June 08, 2018

PREACHING/TEACHING...A DOUBLE PRONGED RESPONSIBILITY


THE BELT OF TRUTH is double pronged and preachers and teachers of the Bible must make a faithful use of both. They are to set forth both the negatives and positives seen everywhere in Scripture. 

     Centuries ago the prophet Isaiah did. And Jesus, reading the same passage years later, applied it to Himself. Here is what they believed when it came to responsibly setting forth truth. They believed it their duty "to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor]and the day of vengeance of our God" (Isaiah 61:2). They were to preach both positively and negatively - both "the acceptable year" and "the day of vengeance of our God."

     Much later, the Apostle Paul maintained a similar stance. He viewed the preaching of his day as "a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2: 15,16) - notice "an aroma from death to death" and "an aroma from life to life."

     A working battery has both positive and negative poles. It just won't work to block off the negative. The negative is essential. And when God speaks negatively (do count not only the "thou shalt nots' in Holy Scripture but also the "do nots" in such passages as Proverbs 23), I say, when God speaks negatively IT IS FOR THE SAKE OF A POSITIVE OUTCOME. 

     When a mother saw a thunderstorm forming in mid-afternoon, she worried about her seven-year-old daughter who would be walking the three blocks from school to home. Deciding to meet her, the mother saw her walking nonchalantly along, stopping to smile whenever the lightning flashed. Seeing her mother, the little girl ran to her, explaining happily, "all the way home, God's been taking my picture!

     Even so, God works through His "do nots" and His numerous "you shalls" to produce the image of Jesus in us. The two together keep the power of God surging in us. Together the belt of truth hinges securely.

- dick christen 
     

April 21, 2018

CHRISTIAN LIVING IS NOT ALL HUGS AND KISSES...



One Bible teacher remarked, "Christianity is the way of the cross...and your blood and sweat may mingle with Christ's before your life is finished." By this statement, Lionel Fletcher did not mean Christ's atoning work on the cross was insufficient to completely save a sinner, but rather that every believer is crucified with Christ both completely and redemptively at the moment of salvation but also progressively (day by day) and sanctifyingly throughout the earthly sojourn. The Apostle Paul stated it this way: "I have been crucified with Christ..." (Gal. 2:20). The perfect tense denotes an action and a continuance thereof.

Therefore, GOD'S WORD pointedly says to every believer in Christ: 


"So kill (deaden,deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God)" (Col. 3:5 AMP.).

This instruction is radically different from a 'lovey-dovey' kind of popular Christianity attracting many in the twenty-first century Church. In fact, multitudes do not want to hear it. 

But, faithful Bible teachers have proclaimed it for centuries. Listen to them: 

"Our old nature is no more extinct than the devil; but God's will is that the dominion of both should be broken" (John R. W. Stott).

"In youth, mid-age, and now after many battles, I find nothing in me but vanity and corruption" (John Knox).

"I more fear what is within me than what comes from without" (Martin Luther).

"There may be persons who can always glide along like a tramcar on rails without a solitary jerk, but I find that I have a vile nature TO CONTEND WITH, and spiritual life is a struggle with me. I have to fight from day to day with inbred corruption, coldness, deadness, barrenness, and if it were not for my Lord Jesus Christ my heart would be as dry as the heart of the damned" (Charles H. Spurgeon).

These men of God are in perfect sync with the Apostle Paul who straightforwardly shared his testimony:  "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.    Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;    but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

- dick christen

April 02, 2018

WORK IT OUT, DEAR CHRISTIAN....


I GOT OUT THIS OLD LEATHER BAG, took some cleaner and shined it up like new! And let me tell you, it really did TAKE WORK! After much rubbing and circular scrubbing it came up like new. Applying this observation to my Christian life, I'm reminded that to daily tend to my soul takes much diligence too. Think about how we are ardently challenged to live for Jesus in the Scriptures by the abundant use of ACTION verbs: seek, fight, wrestle, run, beat the body, etc., etc. The Bible tells Christians to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). We don't work FOR it but must work it out. Grace saves us, grace keeps us and grace gives us strength to make this daily effort, but does not negate my personal responsibility to be confessed up (my daily sins) and filled up (with the Holy Spirit), along with availing myself of the many other means of sanctifying grace. 

- d. christen

March 14, 2018

WAITING FOR JESUS........TRUSTINGLY


At times it seems you've fished and fished for Jesus  and caught precious little, if much of anything at all, and, you can't even see Jesus on the shore of your life for a new directive. So, you keep looking for Him..... believingly. He always shows up on time and makes Himself known tenderly and with a new point of instruction. He did with the discouraged fishermen He loved:

"Simon Peter *said to them, “I am going fishing.” They *said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus *said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish" (John 21:3-6).

-d. christen

March 03, 2018

THE PRECIOUS DETAILS OF MEDITATING ON SCRIPTURE...


It is one thing to own a Bible, quite another to read it. I feel sorry for professing Christians who will often say they indeed hold the Bible in high esteem, but in reality seldom meditate therein. They miss out on beautiful truths such as mentioned below:

Solomon built his gorgeous Temple under the direction of God Himself. The details of this undertaking are set forth in the opening chapters of 1 Kings. After its construction and the placement of all the furniture therein, the last to be placed was the Ark of the Covenant. It was situated in the Holy of Holies.

"After the priests placed it and when they left, God Himself dwelt therein. 
It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord" (1 Kings 8:10).

This cloud was the Shekinah Glory that led Israel during her forty years in the wilderness. It shone at night. God was present! And it was always there regardless the spiritual condition of God's people, even as today He never leaves or forsakes His own. 

When God's people finally apostasized God withdrew from the Temple and the word Ichabod was written over the door. The glory of the Lord had departed. 

As an aside. I believe the star of Bethlehem was this same phenomenon. It pinpointed the location of the Messiah. Also, it may well have been the cloud on the Mt. of Transfiguration.

