Here He Comes – Reconcile

Here He Comes – Reconcile

Here He Comes – Reconcile!

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CHAPTER 10

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'RECONCILE'!

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

TEXT: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

INTRODUCTION: The Christ of the manager is the same Christ of the cross and the empty tomb, and to understand Christmas, one must understand the reason for which God came to be born as the Christ of the manger. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Thus, the true meaning of Christmas is found in the word 'Reconciliation'.

I. Possibility Of Reconciliation

II. Necessity Of Reconciliation

A. Because Of The Possibility Of Sinning Against Each Other.

B. Because Of The Fact Of Misunderstandings In Human Relationships.

C. Because Continued Divine Fellowship and Forgiveness Is Granted On The Basis Of Ability To Forgive In Human Relationships.

D. Because Bitterness And Resentment Grieves The Holy Spirit And Destroys Fellowship Between Christians.

III. Steps To Human Reconciliation

A. A Christian Must Seek To Understand the Motives for People's Behavior.

B. A Christian Must Seek To Appreciate Differences In People's Temperaments And Backgrounds.

C. A Christian Must Hold No Secret Criticisms Of Another.

D. Remember That At The Basis Of Most Resentment Is A Touchy, Unsurrendered Self.

E. Raise The Question With Yourself As To Whether Your Resentments Aren't Rooted In Imaginary Slights, Insults, And Wrongs.

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F. Every Time When The Name Of The Person Against Whom You Are Tempted To Hold A Resentment Is Presented To Your Mind, Breathe A Prayer For Them.

G. Say Everything Good You Can About The Person Or Persons With Whom You Are Unfriendly.

H. When You Do Have To Speak Of The Faults Of A Person, Don't Say, 'I Don't Like That Person'. Rather, Say, 'I Don't Like Certain Things In That Person, And They Are These.

I. Remember That Fastening Upon Other People's Faults Is Usually A Defense – Mechanism.

J. If There Is A Sudden Flare-Up And A Consequent Breakdown In Relationships, Get Into The Habit Of Settling Disagreements At Once.

K. Be Inwardly 'Too Glad And Too Great' To be The Enemy Of Any Man.

CONCLUSION: Have you ever noticed how many of the traditional Christmas carols are not merely preoccupied with the Christ of the manager, but rather with the Christ of the cross and empty tomb. Our Christmas carols are deeply theological – speaking of the great doctrines of the Church – especially the theme of Reconciliation and Peace.

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CHAPTER 10

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'RECONCILE'!

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

TEXT: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

INTRODUCTION: Soon we will be engulfed in the Christmas rush – buying presents, decorating our homes, serving company meals, playing Christmas carols, window shopping, writing Christmas cards to old and new friends, attending Christmas programs, making candy, and perhaps going to the mountains to pick out that special tree, and many, many more activities.

Christmas time is a time when many hearts are opened to give, when those same hearts are seemingly closed the rest of the time of the year. It is a time of glee, anticipation, surprises, gifts, and gladness – and rightfully it should be! Christmas brings happiness to many unfortunate children who are often overlooked most of the time. Perhaps there will be more giving at Christmas time than at any other time during the year, even by people who are usually greedy and grasping.

Amidst all of the activity of Christmas season, there is always the possibility of getting our eyes on the glitter instead of on the grace, to get our eyes on gadgets instead of on God, to get our eyes on the commercialization instead of on the Christ.

PROPOSITION: We can only truly understand the meaning of Christmas as it is inseparably connected with Easter. The Christ of the manager is the same Christ of the cross and the empty tomb, and to understand Christmas, one must understand the reason for which God came to be born as the Christ of the manger. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Thus, the true meaning of Christmas is found in the word 'Reconciliation'. Christ came to reconcile sinners to Himself, and if we are to enter into the true spirit of Christmas, we must enter into the spirit of reconciliation with God and man.

I. Possibility Of Reconciliation.

Man was created in God's own image, and as such was made only for greatness and fellowship. Man had blessed communion with his Creator. He was meant to enjoy God's presence forever. Innocence, uprightness, strength, and obedience characterized man's beginning. God gave man superior intelligence, and permitted him to subdue the earth. Man's body was strong, his mind superb, his spirit unblemished.

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However, man lost his greatness. Man fell from splendor to despair, from the beauty of perfection to the vileness of distortion, from the joy of fellowship to the anguish of separation, from the freedom of innocency to the bondage of guilt, from health to weakness, from life to death. Man is estranged, haunted by loneliness and paralyzed by fear. He is alienated from God, from his fellow man, and from himself.

Paul taught that all of humanity indulged in sin and that the blanket wrath of God covered mankind. Says Paul, "We all… followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature, being in fact under the wrath of God by nature, like everyone else." (Ephesians 2:3, Phillips)

Man fell from God and is under the wrath of God. However, man is heaven-starved and in need of forgiveness and restoration and reconciliation.

"And Here at last we find 
Strict diagnosis of our malady, 
Which is, in short, that man is heaven-starved 
Men are born thirsting for infinity." 

(Abundant Living, page 95)

Christ's coming and His eventual death made possible man's reconciliation to God. "It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him – all things in heaven and on earth – for Christ's death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood. This includes you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies and hated him and were separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through the death on the cross of his own human body, and now as a result Christ has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are standing there before him with nothing left against you – nothing left that he could even chide you for: the only condition is that you fully believe the Truth, standing in it steadfast and firm, strong in the Lord, convinced of the Good News that Jesus died for you, and never shifting from trusting him to save you. This is the wonderful news that came to each of you and is now spreading all over the world. And I Paul, have the joy of telling it to others." (Colossians 1:20-23, Living Bible)

Christ makes it possible for man to be at one with God. "When William Tyndale was translating the New Testament into English, he encountered great difficulty in finding a word big enough to convey the meaning of the redeeming work of Christ. Finding no adequate word, Tyndale joined two simple words – 'at' and 'onement', thus making 'atonement' and giving in its etymology a clue to the Bible's teaching of salvation by reconciliation. In Christ's death on the cross, God and man, who had been severed by sin, were brought together by the cross." (World Aflame; Billy Graham; pg. 116)

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Man must face the fact of his estrangement and acknowledge that he can only be at one with God through faith and repentance. The object of man's faith is Christ who objectively accomplished man's reconciliation on the Cross. The meaning of man's repentance lies in his denial at attempts of self-reconciliation, and genuine sorrow for his sin.

"E. Stanley Jones has told a story of a little boy who stood before a picture of his absent father, and then turned to his mother and said wistfully, 'I wish Father would step out of the picture.'" (Sangster's Special-Day Sermons; page 17). The true meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that the God who rules this vast universe has stepped out of the universe to dwell upon this little, insignificant, sin-infested plant and lived and died for man, in order that sinners might be reconciled to the Father. The erring child may be reconciled. That is the true meaning of Christmas.

Have you repented and accepted Christ's offer of reconciliation? Remember, "All who trust him – God's Son – to save them have eternal life; those who don't believe and obey him shall never see heaven, but the wrath of God remains upon them." (John 3:36, Living Bible)

The meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that man must be reconciled to God. But also the meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that man must be reconciled to man. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of reconciliation – man with God and man with man. To overlook either fact is to lose the spirit of Christmas. The angels praised God on the night of Jesus' birth, and announced the purpose of Christ's coming into the world: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." One cannot truly enjoy the spirit of Christmas and at the same time have ill will toward his fellow man.

The spirit of Christmas means the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. Christmas is a time of calling all men everywhere to be reconciled to God, and also a time for calling all believers to be reconciled to their fellow believers. The call of Christmas is the call to forgive and to be reconciled.

II. Necessity Of Reconciliation

A. Because Of The Possibility Of Sinning Against Each Other.

This problem of differences arising between fellow Christians is not new. Paul dealt with this problem in the Church at Philippi, as well as several other Churches. Wrote Paul to the Philippian Church: "And now I want to plead with those two dear women, Euodias and Synthche. Please, please, with the Lord's help, quarrel no more – befriends again. And I ask you, my true teammate, to help these women, for they worked side by side with me in telling

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the Good News to others; and they worked with Clement, too, and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are written in the Book of Life." (Philippians 4:2-3)

Jesus gave clear instructions as to what to do in cases between brothers who are divided: "So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God." (Matthew 5:23, Living Bible)

B. Because Of the Fact of Misunderstandings in Human Relationships.

We need each other's forgiveness because we are very fallible human beings. One cause of misunderstanding among Christians is faulty judgment. The most sanctified Christian is subject to errors in judgment. With the best of intentions, a Christian can blunder and falter. Much misunderstanding among Christians is caused, however, because Christians make hasty judgments without sufficient knowledge even to form a judgment. What a different world this would be if we were very slow to form judgments about others.

"Has God deserted Heaven, 
And left it up to you, 
To judge if this or that is right, 
And what each one should do? 
I think He's still in business, 
And knows when to wield the rod, 
So when you're judging others, 
Just remember, you're not - God."

