What To Do?

Joh 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?   29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

This is a fairly common question, both in the Bible and in the world today? Here it is stated, ‘What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?’ and in Mark 10:17 and Luke 1025, 18:18 the rich young ruler asked “What must I do to inherit eternal life’?  What am I supposed to do?  What does God want from me?  This is how it sounds in modern day language.  Though it may be stated in many ways it remains the same question.  It is based on our merit system mentality of earning the reward by some act or benefit forfeited.

In our Scripture today we find Jesus stating the answer as clearly as anywhere else in the Bible.  It has been a favorite couple of verses to me for most of my Christian life.  The answer is direct and to the point.  The only requirement is to believe on Him whom He hath sent.  It requires not deeds or sacrifice since that was paid by Jesus when He gave His own life for our sins.  Payment was made in full.  To attempt to pay for it yourself is an insult to God and ultimately says “God, your work was insufficient.”  Who would intentionally say such a thing?  Yet, when we attempt to pay for our own sin, that is exactly what we are saying.

This also begs the question, What then does it mean , to believe on Him whom He hath sent?  In the original language of the Bible (Konia Greek)  the word believe and the word faith are exactly the same root word and can be substituted one for the other.  Scriptural believing then is the same thing as trusting, relying on, dependence upon, etc.  The work that God requires of us is not doing mighty things but totally relying on Him to do for us what is impossible for us to do, righteous living.  It is impossible for us because of our merit system mentality and we find it impossible to to think any other way until He reveals it to us.  Believing in Him is the sum and the jist of our works that please Him.  Notice in Romans 14:23b for whatsoever is not of faith is sin and again in Hebrews 11:6a  But without faith it is impossible to please him:  that all else  beyond faith or believing is not only distasteful and an insult, but frustrates the grace of God.

I have gotten over trying to work for God and now I long for God to work on and for me.  Just think about that for a minute.  Who is in trouble here, God or me?  God doesn’t need help, but I do.  Anything God wants done, He can easily do.  He isn’t focused on accomplishing deeds, but He is very focused in finishing me.  I am not saying that I only work for myself but that my deeds are the outworking of what God has placed within me.  Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  These are just two powerful verses that expand on this truth that God is infinitely more concerned with what we are than what we do.  He will do the works if we will do the work of believing.

Living by Faith

Everyone lives by faith all the time, but it is not the faith referenced in the Bible.  To understand this truth, you must understand what faith is and what the faith of the Bible is.  Faith simply means to trust or rely on.  When you sit in a chair you are exercising your faith in the chair.  When you take medicine, you are relying on the doctors and those making the medicine to prescribe the correct dosage.  When you drive a car your are relying on the car to perform a certain way and that the other drivers will observe the laws.  On an on it goes as we place our lives on the line because we trust in the objects of our faith.  This type of faith is in material living but it is not the faith intended in the Bible.  The Bible restricts our faith to the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is Spiritual in nature and is eternal in its scope.  The purpose of faith is not to provide some type of utopia for you but to direct you through this maze of traps and pitfalls we call life and to cooperate with the Lord in His transforming us into creatures of righteousness.  Because we are incapable of living righteously on our own because of our sin nature, the Lord has provided a way for us to live life on His level of righteousness and that is to obey the Holy Spirit.

It doesn’t take will power, it takes faith and obedience.  It doesn’t take strength, it takes weakness.  It doesn’t take works or deeds, it takes a reliance on God for what we cannot do. Faith in the Lord is an equal opportunity plan.  Everyone has the capacity to meet the demands of God through faith in Him, without adding any righteousness on our own.  It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, educated or not, with or without wealth, or any other such contrast.  The one thing that is required is that you are trusting the Lord and not anything other than the Lord.

So how do you know that the Lord is directing you.  First of all He has given us His Word, the Bible.  Whatever direction you have should be measured against what the Bible says.  That is the only 100% safe written word.  Secondly, what is the witness of the Holy Spirit within you?  You do not have the Holy Spirit within you until you are born again.  If you have never been saved then you do not have the witness of the Spirit to direct you.  That does not mean that He is not working for you, it just means that you do not have the spiritual sensitivity to know His leading.  Thirdly, (assuming you are a Christian) does the direction contradict spiritual principles established through the ages of the church and your Christian experiences?  Fourthly, does it edify others, yourself and your witness?  Fifthly, does it magnify and honor the Lord?

