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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Emergency Status

My heart is giving me trouble at this altitude at my granddaughters and we will not have internet for a few days.  I am so sorry, but if we stay I won't make it the rate I am weakening.  I do enjoy doing this and I know that it is at a critical point in the book so please forgive me and check in with me in four or five days.  Grandma Joan

The Merciful Advocacy of Christ

     The fact that we need not fall into sin was so overemphasized in Diane's mind that she became blind to the merciful advocacy of Christ.  She lived in constant anxiety that her sins were greater than His grace.  On the other hand there are others who so over-emphasized the fact that God is quick to forgive that they cease to be diligent to partake of His power for victory.  They look lightly on sin and presume upon the mercy of God.
     Jesus didn't die to excuse sin, but He did die  to forgive sin.  His forgiveness is always extended with the higher purpose of total victory in view.  He does not intend that sinning and forgiveness would be a never ending cycle for His children.  He wants us free from sin:  As one dear sister said, "Yes, He loves us just the way we are, but He also loves us too much to leave us that way."
     Do you love Jesus, dear friend?  Do you long to please and honor Him in all things?  Do you hate sin and grieve over your failures?  If so, you are a truly born-again Christian and the Lord is at your right hand to empower and to pardon as you have need.  Lift you head and take up the warrior's chant penned by Micah:
     "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me"  Micah 7:8.
     What matters most is that your understanding of God's love allows you to get up and go forward when you have fallen.  The problem with the view Diane encountered is that it will hold you down under a burden of guilt.  We do not help people rise above the power of sin by telling them that if they fall, God disclaims them as His children.  Rather, victory comes as we believe that God is able to keep us from falling and that He is quick to lift us up out of our failures.  There is nothing so perfectly calculated to strengthen the heart to overcome sin as the abiding assurance of God's love and acceptance.
     Diane, wherever you are, I do hope the assuring light of God's love still shines in your heart.  I share these things with you and with others like you so that the power of sin may be broken in your life.  But remember if you do sin, you have a gracious Advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ the righteous One.

     Dear Father, thank You that You are powerful enough to keep me from sin and merciful enough to embrace me with pardon when I fall.  May I never abuse Your mercy, but ever respond with deepest desire to please You in all things.  I am Your child in Christ.  Amen

    (I'm so thankful for the merciful advocacy of Christ, aren't you?  He is so loving and kind, I don't want to abuse His love either.  How about you? Grandma Joan)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Two vital Truths To Keep in Mind.

     There are two vital truths we need to keep in min in order to go forward without giving up:
     1.  God's empowering grace is able to keep us from falling into sin.
     2.  His pardoning grace is unceasingly extended to cover our unseen defects and to lift us up when we fall.
     Both are brought to view by the apostle John:
     "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.  And if any man in we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous" 1 John 2:1.
     It is the Lord's ultimate purpose that we sin not but if we do sin, Jesus stands as our Advocate before the Father.  He claims us as His redeemed children when we walk and when we fall.
    Here John speaks of a specific act of sin as an interruption to the general course of the believer's life.  The beloved apostle says, in essence, "These things I write to you that you would not practice sin as a way of life.  But if you do sin in a moment of haste or weakness, remember that you have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteousOne."
     John is not trying to give assurance of ongoing salvation to one who would turn to a course of willful rebellion against God.  Rather, he is encouraging those who do continue in Christ that if they fall and yet rise in repentance, Jesus continues to present them as perfect before the Father.  Such failures do not separate the believer from God.
     There is only one way the believer can forfeit his standing in Christ.  He must return to his former life of sin and cease to trust in the Savior.  He must cherish sin in his heart.  This  is what the Bible means when it says, "Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear"  Isaiah 59:2.  Isaiah is not here referring to the defects of character or the occasional mistakes of the one who walks with God.  Only  a willful course of intentional sin can sever the relationship that exists between the believer and his Redeemer.  Even then, the separation is the choice of the sinner and not of the Savior; and the One who died to save us stands eager and willing to renew the relationship.  "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return  unto the Lord; and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon"  Isaiah 55:7.
     Never confuse the willful sin of one who has turned from the Lord with the failures and defects of the believer in Christ.  As a born-again child of God you can be certain of His power to keep you from sin and you can be assured that He does not cast you away if you fall.  Be careful to keep both His power and His pardon in mind. If you emphasize one to the minimizing of the other, you may end up in self-righteousness on the one hand or in despair on the other.

     (We need to live a balanced Spiritual life, don't we?  Keeping our eyes fixed upon Jesus, He has the power to keep us all the way to the Kingdom.  Grandma Joan)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Eternal Life

     The apostle John recorded one of the Savior's final prayers before His death.  In this petition Jesus asked that we would know the true character of God.  Listen as Jesus speaks to His Father:  "This is life eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  I have glorified You on the earth.  I have finished the work which You have given Me to do....I have manifested Your name"  John 17: 3,4,6.
     Did you notice that Jesus defined eternal life in terms of its substance and quality rather than in terms of its length?  Eternal life is, in one sense, to live forever.  But Christ did not focus on its duration in His prayer.  Eternal life is to know God, He said.  In other words, eternal life is a life that derives its quality from a knowledge of the true character of God.
     Jesus emphasized our need to know the Father as "the only true God."  It is possible for us to conceive of God in a false light, attributing to Him characteristics that He does not possess.  Jesus knew God as He truly is, and He longed for us to discover the transforming beauty of the Father's love.  The work God gave Him to do was to manifest the divine character.  According to His own testimony, He succeeded in accomplishing that mission.
     After all the healings, the acceptance of sinners, the feeding of the hungry, and all the acts of love He performed, Jesus went to the cross.  At Calvary He gave the crowning revelation of God's character.  The sacrifice was equally the Father's as well as the Son's.  Paul affirms that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself"  2Corinthians 5:19.  The Son willingly laid down His life the Father willingly gave up His Son.
     Why did the Father make the sacrifice?
     One of the most astounding and touching statements Jesus ever made offers the answer to this question. In prayer He reminded the Father, You "have loved them as You have loved Me" John17:23. NKJV.  I know this is hard to believe, but it's true, God actually loves you and me as He loves the Lord Jesus Christ.  This remarkable reality exalts God's love so far beyond human love that we can barely take it in.  Think of what it means.  If He loves you and me as He loves Jesus, that must mean that His love transcends our sin.  His love is not altered because of all the wrong things we have done to Him and to others.

     (Can you fathom that kind of love, it is hard isn't it? It is so far above our kind of love that it is just plain hard to fathom it.  Ask God to help you understand His love for you, that is what I am having to do.  He will answer our prayers, I am sure of that and then we can enjoy His presence in our lives so much more.  Grandma Joan)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Human Love

    In the affairs of human love, if someone does something we don't like or wrongs us in some way, we tend to back up from them.  We withdraw our love and acceptance.  But God's heart doesn't work that way.  Paul says we have been "foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another"  Titus 3:3.NKJV.
When we see sin in people we despise them, although we are guilty ourselves.  God looks upon us in our wretched state and draws closer yet.  His undying, relentless love is not repelled or shut off by our sinfulness.  After describing our fallen condition so graphically, Paul astounds us right in the midst of our shame:  "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us" Titus 3:4,5.
    God the Father sent Jesus to introduce His character to us.  He wants us to know Him through His Son in Christ the measureless love and unbounded kindness of the divine heart was acted out for all the world to see. We need never again question God's thoughts and feelings toward us.  In the unmistakable language of love, the life and death of Jesus proclaim that God is good and loving and kind.
     We all hold a portrait of God in our hearts.  What is He like according to your picture?  Are you drawn to the God you see?  Does His love surpass every earthly attraction?  Do you find yourself overwhelmed with adoration for Him?
     If not, maybe you need to take a closer look at His photo.  Perhaps you need to behold anew His beautiful image in the life and death of His Son.  For only when you truly see Jesus will you truly see God.