(God's Psychiatry; page 116)

Christians sometimes expect more of people than what God Himself expects of them. Many Christians have pronounced judgments upon people, only to find out later that such judgments were unjust and the cause of much humiliation. How often we misinterpret someone's action, facial expression, or overheard conversation. God help us to admit that we are sometimes faulty in our judgment.

Sharp differences in opinions sometimes sever strong-willed Christians. The contention between Paul and Barnabas was so great that they parted company. Christians oftentimes differ in outlook, tastes, and opinions, and from this alone, misunderstandings arise. It is very easy to talk, but often hard to listen.

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It is easy to be so convinced that one is right in his views, that he becomes closed-minded even to the suggestions or opinions of other Christians. The clash of strong-willed opinions often times breeds misunderstanding.

C. Because Continued Divine Fellowship and Forgiveness Is Granted On The Basis Of Ability To Forgive In Human Relationships.

Jesus made this truth clear in His Sermon on the Mount. He taught us to pray, "… and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us." Jesus further said, "Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, he will not forgive you." (Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15)

D. Because Bitterness And Resentment Grieves The Holy Spirit And Destroys Fellowship Between Christians.

"Don't cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live … Stop being mean, bad-tempered and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ." (Ephesians 4:30 a, Ephesians 4:31, Ephesians 4:32, Living Bible)

"Since you have been chosen by God who has given you this new kind of life, and because of his deep love and concern for you, you should practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others. Don't worry about making a good impression on them but be ready to suffer quietly and patiently. Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (Colossians 3:12-13, Living Bible)

III. Steps To Human Reconciliation

A. A Christian Must Seek to Understand the Motives for People's Behavior.

A Christian must seek to understand the motives for people's behavior. How much easier it would be to forgive our fellow men, if we would seek better to understand the motives for their behavior. Impoliteness may be caused by worry or pain. Suspicion may be caused by misinformation. Impatience may be caused by bad nerves. James Fraser, a missionary who worked hard and prayed intensely for his people, one day lost his temper in the presence of the very people to whom he was ministering. His problem was not primarily spiritual; his problem was physical. He had worked so hard and had prayed so long that he had failed to get sufficient exercise and fresh air. To understand the cause for one's behavior is to be aided in developing the forgiving spirit. How much easier it would be to forbear with one another, if we sought to

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understand the personality make-up and the behavioral motives of those with whom we differ.

B. A Christian Must Seek To Appreciate Differences In People's Temperaments And Backgrounds.

Each of us is unique and is born with differing temperaments that we will have the rest of our lives. People judge one another with such statements as these: "He's too progressive or he's too slow to change"; "He's too liberal or he's too conservative;" "He's too emotional or he's too staid"; "He's too visionary or he's too practical"; He's too talkative or he's too quiet"; "He's too active or he's too passive." These judgmental statements are made on the basis of one's own temperament or one's own background. It would be much easier to accept or to forgive one another, if we all learned to accept each other's differing temperaments and each other's differing backgrounds. Learn to give and take. Learn to appreciate that which is different from you.

C. A Christian Must Hold No Secret Criticisms Of Another.

E. Stanley Jones has a motto: "Fellowship is based on confidence; secret criticism breaks that confidence; therefore we will renounce all secret criticism." He further says, "If there is no outer criticism, then we know there is no inner criticism: so the fellowship is relaxed and unrestrained. We must welcome the mutual helpfulness of constructive criticism, for 'the best of us are only Christians in the making. ' If we are afraid of criticism we are living on the defensive, living by fear rather than by faith. Let us lower the barriers and welcome the worst and we will probably find the best!" (Abundant Living, E. S. Jones, pg. 268)

D. Remember That At The Basis Of Most Resentment Is A Touchy, Unsurrendered Self.

"The fact that we have been able to hold the resentment shows that there is a self that is oversensitive because Unsurrendered to the will of God." (E. S. Jones, Abundant Living, pg. 60)

E. Raise The Question With Yourself As To Whether Your Resentments Aren't Rooted In Imaginary Slights, Insults, And Wrongs.

"A self-centered person can image a group is talking about him when that group is talking about everything else but; he can read into actions and statements meanings never intended; he can go around with a suspicious, looking-for-slights attitudes, and will find imaginary ones a plenty." "Remember that 'when you go around with a chip on your shoulder, the chip is probably from the block above.'" (Ibid; pg.60)

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F. Every Time When The Name Of The Person Against Whom You Are Tempted To Hold A Resentment Is Presented To Your Mind, Breathe A Prayer For Them.

G. Say Everything Good You Can About The Person Or Persons With Whom You Are Unfriendly.

H. When You Do Have To Speak Of The Faults Of A Person, Don't Say, 'I Don't Like That Person'. Rather, Say, 'I Don't Like Certain Things In That Person, And They Are These.'

I. Remember That Fastening Upon Other People's Faults Is Usually A Defense – Mechanism.

"By doing so you are probably attempting to lift yourself up by pushing them down. It won't succeed. In mentally picking flaws in others you create a worse flaw in yourself – you become a sensitive, critical person, like the thing you habitually center upon.

J. If There Is A Sudden Flare-Up And A Consequent Breakdown In Relationships, Get Into The Habit Of Settling Disagreements At Once. (E.S. Jones)

"Most misunderstandings could be dissolved by quick action. If you let them go they fester." (Ibid; 268) Barclay says, "Again and again it is the experience of life that, if a quarrel, or a difference, or a dispute is not healed immediately, it can go on breeding worse and worse trouble as time goes on. Bitterness breeds bitterness. It has often happened that a quarrel between two people has descended to their families, and has been inherited by future generations, and has in the end succeeded in splitting a Church or a society in two. If at the very beginning one of the parties had had the grace to apologize or to admit fault, a very grievous situation need never have arisen. If ever we are at variance with someone else, we must get the situation put right straight away. It may mean that we must be humble enough to confess that we were wrong and to make apology; it may mean that, even if we were in the right, we have to take the first step towards healing the breach. When personal relations go wrong, in nine cases out of ten immediate action will mend them; but if that immediate action is not taken, they will continue to deteriorate, and the bitterness will spread in an ever-widening circle." (Barclay's Matthew, pages 142, 143)

(All of the points in this last Section of the message are taken from E. Stanley Jones in his book 'Abundant Living'.)

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K. Be Inwardly 'Too Glad And Too Great' To be The Enemy Of Any Man.

"Be so preoccupied with good will that you haven't room for ill will Dr. George Carver, the great Negro scientist and saint, has risen to fame through his classical discoveries and service to the farmers of the South. Someone asked him to reveal the name of the university which had accepted him as a student and then, on discovering he was a Negro, had refused him admittance. Dr. Carver consistently refused to tell, passing the incident off as nothing. He had what somebody called 'the peace that passeth not only all understanding, but all misunderstanding.' Someone said to me (Jones), 'I don't think you know when you are insulted'. I replied, 'I am not looking for insults and so don't see them'." (Ibid; 63)

CONCLUSION: Christmas time is a time when peace ought to reign between God and man and between man and man, especially in the Church – "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3, Living Bible)

Have you ever noticed how many of the traditional Christmas carols are not merely preoccupied with the Christ of the manager, but rather with the Christ of the cross and empty tomb? Our Christmas carols are deeply theological – speaking of the great doctrines of the Church – especially the theme of Reconciliation and Peace.

IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR

Still thro' the cloven skies they come, 
With peaceful wings unfurled, 
And still their heavenly music floats 
O'er all the weary world: 
Above its sad and lowly plains 
They bend on hovering wing, 
And ever O'er its Babel sounds 
The blessed angels sing.
For lo! The days are hastening on, 
By prophet bards foretold, 
When with the ever circling years 
Comes round the age of gold; 
When peace shall over all the earth 
Its ancient splendors fling, 
And the whole world sends back the song 
Which now the angels sing. 

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WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS BY NIGHT

"All glory be to God on high, 
And to the earth be peace:
Good will henceforth, from heaven to men, 
Begin and never cease!" 

HARK! WHAT MEAN THOSE HOLY VOICES

Peace on earth, good will from heaven, 
Reaching far as man is found: 
Souls redeemed and sins forgiven! 
Loud our golden harps shall sound. 

I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

I heard the bells on Christmas Day 
Their old familiar carols play, 
And wild and sweet the words repeat 
Of peace on earth, good will to man. 

HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING

Hark! The herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the newborn King; 
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
God and sinners reconciled!" 
Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace! 
Hail the Son of Righteousness! 
Light and life to all he brings, 
Risen with healing in His wings. 

O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM

For Christ is born of Mary, 
And gathered all above, 
While mortals sleep, the Angels keep 
Their watch of wondering love. 
O morning stars, together 
Proclaim the holy birth, 
And praises sing to God the King 
And peace to men on earth! 

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GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST

Hark! The cherubic armies shout, 
And glory leads the song: 
Goodwill and peace are heard throughout 
The harmonious heavenly throng. 
With Joy the chorus we repeat, 
"Glory to God on high!" 
Goodwill and peace are now complete, 
Jesus was born to die. 

PEACE ON EARTH – GOODWILL TO MEN

Peace on earth, Goodwill from heaven, 
Reaching far as man is found: 
Souls redeemed and sins forgiven! 
Loud our golden harps shall sound. 

