Archive for the ‘Grace’ Tag

You Reap What You Sow   2 comments

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This is from the blog Vessels of Clay:

You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children.Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great evil. At dawn the king of Israelshall be utterly cut off. – Hosea 10:13-15 ESV

At times, even as believers, we are surprised at the outcomes of some of our decision making. We are somehow amazed that our lies have consequences. We are shocked when our love affair with materialism leaves us struggling with greed, envy, covetousness, worry and anxiety. We wonder why we are so angry, yet never connect the dots to our daily consumption of violence-filled media. We wrestle with lust, but never seem to associate it with the sexually explicit programming that fills our TV screens each and every night.

The Israelites were also oblivious to the cause-and-effect nature of their lives. So God made it clear to them: “you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of sins” (Hosea 10:13 NLT). In other words, they were reaping exactly what they should have expected. No surprises. Just the natural consequences of living their lives apart from God. They had consumed a daily dose of lies about everything. They had been told that God would not punish them for their sins because they were His chosen people. They had been promised that alliances with foreign powers would protect them from destruction. They believed that the gods of pagan nations were anything but false. But while a steady diet of lies may taste good going down and make you feel good for the moment, it will leave you spiritually weak, malnourished, and starving to death. 

Self-reliance and misplaced trust were behind the behavior of the Israelites. “Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22 ESV). The prophet, Jeremiah, recorded a similar indictment from God against the people of Judah. “My people are foolish and do not know me. They are stupid children who have no understanding. They are clever enough at doing wrong, but they have no idea how to do right!” (Jeremiah 4:22 NLT). They thought they knew better than God. They rejected His commands and ignored His warnings. They lived life according to their own terms. They stopped trusting God and, instead, placed their hope in false gods. When things got tough and they found themselves threatened by outside forces, they turned to alliances with countries like Egypt. They refused to rely on God. He had become small, insignificant and insufficient to meet their needs. The God who had delivered them from captivity in Egypt and given them the land of Canaan had become too weak to meet their needs. They had long ago forgotten the words of David:

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heavenwith the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. – Psalm 20:6-8 ESV

Not only did they doubt God’s salvation, they denied His judgment. They really did not believe that they could fall. They were so confident in their status as God’s chosen people, that they believed they were invincible. And yet, they never seemed to recognize the fact that their protection by God was based on their obedience and faithfulness to him. He had warned them that disobedience would bring His discipline. Unfaithfulness would have consequences. So God gave them the bad news: “Now the terrors of war will rise among your people” (Hosea 10:14 NLT). Their army would be impotent. Their alliances would prove useless. Their fortresses and defensive measures would be insufficient. And their false gods would be exposed for what they were: non-existent and, therefore, no help in time of need.

The devastation would be horrific. Referring to a past battle, God warned them that their fall would be brutal and merciless: “as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children” (Hosea 10:14b ESV). The Assyrians were going to show no mercy. Their destruction of the nation of Israel would be complete and no one would escape their wrath. From king to commoner, priest to prostitute, the influential to innocent infants – all would feel the wrath of the Assyrians and the judgment of God.

These kinds of passages make us uncomfortable as believers. They paint a picture of God that seems to contradict our view of Him as loving, gracious, forgiving and merciful. But too often, our understanding of God can become one-dimensional. We prefer to emphasize His love while downplaying His holiness and hatred of sin. We find comfort in His grace, but don’t want to think about His righteous wrath and divine obligation to punish sin. In doing so, we diminish the value of the gift of His Son. But it is in understanding the severity of sin’s offensiveness to God and His just and righteous obligation to punish sin that we fully comprehend the magnitude of what Christ has done for us. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). Jesus “was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God” (Romans 4:25 NLT). The inescapable reality was that “even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 2:5 NLT).

Our sin was real. God’s judgment against our sin was deserved. And yet He showed us mercy – in spite of our sinfulness. Grace does not diminish the gravity of sin. It actually reveals the amazing love of God as He provides a means of salvation that is capable of satisfying His wrath against sin. He gave His Son. It was the death of Jesus alone that could propitiate or satisfy the just judgment of God against the sinfulness of mankind. Nothing else would do. No other payment could have been made that would have paid the debt that was owed. So when we elevate God’s love while ignoring His wrath, we actually diminish the amazing nature of that love. He loved us in spite of us, not because of us.

And yet, we continue to sow and reap, sin and suffer, because we don’t fully appreciate the gravity of sin and the greatness of His grace. We justify our actions, rationalize our sinful behavior and then wonder why we reap discontentment, dissatisfaction, anger, joylessness, envy, greed, and immorality. It is an accurate understanding of the grace of God that should produce in us the fruit of righteousness. As God told the people of Israel, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12 NLT).