     O Lord, I do want to see You as You really are, through Jesus, the transparent medium of Your glory.  Impress my heart more and more deeply with the goodness of Your character.  Then I will serve You without fear all the days of my life.  Thank You for who You are.  I pray in the glorious name of Jesus.  Amen.

P.S.  So sorry I didn't get this up sooner.  I have been on the road to Wyoming right now and when I leave here to  Washington. I will put up my blog as long as I have internet here but after I leave I am going to try to have my friend in Oregon do them for me until  I get home in Washington.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Salvation In The Light of God's Love - Chapter Four - Ty Gibson

     I kind of, sort of, think that maybe I possibly might end up being saved."  
     If it weren't so serious it would be funny.  Tragically, there are many--and I mean many who feel just that uncertain about their destiny.
     How unlike Paul:  "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind....who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began...who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel...I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day."  2Timothy 1:7,9,10,12.
     How unlike John:  "This is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life....you may know that you have eternal life" 1 John 5:11-13, NKJV.
     Obviously these men understood something about the plan of salvation that many of us have missed.  Their voices ring with such a clear testimony of confidence.
     God has saved us, Paul proclaims, and I know , I believe, I am persuaded that He will keep me.
     God has given me eternal life in His Son, John exalts, and I know that I have eternal life.
     Then in stark contrast, listen to our whimpering dirge: "I think....I hope....It will be nice if I make it.  But if I don't God knows I tried."
     What is the problem?  What is missing in our thinking?
     Well, according to Paul, the "life and immortality" of which he was so confident was brought to light through the gospel" 2 Timothy 1:10.  The gospel is the key.  To the church at Thessalonica he said the "gospel came....in much assurance" 1 Thessalonians 1:5.  It was Paul's understanding of the gospel that gave him such strong assurance of salvation.  We can logically assume, then, that our lack of assurance has grown out of a misunderstanding of the gospel.
     In this chapter I want to address one basic difference between what many people believe concerning salvation and what the Bible clearly teaches.  This single facet of the gospel, if understood, will do much to dispel the dark clouds of doubt that hang over us.

     ( Tomorrow we will find out what that one single facet is. Pray for the Holy Spirit's presence as you read this and remember it is all Biblical and is such a relief to see it so clearly.  It is so enlightening.  Grandma Joan.)

P.S.  Somehow my drafts got mixed up and yesterdays page should have been this page and vice versa, so if you read this page and then read yesterdays it will make much more sense.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Salvation - Continued

     To a large degree our view of the gospel has been shaped by our response to the cheap grace of once-saved always-saved extreme of some evangelical churches.  They have taught that the grace of God makes obedience or good works irrelevant for the Christian.  Once you believe in Jesus, you are saved and there is nothing you can do to forfeit eternal life, they might say.
    In response to this erroneous view we have argued, in tone if not in words, 'No, we are saved by grace through faith and good works."  Salvation is like a partnership--God does some of the saving and we do some of the saving, we have implied.  Our sincerity is shown by our obedience, and if we do well enough, then God will give us eternal life.
     With this kind of emphasis it is natural for us to look at ourselves to determine our standing with God.  And because we look to ourselves, we are never really sure of salvation and we often feel we are not good enough to be saved.
     Because these two positions have been in such prominent opposition to one another, many of us have assumed that these are the only two theological options.  But there is a third view we should consider.  The Biblical one!  Let's compare all three:

Option One
     Some say we are saved by grace through faith apart from good works, which makes obedience irrelevant.

Option Two
     Some say we are saved by grace through faith and good works which makes obedience meritorious.

Option Three
     But the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith unto good works, which makes obedience inevitable.
     Notice how carefully and beautifully Paul builds the structure of his theological position on salvation:
     "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."  Ephesians 2:8-10.
     Grace is the primary factor by which we are saved.  Grace, of course, pertains wholly to God.  He alone is its origin.  For grace is, in essence, the merciful attitude with which God relates to us in our sin.
   
     (We will build on this tomorrow, but it is making things so clear from the Bible, I can't see how I missed this for so many years.  Be blessed if you are young, this will make your life so beautiful and those of us who are older, it is still a blessing and a beautiful thing and will make life so much easier.  Grandma Joan)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Faith and Works

     Faith is the capacity God has deposited in every human heart to respond to His grace, (See Romans 12:3.)  He is the Author of our faith (See Hebrews 12:2.)  But while He created our faith and placed it in our hearts, He will not exercise it for us.  So in the sense that we are to exercise the faith He has given, it can be said that faith is our part.  Even so, He does not leave us to exercise the gift of faith on our own. Not only has He given us faith as a free gift, He also takes upon Himself the responsibility of awakening our faith to action.  He does this by drawing our attention to His infinite love as it was manifested at the cross.  So Paul says that faith "worketh by love"  Galatians 5:6.  That is, faith is made active by encounter with God's love.  Love is the motivating factor in the plan of salvation.  God's love arouses and moves faith in us to so appreciate His grace that we willingly and joyfully yield to His purpose for our lives.
     This is where good works come into the picture.  Paul emphatically informs us that our salvation is "not of works, lest any man should boast."  Language could not be clearer.  We are not saved in any degree by virtue of works.  But that does not conclude Paul's comments about works.  In verse 10 he says we are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works."  So while we are not saved of, we are definitely save unto good works.  What is the difference?  It is the chasm of difference that exists between almost every false religion in the world and the singular gospel of Jesus Christ. "Do good and God will give you salvation in exchange."  The gospel of Christ says to sinners, "God has given you salvation as a free gift in His Son; receive the glad tidings by faith and God will do good in and through you."
     I can hear someone responding:  "If what you're saying is true, then good works do not precede and are of no value to secure salvation."
     I realize that this is a seriously humbling idea, but yes, that is exactly what the Bible is saying.  Now go ahead and ask the next logical question.
     OK, I will.  If we are not saved by our works, why are they even necessary?
     I am so glad you asked that question.  Jesus gives the answer.  Listen to Him:  "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven"  Matthew5:16.  Jesus does not say, Do good works so you will be saved.  He says, Do good works so others will encounter the goodness of God in you and glorify Him.
     Isaiah foretold the coming of Christ "to preach good tidings."  He said that one effect of the gospel message would be righteousness in the lives of those who believe.  Then he pointed out that the righteousness of Christ's followers would have a special purpose.  He called them "trees of righteousness, that He might be glorified.  Isaiah 61:3.