Let us meditate often on the truth of our great text: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

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CHAPTER 10

QUESTIONS

  1. During the Christmas Season, have you ever felt the 'pull of temptation' in your own life, as described in the following statement? "Amidst all of the activity of Christmas season, there is always the possibility of getting our eyes on the glitter instead of on the grace, to get our eyes on gadgets instead of on God, to get our eyes on the commercialization instead of on the Christ."

  2. Explain what is meant by the following statement: "We can only truly understand the meaning of Christmas as it is inseparably connected with Easter."

  3. As Mankind, as represented by Adam and Eve, fell into sin through disobedience to God's command, what consequence did this "Fall" have in terms of human interpersonal relationships?

  4. Because of Christ's death on the cross, what has God made possible for every human being, in terms of interpersonal relationships? (Note Colossians 1:20-23)

  5. What is the basic meaning of the word 'Atonement'?

  6. What must a person do, in order for him or for her to be reconciled to God? (Note John 3:16, John 3:36)

  7. Tell to what degree you agree with the following statements: "The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of reconciliation – man with God and man with man. To overlook either fact is to lose the spirit of Christmas."

    Is it possible for a professing Christian to be "at odds" (feeling enmity) with another person, and, at the same time, enjoy intimate fellowship with God? Why or why not? (Note 1 John 3:10-18; John 4:7-8, John 4:11, John 4:20-21)

  8. Is the problem of misunderstanding between fellow Christians a problem which exists only in modem-day Churches, or was this a problem even during the time of the Early Church? (Note Philippians 4:2-3)

  9. What should a believer do if he learns that a fellow believer has been offended by him? (Note Matthew 5:23)

  10. From your perspective and personal experience in interpersonal relationship, why do you think that fellow Christians find it so "easy" to judge one another?

  11. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christians sometimes expect more of people than what God Himself expects of them."

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  12. Give your reacting or response to the following statements: "It is very easy to talk, but often hard to listen. It is easy to be so convinced that one is right in his views, that he becomes close-minded even to the suggestions or opinions of other Christians. The clash of strong-willed opinions oftentimes breeds misunderstandings." (Note Isaiah 1:18; Philippians 2:1-4; James 3:17; Acts 15:36-41; Ephesians 4:31-32)

  13. What condition must a believer meet if he is to continue to experience God's forgiveness of his sins? (Note Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:21-35)

  14. What should be our attitude towards those who wrong us and sin against us? (Note Ephesians 4:30-32; Colossians 3:12-13)

  15. How is seeking to understand the motives in another person a real aid in helping you to more quickly and easily forgive what seems wrong to you in another person?

  16. How does taking into consideration another person's temperament and background a real aid in helping you to understand and to forgive another person of his mistakes, shortcomings, and sins?

  17. Give your reacting or response to the following statements: "We must welcome the mutual helpfulness of constructive criticism, for 'the best of us are only Christians in the making'? If we are afraid of criticism we are living on the defensive, living by fear rather than by faith. Let us lower the barriers and welcome the worst, and we will probably find the best!"

  18. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The fact that we have been able to hold resentment shows that there is a self that is oversensitive because unsurrendered to the will of God."

  19. Has it been your experience that overly-sensitive people tend to "read into actions and statements meaning never intended", and that they tend to hold resentments that are rooted in imaginary slights, insults, and wrongs"? What do you believe is the best "cure" for "over sensitivity" in a person's life?

  20. How does praying for a person, against whom you are tempted to hold resentment, help you?

  21. Why is it so important to say everything good that you possibly can, about a person with whom you are unfriendly? Does the fact that you "dwell on the fine, good things in other" (Philippians 4:8, Living Bible), and the fact that you verbalize those good qualities which you see in others, help you to begin to think and to feel positively about those persons with whom you don't have a close relationship (and with those persons that you don't naturally like)?

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  22. Is it possible for a Christian to love another person whom he does not like"? Why or why not? (Note Luke 6:27-36) Does 'agape' love (divine-type love) involve a "commitment of the will" or is it a "sentiment of the heart"? Is it possible, through God's enabling grace, for you to genuinely love your "enemies", even though you may hate their actions and attitudes and may not be naturally attracted to then personality? Why or why not?

  23. According to 2 Peter 1:5-8, what are the progressive steps which a believer must take, in order to become truly Christlike and mature in the Christian Faith? What is the greatest characteristic that best describes true maturity and Christ likeness?

  24. Is it possible for you to fasten and focus on the faults which you see in others, without at the same time becoming a critical and judgmental and overly – sensitive person yourself? What is the difference between being judgmental (Matthew 7:1), and evaluating and examining the character of another person (Matthew 7:15-20; 1 John 4:1-3)?

  25. Give your personal reacting or response to the following statements: "If ever we are at variance with someone else, we must get the situation put right straight away. It may mean that we must be humble enough to confess that we were wrong and to make apology; it may mean that, even if we were right, we have to take the first step towards healing the break."

  26. Is it possible for one to be so full of the love of God that he is "too glad and too great to be the enemy of any man"?

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What Happens When I Become a Christian?

What Happens When I Become A Christian?

Chapter Four

What Happens When I Become A Christian?
Justification — 'Just As If I Had Never Sinned!' 45 Mountain Peaks Of Spiritual Blessings 53
God Can Declare Man Righteous! 46 Chosen To Be Holy And Blameless! 54
"A White Rag On Every Limb Of The Tree!" 47 Destined To Be Sons! 55
Regeneration — a Sense Of Newness 48 Enlightened And Enlivened People 56
The Christian Life Is a Completely New Life! 49 Empowered By The Powerful Holy Spirit! 57
"I Felf Clean Inside" 50 Discussion Questions 58
"I Am Easier To Live With" 51 Discussion Questions (continued) 59
"I Am Happy For The First Time In My Life"   52    

2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Justification — 'Just As If I Had Never Sinned!'

What happens when I become a Christian? This is the question we must try to answer. Among the words that described God's salvation of man, two words are prominent: Justification and Regeneration. These are the gifts of God given to the sinner who exercises saving faith in Christ. Each is given simultaneously, but each describes a definite aspect of Christ's saving work. We must spend a few days looking at these two great words.

Someone said that when God justifies the sinner, He treats the sinner just as if he had never sinned! Justification is a legal concept, concerned with the legal status of the believer. The great frequency with which the Scriptures discuss justification, show that the Scriptures put great emphasis upon the idea of 'Law'.

'Justify' in the New Testament sense of the word does not mean to prove a person righteous, but rather it means to treat, to account or to reckon a person as righteous. Justification in the New Testament means "to acquit" or "to pronounce just or righteous". There are four things which can be said about Justification.

First, in considering justification, it is important to realize the seriousness and sacredness of God's Law. God requires that man should live in accordance with His Law. "Moreover, it is part of the very nature of law as we know it that it attaches penalties to the breaking of the law, and in this respect the scriptural law is no exception. Again and again we are told that God views the breaking of the law with the gravest displeasure, that His wrath is extended towards the sinner, and that none can expect immunity, for there is no respect of persons with Him." (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Mooris, p. 294)

Second, God must honor His holy nature, and therefore cannot automatically and unconditionally pronounce forgiveness to all men. As P.T. Forsyth so well says, "God could not trifle with His own holiness. He could will nothing against His holy nature, and He could not abolish the judgement bound up with it. Nothing in the compass of the divine nature could enable Him to abolish a moral law, the law of holiness. That would be tampering with His own soul. It had to be dealt with. Is the law of God more loose than the law of society? Can it be taken liberties with, played with, and put aside at the impulse even of love? How little we should come to think of God's love if that were possible… God's holy law is His own holy nature. His love is under the condition of eternal respect. It is quite unchangeable". (Ibid, p. 294)

"O God, how can you treat me as a child to be loved when I deserve to be treated as a criminal to be obliterated? How can you save me, a sinner, and at the same time honor Your own holiness? Only one way! If You, O God, take upon yourself the punishment that a criminal and a sinner deserve! Only the perfectly just can justify the totally unjust!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God respected His justice enough to punish sin, in the person of His exalted Son. God loved His mercy enough to forgive sin, in the persons of His fallen sons! I am perfectly accepted in the perfectly acceptable One!

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45


Romans 3:24-28, Romans 4:5

God Can Declare Man Righteous!

We are trying to understand the meaning of Justification. Third, Jesus suffered for man's sin and in turn gave man a borrowed righteousness. The substitutionary death of Christ must be taken account of, if we are properly to understand the true significance and possibility of justification. God takes into account that Christ suffered for man's sin and thus, God is able to forgive mankind of its own sin. Yet, because of Christ's substitutionary death, God is able to honor His own law of holiness. God's law must be vindicated; sin must be punished. Christ took the punishment of sin and thus the demands of God's law were satisfied. In fact, because Christ has died for man's sins, God must forgive man. God acts righteously or justly in that He honors the substitutionary death of Christ, and dealing righteously, God is therefore Obligated to forgive man. God forgives and yet He maintains the integrity of His character, simply because God, as a righteous Judge, cannot overlook the work of His Son on Calvary. "Even (God's) act of forgiveness which might be thought of as an act of mercy is seen to be also an act of righteousness." (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, Leon Maoris, p. 273)

At the same time that God, for Christ's sake, forgives man's sins, Christ bestows upon man a borrowed righteousness. The borrowed righteousness which man enjoys is given to man by God, and is the basis of man's justification. The righteousness which man enjoys must be appropriated by faith. It is not the faith itself (the activity of man) which justifies man; it is Christ's borrowed righteousness (the activity and gift of God) that is the basis of man's justification. God looks upon the borrowed righteousness, and acquits man and judges him as righteous. God is just in justifying a sinner, on the basis of God's acceptance of Christ's atonement which makes it possible for man to enjoy a borrowed righteousness.