2Co 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

Paul’s Prayer For The Church At Ephesus

Ephesians 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  Eph 3:16 That he would grant you . . . That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;Eph 3:18 (That ye) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

The apostle Paul spent 3 years working with the church at Ephesus. Acts 20:31  Now, as he writes to them, he clearly lays out why he felt so deeply and earnestly for them and the extent of his prayer for them.  He is now looking to their journey ahead and what is yet needed.

First, he prays for them to be strengthened.  This strengthening was to be with might, that is, not just stronger, but to be the strongest they can be.  Strength come by exercise and sweat and by overcoming greater and greater trials.  This strengthening was to be with might, that is to the extreme; by His Spirit, that is supernaturally and finally, in the inner man, not physical strength but strength of character and will.

Secondly, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.  The term dwell has the idea of permanence and regularity.  It is not a mountain top high, but rather a constant dependence on Him.  The only way for that to happen is by faith in Him.  We should not expect feelings, sensations, etc. but by a continual trust in Him that He will do by His power.  It is not by seeing with our physical eyes but through the eyes of faith that we see the way.

Thirdly, he prays that they (you) may be able to comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge and that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.  Wow! what a mouthful  of wonder.  Let’s break it down.  The word comprehend can also be translated ‘apprehend’, and it means to take possession of or to know experientially.  This is not head knowledge but knowledge that comes through experience.  Literally, to know God as He is, the immensity of His height (all that is above), and depth (all that is below), and breadth (all that is past and future) and length (all peoples of all races and all authorities).  All of this combined together and you will begin to grasp the Love of God and all He has planned for His Saints or believers.  Literally, to be filled with the fullness of God.

Paul closes the chapter by concluding that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we as or think, but it is according to the power that worketh in us, that God is glorified (seen) in the church.  This is normal Christian living.

Precious and Magnificent Promises

2 Peter 1:4  Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

If you read yesterday’s post of Great Expectations, you caught a glimpse of what God expects from us.  He doesn’t expect for us to succeed in our efforts to please Him because He knows that the old nature cannot please God.(Romans 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.)  It is God that enables us to live holy (separated) lives, but just to be able to do the right thing still comes short of God plan for our lives.  It is one thing to know what is right.  It is still another to do what is right.  It is still another to have your nature altered so that you do what is right naturally.  If it were possible to do what is right all the time, it would still leave you unprepared for eternity.

Doing what is right is great and I do not want to minimize it.  Being right is even better because it is not performance oriented.  When you nature is changed, doing what is right is what you do naturally and takes no effort at all because your sin nature is being put to death daily and you find less and less in common with it.  So how does this transformation take place?

Our scripture gives us the initial clue to how this takes place.  God gives us exceeding great and precious promises to use in this process of transformation.  It is by our standing on these promises and rejecting the old nature that we begin to take on the divine nature.  For example, after I accepted the Lord as my Savior, I noticed that I couldn’t hold the same views that I previously held.  I began to understand things in a different light and my attitude toward others began to change.

Here is a partial list of just some of the promises to get you started in claiming them for your own.

  1. Eternal Life
  2. Nothing shall be impossible with God
  3. God will NEVER leave you or forsake you
  4. Nothing shall ever separate you from the Love of God
  5. God Loves you
  6. God is for you
  7. All things work together for good, to them that are the called
  8. All the treasuries of God are available to you
  9. Forgiveness
  10. Grace
  11. Mercy
  12. Spiritual Gifts
  13. Love (agape)

God would have us to take on His characteristics (likeness and image and dominion) to enable us to interact with Him through out eternity.  We become partakers of His divine nature as we make these promises our own life.

 

First Visits

The women at the tomb

The first to visit the tomb on Easter Sunday morning was Mary Magdalene who came while it was still dark.  She found the stone rolled away from the tomb entrance and concluded that Jesus’ body had been moved so she ran to tell Peter and John.  She joined the other women when the sun was risen.  They came to anoint the body with spices but they were confronted with a shocking revelation from the angles that He had risen from the dead.  They went therefore to tell the disciples.

Peter and John

John was the first to arrive and look in to the tomb but waited outside for Peter to arrive.  When Peter arrived he immediately went in. (Note previous my blog on the grave clothes)  They were confronted with evidence that defied normal explanation.  John believed immediately and Peter left in wonderment.

Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus

Mary was so disturbed by not knowing where Jesus body was and her grief of her loss that she didn’t recognize Jesus and thought he was a gardener.  When Jesus spoke, she recognized Him and reached out to hold Him.  Jesus said don’t cling to me for I am not yet ascended to My Father.  He didn’t say don’t touch me but he used the word haptomai which means attach oneself to another or to cling.  She had lost Him once and she didn’t want to lose Him again.  Remember, Jesus told His disciples the it is expedient for you that I go away for if I go not away, the Holy Spirit would not come.  Jesus intended for us to know Him in another way by being indwelt with the Holy Spirit until we receive our resurrected bodies.   Having then been confronted with Christ Himself, she went again to tell the disciples with a new urgency in her report.

The Two On the Road to Emmaus

Emmaus was a town about 8 miles NE from Jerusalem and was located about 3,000 lower in elevation.  One of the two was Cleopas and the other is unnamed.  They were downtrodden and speculated about the events of the crucifixion as they walked.  Jesus, Himself joined them but was unrecognized.  He then engaged them in their conversation and they restated the events including the morning reports from the women.  Then Jesus chided them in being slow to believe and began at the prophets He interpreted the Scriptures concerning Himself. As they arrived at Emmaus they invited Jesus to stay with them since it was evening.  As they were eating Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them.  As they were confronted with the truth of who Jesus is, He vanished out of their site.

These are not the only sighting of Jesus but they are recorded for us so that we too can come to the truth of who Jesus is and that He is resurrected.  You have now been confronted with the truth.  What does it take to convince you HE IS ALIVE!!!

A Guarded Grave

One day as I was going somewhere with another person on some matter and as we passed a cemetery in the country and he spoke up and said, “You see that cemetery over there?”  I answered and said I did.  Then he made an announcement that caught me off guard and said, “They keep a Sheriff and two deputies over there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”  I thought about it for a minute and said “Well, why do they do that?” as I couldn’t think of anything that mandated such an action.  I wasn’t prepared for his answer when he said, “Cause they are dead.”  You see, I was thinking that they were alive.

Easter is all about the resurrection of Christ.  It is not about the easter bunny, or the latest fashion, or candy or a ‘must attend’ religious holiday.  It is about the greatest event in history, and brings hope to a lost and dying world.  There is hope beyond the grave.  Life does not end at death, but rather, in a real sense it is just the beginning of life.  Our eternity is determined by our belief in Christ.  How we respond to Him reveals how we believe.

Yet, it is interesting that the only person to come forth in victory over death is one whose tomb was guarded to keep His body in it.  It is also interesting that those who had repeatedly been told that it would happen were the hardest to convince that it did.  It is also interesting that those who refused to believe in Him, took all the precautions they could to prevent it from happening.

Take a look at Matt 27:62-66 where we find Pilate saying “Ye have a guard; go, make it as sure as ye can.”  So they went and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, the guard being with them.  Notice that they stationed soldier to guard the tomb.  That meant that no outsiders would be able to tamper with it and falsify his resurrection.  It also meant that the religious leaders  were keeping his followers from gathering at the tomb and creating an insurrection out of their grief.  In reality, the soldiers validated the resurrection in that they keep all hands off of the scene. (compliments of Rome).  Secondly, they sealed the tomb with the Roman seal.  To break it would have brought the Roman armies and their power against them.  It was a metal catch, like a lock that fastened the round stone to the rock behind and it was covered in a wax and impressed with the Roman seal.  Though it could have been opened easily it would leave the evidence in the wax that could not be copied again without the seal imprint.

The stone was rounded so that it could be rolled into place at the entrance to the tomb.  It rolled in a channel that was cut out of the rock and guided it into place.  The stone was large enough to cover the tomb entrance and was several inches thick which would have required two or three men to roll it into place.  Yet in Matt 28:2 a lone angel rolled back the stone and then sat upon it.  Some have speculated as to why the stone was rolled back.  It is easy to assume that it was so that Jesus could exit the tomb but later he walked through walls so I don’t think that is the answer.  I believe that it was for the purpose of us being able to look inside the tomb and sharing to the world that He is not here but He is risen from the dead!