Dear Christians, is the glory of the Lord radiating from our lives. The Holy Spirit wants to make it a reality. 2 Corinthians 3:18 declares, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." Hence the daily responsibility of not grieving or quenching the Spirit. We must walk with holy sensitivity. 

dc


February 27, 2018

LEGALISM OR OBEDIENCE?

INSISTANCE upon the plain injunctions of Scripture is often confused with legalism, the latter being insistance upon one's personal opinion masked as being Biblical. But, Jesus said, "If you love me keep my commands." Doing so and encouraging such is obedience, not legalism. Be sure to differentiate between the two.
d.christen

February 13, 2018

MAKE THE WORLD GO AWAY....SEE HEAVEN APPEAR......


     I recently listened to the beautful tune MAKE THE WORLD GO AWAY, by Floyd Cramer. Just those words will make some start humming it all day. 

     It brought to my mind a verse of Scripture. When at the end of time God sets up THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGEMENT SEAT of Christ, the scene is described with these words: "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them"(John 20:11). 

     Often when leaving 'home sweet home' we feel nostalgia and loneliness as the old homestead fades in the rear view mirror. But just imagine all earth and heaven distancing themselves, fading into the far reaches of the eye. All unsaved people will experience this! It will be awful. They can't go back. Their destiny is decided. They stand before the Judge of all judges, Jesus Christ, devoid of His salvation.

And here is what happens..."Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." When this happens it will be Jesus who makes the world go away. No pleasant tune will sound forth from the glorious angels of heaven. Only the agonies of hell will become louder and louder as the lost near hell. 

     Oh, be saved now! To avoid hearing the words of condemnation at the Great White Throne, right now hear and heed the words of the Gospel: "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36).

Sir Winston Churchill is reported to have said: "All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a simple word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy and hope." At heaven's gate just one word gains admission: JESUS! 

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." And this, not just to escape hell but to know God and enjoy Him forever. 

Believe not just about Jesus but believe on Him. Earth will fade but heaven will be your eternal home. No loneliness there!

-Dick Christen

February 07, 2018

WHAT? JESUS TELLS HIS FOLLOWERS NOT TO BEAR WITNESS?


Just this morning I was asked:

"Question about a couple passages: What have you gathered from verses like Mark 1:44-45 and Mark 7:36 where Jesus urges them not to tell about the great things He has done and the people decide to do it anyway? Is that showing the failure of humans even with the simplest of tasks?"

These passages relate to Jesus' words of warning to His followers after performing a miracle. They were to stay 'mum' about the wonder they had just seen. "And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He *said to him, 'See that you say nothing to anyone'...(Mark 1:33,34). In  this chapter Jesus healed a leper. It was instant, complete and mind-boggling. 

I answered the question this way:

I interpret such incidents in a most mundane manner. The last phrase of v45 says "they were coming to Him from everywhere." The multitudes surrounded Him. Everyone was talking about Him. They were ever so curious. The press of the crowds (the Paparazzi) necessitated extreme measures for His safety and that of the crowds. Crowd control. So, Jesus hushed the listeners to offset the mad rush. In effect, why add fuel to the fire? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I think it was a safety measure to guard God's time table for His redemptive  mission. I don't think we need to read any 'anti witness' allegation into Jesus' word of common-sense caution.
And, they disobeyed out of mere excitement for the great things He was doing. They couldn't contain themselves, they couldn't keep it in. They'd burst from the sheer marvel of it all. I think Jesus understood this and with tenderness resisted any urge to rain down fire on them for their failure to heed His directive 😃.

Certainly the Bible is deep with mystery. When we interpret it we sometimes are so bent on finding deep mysteries that we fail to understand the obvious and surface plain sense that is there also. This is a mistake and leads to unnecessary intrigue. As has been said, when plain sense makes common sense, seek no other sense.
dick christen

January 27, 2018

BUT WHY THE SICKNESSES AND TRAGEDIES OF LIFE?


JESUS once took pity on a crippled man by the Pool of Bethesda. It was thought there were healing properties in those waters. But then, THE HEALER came and simply told the man to pick up his pallet and walk. And he did. A miracle happened. He was made whole.  Jesus disappeared but later sought out the man in the Temple and said, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.”

Jesus' teaching could not be more plain. Sin may well bring sickness and even tragedy of great magnitude. King David experienced this. "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long." But nowadays, it is not commonplace to admit that personal sin may be the cause of MY illness or hardship. It is hardly ever even explored as a possibility, at least not outwardly.  But, Jesus instructs us otherwise. But before learning more about this, let me proceed to say the following:

It is must be made clear that sin is not always the cause of bodily breakdown, life's heartaches, tragedies and grave disappointments. Therefore caution must be exercised not to hastily pin it accordingly. For instance, it just may be that genetics play a causal role when a person suffers. A physical weakness may well be inherited. Most people experience this in one form or another, sometimes painfully so. But even if such be the case, God uses it for His glory and, in a deeper sense, for our good. Mysteriously, our weaknesses and hurts make us stronger if, like Job of old, and with his undoubting faith, we say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." A famous naturalist learned this centuries later, not realizing the Bible taught it long ago. He watched with pity the struggle of a chrysalis breaking out of a cocoon. He took his knife and slit the silken casket to make the process easier. But what emerged was a weak creature with an anemic body and bleached wings, unable to fly. 

Furthermore, diseases of many a sort may well just be 'in the air.' We simply 'catch a bug.' Let us remember we exist under the curse pronounced upon all of life as set forth in Genesis 3. Harmful bacteria and viruses abound and at any moment may invade anyone's body. And so, we suddenly become sick, even violently ill. Troubles and trials abound. But mysteriously and wonderfully God uses even such experiences for many directives and sanctifying reasons in our lives. Hopefully at such a time we can say with the Apostle Paul, "Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).