Fourth, the work of Christ's atonement enables God to declare man as righteous. God can declare man as righteous because God constitutes man as righteous by giving to man the righteousness of Christ. "God treats the sinner as if he had not been a sinner at all… That means that to be justified is to enter into a new relationship with God, a relationship of love and confidence and friendship, instead of a relationship of distance and enmity and fear… He is not in this right relationship because he has meticulously performed the works of the law. He is in it because in utter faith he has cast himself on this amazing mercy and love of God." (The Daily Study Bible, Romans, William Barclay, p. 13-14)

"What a sense of relief to know that I need not prove myself righteous (which I can't because of my sinful life), but that you treat me as righteous (which you can because of Christ's righteous death)! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By placing faith in Christ, I become hid in Christ, and as a result, God no longer looks at my sinful life, but at Christ's perfect life. By becoming hid in Christ, I am found in God!

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46


Ephesians 1:1-7, 1 John 3:1-3

"A White Rag On Every Limb Of The Tree!"

We have said that when God justifies a sinner, He treats him as if he had never sinned! God is able to declare the sinner as righteous, not because the sinner is at all righteous, but because Christ is righteous and the sinner, who puts faith in Christ, is hid in Christ. We are accepted in God's beloved Son.

"At the court of kings there was an official called the prosagogeus, the introducer, the giver of access, and it was his function to decide who should be admitted to the king's presence, and who should be kept out. He, as it were, held the keys of access. That is to say, it is Jesus Christ, through what He did, who brings men into the presence of God, who gives them access to God, who opens the way to God." (The Daily Study Bible, Peter, William Barclay, p. 278)

"A minister was on a train, the only occupant of the coach except a young man who seemed very ill at ease. The young man would sit in one seat and then get up and go to another, take up a book and drop it again. The minister went over to him, sat down beside him, and asked what was the matter. The boy shut up like a clam. But at last the dam broke, and he told his story:  "I've run away from home, and I've been away a long time. I've wanted to go back, and I wrote my father asking if he would take me back. But there has been no reply. So I have written my mother and told her that I am not going to wait for a reply, that I am coming home, and that If they will take me back she must hang a white rag on the crab-apple tree, down near the railroad tracks, so that I can see it when the train goes by. If I do not see the white rag, I shall understand and go on by. We are getting near and I am afraid to look–afraid the white rag won't be there'. The minister told the lad that he needn't look, that he would look for him. The boy sat with his eyes closed, the hand of the minister on his knee. As they drew near to where the tree was, the hand of the minster closed tight on the boy's knee, and he said, 'My boy, there is a white rag on every limb of that tree!'."

The Cross upon which Jesus died is covered, as it were, with white rags–the rags of reconciliation. God accepts us as friends, not as enemies, because of what Christ has done on the Cross. "And you yourselves, who were strangers to God, and in fact, through the evil things you had done, his spiritual enemies, he has now reconciled through the death of his body on the cross, so that he might welcome you to his presence clean and pure, without blame or reproach." (Colossians 1:21-22, Phillips)

"I come to you, most holy God, with no confidence in my own righteousness, but with full confidence in the Christ of the empty cross!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I can come boldly into the presence of God for I carry on my heart the blood of the reconciling Saviour!

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47


Romans 8:8-17

Regeneration — a Sense Of Newness

What is the difference between justification and regeneration? Justification refers to a Christian's changed status with God. Regeneration refers to a Christian's changed nature. "Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgement of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that of the distinction between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes an inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does–he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status. If we are innocent he declares accordingly." (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, John Murray, p. 121)

When a person receives Christ into his life, he is made a new person. Regeneration means a sense of newness, and while the actual word is seldom used in the New Testament to denote personal salvation, the concept is implied by a variety of terms and metaphors in the New Testament. Let us look at some of those metaphors, all of which denote newness of life or regeneration.

Becoming a Christian is like passing from darkness to light. Paul received a commission from God to turn men "from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins". (Acts 26:18 RSV) One college girl expressed her experience of Christ in these words: "I felt that I had swallowed sunshine!".

Becoming a Christian is like freedom from slavery. Wrote Paul, "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship". (Romans 8:15) Wrote one man after he found Christ, "He lifted me out of the dungeon… I was truly free".

Becoming a Christian is like passing from death to life or like experiencing a resurrection unto life. Wrote Paul, "But God is so rich in mercy; He loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, He gave us back our lives again when He raised Christ from the dead–only by His undeserved favor have we ever been saved–and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with Him in the heavenly realms–all because of what Christ Jesus did". (Ephesians 2:4-6) "You see how your old, evil nature died with Him and was buried with Him; and then you came up out of death with Him into a new life because you trusted the Word of the mighty God who raised Christ from the dead." (Colossians 2:12, Living Bible)

Justification establishes a person in a right relationship with God and regeneration gives an inward newness of life to the sinner. Both are the gifts of God and are simultaneously given when man exercises saving faith in Christ. Have you exercised saving faith in Christ? Are you enjoying these wonderful gifts of God? If not, why not?

"O God, give me light for my darkness, freedom for my slavery, hope for my despair, life for my death! Make me a new creation in Christ Jesus!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God is not calling me to be a better person; He is calling me to be a new person! God's grace alone can make me new!

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48


2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:21-24

The Christian Life Is a Completely New Life!

We are looking at those metaphors which describe God's gift of regeneration.

Becoming a Christian is called a New Birth. "Thank God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that in his great mercy we men have been born again in a life full of hope, through Christ's rising again from the dead!" (1 Peter 1:3, Phillips) "You have been born anew, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." (1 Peter 1:23 RSV) Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Except one be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God". (John 3:5) 'Water' refers to the purification from sinful pollution, and 'Spirit' refers to inner newness of life brought about by the activity of the Holy Spirit. New Testament teaching has its counterpart in the Old Testament: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh". (Ezekiel 36:25-26)

Becoming a Christian is called a New Creation. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17 RSV) (See Ephesians 4:21-24 in the Living Bible.)

Becoming a Christian means becoming qualitatively different–becoming a real person. Says Maurice Bernett, "The basic concept is that the Christian life is a completely new life. It is as different from anything that went before as is the 1ife of man from the 1ife of a sponge. Our modern tendency has been to stress the fact that when a man becomes a Christian it need not make so very much difference, especially in our 'decent society'. We have presumed that because a fellow lives in a society that is flavoured with certain Christian ideals he is therefore a Christian, for after all he exhibits certain Christian tendencies. How utterly absurd. As though my liking for Chinese food makes me into a Chinaman… It is vitally important to announce this for… there are those who do not think there is much difference in these days between the decent, likeable pagan and the Christian. They should mark the difference as the New Testament writers saw it. The easiest thing to do is to dismiss the New Testament metaphors as exaggerations. The fact of the matter is we have never really discovered what is being offered. We have been content with a sham, a farce, a fake, watering down our Christianity and being content with an anemic substitute. Thus we know about Christianity, we sing about it, but plod along with religious burden often unchanged and uninfluenced, miserable because of the unreality of our dreams".

"God, give me the 'vision which transforms'–the vision of your holiness in contrast to my sinfulness, and the vision of your transforming power in contrast to my moral impotence."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will allow my potential to be determined by the possibilities of divine Grace, not by the limitations of human sinfulness!

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49


Titus 3:3-8

"I Felt Clean Inside"

Out of large numbers of converts who were saved at a Billy Graham Crusade, about 2000 of these converts were asked to tell what happened when they became a Christian. The following five statements were more often given as answers to what happened when they were converted than any other answers:

First, "I felt clean inside". Sin blackens the soul morally, but Christ comes to the soul of the repentant one to cleanse from the guilt and pollution of sin. "What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus." Paul wrote to Titus, "Then He saved us–not because we were good enough to be saved, but because of His kindness and pity–by washing away our sins and giving us the new joy of the indwelling Holy Spirit", (Living Bible)

"A woman who had gone through the mazes of psychiatrical analysis and had been left rather picked to pieces without a synthesis, experienced this change and described it this way: 'I feel all clean within. All the old hymns about cleansing which I had laid aside as outworn superstition have come back. I find myself singing them again'." (Abundant Living, LS. Jones, p. 35)

Second, "I found peace of mind". Sin causes man to be at enmity with God. Christ has come to speak peace to the restless soul of man. Augustine talked about "our hearts being restless till they rest in Thee". Baron von Hugel has put it this way: "the passion and hunger for God come from God, and God answers it with Christ".