     (I hate to cut it off here, it is getting so good, but I promised that I wouldn't make them long, so to keep my word, some more tomorrow.  God bless the reading of this Bible Study.  It is so important that we understand this important point in the Gospel.  Grandma Joan)

Friday, August 22, 2014

For God's Glory

     Paul understood the very same relation between works of righteousness in the believer's life and the glory of God:  "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God" Philippians 1:11.  Notice that Paul viewed the righteousness brought forth in the Christian's  life as fruits.  Fruits of what?  Of salvation no doubt.  In other words, righteousness does not secure salvation, but salvation does produce righteousness  Therefore, Paul says the fruits of righteousness are "by Jesus Christ."  That is to say, Jesus is the source of the righteousness that will be seen in the Christian life.  It is natural, then, in the logical flow of Paul's thoughts for him to connect the righteous living of the believer with the glory of God.  Since it is "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us"  Titus 3:5, all the righteous deeds in our lives are the fruits of His grace and thus the mirror reflection of His glory. So Paul could say without the slightest exaggeration, "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever.  Amen"  Romans 11:36.
     A sinner saved and made righteous by the free grace of God brings glory to the one who has done the saving.  It is God's purpose to make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy"  Romans 9:23.  We are those vessels.  As objects of extravagant grace, we have nothing of which to boast other than the cross of Jesus Christ.  It is to protect us from self-glory that Paul warns us not to attribute any degree of merit to our good works for if we were "justified by works," we would have "something of which to boast"
     Now return with me to the basic structure of Paul's salvation theology in Ephesians 2:8-10.
    *  We are saved
    *  by grace
    *  through faith
    *not of but  unto good works.
    It is vital that we understand the order of the experience.  Salvation comes by grace through faith alone. Good works are the practical outworking of that reality.  The moment we reverse the inspired order by placing deeds of righteousness before salvation, at least three spiritual tragedies result.
    1.  The motives of the heart are corrupted, because self becomes the center of our focus rather than Christ.
    2.  True obedience becomes impossible, because true obedience is the outworking of a heart filled with Christ centered love, and is not the purchase price of salvation.
    3.  Joy in obedience becomes impossible, because we only find joy in obedience that is motivated by love.
    The true gospel is designed to lay the glory of man in the dust so God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  Sure, we can modify our outward behavior so as to give an appearance of righteousness.  But only Christ can change us at the heart level.
     How does He do it?
     By convincing us that there is nothing good we have ever done or can do to secure His salvation.  Then, as we lose all confidence in ourselves and almost sink into hopelessness, He graciously informs us that we need not despair, for He has saved us by virtue of His love.
   
    (More tomorrow.  Isn't this good, it takes all the work out of saving ourselves and puts it on Christ who saves us by His grace and love.  He makes us into what He wants us to be.  What a loving God we serve!!!!!!!  Grandma Joan)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Startling Challenge

     In His sermon on the mount Jesus confronted the people with a startling challenge:  "Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven"  Matthew 5:20 NKJV.
     This was a serious statement to bear for those who heard Him.  As far as they could see the scribes and Pharisees were the perfect example of righteousness.  They were as righteous as humans get, the cream of God's crop.  Now Jesus was telling them that they needed to be more strict than the most righteous people they knew.
     Or was He?
     Either Jesus was saying that we need more of the same righteousness the scribes and Pharisees exhibited, or He was inviting us to receive a righteousness of an entirely different character and quality.  In Matthew 23 Jesus addressed the scribes and Pharisees with some straight words.  On this occasion He clearly pointed out the difference between their righteousness and that to which He was calling the people.  Carefully notice His words:
    "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law; justice and mercy and faith.  These you ought to have done, with out leaving the others undone.
     "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
     "Blind Pharisees, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
     "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.  Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness"  Matthew 23:23-27.
     According to Jesus we humans are composed of two basic part--the outside and the inside.  Obviously He was referring to  our behavioral appearance as the outside, and to our heart-motives as the inside.

     (We don't want to be like the Scribes and Pharisees, do we?  So pay close attention to the next day or two pages and see how we can avoid living like them.  Praying for you.  Grandma Joan

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Scribes and Pharisees

     The scribes and Pharisees were extremely concerned about the outward issues of religion and at the same time very neglectful of the inward matters.  As an example of the outward things on which they were so focused, the Savior mentioned tithing  He could have as easily used Sabbath observance or dietary habits as His example. In contrast to issues of outward conduct, Jesus called their attention to "the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith, " and Luke's gospel adds to the list, "the love of God"   Luke 11:42
     Jesus did not dismiss outward behavior as of no importance, for He said such things should not be left undone.  Rather, He was trying to shift their focus from the outward to the inward.  In God's mind there are gnat size issues and there are camel size issues.  A gnat is very small in comparison to a camel.  So there are matters of paramount importance, such as faith and love  Then there are matters of comparatively small significance, such as paying tithe and drinking gnat-free water (dietary habits).
     Remember, it is Jesus who has drawn this distinction not me. 
     But why any distinction at all?
     Jesus came right to the practical point He was leading to:  "First cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also."
     First in point of priority.  First in point of focus.  First in point of time.  "First cleanse the inside," He says.
     That. So that. In order that.  "That the outside may be clean."  
     Also.  In addition to.  As an effect of.  Coming forth from.  "That the outside may be clean also.
     In other words, focus your attention and energies on the vital matters of the heart, such as faith and love, and as a result the outward matters of reform and conduct will be taken care of in natural course--from the inside out.
     God's love in us will not fulfill the law superficially, as mere outward conformity to God's rules in order to avert His wrath and secure His favor.  When God's love penetrates the heart it creates in the wake of its influence a new spring of action, a new attitude toward God and His law, a new reason to live.
     We once lived in the passion of self-interest.  Our highest priority was our personal salvation, assuming we could do something about it by performing righteous works.  But now, in the light of God's love we live in the compelling passion of Christ-centered affection.  Our highest priority is God's glory, for we realize He saves us totally by virtue of His mercy and not because of any works of righteousness which we have done.

     (More tomorrow.  Please stay with me until you have consumed the whole book which isn't that much, but it is a compelling book to read and I hope you are enjoying it.  Grandma Joan)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Joy and Delight

     Paul's language is different than that of Jesus, but equally clear:  "God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you"  Romans 6:17.
     What does the apostle mean by this idea of obedience from the heart?
     In his own context Paul's understanding is made evident:  "Having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God"  Romans 5:1,2.
     The gospel Paul proclaimed was the good news of justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone.  He rejoiced in this amazing realization of divine grace.  In verse 5 he explains the effect this gospel has on those who believe.  "The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."  When the true gospel dawns upon the understanding, the love of God fills the heart with unquenchable desire to please such a wonderful Lord.  It is with this gospel in mind that Paul speaks of believers obeying from the heart.  He simply means obedience that has its origin in love, springing forth from a heart that has been won and transformed at the motive level.
     The apostle John communicated the same idea when he said,"whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves Him who is begotten of Him....This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome" 1 John 5: 1,3.
     Love is the only source of true obedience, and true obedience is not a burden.  In fact, it is the highest blessing the believer knows.  The one whose religious experience centers in God's love can identify with David when he said, "I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart"  Psalm 40:8.  Obedience that comes from the heart is obedience in which there is delight.  It is not a pretended or disciplined delight that is put on for others to see.  No, it is a personal delight, an inner joy that abides in the heart whether others are looking or not.