Which brings us to God's work in shaping and molding our lives. In a Christians life He is ever seeking to make every one of His children more and more like His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul's ministry promoted this. He said, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you... (Galatians 4:19). And so God, in His inimitable way, uses evil to produce great positive good in our lives. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus, let alone in this life. We will understand it better by and by. Insightfully it was once said, "At birth, deny a child the ability to see, hear and speak, and you have a Helen Keller."

BUT, the fact remains, personal sin in 'the here and now' may also well be the cause of any illness, accident or struggle in life. Humbly we must search for and acknowledge such, repent and confess thereof. And so, Jesus said "do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” Rarely is this cause of tragedy, in whatever form, taught or humbly confessed. 

A full orbed theology of sickness is vital so that we can deal more wisely with the pains and sufferings so common in life's journey. We all get ill. We all hurt sooner or later and we all are tempted to even doubt God. Why? Well, understanding a Biblical rationale is critical to handling such agonies better when they occur. And being comforted therein, for whatever the cause, we come to know that God is walking nearby in any 'Bethesda' that happens in 'my'  life. He looks on mercifully ready to help and heal, or just give the grace needed for whatever the trying experience. 

C.H. Spurgeon remarked, "I venture to say that the greatest earthly blessing God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness. Sickness has frequently been of more use to the saints of God than health has." 

A certain exquisitely priceless relationship with one's dear heavenly Father intimately occurs only during the hardships of life. Blessed be His Name! Sickness, when sanctified, teaches us four things: the vanity of this world, the vileness of sin, the helplessness of man and the preciousness of Christ. 

dc

January 20, 2018

JESUS' FIERCE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND THOUGHTFUL MERCY..


     What is wrong with the cartoon picture? Answer: The doves are loose, flying around, inside the Temple. That did not happen. And the lesson learned is rich with meaning about the nature of God.

     What did take place is that Jesus drove out the profaners of the Temple who were merchandising in the oxen and sheep. When they fled the Temple, if their animals scattered they could chase them down and retrieve their possessions. In this, Jesus' FIERCE RIGHTEOUSNES was on full display.

     But, with respect to the doves who could fly away and be lost forever, He told them to get the birds out of the Temple. They were not released from their cages. In this we see His THOUGHTFUL MERCY.

      Do read the Scripture: "The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.  And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, 'Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business'” (John 2:13-16).

     Jesus is the perfect Son of Man. Everything He did was with exacting proportion and just the right measurement of expression. Like the fine flower of the Old Testament Meal Offering Jesus was smoothly operative in all He did.

      Indeed, the more we think about Jesus, the more we think of Him. "And the Word became flesh, and  dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Surely, He perfectly lived what He perfectly taught. In the arousing story of Jesus cleansing the Temple we see His FIERCE RIGHTEOUSNESS coupled with His THOUGHTFUL MERCY. It has been said, "Jesus Christ is both the most absolute grace and the most perfect law; so that to believe in Him is to embrace at once both law and grace." 

- dc

December 21, 2017

THE 'IFS' OF FORGIVENESS


I count three 'ifs' in the verses below. Ponder them prayerfully, observe them and thereby be on track with Christ's program for FORGIVENESS. God's Holy Word is the final Word of authority on any subject and keeps us from an all too prevalent and promoted 'easy-forgiveness,' so very popular in our day. But this easy, trendy 'flip-off' of wrong-doing is really presumptuous of grace and fails to deal righteously with a wrong at hand. It counters a true understanding of what is being forgiven; sin is marginalized. 

Here are the verses to carefully note. Jesus said:

"Be on your guard! IF your brother sins, rebuke him; and IF he repents, forgive him. And IF he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him” (Luke 17:3,4).

From these words of Jesus, we can rightly conclude at least these three things:

1. Upon careful consideration, IF my brother is indeed sinning or has sinned, I am to REBUKE him in accordance with Jesus' outline for doing so in Matthew 18. This passage reads: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed." A few verses later this portion of Scripture includes the familiar "where two or three are gathered together" phrase. We commonly use this in a prayer context but it really follows the Savior's admonition about confronting sin. When trying to straighten out matters of sin, with a witness attending, Jesus wants us to know He is present also and can work wonders in hearts in order to bring about resolution. He is present in a special manner because He really wants a wholesome fellowship between His people. The promise that Jesus will be present helps subdue any fears to "go" as Jesus commands (not merely suggests).

2. IF my brother REPENTS I am to forgive. Jesus says, "and if he repents..." But, there must be repentance preceding any forgiveness. Sin is not to be glossed over or easily dismissed with an "I'm sorry." Repentance has to do with a radical change of mind. The sinning person must think differently about the wrong allegedly committed. He must dismiss his rationalizing excuses for his sin and accept Jesus' truthful evaluation thereof. He is to think about his sin even as God thinks about it. God hates it! Do I? If the confronter ascertains holy compliance he is bound to forgive. This process glorifies God, rightly deals with a sin for which Jesus was nailed to the cross and at the same time sensitizes the sinner and those cognizant of the sin against continuance therein. Alexander Pope is the one who said, "To err is human, to forgive divine." But Christian forgiveness is more than mere pardon or accepting a hastily uttered (or muttered) "I'm sorry." True confession rather operates on the ground of satisfying justice. It's 'righting' one's life with God as well as with any who have been offended. Oswald Chambers remarked, "It is shallow nonsense to say God forgives us because He is love. The only ground upon which God can forgive us is the cross." And a believer must forgive on the same basis. 

3. Forgiveness may need to be REPEATED often. Jesus instructs, "And IF he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” This points up just how ingrained sin is in this vile world, including all human hearts and even the hearts of born-again believers. We are indeed sinners saved by grace. And even with all the bestowals of grace, we nevertheless are sinners still. Luther said, "I more fear what is within me than what comes from without." And so even with genuine repentance a believer may well repeat his or her sin. When such occurs, in love I must be willing to repeat and repeat the forgiveness process set forth by our Lord Himself. 