One lonely man in a hotel who was getting ready to pull the trigger of a gun to blow his brains out, reached for a radio dial and the speaker said, "Put down that gun! That is no solution for your problems". The man was shocked into reality and fell on his knees before God and found peace for his troubled soul.

One tragic result of sin is that it drives man from God into hiding. Christ has come to reconcile man to himself–to make peace with man. In one of his books, Barclay recalls the story of an architect who came to Plato and offered for a certain sum of money to build him a house into which none of the rooms would it be possible to see. Plato said, "I will give you double the money to build a house into every room of which everyone can see". (The Daily Study Bible, John, William Barclay, Vol. 1, p. 131) The peaceful mind is the transparent and integrated mind–transparent to all because it is cleansed by Christ's blood!

Paul's favorite title for God is the God of Peace. Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of everything that makes for a man's highest good!

"God of peace, impart peace to my troubled mind. God of holiness, impart cleansing to my polluted soul. God of love, shed abroad your love in my loveless heart! God of the New, make me a new creation! Thank you. A thousand times, thank you!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY:  My passion for God is created by God and is satisfied with God!

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50


Acts 26:1-20

"I Am Easier To Live With"

Third, "I was able to overcome vicious habits". One of the tragic characteristics of sin is that one sin leads to more sins. A practice which may appear relatively harmless can lead to a vicious habit. Sin makes a man a slave to its harsh tyranny. Christ has come to break the power of sin and to set the captive free! Christ enables a man to overcome a vicious habit!

"In London, England," writes Billy Graham, "an alcoholic was placed under the care of a psychiatrist who soon gave up because the alcoholic was getting no better. During our meetings at the Harringay Arena, the alcoholic was invited to attend. He listened in wonderment to the Gospel messages. 'Maybe there is some hope for me', he thought. One night when the invitation was given, he went forward with several others. He was converted, and new power came into his life. That night before he went to sleep, he reached as usual for the nearby bottle of liquor; but something–or rather, Someone–restrained his hand. Getting out of bed, he took the bottle and emptied it down the drain. When he awakened in the morning, through habit he reached again for his usual morning bracer. It was not there, but there was no sense of disappointment. The man called his psychiatrist and said, 'You have lost a patient. Christ has saved me from drink. I am now a new man'. The psychiatrist said: 'That sounds fine. Maybe I can find help where you found it. I am not an alcoholic, but I have my own needs and problems'. The psychiatrist began, too, to attend the meetings and he, too, accepted Christ as his Saviour." (World Aflame, p. 145-146)

Fourth, "I am easier to 1ive with". One of the tragic results of sin is that sin not only makes the life of the transgressor miserable, but sin also makes the lives of those who are intimately associated with the transgressor miserable. The fruits of sin are hatred, fighting, jealousy, anger, complaints, criticisms, and selfishness which is the "constant effort to get the best for yourself'". (Galatians 5:20, Living Bible) Christ has come to replace these evil traits with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These God-given qualities make a person much easier to live with. Christ has come to make a person winsome and gracious, He has come to build strong and lasting relationships.

"The biggest grouch of a certain city called up a friend over the long distance telephone and said, 'Everybody is changed in _________ after that meeting in the high school with Stanley Jones last night. Everybody is different this morning. Of course, it may be that only I am different, but everybody seems different'." (Abundant Living, E.S. Jones, p. 35)

"O God, because I am powerless to break my unholy habits, I come to you for deliverance from sin's power. Heal my will that I may develop holy habits! In Jesus' powerful name!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The way of the transgressor is hard, for Man is not made to transgress! `I am made for holy living!

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51


Isaiah 61:1-3, 1 Peter 1:8

"I Am Happy For The First Time In My Life"

Fifth, "I am happy for the first time in my life". Sin brings misery and despair. "The way of transgressors is hard." (Proverbs 13:15 b) Christ has come to give real joy and happiness to man. Jesus said to his disciples, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full". (John 15:11)

Christ has come to the human race to change the long face and to remove the depressed outlook on life. Christ has come to give us Life–Abundant Life! One man called a Negro man to a train window and said, "Uncle, is there anybody in this town enjoying religion?". The old Negro replied, "Them's that's got it is". (Abundant Living, LS. Jones, p. 35) Those who genuinely have Christ have genuine joy! "Whosoever trusteth in the Lord, happy is he." (Proverbs 16:20 b)

"In the third century, Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage, wrote to his friend Donatus: 'It is a bad world, Conatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people Donatus, are Christians… and I am one of them'." (Quoted in World Aflame, Billy Graham, p. 139)

Once when I was travelling to an annual Bible Camp meeting, I visited with a man–a simple and uneducated man–who was all aglow with the joy of God. This man told me of his former and miserable life of drunkenness. His wife had left him and he went through several struggles. But God had transformed him and his testimony rang with certainty and joy. He bubbled over with enthusiasm as we rode together to camp. The joy and happiness that he found in Christ was indescribable. He was experiencing the joy of the Lord–joy that was 'unspeakable and full of glory'!

The joy that Christ gives is not dependent upon one's external circumstances. A young woman who became a Christian, lost her husband in an accident, and yet this did not rob her of her joy. Writing about a spiritually needy friend, she said, "I do wish I could share all the joy in my heart with her. She deserves it, and I have enough for ten people!". (Prayer and Life's Highest, Paul Rees, p. 79)

In the journal of a young convert of thirteen were found these words: "Oh, that I had a voice that would reach all the world. I would tell them how happy I am". (Living In Two Worlds, Mary Alice Tenney, p. 72)

"O God, your holiness is my happiness, your presence is my power, your glory is my goal! When your smile of approval rests upon me, I laugh with a holy joy!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God wills that I be truly happy; therefore, I will "rejoice evermore with joy unspeakeble".

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52


Ephesians 1:1-14

Mountain Peaks Of Spiritual Blessings

Have you ever got so excited about something as you were relating your experience to someone else, that your mind got ahead of your tongue? There was so much to tell and you could not find the words to communicate your excitement!

That is what often happened to the apostle Paul. Paul was so full of Christ and the riches of Christ that he could not contain himself. Paul's letters to the Churches were love letters to dear friends. Paul was so enraptured with the riches of spiritual blessings that, in his attempt to communicate these blessings, he piled descriptive phrase upon descriptive phrase. From verse 3 through verse 14 of Ephesians 1, there is no period in the original Greek language. It is one sentence! Paul's mind races from one spiritual truth to another, as he becomes lost in 'Wonder, love, and praise'. It is not a logical statement, but a lyrical song of praise.

During the next few days I would like for us to imagine that we are aboard a spiritual airplane. There is a mighty range of spiritual mountains, with towering mountain peaks of various heights to look upon as we fly above the range. Just as a plane flies quickly over a number of mountain peaks in a relatively short time, so I would like for us to get an airplane view of some of the great mountain peaks of spiritual blessing which Paul puts before our view in Ephesians, chapter one.

To glance at the mountain peaks of spiritual blessings is to break out into a shout with Paul, and declare: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places". (verse 3)

As we 'fly' above the mountain peaks of spiritual blessings, get all excited about your spiritual heritage as a believer!

During the next few days, we will learn anew how blessed it is to be God's people. How does Ephesians One describe God's people? They are (1) Chosen People, (2) Destined People, (3) Redeemed People, (4) Forgiven People, (5) Enlightened People, (6) Enlivened People, (7) Hopeful People, (8) Empowered People.

As one who has repented of your sins and transferred your faith from yourself to Jesus Christ as your saviour, you have a right to claim your spiritual heritage! Your aspirations toward effective living are fulfilled through the 'working of God's great might'. You are a child of the King, so learn to enjoy your privileges of royalty!

"O God, open my eyes that I may see the unspeakably wonderful blessings which you wish to share with me! I am rich in Christ!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The bitter experience of repentance leads me to the blessed experience of enjoying heavenly blessings!

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53


Ephesians 1:3-4

Chosen To be Holy And Blameless!

Writes Paul, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him". (Ephesians 1:3-4) Wonder of it all is that God would choose sinful man! The Infinite choosing of the finite; the all-powerful choosing the very weak! The righteous choosing the sinful! God took the initiative to choose to save humanity. Said Jesus, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you". (John 15:16)

It has been said, "Many are called but few are chosen, because few are choice". That is, God chose to save the entire human race, but only those who accept God's universal offer of salvation, become members of the choice (or elect) group.

We are chosen to be 'holy'. Chosen for the purpose of separation from the world's values and standards. Believers are to stand out as different –with values of God controlling their behavior. This means that, as believers, we are never to look at people as means to our own selfish ends. We are never to look at people as things to be used, but instead as eternal beings to be served. The 'thingification' of persons is always the tragic result in a society that considers gadgets more important than God! Christians are chosen by God to restore compassion to relationships and value to persons! As God's chosen people, we are not chosen to be separated from sinners, but instead, separated from sin.