     (Don't you want that kind of joy and delight.  I do.  May you be blessed as you read these pages, and if you have to read them over and over until it sinks in.  It is such a joy to know that God puts the joy and delight in our hearts when obeying Him.  Grandma Joan)







Monday, August 18, 2014

No Room for Boasting

     Those who do not understand the power of God's love to awaken in the heart a living, working faith, will talk of salvation by faith and works.  Because they minimize God's love, they must find some human goodness to add to their deficient view in order to make it appear as though their religion is getting the job done.  But the Bible knows nothing of a salvation that comes through faith and works, but only of a faith that does work...by love,  see Galatians 5:5,6.
     Salvation is by grace through faith period.  Nothing more.  The moment we add anything, there is room for boasting.  God's grace is so transforming, and the faith he has given us is so effectual, that every true child of the gospel will be made a masterpiece of good works--no credit to us.  Paul does not leave works out of the picture, he simply puts them in their proper place as the fruit of salvation and not the root.  He says that salvation is "not of works," but definitely "unto good works" Ephesians 2:8-10.  In other words, salvation is not secured by good works, but does produce them.
     It is only in the consciousness of God's marvelous grace, by which we are freely saved apart from any works, that we truly prevail over sin and obey the Lord.  For when we comprehend the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, we are made entirely new on the inside.  Because God's love transforms the springs of motive in the inmost heart, love for sin is conquered as love for God reigns.
     In the light of God's love obedience is a blessing not a burden, a delight not drudgery, a privilege not a problem.  The heart that has been impressed with a true sense of God's love will not complain or quibble about the high standards of holiness the Lord  holds up.  There will be no question as to how little can be done in order to slip into heaven.  We will not ask, What does God require? with a tone that suggests an interest in minimum requirements.  One great passion will reign supreme in the soul--the honor and glory of God.
     So turn your eyes away from yourself.  Fasten your gaze upon the cross of Christ.  Rivet your attention there until the reality of God's astounding love wins the deepest loyalty of your heart.
     I think you'll find that Christianity is like marriage, love makes all the difference in the world.

     Loving Father, precious Lord Jesus, grant that I would know the wonderful experience of obedience from the heart  Teach me to find inward delight in Your holy law.  Win me, dear Savior, win me at the deepest level of my motives.  In Christ I pray.  Amen

    (Friends, I am going through a real tough emotional time right now and this book is probably keeping my head above the problems as I prepare it for you to read.  If any of you would find it in your heart to pray for me, I would really appreciate it to the utmost.  Grandma Joan)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ornery, Tricky and Deceitful!!

     He's ornery, tricky and deceitful.  He's uncontrollable.  He's desperately wicked.  Worst of all, he's You!  
     I don't men to be hard on you but someone needs to confront you with the reality of your pitiful condition.  Please do take it personal.  It's God's diagnosis, not only of you, but of me too.
     "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"  Jeremiah 17:9.
     "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be"  Romans 8:7.
     Of course, if you've been born again in addition to the old you there is also the new you.  I guess we could say there are two you's.  Not that you're schizophrenic, but you do definitely have two persons battling for the mastery in your life.
     There are many folks however who try to live new without becoming new.  They try to make the old man of sin live the new man lifestyle of righteousness.  Though a futile pursuit, nevertheless, scores of undeniably zealous men and women keep on trying to go the do-it-yourself route. They mistakenly suppose God wants them to merely modify and reform the old person that they are.  Or perhaps they just don't think about it carefully enough to realize that this is what they're doing.
     There are three basic strategies that old-man-Christians use to deal with temptation and attempt to live the victorious life:
     1.  Magnify guilt.  By focusing on their past failures, some people hope to make themselves feel so guilty that they won't feel audacious enough to sin again:  "I'm so terrible.  I can't believe I did that.  I'm so low, so depraved, so vile.  If I don't get my act together I'll end up lost for sure.  I know I can do better. and I promise I will.
     2.  Increased sense of Duty.  There is a line of complex reasoning designed to increase a sense of duty that goes something like this:  "It's wrong and you know it's wrong, so don't do it, because it really is wrong, it's just plain wrong, so don't you dare do it since it's wrong and you know you shouldn't --even though you want to."  (Versions may vary according to personality.)
     3.  Brute strength.  Sometimes when we are trying to be Christians without Christ we come right up to the forbidden deed and stare it straight in its sinful eyes, clench our fists, grind our teeth and say, NOOOOO! Nooo! No, no, no.....oh noooooo."

     (Have you been there?  I'm sure we all have at one time or another, probably more than once.  Keep reading, this will all end in a beautiful way.  But you must make it to the end to find out.
Grandma Joan)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A New Heart and A New Spirit

     Now don't misunderstand me.  When we do wrong, we ought to feel guilty about it.  We do need to have a high sense of duty too.  And when faced with temptation, we should say No, with furrowed eyebrow if necessary. But listen:  None of these approaches will avail to make the old man behave himself.  The problem is not just that he doesn't want to be good--he cannot.  Good intentions, resolute promises brute determination are useful for running a business or building a house; but here they are powerless.  We need an entirely new heart, not merely a disciplining of the old one.  The gospel does not call us to merely try and be good people.  Rather, it summons us to die and rise to newness of life.
     So what is the new heart and how do we receive it?  Here's God's promise:
     "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them"  Ezekiel 36:26,27.
     In the Bible the heart is often mentioned with an intended spiritual meaning. The literal, biological heart was seen as the divinely ordained center and source of physical life.  So the heart was referred to as a symbol of the central faculties of man's spiritual nature.  When used in this way its primary meaning seems to be the will or the motivational mainspring of human nature.
     The word spirit has a closely related meaning. The spirit of man was rightly thought to be the breath or life force of God.  In a spiritual sense it may be taken to mean the quality of spiritual life one sustains in his or her relation to God.  More specifically, it refers to the disposition or attitude.
     With this understanding in mind, we might read the above Scripture like this:  "I will give you new motivation and put a new quality of life within you;  I will take the selfish motives out of  you and give you a willing heart that will be soft and pliable, a heart that will incline toward Me.
I will put My Holy Spirit within you and will influence you at the level of your motives and in this way cause you to live in harmony with My will."
     There are many who try to be Christians before they become Christians in God's appointed way.  They set out on a course to correct bad habits and do righteous deeds, assuming that by so doing they are Christians but they are beginning in the wrong place.  The first work of the Holy Spirit is to change the heart , not correct the life.  The outward life may be disciplined so as to give an appearance of Christianity, while the heart is left untouched.  But if the heart is first transformed, the life will reflect that inner reality.

(Are you  trying too hard to be a Christian.  Why not give God a chance to change your heart, I am letting Him change mine.  I will admit, I am a stubborn human being but I know that God is real and His word is true, so He will do it, I just need to surrender it to Him.  Right?  Grandma Joan)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Yes, It's Love.