The above pertains to an often time-consuming horizontal (person with person) aspect of dealing with sin. This may well take much time, prayer and patience. The matter of offending sin is not settled privately and quietly merely in the heart of the one offended. There is to be a personal encounter between the one offended and the offender. But it will be a most thrilling moment when two brothers in Christ stand face to face in a kind of reconciliation that pleases God, honors the death of Christ for sin on His cross, and peacefully clears the consciences of two estranged believers in Christ. 

In the meantime a vertical or Godward forgiveness is to be employed at once when a sin is committed. This is the kind of "on the spot" forgiveness employed by Jesus agonizing on His cross. He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." And so, while I am working on the horizontal (human to human) aspect of forgiveness, I look up to God remembering how Christ forgave His enemies and remember also what He wrought for them on His cross. All sin was judged there. And since the concept of 'releasement' is inherent in Divinely ordered forgiveness, I must in communion with God immediately forgive that person in this sense: I know God has already dealt with this sin  and I now must turn over or release to God the sin and sinner at hand. I will not plot or plan revenge of any kind and I do this knowing full well that God, through Jesus, has already dealt with it and now in 'real time' will initiate a process of His own whereby the sinning one will be brought to terms with the error of his ways. God will handle it! Therefore, since He always keeps His Word and will do so, I at once forgive (in this vertical sense) knowing any justice or correction needed will be accomplished by the Lord in His way and time. So, I forgive by turning (releasing) an offending brother over to God for His wise and holy dealings, but must now proceed horizontally, right here on planet earth, to seek a face to face resolution of the issue at hand and what can be a righteous renewal of a happy and holy relationship with my brother.

"You know, Mitch, whenever the wife and I get into an argument , she gets historical." "You mean hysterical, Mel, don't you?" "No, I mean historical - she remembers everything I ever did wrong and the exact date and time that it happened."

In dealing with interpersonal offences God surely wants us to keep short accounts. This can happen when we follow His directions, both in the vertical and horizontal senses.

Dick Christen

December 07, 2017

JERUSALEM/ISRAEL - THE FINAL WORLD SUPERPOWER



SOMEDAY, Jesus will be King in Jerusalem, having defeated all Israel's enemies. Ultimately only He can do that. Her foes are too many for any political power to overcome them. Even the USA with all it military might will not be able to accomplish this. But due to Christ's intervention, Jerusalem will rise up, overcome and be capital of the world's final and everlasting super-power. ISRAEL will dominate forever!

Read the Scriptures:

Isa 66:10 — Isa 66:12

Joy in Jerusalem’s Future

“Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, that you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, that you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom. For thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees.'"

Later in this passage Jesus' defeat of all the nations comes to the fore (this is right after the 7 year Tribulation period). This is the prophecy: "For the Lord will execute judgment by fire and by His sword on all flesh, and those slain by the Lord will be many. 'Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens, Following one in the center, Who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things and mice, Will come to an end altogether,' declares the Lord" (vv 16,17).

And so, God's people will prevail. Churchill once said, while facing a brutal European enemy, "There is only one answer to defeat and that is victory." True! Jesus, the King, will come and save all the Jews whose names are in His book of life and all others who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior. THERE'S VICTORY IN JESUS!

dick christen

November 30, 2017

HOW TO PRAY ALL NIGHT OR IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE...


The science of Bible interpretation is known as hermeneutics. There are laws of interpretation that lead to a better understanding of what Scripture is saying. One such principle is to take into consideration certain cultural matters when trying to understand the Word.

One phrase in Jesus’ life that has always caused guilt in my life is this: …”It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God”  (Luke 6:12).

An entire night in prayer? This has often shamed me. While challenging me it often shames me because I have never done that. And, furthermore, I can hardly manage an entire hour let a whole night praying. I try to imagine myself out on a mountain trying to be Christ-like and praying, praying, praying. Honestly, I could not do it.

However, upon reflection, I realize Jesus’ prayer with the Father was a two-sided affair. Unlike us, Jesus could audibly talk back and forth with His Father. He didn’t need the Bible to know what the Father said. They simply talked with one another. Being one in essence and being they were omniscient except that Jesus in his humanity seems unknowing in some instances. But two-sidedness of their fellowship is noteworthy. When I learned this I realized that I COULD spend a night in prayer because I would take my Bible to a mountain spot (or that comfortable quiet room at the far side of the house) read it and ponder it, address the Father, read some more, talk to my dear heavenly Father, read and pray, read and pray, grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and then go back to reading the Word (God talking to me) and praying (I talking to God). Yes, I can see myself doing that if I was on good terms with the Lord. I might well have to take a nap sometime the next day, but I think such an experience would prove to be a rich blessing, especially in times of great need or urgency. It would be quiet and uninterrupted. What endearing fellowship with my Maker and Savior that would be.

In a similar vein, sometimes the point is made that Jesus and great saints through the years arose a great while before day to pray. This too easily convicts of shallowness in prayer.  But it is wise to stop and realize a cultural element to be considered. The old timers had no electricity and probably 'turned in' to sleep at a much earlier time than many do nowadays. Those oil lamps could annoyingly  flicker and be rather dim. After awhile one would readily shut off the lamp and head for bed. It was far too bothersome to stay up too late.  This makes a huge difference. If I go to bed later I will need to sleep later to get an acceptable amount of sleep. Therefore, getting up too early isn’t always such an acceptable habit in the twenty-first century. Of course, at the same time, it wouldn’t hurt some of us to turn in earlier in order to get up earlier for an uninterrupted time and the quiet needed for a quality time with our dear Father. But in today’s busy world it may well be more suitable to designate another time in the day for a meaningful prayer time, especially for someone on a night shift.

I share the above ideas that have helped me not to be unnecessarily troubled when I don’t or can’t comply with the examples of Jesus and the great saints of history.