A chosen people must be a 'select' people, that is, a 'blameless' people. This term refers to the Old Testament animal sacrifice which could only be offered to God if no blemishes were found in it. The animal must be perfectly formed and healthy before it could be used to offer to God. The offering of our lives–be it our home life, our personal life, our recreational life or our work life–must be the best possible. A chosen person must be a person who is willing to undergo the very scrutiny of God! Perfection in love and blamelessness in behavior is the high goal of Chosen People. It is a great blessing to be a chosen person, but with that privilege comes a great responsibility to be holy and blameless.

So the first description of a Christian's spiritual heritage is given in Ephesians 1:3-4. A Christian is a chosen person. Not only chosen, but also destined (verses Ephesians 1:5-6). To this we must next turn.

"O God, like you, enable me to be separate from sin, but never separated from sinners. I cannot be faultless in behavior, but enable me to be blameless in love. For Jesus' sake! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The God who chooses me to be holy will cleanse me to live a holy life!

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54


Ephesians 1:5-7

Destined To Be Sons!

Secondly, Christians are Destined People. "He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:5-6) Even before the foundation of the world, God determined to adopt us as His children! The mark of God's ownership is stamped deeply on the soul of every person! God claims the right to be our Father, and we as His children! God has destined us to be sons, not slaves! To be called children of God is to be called the objects of God's special care, love, and attention! David asked in wonderment, "What is man that thou art even mindful of him, O God?". But we can ask with equal wonderment, "What is man that thou, O God, art willing to make him a son of the living God, through special adoption? Through that adoption, our sins are cancelled out and we are made a part of God's wonderful family!

Third, Christians are Redeemed People. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. (Ephesians 1:7-8) The meaning of redemption is "to loose'. Man is in bondage to sin by reason of his own sinful nature and by reason of his own willful choice. Man is unable to free himself from the terrible bondage of sin. The man without Christ feels like crying out, "Oh, what a terrible predicament I'm in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?" (Romans 7:24) It is Christ's death that loosed men from the bondage to sin. Christ's death appeased the wrath of God, and at the same time, demonstrated the love of God for sinners. Christ's resurrection revealed God's power–a power so great that sin's chains could be broken! Christ's death was the substitutionary price of redemption, and Christ's resurrection was the availing power to set the sinner free!

Fourth, Christians are Forgiven People. "We have forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us." Guilt drains away vitality, causes mental and physical distress, marks the face, and scars the soul. Shakespeare described the terrible plague of a guilty conscience:

"My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings 
in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villian.

But "as far as the east is from the west, so far hath God removed our transgressions from us".

"Dare to believe that I am a redeemed and forgiven soul, a soul whose sins are buried in the sea of God's forgetfulness, never to be remembered against me again! In Christ, my dreams become realities! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Loosed from the chains of sin, I shall forever be chained to the heart of God!

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55


Ephesians 1:9-12

Enlightened And Enlivened People

Fifth, Christians are Enlightened People. "For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a, plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." (Ephesians 1:9-10) The mystery or secret of God has been gloriously revealed to Christians. What is that secret? Very simply, yet profoundly, the secret is this: All of nature and all of humanity will be unified and redeemed in Christ! God is sovereign and He will make even the wrath of men to praise Him! Evil will not triumph! Rather, good and justice will have the final word! Right will be rewarded; evil will be punished! The godly will be saved; the ungodly shall perish! God both wills and desires that all men come to repentance, but those who won't repent will be punished. All of nature and all of mankind will either willingly or unwillingly bow the knee to Christ and proclaim that He is Lord of lords!

"In olden times God did not share this plan with his people, but now he has revealed it by the Holy Spirit to his apostles and prophets. And this is the secret: that the Gentiles will have their full share with the Jews in all the riches inherited by God's sons; both are invited to belong to his church, and all of God's promises of mighty blessings through Christ apply to them both when they accept the Good News about Christ and what He has done for them." (Ephesians 3:6, Living Bible)

Sixth, Christians are Enlivened People. "In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:11-12) The life that is fitting into God's master plan for history is the life that brings praise and honor and glory to the Saviour. What is God's master plan for history? To bring all things and all people into unity and fellowship around the feet of Jesus! Enlivened people are reconciling people. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." Christian people should, of all people, be the most alive, for they are people of destiny, purpose. They know where history is going! "Stanley Jones said the awful events of earth did not disturb him because he knew 'how it will all come out'. Yes, of course. This is the secret of serenity in our work. The genuine Christian, in his depths, is not at sixes and sevens, for he knows that history has a goal divinely determined and that, whatever happens, Almighty God is moving redemptively to that great and grand goal." (The Minister's Ministries, Don Demaray, p. 20)

"O God, your perfect will is to save all humanity in Christ! Your permissive will is to allow those who reject Christ to live a Christless eternity! What you perfectly will–my total salvation–help me perfectly to realize! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's revealed plan gives me power to realize life's purpose–to be united in Christ!

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Ephesians 1:13-23

Empowered By The Powerful Holy Spirit!

Seventh, Christians are Hopeful People. "In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:14-15)

We have already seen that past mysteries are revealed and present life is enjoyed in Christ. Now we see that future riches are assured. The future for the Christian is as bright as the promises of God, and to guarantee that the Christian's hope for future riches is not merely an illusion of the mind, God has given us the promised Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit "is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it". (verse 14)

On October 23, 1975, Merlin Adamson, missionary to Africa for nearly 20 years, died at the young age of 48. He died at the height of his missionary career, a victim of cancer. He was my wife's cousin. Shortly after he died, my wife and I received a small note from his wife: "Of course, we miss Merlin so very much, but it is comforting to know that he is with the One who loves him even more than we do. Heaven seems so much closer now that he is there". It is the Holy Spirit who makes heaven's future treasures real to us now, giving us a foundation for our hope. The Holy Spirit is God's promise to us that lithe best is yet to be".

Eighth, Christians are Empowered People. You must read Ephesians 1:18-23 to better appreciate this. A group of students were asked if they thought Christianity was essentially a demand or an offer. How would you answer that question? After considerable thought, they realized that Christianity is an offer! God has promised that His grace is sufficient for every problem of life. God said that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Paul affirmatively met life with a resounding 'Yes' when he shouted, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Christ offers adequate resources to meet every crisis of life. Paul declared that we are 'more than conquerors' through Christ. Paul prayed for all believers that their spiritual eyes might be enlightened that they might see "the immeasurable greatness of God's power in us who believe", The power that works in the 1ife of the believer, is the same power that was best demonstrated in God's workings with Christ. God's power toward Christ resulted in (1) Christ's resurrection, (2) Christ's ascension, (3) Christ's dominion (militant victory), (4) Christ's headship over the church. That same mighty power works in you!

"God, send your hopeful Holy Spirit to inspire hope in my despairing soul. Send your powerful Holy Spirit to impart power to my weakened spirit. Send your inspiring Holy Spirit to cleanse my cloudy vision from earth's trivia, in order that I may see heaven's treasures alone!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What God demands, He always provides. What God provides, I will receive–today!

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Discussion Questions On 'What Happens When I Become a Christian?'

  1. What does 'Justification', as used in the New Testament, basically mean?

  2. How does God view the breaking of His holy law by mankind?

  3. Why cannot God, out of the motivation of His eternal love, easily and quickly forgive mankind for breaking His holy law?

  4. How can the just character of God be maintained and, at the same time, unjust men be saved from the eternal damnation which their sins deserve? How is the substitutionary death of Christ an answer both to maintaining God's justice and demonstrating God's mercy? Why is God 'obligated' to forgive the sins of the genuinely repentant sinner?

  5. Discuss your understanding of the following statement: "God is just in justifying a sinner, on the basis of God's acceptance of Christ's atonement which makes it possible for man to enjoy Christ's borrowed righteousness".

  6. On what basis can God declare and treat a sinner righteous? Because a repentant sinner enjoys the 'borrowed righteousness' of Christ, what privilege does such a person enjoy? (Note Colossians 1:21-22)

  7. What is the difference between justification and regeneration?

  8. List and describe some of the metaphors which are used in the New Testament to describe the concept of Regeneration.

  9. What is the difference between becoming a better person (human reformation), and becoming a new person (divinely-wrought transformation), as these concepts relate to motivation for change and quality of change in a human life? (What is the difference between being tolerant toward Christianity as a religion and being personally transformed by Christ as a Person?)

  10. Cite Biblical references that describe divinely-wrought transformation of a sinner in terms of 'cleansing'.

  11. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Peace, according to the Biblical understanding, is not the mere absence of trouble, but it is the presence of everything that makes for a man's highest good".

  12. What evidence, both from Scripture and from your own personal experience and observation, can you cite to demonstrate Christianity's claim that Christ is able to break bad habits and to make bad men good?

  13. What evidence is there that a person who is converted to Christ is easier to live with and easier to get along with?

  14. On what basis can a Christian be filled with joy, in spite of the changes and chances of life's circumstances?

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    Discussion Questions On 'What Happens When I Become a Christian?' (continued)

  15. God's people can be described in eight different ways, according to the first chapter of the Book of Ephesians. List those eight descriptions.