     Genuine conversion only happens in the light of the cross, when the soul encounters Calvary's love and yields to its influence.  Conversions founded on a platform of unresolved guilt, or on a mere sense of duty, or on brute determination are superficial and will only supply strength proportional to the weakness of the foundation.  When storm winds of temptation really blow, such religion will be found to be worth nothing.  Like a house built on the sand, it will be swept away, but those who build on the solid foundation of Christ will stand against the fiercest temptations.
     Why?
     Not because they feel too guilty to sin.
     Not because they feel obligated.
     Not because they try hard enough.
     But because their loyalties have been so won by divine love that they would rather die than sin against their precious Savior; because God's love is stronger than temptation to sin.  It is the most powerful force in all the universe.  It is our greatest and most basic need.
     Once we have come to Christ and received the new heart, it is by the same means that we are to continue in Him.  "As (or in the same way) you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him"  Colossians 2:6 NKJV.  As we become born again by the realization of God's love at the foot of the cross, so we are to maintain our new life by remaining under the powerful influence of the cross.
     Allow me to explain in more practical terms.  Temptation and motivation are very similar concepts.  We use the word temptation to describe negative attractions,while we often use the word motivation to refer to positive attractions.  When we say we are motivated we usually mean we feel prompted to do something good.
     Temptation and motivation are mortal enemies.  The first is Satan's primary weapon for the ruin of souls.  The second is the Lord's chief advantage for the salvation of souls.  We can easily see then that we need to pursue a course of spiritual discovery that will increase the strength of God-ward motivation in our hearts and weaken the influence of temptation to sin.
     The apostle Paul explains what our strategy ought to be:
     Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne o God"  Hebrews 12: 1,2 NKJV.

     (Temptation and Motivation are mortal enemies, aren't they?  It makes it so clear to me, I do hope that you are finding the same thing. Let us run the race that God has set before us, because it is all possible through His love, because His love is power.  Grandma Joan)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Keeping Up On Our Focus

     Notice the relationship between overcoming sin and focusing on Jesus.  The first few words of this scripture express the most significant challenge we face:  "Lay aside the sin which so easily ensnares us.  Paul knew that sin strikes a responsive carnal-cord in our hearts.  We naturally tend toward sin.
     Yes, Paul does say it will take personal endurance to gain the victory, but not endurance of itself.  he joins endurance to something else-- looking unto Jesus.  By focusing the hearts affections, sympathies and understanding on the Savior, who endured the cross out of His great love for us, the exercise of the will in dealing with temptation will be made effectual.  It is the abiding sense of Christ's love that makes the heart strong to conquer sin.
     The concept is simple:  The more distance from our thoughts is the cross of Christ, the stronger will be the appeals of temptation.  The greater is our conscious appreciation of the cross, the mightier will be the heart's will to vanquish sin.
     Or we could say it this way: The more motivated we are by God's love, the less tempted we will be by sin.  In the light of God's love, sin loses it's attraction and all of God's ways become beautiful in our eyes.
     So Paul's basic formula for dealing with temptation is this:
    *  lay aside sin,
    *  with faithful endurance,
    *  by looking unto Jesus, who endured the cross.
    Trying to lay aside by personal endurance, of itself,  will eventually tucker out even the most self-willed.  It is absolutely vital that we combine with our efforts a constant, progressively deepening focus on the life and love and the cross of Jesus
     Unless Jesus is made the all in all of our Christian experience it simply will not work.  No matter how sincere we are, no matter how hard we try, we can never live the Christian life apart from Christ.  If we don't learn this lesson by the testimony of Scripture, hopefully we will learn it by experience.  If not, we will eventually cast Christianity to the wind as an illusive dream.  And it won't be because we didn't know the rules, but because we didn't know the One who made the rules.
     Yes, Father,  Ive experienced the futility of trying to deal with temptation in my own strength. I've tried to make myself do right and resist wrong on my own.  It's an endless round of failure.  I so need the new heart, a heart that moves at the impulse of Your love.  As I look to Jesus who endured the cross for me, please renew that heart in me day by day.  In His mighty name I pray.  Amen.

(Won't you join me in offering this same prayer for yourself and let God work in your life, I want Him to work in my life every moment of every day, don't you? Grandma Joan)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Don't Dispair!! It's so easy to make it!!

     I will never forget Diane.  She was so sweet yet so discouraged.   It was with little hope that she approached me for a solution to her problem.  As far as she could see, her Christian experience was at an end with no possible recourse, but her husband urged her to attend one of my seminars and give the Lord another chance.  Part way through the series of meetings, she asked if she might have a few minutes of my time.  I could see that she was deeply troubled.  Without hesitation, I stepped aside with her.  This is what she said:
     A few weeks ago I attended a series of meetings.  The speaker read certain scriptures and said that if a person was truly converted all his sin has been removed from the heart, and the true Christian will not sin as long as he remains born-again.  If you do sin, that means either you never really were a Christian or that you are no longer converted.  A truly converted person does not sin.
     She continued, "When I heard this I was completely overwhelmed with feelings of despair. In all honesty I could not claim to be a true Christian.  I had thought that I loved Jesus and that He had accepted me, but now I was certain that I had never really been converted.
     Before I came to your meetings I had already decided that Christianity was not for me.  But I know it is the truth and I determined to keep up the Christ lifestyle for my children's sake.  Even if I can't make it,  maybe they can, I told myself.  But what you are presenting is not the same as what I heard in the other seminar.  I am so confused.  I don't know if I'm converted or not.  Is there any hope for me?
     I must say I was not surprised by Diane's struggle.  Through the years I've met numerous other prisoners of "King Despair."  The theology Diane encountered is not uncommon fare in conservative circles.
     "Diane," I inquired "Do you love Jesus with all your heart?
     "Yes....well I thought I did, but..."
     "Save your but's," I stopped her.  "Do you love Jesus?
     "Yes, I do," she said with tears forming in her honest eyes.
     "Why do you love Him?" I probed deeper.
     "Because He died for me."
     "Did you invite Him into your heart as Savior and into your life as Lord?"
     "Yes, but..."
     "No but's, did you?"
     "Yes"
     "Then, Diane, you are a truly born-again Christian."
     "But I've sinned. since I gave my heart to Jesus. not only have I sinned, I have been painfully aware of defects in my character that I know God must not like.  Doesn't that prove that I am really not a Christian?"
     "Diane, do you long to please Jesus, and do you hate it when you fail?"
     "Yes, yes, I love Him and I so hate it when I fail."
     "You are a true Christian if I've ever met one," I assured her.  "And if what you heard at that seminar is true, I've never met a true Christian."
     Diane's experience is not unique.  The plain Biblical fact is, "We all (that includes you and me) stumble in many things.  James 3: 2.  "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves , and the truth is not in us."  1 John 1:8.  There is no doubt at all that the grace of God is abundantly sufficient to keep us from falling.  See Jude 24, 25.  The fact that we sometimes fail is no reflection on God's power.  It simply means we have allowed our personal weakness to prevail over His power.