Grave Clothes

Joh 20:5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in  6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie 7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

Easter is, in my estimation, the most significant holiday on our calendar. It has been stated by bible scholars that the resurrection is the most significant event of all time.  Sadly though, it gets second billing in our society, to Christmas which is the second most significant event on our calendar.   For the next few days I will be sharing some nuggets that I have found in the Scriptures concerning Easter.

Today, we are looking at the event of Peter and John’s first look into the empty tomb.  The first thing that they saw was the absence of Jesus’ body.  This would have been a terrible shock, for they had witnessed His death and it was a certainty.  Immediately, speculation as to what had happened began as they tried to make sense of what they were seeing.

The first piece of physical evidence was that they noticed the grave clothes lying where they were.  What exactly, did that mean?  If you are not familiar with the burial ritual you may miss this but when a person was burred they first covered their face with a cloth or napkin that could allow a viewing without complete removal of the grave clothes.  Then they were wrapped in a sheet which also covered the napkin.  Then spices were scattered over the body to counter the stench of deteriorating flesh. Then they were rolled up in a sheet to prevent body movement due to normal deterioration.  This would prevent false hope to those later visiting the grave in thinking that they were somehow still alive because of the reactive movement..  Then the sheet covering the body was tied in place with strips of cloth the full length of the body to keep the sheet in place.  Finally, the body was laid in the tomb.  It would have appeared as our concept of a mummy.

What Peter and John saw upon entering was the grave clothes still tied in their position as though it still contained a body, but the body is now missing.  What a strange thing to take in as they observed where He had lain.  How could Jesus’ grave clothes remain in their position and the body exit without disturbing them.  That was a real puzzlement.

The second piece of evidence was the napkin that had been placed over His face.  It had been removed from the grave clothes as well and was found lying separate from the grave clothes and had been folded.  I have heard of the custom of the folded napkin meaning that the person was returning and it contains another truth about Jesus, that he is coming again, but I prefer to think that it has another meaning which is perhaps even more meaningful.  If you recall that at the moment of His death, the veil in the temple was ripped from top to bottom, signifying that the access to God was opened to everyone.  I think that the folded napkin has a similar meaning that He wants us to now see him as alive rather than dead.  We aren’t looking for a corpse but one come back from the dead and has extended the invitation to as many as believe to come and share that life with Him.

It is now time for you to examine the evidence and to choose to believe or doubt that He is victor over death, hell and the grave.

Who Are You?

Who are we really? I’ve heard it said that you are not what you think you are, but what you think, you are.  Its a play on words to get you to think about who you really are.  It may be one of the most popular unspoken questions about ourselves that we could ask.  So I ask you, Just who do you think you are?

If you have a low self esteem, you may think little of yourself or your ideas, and not put yourself forward.  Fear may have a great influence over you and your choices.  Your social skills may not be developed very much.  Your goals may not be very high.  Disappointment, embarrassment, and hopelessness may be your closest friends.

On the other hand, you may have a high self esteem and may see yourself being a success in many of the things you do.  You may have a lot of confidence and are not bothered much by what others think of you.  The world is yours for the taking.  You may be popular and have a measure of success.  Still you may have internal questions that leave you feeling hollow or something is missing.

Neither of these positions answer the questions of who you really are.  I found the answer in the Bible.  Ro 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?  It is not the name you hang on your door that defines who you are but the values you hold and what controls you.

So if you have become a servant of righteousness as a Christian, then let me ask you again, Who are you really?  For the answer to that question we must again go to the Bible for the answer.  1.  You are the salt of the earth. Matt 5:13  Do you remember the saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink?”  Well, I can make him drink.  All I need to do is put salt in his feed.  Then when he is led to the water he will drink of his own choice.  Just create a thirst.  2.  You are the light of the world.  Matt 5:14  The world is in darkness and cannot see the glory of God.  There is a sin barrier between them a God.  You can see the glory of God because the sin issue has been dissolved between you and God, and you can also see those in the world.  You can act as a mirror to reflect His glory to those in darkness.  They can see God in you.  3.  You are the temple of God 1 Cor 3:16  In all of creation the only place that God choose to dwell was in the Christian.  It is an eternal habitation and therefore must be fitted for Him.  He is Holy so we must be Holy.  He is eternal so He offers us eternal life.   1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: and again in 2 Cor 6:16 “. . .as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”  4.  Ye are children of God.  Gal 3: 26  Every person is not a child of God because they were born physically.  That is the first requirement that they be human but there is a second requirement to become a child of God and that is to be born spiritually (from above, of the spirit, born again).  That is what Jesus was talking about to Nicodemus in Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  He explained it further when he said that which is flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.  He even  told the Pharisees that their father was the Devil.  5.  Ye are sons (Gal 4:6) . . .heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ . . .(Ro 8:17) A  joint-heir with Christ makes Jesus our brother and we inherit with Christ.  What God has in store for us is so beyond all that we can ever ask or think.  We should so walk that it is clear to all that we are born from above.  6.  . . .ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people. . .  We began in this world but we are not of this world.  We have become a part of God’s eternal plan when we chose Christ as our Lord.  Now it is all over but the happening.  Satan can’t stop it and neither can all the demonic forces of the world together.  We are the apple of God’s eye.  We know who we are when we know who’s we are.