  16. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God chose to save the entire human race, but only those who accept God's universal offer of salvation, become members of the choice (or elect) group". (Note Ephesians 1:3-4)

  17. For what purpose are persons chosen by God?

  18. To what are Christians destined (according to Ephesians 1:5-6), and why is such a destiny so amazing?

  19. What is the Biblical definition of 'Redemption' and how does this concept relate to God's people (according to Ephesians 1:7-8)? Why is an understanding of the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection essential to a proper understanding of the meaning of 'Redemption'?

  20. What are the consequences of Guilt, and what does God offer the guilt-ridden sinner?

  21. What is the 'secret' or 'mystery' of God which has now been revealed to God's enlightened people, according to Ephesians 1:9-10?

  22. What revealed knowledge is given to God's people that motivates them to be the most enlivened people on earth?

  23. What is the guarantee that the Christian's hope for future riches is not merely an 'illusion of the mind'? (Note Ephesians 1:14-15)

  24. Is Christianity essentially a demand or an offer? Explain your answer, and share Scriptural references to document your answer.

  25. The power that God demonstrated in Christ, is the same power that God makes available to believers. According to Ephesians 1:18-23, in what four ways was God's power demonstrated in His relationship to Christ?

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The Sacrifice of a Loving God

The Sacrifice Of a Loving God

Chapter Eight

The Sacrifice Of a Loving God
He Hit Rock Bottom On A Cross! 96 The Greatest Love Story 102
He Was Born To Die! 97 "Whosoever" Includes All! 103
The Cross Appeased God's Wrath 98 A New Quality Of Life 104
The Cross Satisfied God's Justice 99 Discussion Questions 105
The Cross Demonstrated God's Love 100 Discussion Questions (Continued) 106
The Golden Text Of Scripture 101    

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

He Hit Rock Bottom On A Cross!

When God identified with mankind, in the person of Jesus, He identified at the lowest level. Not only did Jesus identify with sinners in life, but Jesus identified with sinners in his very death. "He took man's sin as His own and died as a malefactor on a cross. The visitation meant identification, and the identification meant not identification with man at the top, becoming the best of men, but becoming the worst of men–a sinner, dying between sinners. 'He became sin for us.' That identification was gradual, beginning at inner renunciation of being equal with God, coming in a virgin's womb, and going deeper at every step until He hit rock bottom on a cross: 'My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?'" (Word Became Flesh; – E. Stanley Jones; pg. 153)

Just as mankind (in the person of Adam) freely chose to disobey the Father, so the second Adam, Jesus Christ, freely chose to obey the Father.

He freely chose to come to earth to give His life a ransom for sinners, and to destroy the devil's works (1 John 3:8). Throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, Jesus often said, "My hour has not yet come." What did He mean? He meant that God's appointed time for Him to die a redemptive death had not yet come. Just before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed, "Father, the time has come, Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you." (John 17:1)

Said Jesus, "No man takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord." Jesus willingly gave his life for the sins of the world.

As Jesus stood before Pilate, Pilate said to Jesus: "Don't you realize that I have the power to release you or to crucify you?" Then Jesus said, "You would have no power at all over me unless it were given to you from above." (John 19:10-11 Living Bible)

Jesus' death was not an accident of history or a mere incident of human cruelty. Rather, Jesus' death was the result of God's grace and of Jesus' free choice.

He could have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him from the cross, but instead He died alone for you and me!

The death of Christ was an absolute necessity, if mankind was to be saved from sin and from hell! Christ's death on the Cross (a) appeased God's wrath, (b) satisfied God's justice, (c) demonstrated God's love.

"O God, was ever such love manifested as on mount Calvary! You sacrificed all in order to save all! I will glory in 'the old rugged cross'!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus willingly laid down His own life for me, I will gladly lay down my self-will for Jesus!

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1 Corinthians 1:20-25

He Was Born To Die!

A painter once painted a picture of the boy Jesus in Joseph's carpenter shop. Mary is looking on as Jesus is working with Joseph. The sun is just going down over the Palestinian hills; and as Jesus is building an oxen yoke, He is crossing two boards. The crossing of the boards forms a long shadow that is in the shape of a cross. Upon seeing this shadow of a cross on the floor of the carpenter shop, a sudden look of fright and sadness comes over the face of Mary–as if Mary can see into Jesus' future destiny on a cross!

Of course, we know that this painting is only the creation of an artist's mind. There is nothing in the Gospels which indicates that Mary knew ahead of time that Jesus would die on a cross. However, the Gospels do indicate that, figuratively speaking, the shadow of the cross was cast across the pathway of Jesus, during His entire ministry before He finally died upon the Cross.

Jesus was born to die–to die a death that would enable millions to live! At the heart of Jesus' ministry was a cross! Notes William Sangster, "Those devils and weaklings who met at Calvary would have said, 'We did it.' He cries from His Cross: 'I did it! It is finished!' If they were right, the Cross would be a gibbet, a symbol of shame, something to hide and speak of only by compulsion and with bated breath. In point of fact, we placard it to all the world. No steeple so high that it will not bear it; no point of earth but is honoured to be the stump of His Cross: it lies in a cache on the summit of Everest. It is His message, not theirs, which it bears at the last. That free and evil men sought and secured His death cannot alter the fact that He knew what they were doing– and let them do it. You cannot martyr God… Hold in mind… who it was who hung and suffered there, and you will not think of it as martyrdom.

"If He was man, it was murder; if He was God, it was an offering.
"If He was man, it was martyrdom; if He was God, it was sacrifice.
"If He was man, they took His life from Him; if He was God, He laid down his life freely.
"If He was man, we must stand up and take our hats off; if He was God, we must fall down and give Him our hearts." (Daily Readings; pg. 253)

"In the cross of Christ I glory, 
Towering o'er the wrecks of time; 
All the light of sacred story 
Gathers round its head sublime."

"God, the symbol of shame has been transformed by your Son into the symbol of glory; earth's darkest day has become earth's brightest day; life's greatest tragedy has become life's greatest triumph! I will henceforth glory in the Cross! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus died that I might live; I will live that others might not die–spiritually!

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Isaiah 53:4-12; Romans 5:9

The Cross Appeased God's Wrath

On the Cross, Jesus said, "It is finished." What did He mean? Only eternity will fully reveal the meaning of that phrase. Jesus did not mean by this phrase "the work of human cruelty is done." Jesus was saying, "The work of reconciliation and salvation has been accomplished for mankind." The death of Jesus accomplished certain important things.

First, the Cross appeased God's wrath. In speaking often of God's love, we sometimes forget the fact of God's wrath. Both the Old and New Testaments picture God as a God of love, but the Bible also speaks of God's wrath against sin and evil. Both John the Baptist and Jesus spoke of 'the wrath to come' (Matthew 3:7). John wrote in his Gospel: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36) James declares that the one who makes himself a friend of the evil world also makes himself 'the enemy of God' (James 4:4). Those who live by the passions of their flesh are 'children of wrath,' says Paul (Ephesians 2:3). The wrath of God will come upon the 'sons of disobedience.' (Ephesians 5:5-6)

God is a God of love, but His love demands that His own holiness be honored and that sin, which offends God's holiness, be punished. However, unlike the wrath of the pagan gods, there is no irrational passion in God. God's wrath is controlled, directed, and tempered by God's love. Wrath and love are compatible in God's nature. He hates sin but He loves the child of sin. "There is a divine wrath, but if we may put it this way, it is always exercised with a certain tenderness. Even when He is angry with man's sin God loves man and is concerned for his well-being in the fullest sense. There is a divine love, but it is not a careless sentimentality indifferent to the moral integrity of the loved ones. Rather it is a love which is a purifying fire, blazing against everything that hinders the loved ones from being the very best that they can be." (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross; Leon Mooris; pg. 176)

Jesus became sin for us. He bore our sins in His own body on the cross. On the cross Jesus cried out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus represented all the sins of all the world when He was on the cross. God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Because Jesus became sin, God could not look upon Jesus, for God cannot look upon sin. "Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity." (Habakkuk 1:13) Jesus took God's wrath against sin upon Himself, by becoming the perfect sacrifice for sin. Thus, Jesus' death saved mankind from God's just wrath.

"Jesus, thank you for honoring God's holiness and, at the same time, being my shield against God's just wrath. Thank you for bearing my sins in your body on the Cross. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The more God the Father loves His children, the more He hates the sins of His children.

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Romans 5:9-21; Romans 8:33,34; 1 Peter 3:18

The Cross Satisfied God's Justice

Imagine the following: Court Room Scene, You standing before Judge.

– You are guilty of a great crime. You cannot pay for it except by death, for this crime holds the death penalty.
– A friend of yours offers to take your just penalty for you–to die in your place.

Therefore:

  1. Justice has been met, insofar as the law is concerned

  2. Double punishment for one crime would be unjust (so if your friend dies, you don't need to die for your crime).

  3. If the truly guilty one is willing to accept the substitutionary offering of the friend, then the punishment for the crime has been met and the guilty one is free and declared henceforth clear and innocent (as far as the just requirements of the law are concerned).

Of course, in real life, such a thing would not likely take place. But this simple analogy speaks to the issue of God's justice.