None of the above should be construed to minimize the need for much time and discipline in prayer and in the Word. I merely want us to avoid unnecessary guilt trips which can be used of the evil one to frustrate us.

dc


November 26, 2017

A CURIOUS ASPECT OF PRAYER...



A CURIOUS ASPECT OF PRAYER... "You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; And give Him no rest..." (Is. 62:6,7)

Does God need reminding? Prayer apparently "reminds" God of whatever we may previously have brought
 to Him, but not that He ever forgets anything. He can't. God never learns anything new or forgets anything old. Everything is an eternal 'present' to Him. But perhaps we remind Him in this sense: that our request brings a matter to the forefront of His mind for His special consideration and response. If this be the case is this not an additional incentive for prayer? When Samson was in deep trouble he "called to the Lord and said, 'O Lord God, please remember me and strengthen me just this time..." (Judges 16:28). And God did!

My child may ask and ask for something he dearly wants. I have that firmly in mind but let it slide to the back of my mind because now is not the time for a wise response. Then one day he asks and now is the right time and so I respond. But I may not have except that once again he brought it to my readied attention. 

All this reminds us that prayer is answered in God's time, not ours. Spurgeon remarked, "Let your fleece lie on the threshing floor of supplication till it is wet with the dew of heaven." 

"You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves."


dc

November 18, 2017

JESUS' ARDENT PRAYER LIFE....NO MATTER HOW BUSY!


Without a doubt, today's church needs more agonizing (in prayer) and less organizing (in yet more programming).

Here's a verse about Jesus' prayer life: "It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God" (Luke 6:12).

Was Jesus busy? Certainly. Just a cursory reading of His life tells us that. He was famous. The crowds were always coming at Him. But, "at that time" He went off to pray. This was an INTENTIONAL prayer time. Do I intend to pray each day? Do I have seasons of prayer scheduled in?

Did Jesus have a prayer closet? He didn't even have a house. And so, He found a place - "off to the mountain."
It was quiet. He was uninterruptedly alone with His Father. He was INSISTENT in pursuing a quality place for prayer. 

Was Jesus satisfied with merely occasional and quick prayers? We call such ejaculatory praying. It's praying on the run or in the midst of busyness. And such brief praying is surely acceptable and to be engaged in. Paul may have had such in mind when he admonished us to pray without ceasing. Nehemiah prayed this way and often. The renowned Rowland Hill liked this kind of prayer because, as he said, "it reached heaven before the Devil could shoot it down." But Jesus didn't stop with this (and probably Nehemiah didn't either). However, on this occasion, and probably often, "He spent the whole night in prayer." While a drop of prayer can bring an ocean of mercy, an entire night in prayer allows an ocean of fellowship with one's heavenly Father. Such is INDEFATIGABLE or resolute prayer. Martin Luther said "Prayer is the sweat of the soul." 

A preacher with the unusual name of Christmas Evans colorfully remarked: "Prayer is the rope up in the belfry; we pull it, and it rings the bell up in heaven." Jesus' concept of prayer was deep in the conviction that therein He laid hold of His Father in heaven. He prayed often, long and fervently. 

Do I? Do we? 

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October 24, 2017

DID JESUS ACTUALLY SWEAT BLOOD?



READING THE ARTICLE BELOW, WILL I NOW BELIEVE LUKE 22:44? IN DESCRIBING JESUS' AGONY IN THE GARDEN IT SAYS: 

"And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." 

SHOULDN'T WE HAVE BELIEVED THIS WITHOUT A NEWS STORY? AND THIS, JUST BECAUSE THE AUTHORITATIVE WORD OF GOD SAID SO. 

I REMEMBER STUDYING THIS VERSE YEARS AGO AND LEARNING THAT SUCH A DISEASE DESCRIBED BELOW DID INDEED EXIST. NOW THIS SENSATIONAL STORY APPEARS. IT DOESN'T PROVE THE FACT THAT JESUS INDEED BLED IN THE GARDEN, IT RATHER AFFIRMS WHAT HAS ALWAYS BEEN TRUE. 

JUST THINK HOW DEEPLY JESUS AGONIZED FOR US. THIS POINTS UP HOW GREAT A LOVE WITH WHICH HE LOVES US, AND ALSO, JUST HOW GREAT OUR SIN WHICH NECESSITATES SUCH A LOVE. "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1 John 3:1).


HERE'S THE FOX STORY:

"Italian doctors were left bewildered when a woman was admitted to the hospital for 'sweating blood' from her face and hands, a new case published in a medical journal on Monday revealed.

The woman, 21, would spontaneously bleed with no visible lesions on her skin, according to the case report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The woman has been suffering from the mysterious disorder for three years and would start bleeding spontaneously in her sleep or while she was physically active.


The women told doctors she suffered major depression and panic disorder because of the condition and became 'socially isolated.' She has no history of psychosis, the report said.

The doctors floated different theories on what caused the condition, including factitious disorder, when someone would deceive others by appearing sick. However, she continued to spontaneously bleed after she was prescribed paroxetine and clonazepam for her depression and anxiety order.


They ultimately concluded she had hematohidrosis, an uncommon disease that would cause 'spontaneous discharge of 'blood sweat’ through intact skin.' Blood can also come out of areas that don’t have sweat glands.

It’s still unclear what causes the 'blood sweat.' Dr. Michelle Sholzberg, co-director of the Hemophilia Comprehensive Care program at St. Michael's Hospital, told CBC News the case is the 'most unusual.'

'I can say with clarity that I've never seen a case like this — ever,' Sholzberg told CBC News. 'And I can say that I've seen some of the worst bleeding disorders, and I've never seen them sweat blood.'

'I think this person has a very bizarre anatomical defect on a microscopic level that is resulting in this very unusual symptom,' the Canadian hematologist said."

-Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. 