     (What has been your experience?  Can you sympathize with Diane, or do you have another stumbling block that is in your way, or are you on the salvation pathway?  I hope that we all are on the pathway to heaven, God has provided the way, we need to follow.  Grandma Joan)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Failures In The Christian Life

     The devil would like to get us so focused on our failures that we come to doubt our Christian experience. He lurks in the  darkness of discouragement  As the accuser of God's children it is his studied aim to disconnect us from the Savior by stealing our faith and crushing us with despair.  Diane's perplexity was really a battle for her soul, a fight of faith versus doubt.  I can hear her asking, "As I learn to trust God's grace to keep me, how will He relate to me if I fall along the way?  Do my failures mean I've never been born-again?  Or do I pass from conversion to unconversion when I stumble?  Does God reject me at such times?"
     1 John 3:9 was quoted to Diane as evidence that a truly born-again Christian is sinless:  "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, because he is born of God."
     A reckless Bible student could easily misunderstand John's intent to this statement.  He is not dealing in this Scripture with the occasional misdeeds and failures of the Christian.  Rather, he is describing the general direction of the life that has become new in Christ.  The Greek verb for sin in this text is in the linear tense, literally meaning sin as an ongoing unbroken practice.  John is not here addressing sin in the punctilious tense, which would indicate an unintentional failure.  The idea he intends to communicate is that the born-again believer does not abide in or practice sin as a way of life.  
     The Amplified Bible gives an enlightening enlargement of this Scripture:  "No one born (begotten) of God (deliberately, knowingly, and habitually) practices sin, for God's nature abides in him....and he cannot practice sinning because he is born  (begotten) of God"  1 John 3:9 Amp.Bible.
     True conversion is a radical change of heart, or motive, of direction.  However, the born-again believer is not made miraculously sinless.  There are defects of character and weaknesses of the flesh with which he must do battle in the strength of his new faith.  As he fights the good fight of faith, he is likely to get knocked down on occasion.  His failures will not be willful or intentional, for he loves his Lord and longs to please Him in all things.  The steady direction of his new life will be onward and upward.  He will sincerely grieve over his mistakes and get up and go forward.  "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again"  Proverbs 24:16.
     Our standing of justification in Christ is not revoked every time we err.  "For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the lord looketh on the heart:  1 Samuel 16;7.  When the genuine desire of the heart is to please and honor God, and faithful efforts are put forth to this end, the Lord Jesus looks on this heart attitude as the best we can offer.  He makes up for our deficiencies with the merits of His own righteousness.  In our moments of failure He does not disclaim us as His children.  At such times He draws all the closer to us as His children.  At such times He draws all the closer to persuade us of His unbroken acceptance and deliver us from the clutches of despair.  In the words of King David, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholds him with His hand"  Psalm 37:23,24.  Jeremiah  proclaimed, "His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning."  Lamentations 3:22,23.

    (Aren't you glad that His compassions never fail, they are new every morning.  We can wake up to newness of life every morning, if we are willing to surrender all to Jesus and do things His way and not ours.  I'm willing, are you?  Grandma Joan)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Obligation? Mystical Transplant? Could It Be Love?


     Consider these insightful words:
     As the leaven, when mingled with the meal, works from within outward, so its by the renewing of the heart that the grace of God works to transform the life.  No mere external change is sufficient to bring us into harmony with God.  There are many who try to reform by correcting this or that bad habit, and they hope in this way to become Christians, but they are beginning in the wrong place.  Our first work is with the heart.....
    "The man who attempts to keep the commandments of God from a sense of obligation merely--because he is required to do so--will never enter into the joy of obedience.  He does not obey.  When the requirements of God are accounted a burden because they cut across human inclination, we may know that the life is not a Christian life.  True obedience is the outworking of a principle within.  It springs from the love of righteousness, the love of the law of God.  The essence of all righteousness is loyalty to our Redeemer.  This will lead us to do right because it is right--because right doing is pleasing to God"
     We do not become Christians by overcoming sin.  We overcome sin by becoming Christians.  And we become Christians by coming to Christ.  We must first turn to the cross and receive the new heart before we suppose we are any match for sin.  As we comprehend the amazing love of Christ as revealed at Calvary, the old selfish heart will die and the new heart of love will come to life.  The hard spirit of stubbornness will give way to a new spirit that inclines toward the Lord with delight. 
     Receiving the new heart is not some kind of mystical transplant. It simply means a change of motivation. God created Adam with a heart that was governed by the supreme motivation of love to God and love to others.  When Adam sinned there was a fundamental change that took place in his nature--selfishness took the place of love.  Selfishness became the governing force in his decision making. 
     When we embrace the revelation of God's love displayed at the cross, selfishness is conquered and the original motivation of love is restored to the heart.  This is what it means to be born again. In fact, this is the only real way to become a Christian.

(Can you become a real Christian?  Oh, yes, we all can through the love and power of God, we can do anything He asks us to do.  I'm so glad to know this vital truth about salvation.  Aren't you?  Grandma Joan)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Understanding Our Part in the Plan of Salvation.

     Marriage has the potential to be either the most fulfilling experience two people can have together or the most miserable burden of life.  Sad to say, many people mumble a weary amen to the last half of the statement.
     What is the factor in marriage that determines the quality of the relationship?  Love, of course.  If a man and a woman truly love one another their marriage will bring them great satisfaction and joy  If, on the other hand, selfishness is allowed to reign, mutual respect will be lost and the relationship will begin to feel confining.  The sacrifices that the relationship requires will become a heavy burden.
     Christianity is very much like marriage.  It can be either a wonderful experience or a terrible one.  And the determining factor is the same.  Love.
     As in marriage, a relationship with God will call for sacrifices.  Marriage requires the submission of each spouse's will to that of the other.  Christianity requires the submission of the will to Christ.  When the heart is kept truly in love with the Lord, obedience to His will brings great satisfaction and joy.  However, if we obey Him merely out of a sense of self-concerned obligation in order to gain heaven His law will seem restrictive and even oppressive.
     There are many who are trying to live by the standards and commandments of God's word because they want to escape hell and gain heaven.  Their hearts are not moved by any deep sense of the love of God, but they do realize their guilt and they fear the loss of their souls.  So they set their feet in the path of duty and determine to live in harmony with God's will.  They hope in this way to be saved.  The fact is, they really do not obey the Lord, because the heart is not into the matter.  They are not truly willing, but merely feel obligated.  They perform the letter of the law, but they are not actuated by the true spirit of obedience, which is love  see 2 Corinthians 3:6 and Romans 13:10.
     In the Bible there are two kinds of obedience brought to view.  One is referred to by Paul as the works of the law, and by Jesus as outward righteousness.  The other Paul called obedience from the heart, or simply love.  Jesus described it as inward righteousness and also summarized it with the single word love.
     Works of the law are deeds of outward obedience rendered
     * out of a mere sense of obligation in order to be saved.
     * without personal willingness from the heart,
     * without inward delight,
     * without a sincere desire to please God,
     *and with a view of God's character that assumes He withholds His favor until we do good.
     Obedience from the heart involves an inward attitude toward God that springs forth
     * from a deep sense of God's love in giving His Son to die for our sins,
     * from a personal desire to do God's will because it is pleasing to Him,
     * with inward delight
     * and with sincere appreciation to God for the free salvation He has given us through Christ apart from any works of righteousness which we have done.