 

 

An Impossible Command

Lu 6:10 And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

It was a Sabbath Day at the Synagogue and Jesus was teaching. There was a man with a withered right hand present and the Scribes and Pharisees were watching to see if Jesus would heal him on the Sabbath.  Jesus knew their thoughts but still he gave three commands to the man with the withered hand.

First, he was commanded to “rise up”,  This command was not directed to changing posture but to the idea of collecting ones faculties.  It could be translated “Wake Up!”  The man with the withered hand had long been held in obscurity and inactivity with the withered hand that he could not use.  Jesus was calling him into service and he needed to move from cowering in subjection because of the withered hand, to the attitude that with or without the handicap of a withered hand he should not let it determine his ability to function as a whole man.

The second command was to “stand forth” which means to stand and keep standing.  He was to establish this new attitude as his way of thinking and living.  His limitation was not to define him or limit him.  He can function as a whole man with the limitation if God so chose.  The truth is that all of us have limitations of one kind or another.  Some are physical, some are emotional, some are mental, and some are environmental.  We can take a position of limitation or we can assume the position of wholeness.  I already have all I need to become all I can be, and the limitation I have does not define me.

The third command was to “stretch forth thy hand.”  This command was impossible for him.  You see the problem with a withered hand is that you cannot stretch it forth.  The hand is withered, that is, it is shriveled and drawn up and the tendons have lost their flexibility.  Jesus was asking the man to do the impossible.  It was not possible for the man to do it but it was not only possible but necessitated by His command to do it.  Herein is the secret of seeing a miracle.  Contained within every impossible command of God is the promise of power to do it. When we respond to the Lord by faith in His Word, He then opens to us His blessings.  When you are given an impossible command you can trust the Lord that He can and will do it for you.  Such is the miracle of New Life.

Sin or Sins

I remember reading a gospel tract entitled “How to get to heaven from Pineville, Kentucky”  It had a catchy title and got me to reading. The truth is that it would read the same from anywhere on the earth.  There is only one way to get to heaven and that is the way that is specified in the Bible.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)  So that begs the question, how do you come “by me?”

It is at this point that there seems to be confusion.  Does that mean to try hard or is it by doing good things like benevolent acts?  Does it mean that I have to quit doing “something”?  Does it mean that I have to give up fun things?  How does it work?  None of these answers are correct for they are all works of man?  Eph 2:8-9 Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The problem between God and man is not what he does but what he is.  He is a sinner, which is another way of describing rebellion against God’s control on our live.  We cannot earn His favor for as soon as we try that avenue, our true nature takes over and our sin nature is exposed. It is at this point that we need to note the difference between Sin and Sins.  Sin is the self life that we hold naturally.  It is all about me; what I want, what I think, what I do.  I don’t want God directing my life because He won’t let me do my thing.  Sins are what we do  because of this attitude. Sins are the symptoms of the rood cause, sin.  We are incapable of paying for our “sin” so God made a way for us to be accepted and that is by our placing our faith in Jesus instead of ourselves.  When we are willing to do that we repent of our sin (that is turn from it) and place our faith in Jesus to make that payment (turn to Jesus as our way).  It is not two separate actions, but one.  It is like a coin.  It has two sides but it is just one coin.  The act of turning moves you from one thing and unto another.

If we continue to deal with the symptoms (sins) we will fail to treat the problem of sin, itself.  Faith in Jesus as the Lord of our life is the way to heaven.