October 21, 2017

A. W. PINK TELLS THE TRUTH ABOUT US!



"THE DRAWING & COMPELLING OF GOD"

"Here is the truth: God has spread the feast but the fact is that NOBODY is hungry, and NOBODY wants to come to the feast, and EVERYBODY makes an excuse to keep away from the feast. and when they are bidden to come they say, “No, we do not want to”, or “We are not ready yet.”

Now God knew that from the beginning, and if God had done nothing more than spread the feast every seat at His table would have been vacant for all eternity! I have no hesitation in saying there is not one man or woman in this church tonight, but who made excuses time after time before you first came to Christ.

You are just like the rest. You made excuses, so did I, and if God had done nothing more than just spread the feast every chair would have been vacant, therefore what do you read in that parable in Luke 14? Because the feast was not furnished with guests God sent forth His “servants”. Oh, put your glasses on. It does not say “servants”, it says God sent forth His “servant” and told Him to “COMPEL” them to come in that His feast might be furnished with guests. And there is not a man or a woman in this church tonight or in any other church that would ever sit down at the marriage-supper of the Lamb unless you had been COMPELLED TO COME IN, and COMPELLED BY GOD!

Well, you say, what do you mean by “compelled?” I mean this, that God had to overcome the resistance of your will, God had to overcome the reluctance of your heart, God had to overcome your loving of pleasure more than loving of God, your love of the things of this world more than Christ. I mean that God had to put forth His power and draw you, and if any of you know anything of the Greek or have a Strong’s Concordance, look up that Greek verb for “draw” in John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” —

It means “use violence”. It means to drag by force. There is not a Greek scholar on earth that can challenge that statement—I mean—and back it up with proof. It’s the same Greek word that is used in John 21 when they drew the net to the land full of fishes. They had to pull with all their might for it was full of fishes. They had to drag it!

Yes, my friend, and THAT is how you were brought to Christ. You may not have been conscious of it. You may not have known inside yourself what was taking place, but every last one of us was a rebel against God, fighting against Christ, resisting His Holy Spirit, and God had to put forth almighty power and overcome that resistance and bring us to our knees, and if any of you object to that strong language, then I am here to tell you, you do not believe in the teaching of this Book on the ABSOLUTE DEPRAVITY OF MAN.

Man is lost, and man is dead in trespasses and sins by nature. Listen, it is not simply that man is sick and needs a little medicine: it is not simply that man is ignorant and needs a little teaching: it is not simply that man is weak and needs a little hope: man is dead, dead in trespasses and sins, and only almighty power from heaven can ever resurrect him and bring him from death unto life.

THAT is the gospel I believe in and I do not preach the gospel because I believe the sinner has power in himself to respond to it. Well, you say, then what is the use of preaching the gospel if men are dead? What is the use of preaching it? I will tell you. Listen! Here was a man with a withered hand, paralyzed, and Christ says. “Stretch forth thine hand!” It was the one thing that he could not do! Christ told him to do a thing that was impossible in himself. Well then you say why did Christ tell him to stretch forth his hand? Because Divine power went with the very word that commanded him to do it! Divine power enabled him to. The man could not do it of himself. If you think that he could you are ready for the lunatic asylum, I don’t not care who you are. Any man or woman here who thinks that that man was able to stretch forth his paralyzed arm by an effort of his own will is ready for the lunatic asylum! How can paralysis move?

Well, I will give you something stronger than that. You need something strong today, you need something more than SKIM-MILK, you need STRONG MEAT if ever you are going to be built up and grow and become strong in the Lord and the power of His might—

Here is a man who is dead and buried and his body has already begun to corrupt so that it stank. There he was in the grave and someone came to that graveside and said, “Lazarus. come forth”, and if that someone had been anyone else than God Himself manifest in flesh. He might have stood there till now calling, “Come forth”. What on earth was the use of telling a dead man to come forth? None at all, unless the One Who spoke that word had the power to make that word good.

Now then my friends, I preach the gospel to sinners, not because I believe the sinner has any power at all in himself to respond to it: I do not believe that any sinner has any capacity in himself whatever. But Christ said, “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life”, and by God’s grace I go forth preaching this Word because it is a word of power, a word of spirit, a word of life.

THE POWER IS NOT IN THE SINNER, IT IS IN THE WORD WHEN GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT IS PLEASED TO USE IT.

And my friends, I say in all reverence; if God told me in this Book to go out and preach to the trees. I would go! Yes sir. God once told one of His servants to go and preach to bones and he went. I wonder if YOU would have gone! Yes, that has a local application as well as a future interpretation prophetically."

[From a sermon Arthur Pink preached in Sydney, during his Australian ministry in the 1920’s.]

October 19, 2017

THE BIBLE PLUS THE HOLY SPIRIT PLUS MY TIME = MEDITATION


     Learn to meditate in Scripture ALONE with no devotionals, study notes/guides, etc. Such supplementary aides may well prove helpful, but best after pure meditation. Read tbis verse which underscores the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit in any believer's life: "As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him" (1 John 2:27). In the Bible God has meaning for you alone at any given moment. Don't miss it.
     The “anointing” every Christian has is the Holy Spirit. He indwells each believer and shines light on the pages of the Bible. St. Augustine said that before his conversion to Christ, he read the Bible but couldn’t understand it. When he was born from on high, he read and it was like light shining over his shoulder. 
     We need to spend time (there’s ‘the catch’ in busy times) to prayerfully read the Bible ALONE, ponder it and experience the tutelage of the Spirit. He will reveal rich meaning for you today from the depth of any given passage. 
     The purest form of a group Bible study is to ponder, as described above, and allow any who wish to briefly share what is revealed to him/her in a given verse. Then, move on to another verse. Again, no foot notes are permitted, no previous study and lists of questions are allowed. Just God’s people, the Bible and a belief that the Holy Spirit indwells and will make the meaning known. Of course, there is a time for study, the usage of guides and books, and even devotional guides, but these are not substitutes for PURE MEDIATATION. 
     St. Augustine remarked, “The hearer of God’s Word ought to be like those animals that chew the cud; he ought not only to feed upon it, but to ruminate.”
     Meditation has a digesting power and turns special truth into nourishment.
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October 12, 2017

NEBUCHADNEZZAR.....SAVED BY GRASS?