(Are you understanding what Ty is saying, if you are not clear, pray for understanding and wisdom to understand.  It is important to understand these true steps to salvation and the fact that it is a free gift and we don't earn any part of it.  I pray that God blesses your effort to keep reading and understanding this important topic.  Grandma Joan)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Full and Free Salvation

     This understanding of the gospel is perfectly calculated to accomplish two revolutions in the human heart: 1.  It totally shatters every vestige of self-dependence for salvation and shifts our dependence wholly to Christ, and 2.  it awakens in us a depth of gratitude and love that can find satisfaction only in living to please and honor Christ.
     Do you see, friend, that anything short of full and free salvation through Christ alone will leave self alive?
     Do you se that you can never really live for the Lord until you have the assurance that your salvation rests in Him alone and not in yourself?
     Do you see that gratitude to Jesus for a free salvation is more powerful to produce a life of righteousness than is a mere sense of  obligation to be good in order to secure salvation.  (Read that sentence again, please).
     So what do you believe, my friend?  How does Jesus save sinners?  Ponder the options carefully, and make no mistake.
     1.  Salvation by grace through faith apart from good works, which makes obedience irrelevant.
     2.  Salvation by grace through faith and good works, which makes obedience meritorious.
     3.  Or salvation by grace through faith unto good works, which makes obedience inevitable.   Inevitable, because God's grace is sufficient.  Inevitable because the faith He gives really does work.  Inevitable, because in the light of God's love I willingly and joyfully accept His will as my own.  Not so I can be saved, but that He might be glorified in me as the Savior.
     I assure you, the way you think concerning this vital matter will determine, more than all other factors combined, the quality of our christianity--whether your experience will be one of rest or anxiety, confidence or uncertainty, joy or gloom, love or fear, victory or defeat.

     Father I praise You for devising such a perfect plan to save me.  There is something in me that wants to take some of the glory for my redemption.  But if I believe the gospel, and I do, all things pertaining to my salvation are of You, through You, and to You.  That means that I can do nothing to save myself, but you have saved me totally by virtue of Your infinite love.  It's humbling, but it's also a relief, for deep inside I know I'm a helpless subject of Your grace.  Thank You.  In the all-sufficient name of Jesus I Pray.  Amen

(More tomorrow, wasn't that an uplifting chapter,  This will be my thirteenth time through this book and I am enjoying it more each time.  Blessings to you.  Grandma Joan)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Christ The Brightness of God's Glory

     Paul called Jesus "the brightness of His (God's) glory, and the express image of His person" Hebrews 1:3.  "Great is the mystery of godliness" he proclaimed, "God was manifest in the flesh" 1 Timothy 3:16.
    Jesus was not kind of like God, or like God in some respects.  He was, in the fullest sense, the exact representation of the divine likeness.  Every attribute of His character revealed the true personage of God.  Every interaction He had with people was a manifestation of the Father's heart.  Every episode of His earthly life proclaimed the thoughts and feelings of the Eternal One whose very nature is love.
     At the time of Christ's incarnation the religious leaders had painted a distorted, ugly picture of God.  It would have been nice if they had kept it to themselves, but they didn't.  With great zeal they held up before the world their custom-crafted image of God.  Because they created an image of God in their own likeness, they were unwitting idolaters.  By their teachings and their dealings with their fellow human beings, they led minds to conceive of God as a dictatorial and cruel judge, slow to forgive and quick to punish.  Generation after generation, as they multiplied impossible rules as obstacles to God's favor and dealt out their condemnations, they repeated their high claim, "we have one Father, even God"  John 8:41.
     Naturally, the people of the world assumed God must be like His professed followers.  But Jesus denied their representation of the divine character.  The picture they presented looked more like the devil than the God of heaven.  "If God were your Father," Jesus said, "ye would love Me: for I  proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of Myself, but He sent Me....Ye are of your father the devil,and the lusts of your father ye will do"  John 8:42,44.  They were truly like their father, but God was not their father as they claimed.
     Jesus came to our world to give the true knowledge of God.  In every act of mercy H was saying, "This is what God is really like." As He healed the sick, as He befriended sinners, as He took time for children, He was longing for the light of divine love to shine into our hearts and persuade us that God is good.  This was His appointed mission.
     Yet so few understood.  The religious leaders said he was a drunk and a glutton because he sought to love those they hated.  Even His own disciples struggled to match up their concept of God with what they encountered in Him.   Peter tried to shoo away mothers and children, only to be astonished by the Savior's priority interest in giving them undivided attention.  James and John suggested that He burn up a whole city, apparently assuming that He would approve of their plan.  To their utter surprise, He identified their spirit as from the evil one and not from God.  Over and over, throughout His earthly life, Jesus sought to erase the distorted pictures of God people held in their hearts and repaint the image of divinity with the bright and beautiful colors of selfless love.  Every act of His life proclaimed,"This is what God is really like."

     (Are you getting a better picture of God?  I am, and I am so thankful someone like Ty is willing to portray God like He truly is.  It has helped me so very much and I hope it is helping each of you.  Grandma Joan)
   

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Seeing God In The Light of His love - Chapter three - Ty Gibson

     Since I travel a lot to conduct revival seminars and evangelistic meetings, I have sometimes encountered expressions of surprise on the faces of people who had formed a picture of me in their minds.  Some have vocalized their expectations:
     "I thought you would be older."
     "I thought you would be taller."
     "I thought you would be more solemn looking."
     No one has ever told me I looked exactly like they had imagined.  (I hope the disappointments have been few.)  In more recent years seminar advertisements have included a photo of the speaker.  It is so much easier now to get picked up at the airport.  My host or hostess knows exactly which face is mine amid the crowd departing the plane.
     The fact is, without a photo, it is virtually impossible to form an accurate picture of a person we have never seen.  And yet we attempt to do it all the time.  We can't help ourselves.  We automatically construct mental pictures of people we have never met.  Not only do we form pictures of what we think they might look like, we also develop ideas about their personalities.  We are often surprised to discover a person is different than we had expected.
     We do the same thing with God.  From what we hear other people say about Him, and from our personal experiences in life, we form a picture in our minds of what we think God is like.  Many people hold in their minds a picture of God that keeps them from approaching Him.  They hate the God they see.  Others have developed a view of God that leads them to serve Him like slaves.  They are afraid of the God they see.  Then there are some who relate to Him as a friend.  They must see a beautiful picture of God.
     A photo of the Lord would be helpful, don't you think?  Then we wouldn't have to guess or go by what others say about Him.  Well, believe it or not, God has sent us a photo of Himself. It's not a photo of His face however.  It's a picture of His character.
     "For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ""  2 Corinthians 4:6.
     There it is. God's self-portrait has been given to the world in the person of Jesus Christ.  We need not depend on our misguided imaginations to know God's character.  All we need to do is behold Jesus.  By looking at His life, listening to His teachings, and acquainting ourselves with how He related to people, we can form a right conception of our heavenly Father.
     Jesus claimed to be the transparent medium through which God is made known.  As His earthly ministry was drawing to a close, Philip made a request on behalf of all the disciples:  "Show us the Father" John 14:8. NKJV.  No doubt, they wanted to see God in person.  Actually, they had, but didn't realize it.  Jesus responded, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" verse 9.
     Jesus could have said it this way: "Do you see how I live, how I care, how I heal, how I love?  This is what God is like.  I am the living personification the unobstructed channel, the mirror reflection of God's true character."