Discipline

Being Fed   7 comments

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This is from the blog Grace and Truth:

When once a hunger had been born in me for God’s presence then, naturally, I sought to be fed.  The revelation of our own spiritual bankruptcy, whether by food shortage or some sort of crisis, is the catalyst for the formation of a hunger for God.  When we are able to see our spiritual bankruptcy it is then that we can truly seek God in the way He should be sought.  Not as a means to an end, or to fulfill an agenda of our own but by loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.  It is because we have seen that without Him we are starving and dying, and in the desperation of soul-hunger we begin to seek after the Bread of Life.  And that’s what I did.  Suddenly the temporal, physical things that used to bring me some degree of satisfaction became empty and vain.  I began to crave Jesus and His presence.  My prayer time was in the evening, and all day long I would look forward to the evening when I could be with Him again.

Jesus said “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6:27)

God sees our need of Him.   He knows that without Him we are starving.  And He knew that man would reject Him in the Garden of Eden, in order to pursue his own way.  That is why God prepared a “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”  Because of His infinite mercy, God had already prepared a way to repair the breach between man and God and to bring us back into fellowship with Him.   That way was by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus, to the cross to bear the dreadful curse for our souls.  Before He was crucified Jesus said:

“I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven. If any man eat of this Bread, he shall live forever; and the Bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.   The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?   Then Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoso eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the Last Day.   For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood dwells in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he that eats Me, even he shall live by Me.”  (John 6:53-57)

Jesus said this to the very people whom, the day before, had been miraculously fed with the loaves and the fish.  He wasn’t referring to cannibalism, He was telling them to look beyond the physical miracle of the multiplied loaves and fish and to see the greater miracle standing before them – God’s own Son.  His life was about to be given for them so that they may have life.  He was going to be crucified, His body broken and His blood poured out for their sin so that they would no longer have to be separated from God by those very sins.  There was no longer any need to starve spiritually.   Here was the provision right in front of them.  In verses 48 and 58 He says “I am the bread of life…This is the bread that came down from heaven – not as your fathers ate the manna and are dead.  He who eats this bread will live forever.”

So here is God’s provision for our spiritual starvation right in front of us.  It is Christ’s Himself.  When we turn away from our sin of independence and pride and put our faith in the Bread of Life then we are filled with His life, by His Holy Spirit.

Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

Jesus2He is the source of our life and He is the sustainer of our life.  We need to be full of Him.  Nothing else can satisfy, no religious duty or practice, neither anything in this world – only Him.  We need to be in His presence regularly, feasting on the Word every day, allowing His Spirit to convict us, speak to us, minister to us and we need fellowship with others who are full of Him too.  As David, we need to know how to encourage ourselves in the Lord.  We need to know how to feed on Him.

We also need to maintain a hunger for Him. I find that that is more difficult when life is going well.  Although I actually still need Him now as much as I did when I suffered the depressive episode, it’s easier for me to forget that need of Him now that I am free of depression.  That’s why I need to read the Word because it convicts me, washes me and changes me.  I also need to pray regularly because I find that the more time I spend with Him the more time I want to spend with Him and feed on the Bread of Life.

To the Laodiceans, who could not see their own poverty and need of Him, Jesus said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Broken Bread and Poured-out Wine

Thy God, Whom Thou Servest Continually. . .   Leave a comment

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Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Daniel 6: 16:  “Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.”

Daniel 6: 20:  “And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?”

Daniel 6: 23:  “Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.”

The above Scriptures remind me of  “it is only by faith that we are able to please God” and “anything that is not of faith is sin”.  If someone were to accuse me of being a faith-based man, they would probably be right on target.  I am probably more faith-based than grace-based.  This may seem odd to some people.

We know that we are saved by grace through faith–and this is not just about justification.  Living by grace through faith should happen in our daily lives.

You could say that it was the grace of God that preserved Daniel in the lion’s den.  I would say that it was Daniel’s FAITH in God that preserved him.  “Whom thou servest continually” and “because he believed in his God” are talking about faith.

To me, grace is strategic and faith is tactical–or grace is the sovereignty of God and faith is the responsibility of man to God.  Strategically, Daniel was placed by God in the Babylonian Empire.  Daniel served the Lord continually–and this pleased the Lord.  I am sure that most Jews back in Daniel’s time (just like most Christians today) did not serve the Lord continually.  Daniel’s desire was to seek and wait upon the Lord everyday–not just on the Sabbath.  Daniel’s faith, Daniel’s life of being surrendered to the Lord God of Israel preserved him in the lion’s den.

Would the Lord save a lukewarm Christian in a modern day lion’s den?  Would the non-faith of a lukewarm Christian save him in the day of trouble?  I don’t think so.  “The Lord will spew the lukewarm church out of His mouth.”

Let us be like Daniel and serve the Lord (be surrendered to the Lord) continually every day.

Daniel 6: 3:  “Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.”

Posted December 11, 2012 by Tim Shey in Uncategorized

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