SAVED BY GRASS? YES, OLD KING NEBBY WAS SAVED FROM INSOLENCE AND PRIDE...... Dan 4:31-35

King Nebuchadnezzar was King of Babylon when God's people, because of their persistent sin, were horrendously taken into captivity by him. Jerusalem was destroyed and many, many taken from their homeland. Daniel was one of them. Nebuchadnezzar was most proud and God decided to uniquely humble him. Immediately, after a boastful spat of self-extolling, we read this in Scripture:

"While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. YOU WILL BE GIVEN GRASS to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws." 

Then, after the ordeal, Nebuchadnezzar gives his testimony:

“But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’"

When God truly moves into a life He effects radical change. He specializes in that! He makes saints out of sinners. He humbles the proud. He puts repentance in an unbelieving heart. God dynamically does such! He most certainly did it to a boastful and arrogant Babylonian king. 

Perhaps after his humbling episode Nebuchadnezzar had a saying, like, "There go I except for the GRASS of God." He needed this experience to humble him and bring him to the place of fully realizing his need for God and God's GRACE. Some believe that he was saved. At the very least, he sure came to an acknowledgment of Who the true God is.

Every believer in Jesus Christ says, often, "Apart from grace my heart would be estranged, wayward, rebellious, faithless and lost. But, oh, my God in grace has arranged to rescue my soul at infinite cost."

- Dick D. Christen


October 09, 2017

FOUR PIECES TO THE PEACE PUZZLE...



   FOUR PIECES TO THE PEACE PUZZLE

1. THE PEACE OF JUSTIFICATION (or PEACE WITH GOD – a judicial or courtroom peace)

KEY VERSES – Romans 5:1,9

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” 5:1
 “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him…” 5:9

2. THE PEACE OF RELAXATION (or the PEACE OF GOD – a personal or living room peace) 

KEY VERSES – Romans 15:13; Philippians 4:6,7; Proverbs 3:5,6

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

3. THE PEACE OF PURIFICATION (or PEACE IN GOD - an experiential or woodshed peace)

KEY VERSES – Hebrews 12:11; Psalm 119:165; Proverbs 3:1,2

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).

4. THE PEACE OF CONSUMMATION (or PEACE BY GOD – a political or throne room peace)

KEY VERSES – Isaiah 9:6,7; Isaiah 11 (assorted verses)

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them…They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

- dick d christen 

October 04, 2017

DETERMINING THE DEITY OF JESUS, THE CHRIST .....



DETERMINING THE DEITY OF CHRIST…IN THE BIBLE

WE MAKE SUCH A DETERMINATION …..

BY HIS NAMES OF DEITY

          Hebrews 1:8; John 1:18; John 5:20; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13

             God the Father actually calls His Son, Jesus, GOD!
             “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…” - Hebrews 1:8

BY WORSHIP ORDERED AND ACCEPTED BY JESUS

          Hebrews 1:6; John 20: 26-29

              “And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, 
              ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him.’” -  Hebrews 1:6

BY THE DIVINE OFFICES HE OCCUPIED

          CREATOR – John 1:3; Colossians 1:16

                                    “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” -  John 1:3

           PRESERVER – Hebrews 1:3

                                     “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and  upholds all things by the word of His power.”  -Hebrews 1:3

            FORGIVER OF SINS – Mark 2:1-13

                                      “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.’” Mark 2:10-11

             GIVER OF IMMORTAL AND ETERNAL LIFE – Philippians 3:21; John 5:25-31; 17:1-5

                                        “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.’” -  John 17:1-2

BY HIS ASSOCIATION WITH GOD THE FATHER  
             Matthew 28:19; John 14:1

                   “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” -  John 14:1

BY JESUS' GLORIOUS RESURRECTON
             Romans 1:1-4

                   “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus,  called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.” -  Romans 1:1-4

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September 25, 2017

THE CHRISTIAN: POSITIONALLY perfect IN Christ while PRACTICALLY growing BY Christ....



THE CHRISTIAN: POSITIONALLY perfect IN Christ while PRACTICALLY growing BY Christ....


Once saved, God intends for Christians to grow and become more and more like Christ. Tozer said, "Refuse to be average." But when we resolve to do so, it is good to remember there exists a world of difference between busy activity and meaningful progress. Mere busyness cannot serve as a substitute for productivity. 

Alarmingly, today's Church is like a rocking horse with lots of motion but not much genuine progress. 'How to' seminars are prolific, the same ones offered fifty year ago. The ecclesiastical world seems stuck and stale. But, God intends that His people "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). And let's be clear that what God looks for isn't necessarily 'bigness' and hype (the world would have us think so), but rather, like the mustard seed, that which may be imperceptible but nevertheless significant. Furthermore, God's kind of growth is not just corporately engendered (the local church), but, also personally wrought (daily with God). In fact, the corporate church is far too elevated in Christian experience, as if all we need to do to advance in Christian maturity is to go to church more often. At best, this results in very few hours at services. A personal walk with God can entail hours and hours, if so engaged. The corporate approach (ordered by the Lord and valuable in its own right), as a single means of Christian maturity, is more than refuted by mere observation. Anemic Christians abound, and often they are the ones 'at Church' the most. Christians must be encouraged to "walk and talk" with the Lord continually.

POSITIONALLY, when a sinner believes in Jesus Christ, he is at once perfect "IN Christ Jesus." The Bible clearly states, "But by His doing you are IN Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." God the Father always sees the believer "in Christ Jesus." What we are "in" is what we are surrounded by. If I'm in a pool of water I'm surrounded by that water. If I'm "in Christ" He is my perfect righteousness. Jesus IS 'righteousness' imputed (or charged) to the believer's account, thereby rendering every Christian positionally perfect IN Him. Hereby the thrice-holy God is rendered fully satisfied. God the Father always sees the believer "in Christ." If I look at something through rose-colored glasses, everything comes up rosey. God ever seeing us through Christ, everything comes up perfect.. Theologically, we say, God is thereby propitiated. John says, "We have an  Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).