     (Can you get a different picture of God now?  I use to have a horrible picture of Him, but God has helped me through the years to change that picture in my mind.  He will help you too.  Sometimes we view God as we do our real father or a step father and if they were kind and loving we picture God in the same way but if they were the opposite, we then view God that way.  God help us to see His kind and loving nature as we view and study the life of Jesus.  Grandma Joan)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

In Our Own Strength

     Some undertake this battle in their own strength, supposing that victory over sin and obedience to God's law will come by trying hard enough  So they try and they tell themselves they're doing pretty good.  Others view the task as an insurmountable hurdle beyond the realm of possibility.  Eventually they give up in discouragement.  In both cases the vital missing element is the motivating, empowering, compelling influence of divine love.  What electricity is to a lamp, what fuel is to a car, God's love is to the Christian life.
     "The love of Christ constrains" those who receive it, Paul said.  To do what?  He continues his thought: to "live no longer for themselves but for Him who died for them and rose again"  2 Corinthians 5:14, 15. NKJV.  In other words, the love of Christ is so powerful, so attractive, so absolutely captivating that it moves the one who receives it to cease living for self and to begin living for the One whose love compelled Him to die for us.
     When we truly understand and embrace the love of God as illuminated by Calvary, a responsive love awakens deep within our hearts.  New desires are stimulated.  Personal salvation becomes secondary to His  glory.  The passion to live for God is made true and deep and strong.  Self is forgotten.  Christian standards are seen to be Christian privileges.  And I might add for the sake of those who may be worried about all this emphasis on God's love, the very last thing we'll want to do is look lightly on sin.
     Everything appears new and beautiful in the light of God's love.

     Dear God cause me to see the true power of your love.  May I not underestimate its transforming influence.  Allow the cross to shine its healing rays on my heart so I can view everything in the light of Your love  In Christ's saving name I pray.  Amen.

     (I hope this encourages you as it has me.  I have always tried to obey and failed but in the Light of God's Love it no longer becomes a duty but a privilege.  A loving privilege.  May God bless you with the light of heaven as you read these thoughts each day.  Grandma Joan)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Law and False Impressions

     When we point out the difference between right and wrong, individual guilt is accentuated.  This is why Paul said, "By the law is the knowledge of sin" Romans 3:20.  We are awakened in conscience to our true condition when the law is presented.  And this is just as it should be. The law is intended to occupy that role, and we ought to preach it to accomplish that purpose.  But if at this point we fail to magnify God's great love in Christ for the pardon of sin, we risk communicating one of two false impressions with equally devastating results.
     False Impression Number One:  I need to keep the law in order to gain the favor and salvation of God."
     With this subtle misuse of the law, obedience, standards of holiness, preparation for the close of probation are all perceived as human responsibilities to be borne faithfully in order to secure salvation.  Those who tend to be strong-willed and self-confident fall prey to this kind of thinking most easily.  Self-righteousness is the result.
     False Impression Number two:  "I am utterly hopeless and may as well give up"
    Obedience to the law and Christian standards are perceived as obstacles in the way of salvation.  The weak and self-conscious fall here.  Despair is the result.
     Now consider with me the vital part God intends that His love should occupy in the plan of salvation.  I think you'll see that it is not risky to focus on the cross.  An emphasis on God's love does not give license to sin or cause people to lower standards.
     According to the apostle Paul, "The message of the cross is the power of God" 1 Corinthians 1:18.  He enlarges the thought by informing us that the message of the cross is God's love: "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" Romans 5;8.  But do not misunderstand Paul's intent.  He speaks of God's love not as a sentimental feeling that makes sinners feel comfortable in their sins, but as a motivating power that enables us to truly be free from sin.  In Paul's understanding the love of Christ is the empowering factor in Christian experience.
     Notice his words:  "The love of Christ constraineth us..." 2 Corinthians 5:14  "Christ's love compels us ..."NIV  The idea conveyed in this Scripture is motivational power.  The love of Christ moves our sin-weakened wills to do things we would never be able to do apart from its animating influence.  This is just the kind of power we need, because the Christian life involves various actions of the will that require more than human strength:
     Repentance, which is sorrow for sin so deep that it causes the sinner to turn from his sin.
     Confession, which is a humble acknowledgment of personal sin before the Lord.
     Reformation,  which involves some radical changes of thought, feeling and lifestyle.
     All of these aspects of Christian experience are summarized in the penetrating words of Jesus, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me'  Mark 8:34.  Every movement toward God is a movement away from self.  The victories to which God calls us and all the changes He requires are, at foundation level, a denial of the old carnal self.

(Don't give up in hopelessness or despair, there is hope for all, including you and me.  Hang in there for the good news is the Good News of the Gospel.  Grandma Joan)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Truth In The Light Of God's Love - Chapter 2 by Ty Gibson

     I had just finished preaching a sermon on the amazing love of God as demonstrated through Christ at Calvary  A fellowship meal had been planned and small groups of people were visiting while a few of the ladies made the last minute preparations.
     As I chatted with a man and his wife I could sense that he was a bit troubled.  Something seemed to be on his mind.  So I wasn't surprised when, all of a sudden, a surge of boldness came over him.
     "What's all this talk about the love of God and the cross?  What we need to hear is the truth!"
    While I halfway expected him to say something negative, I was definitely set back for a few seconds by the nature of his concern.
     "The truth?" I questioned.  "What is the truth you're referring to?"
     "You know, the truth--" he responded rather matter-of factly, "the three angels' messages, the mark of the beast, an update on what the pope's up to, the commandments of God, the shaking of the church, the close of probation--the truth."
     On another occasion while preaching the same message at one of our universities, an intense man engaged me with a similar line of reasoning.
     "You've missed the point," he challenged me "you're going to lead our people to look lightly on sin with all this emphasis on God's love and the cross.  Our church has a real problem and it needs to be fixed."
     "Tell me," I probed for his meaning, "in your opinion what is our problem and what is the solution?"
     "I'll tell you: The problem is sin, and the solution is we need to stop it.  Our people need to hear the truth.  They need to hear sermons that rebuke their sins, and messages on the commandments of God and standards of the church.  That's how we'll check this tide of liberalism coming into the church."
     According to these fellows it is the truth we need to be preaching and not the gospel of God's great love manifested in Christ.  Quite frankly, I've decided this concept is too deep for me to comprehend.  It seems these men are afraid that proclaiming the love of God will not make people feel obligated enough to overcome sin and keep His law.  And I'm afraid that too many people share their misconception.
     The fact is, every doctrinal, prophetic, and lifestyle truth of the Bible finds its real value and crucial meaning only in the light of divine love that shines from the cross.  Only "the truth as it is in Jesus" has power to truly save and sanctify.  This is why Paul said, "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified"  1 Corinthians 2:2.  The apostle did not men that he would never address any other topic, but that he would present every other topic in the illuminating context of the cross.  He would maintain God's great sacrificial love as the central theme of his ministry.  Every other truth of Scripture is invested with power only when kept in vital relation to the knowledge of God's true character as revealed at Calvary.
     When doctrinal truths, prophetic truths, or lifestyle truths are presented outside the context of the gospel, the effect is not salvation but rather self-righteousness for some and despair for others.
     Doctrine is irrelevant apart from Christ's love.
     Prophecy is scary apart from His love.
     Lifestyle standards are oppressive apart from His love.

(You will find a great burden will be gone if you continue reading this book. I love it, it means so very much to me and has helped me in my Christian walk.  The same will happen to you if you let it. Grandma Joan)  Please pray for me and another family member.  Things are tough right now for us both.  We need help right now from heaven.  So thankful for this book, it is keeping our heads above the water.