God, you must believe Him. Perhaps your faith is small and weak.

It does not matter how big your faith is, but rather, where your faith is. Is it in Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross for your sins?”

I especially appreciate the last 2 sentences, because for years my faith was small… tiny, almost nonexistent. Because my faith was so small, my constant search for peace & happiness did not yield anything. Oh, I could sense them! I knew they were within reach ….. but I couldn’t quite get there. I knew, because of my parents teaching us while we were children, that true peace only comes thru JESUS. Scripture is quite clear on that:

“Without faith it isn’t possible to please GOD. Those who come to God must believe that He exists. And they must believe that He rewards those who look to Him.” – Hebrews 11:6

Without faith, it is difficult to pray, and without prayer, it is difficult – maybe even impossible – to have faith. The thing I most hope to get across is this: No matter what is going on in your life, whether mental or physical, there is HOPE. There can be PEACE. Regardless of what anyone else says or does to us, JESUS is the answer. Claim it – claim HIM. Pray about it. Hold a conversation with God!

See that tiny flicker of faith that is hiding deep in your soul? Fan the flames. Let GOD supply the fuel!

Have you prayed about it?

This Is Timely….

“Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” – JAMES 4:11‭-‬12 NASB

I don’t think James was speaking about man’s laws here, but God’s. There isn’t a person on earth who can say they are better than another, because even though our outward lives may appear “better”, God looks at our thoughts over our actions. Our thoughts make us no better than the worst murderer, because who hasn’t murdered someone in their thoughts? Or whose thoughts would reveal that they have desired a man or woman who was not their spouse? Who hasn’t wished for gold and riches, a bigger better house, more clothes and more things? Just because someone looks all clean and prim and proper on the outside, doesn’t mean that inside, they are the same. We have to remember, too, that in God’s eyes, sin is sin. A lie is no better or worse than murder – and everybody has lied.

“You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.” – James 5:5 NLT

So. What to do?

I think that all we can do is to do as Jesus did, and continually pray to the Father, not my will, but Thine. Actually, that’s the best thing we can do! I’m far from perfect, and I count myself among the worst of criminals, but there is one thing I know without a single doubt: I have been forgiven of all my sins, and one day I will see my Saviour! O Glorious Day, one day He is coming! Listen to this hymn, Glorious Day, sung by Casting Crowns.

Do you know that Truth? Can you sing without hesitation that when He returns, He is coming to sweep you up with Him ……. or will you be at the Judgement Seat, wondering what happened?

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s One and Only Son.” – John 3:16‭-‬18 NLT