Now, PRACTICALLY speaking, the saved person, positionally made perfect IN Jesus, must then day by day grow BY Christ Jesus, by His enabling grace. Like the caterpillar becoming a beautiful butterfly, an arduous process is involved requiring the believer to utilize all the provisions of grace designed for such change. It takes a lifetime of effort, patience and learning the ways of the Lord. Really it takes all the Biblical concepts of wrestling, running the race, fighting the good fight of faith, disciplining self, and even buffeting (beating) self (Ephesians 6; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) to see it happen. But God is vitally interested in any such determined endeavor and supplies all that is needed to carry it out. We call these "all things" (see below) His means of sanctifying grace. The Apostle Paul reasons, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). Are not these "things" that whereby we fight the good fight of faith?

Therefore, let us rejoice being IN Christ Jesus but with a patient spirit proceed to "work out (our) salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in (us), both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).  Paul instructs us: "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of (seize hold of what you have, hang on to it, prize it, hold it close) the eternal life to which you were called..." (1 Timothy 6:12). In other words, in order to grow into Christ-likeness, get off the rocking horse and climb on the walking/working horse. Or, to press the initial figure, see yourself in a cocoon becoming more and more in the likeness of Jesus. The grace that saves us is completely unmerited. It is all of God, through and through. But, it seems to me that sanctifying grace, or that whereby we grow in Jesus, meshes His enabling grace with our diligent upward desires and efforts. We can't live the Christ-life without Him; He can't do what He wants in us unless we strive by His grace to intently perfect holiness for Him. Of course, at the same time, He is ever at work to bring us to the point(s) of desiring to so strive. And so "we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). Yes, it takes a life time of endeavor, moment by moment, day by day, year by year. This is Christian living! He is at work; we are at work. Praise God, that at the very moment of the new birth IN Jesus we are rendered justified before God (and positionally sanctified, redeemed, etc.) and fully accepted IN the Beloved (Jesus), and all this by His grace plus nothing of ourselves. But in the daily sense, we are being sanctified BY Christ and by His "freely given" means of grace, namely, the Bible, the Church, the Holy Spirit, the preaching and teaching of the Word and the daily consumption of the Word by reading and meditation. It is right at this juncture that we often fail because we somehow think that all this will somehow add up to a 'Christ-like life' in some kind of an automatic way. We become well-versed in the Bible but fail to put it into practice. This is where the "will" must become involved. The above list of "means" will be merely intellectual unless we take what we've learned and put it into practice. The struggle of which Paul often talks now comes into view. 

In dietary matters, if I'm obese and am offered a second piece of strawberry pie, it takes enormous "won't" power to refuse. "I know I should refuse but, oh, how I want it!" Here is where what I know about the dangers of over-eating must be put into practice and the tough decision of saying "no" made. And so the inward battle begins.  I say, "I just can't refuse that luscious piece of pie." But if I want to get at a healthier weight, I JUST SIMPLY MUST! I won't die if I don't have that extra pie. It'll be for my greater good if I refuse. And so the process of becoming healthier proves an excruciating process to make the tough choice. It's agony! It IS and Paul says the same when it comes to the Christian life. Listen to him: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). And Peter adds: "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2). Further, the writer of Hebrews intensifies all this by saying "let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus... You have not yet resisted  to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin..." It is most fashionable these days to extol "unmerited grace" and to apply it to Christian living. God's marvelous "unmerited grace" saves us. It completely saves us from the guilt and penalty of sin. It guarantees eternal life. All this is gloriously true! But when we proceed to think that we engage in daily Christian living merely by pleading the "unmerited grace" that saved us, we set ourselves up to easily confess our daily sins (no big deal), seemingly making everything right with God (after all we're saved all by grace and eternally safe), and then go back to living the same old way. After all, we're saved and safe. In this belief there are no "works" requirement for the daily life of living for Jesus. But Scripture says, yes there are! "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" The apostle Paul, after extolling a salvation which is by grace alone, plus nothing, proceeds to challenge all of us with these words: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10). We're not saved BY good works but we are saved UNTO them. 

I think that the Scriptures teach that the unmerited grace that saves us from sin and hell, and makes us perfect in Christ, continues with us for the battle of the Christian life but is coupled with our efforts to do the wrestling, running, the putting on of the armor and engaging in the fight so clearly presented in many places in the New Testament. In other words, we must distinguish between salvation's unmerited grace and a merited grace, or cooperative grace whereby we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. In a sense, Christian living is one-hundred per cent God, but 100 per cent the Christian. And so, Paul enjoins us with these words: "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).

If we do not believe in a merited kind of grace for Christian living and assume that the free and unmerited grace of salvation will somehow carry us through, how will we explain the following passage that predicates God's favors upon our behavior? 

"The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His ordinances were before me, and I did not put away His statutes from me. I was also  blameless with Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes. With the kind You show Yourself kind; With the blameless You show Yourself blameless; With the pure You show Yourself pure, and with the crooked You show Yourself astute" Psalm 18:20-26). 

This seems to say that there is indeed a merited grace God bestows on those who diligently pursue His ways. 

And so I think it must be concluded that while initially saved by unmerited grace alone, there exists for Christian living an interplay between His enabling provisions of grace and our obedient responses thereunto. "If you love me, keep my commands." The unmerited grace of salvation is bestowed once for all when a sinner believes in Jesus Christ while the unmerited/merited grace of the daily Christian walk continues until the believer sees Christ. Therefore, the worm waits while the chrysalis with time emerges with exquisite beauty, even that of Christ Himself. 

dick d. christen