So serious is sin that, in the process of punishing sin, the sinner would also be destroyed. The wage of sin is death for the sinner. The Cross is not only the answer to appeasing God's wrath toward sin, but also the answer to saving the sinner from suffering the just penalty for sin which is death.

This is a moral universe, where right must be rewarded and wrong must be punished. If God could forgive the guilty one by a mere 'wink of the eye,' then God would no longer be just and the universe would no longer be a moral, safe, and reliable place to live. All basis for morality (right and wrong) would then be destroyed.

God wanted to save mankind, but a universe run by justice and by a just God must appropriately punish sin. The wage of sin is death; therefore, the sinning one must die. If God were to remain just in His character, He could not allow sin to go unpunished. The Cross is the answer to this moral dilemma. If God should die on a cross, then sin would be justly punished through that substitutionary death, and yet the sinner himself could be saved. The Cross allowed God–the great Judge of the universe–to remain just in his punishment of sin and yet merciful and loving in his treatment of the sinner himself. God, because of the Cross, can be both just and the justifier of the ungodly. Jesus took the penalty for man's sins so that man could be forgiven justly.

"Jesus, thank you for dying on the Cross, thus allowing God to maintain justice in His character, and, at the same time, allowing God to exercise kindness in His treatment towards sinners like me. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am free from the penalty of sin, not free to continue sinning, but free to serve the Saviour!

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John 3:16; Romans 15:13; Romans 5:8

The Cross Demonstrated God's Love

We have noted that the cross appeased God's wrath and satisfied God's justice. Concerning the latter, it is important to realize that one cannot make himself just before God by any good thing that he can do (any more than a murderer can do anything to justify or clear himself from his crime). Wrote the famous Charles Spurgeon: "Christ has made a complete atonement; and there is none other plan by which sinners can be made at one with God, except by Jesus' precious blood. I may make sacrifices; I may mortify my body; I may be baptized; I may receive sacraments; I may pray until my knees grow hard with kneeling; I may read devout words until I know them by heart; I may celebrate masses; I may worship in one language or in fifty languages; but I can never be at one with God, except by blood; and that blood, 'the precious blood of Christ.'" (The Passion and Death of Christ; pg. 36)

Thirdly, the cross demonstrated God's love. The cross on Calvary is the unveiling of the cross which has eternally been on the heart of God! The cross is the greatest of all revelations concerning God. For the revealed cross in history is the result of the hidden cross on the heart of God! The cross shows that at the heart of the universe is self-giving, sacrificial love. God is love and the cross on Mount Calvary gives concrete expression to that truth. Because God is suffering love, the cross is an absolute necessity. Only as man could see Jesus on the cross of Calvary could man see the Christ of the ages who has always borne a cross in His heart!

Jesus reveals the nature of God. Everything Jesus was, God has always been. When Jesus was suffering on the cross, God was suffering on the cross!

Jesus' suffering on the cross for sin shows that God suffers for sin. God hurts in our hurts, He bleeds when we bleed, He shares our guilt. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." (Isaiah 53:4)

Jesus I love for humanity was supremely expressed when He suffered for man's sin. "But God commendeth His love for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

John 3:16 condenses the deep and marvelous truths of redemption (as someone pointed out):

"God"……………………………. greatest lover
"So loved"……………………….. greatest degree
"The world"………………………. greatest number
"That He gave"……………………. greatest act
"His only begotten Son"……………. greatest gift
"That whosoever"………………….. greatest invitation
"Believeth"………………………. greatest simplicity
"In Him"…………………………. greatest person
"Should not perish"……………….. greatest deliverance
"But"……………………………. greatest difference
"Have"…………………………… greatest certainty
"Everlasting life"………………… greatest possession

"'Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly.' Looking at the Cross, I am looking at the very heart of God! Jesus, the Cross is thy magnet to draw me to God!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The 'precious blood of Christ' is God's most precious gift to mankind–and to me!

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John 15:13; Galatians 6:14

The Golden Text Of Scripture

There are many great love stories, but the greatest love story of all– the most dramatic, and the most unbelievable–is the love story which is summarized in 25 words, John 3:16! It is the golden text of Scripture! It is the Gospel 'in a nutshell.'

But the greatest love story of history is not appreciated as it should be, because of our familiarity with it. Dr. Roland Bainton, famous historian and former professor at Yale Divinity school, notes: "When I was in the divinity school, a student from the English Department used to come over and chat with me on Saturday nights. He had been brought up in such a secular atmosphere, that he had never heard the story of the Crucifixion. I read it to him for the first time in his life. He wept. I was ashamed that I did not weep. Because I suffered from the secularism of familiarity."

Although we can never plumb the depths of its meaning, let us again look at the heart of the Gospel as revealed in the most familiar verse in the Bible, John 3:16. Let us move into a simple exposition of this verse during the next few days.

"FOR GOD"–Divine Initiative. This Divine Initiative is what shows clearly the great contrast between Christianity and the other world religions. For instance, Hinduism has Scriptures showing men's austerities in storming heaven's gates to disturb God's calm aloftness through human persistence. But Christianity declares the startling fact that God always takes the first step–the initiating step. It is not God's reluctance, but man's reluctance, that must be overcome. It is not man searching for God, but God searching for man! It is not man climbing up the ladder to find God, but God climbing down the ladder to find man! In India, there is a picture of an armless God. But the God of Christianity is not armless. Jesus is God's arm reaching out to lost humanity!

"GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD"–Divine Redemption. Make no mistake about it. God hates sin, the actions and attitudes that degrade men, but God loves men. It is man that God came to love, to redeem. Jesus came not to destroy but to save, not to condemn but to forgive, not to subtract but to add. "I am come that they (mankind) might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly," said Jesus. Saint Augustine said, "God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love."

"God, I thank you that I don't have to storm heaven's gates to get your attention. You loved me when I was loveless! You sought me when I was indifferent! Let me never 'get over' such love!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will allow Calvary Love to break my heart anew!

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Romans 5:6-11; John 15:13

The Greatest Love Story

We are looking at the golden text of Scripture, John 3:16. This verse describes the greatest love story known to mankind!

"THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON"–Divine Substitution. Jesus is God. Therefore, when Jesus died, God died! Jesus took man's penalty. God is righteous and just. God must be consistent in His actions if He is to be consistent and reliable in His character. "The soul that sinneth it shall die"–that is the righteous law of God. For God to remain consistent in His character requires God to exact the penalty for sin which is death. Sin must be penalized.

But God is not only just; He is by nature Love. God's just character requires the death penalty for sin; God's loving character desires the saving of mankind. How can mankind be both saved for heaven and justly punished for sin? How can the apparent contradiction and requirements of God's justice and God's love be reconciled? There is only one answer and that answer was hidden in God for generations, 'until these last days.' The "mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God" has been revealed. How can God remain just and at the same time justify the ungodly and redeem a race of men? Only by Divine Substitution! God must take the penalty of sin upon Himself, justly punishing sin in his own body and fulfilling the law's demand for the death penalty. Such sacrifice –and such love!

"During the Civil War a company of irregulars known as 'bushwhackers' were arrested by the Union soldiers. Because they were guerrilla fighters and not in uniform, they were sentenced to be shot. A courageous young boy in the Union army touched his commanding officer on the arm and pleaded, 'Won't you allow me to take the place of one of the men you have just condemned? I know him well; he has a large family who needs him badly. My parents are dead and I have few friends. No one will miss me. Please let me take his punishment!' The officer hesitated but finally gave his consent. Pulling the husband and father to one side, the young man filled his position in the death line. On the stone that marks his grave in a little southern town are these words: 'Sacred to the memory of Willy Lear. He took my place.'" (Daily Bread; Jan. 1971; Jan. 28)

"God, you took my place on the Cross! I should have been there, suffering justly for my own sins, but instead, you were there shedding your own blood. Your perfect sacrifice means that I can be perfectly forgiven! A thousand 'Thank Yous'!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Cross is the perfect solution to maintaining God's justice and at the same time revealing God's saving love!

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Acts 2:21; Acts 10:34-43; Romans 10:11-13

"Whosoever" Includes All!

Jesus died for all. Therefore, all can be saved, if they will!

"WHOSOEVER"–Universal Offer. "Whosoever" includes all the little children of the world. Children are tragically neglected and abused too often, but Jesus is the lover of children. Jesus said that one must express childlike simplicity and faith if he enters the kingdom of heaven! In contrast to the ancient world which mistreated children and used them as mere human tools, Jesus introduced a new standard into the world when "He took them (children) up into His lap and loved them."

Jesus loves the exploited people of the world. The exploited in Jesus' day were the slaves. The vast majority of the ancient world was composed of slaves. Many of Christianity's converts were slaves!

Jesus favors the unfavored. The unfavored in Jesus' day were women! Jesus is the greatest champion of women! He liberates women without destroying either their personhood or their womanhood–a far cry from the results of the modern women's liberation movement! Women in the ancient world were treated simply as objects to use and to possess. Jesus treated women as persons. Note the number of women in the New Testament who were loyal followers of the Lord. Jesus came to break down the artificial walls of division. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)

"Whosoever" includes the rich and poor alike. James, the blood brother of Jesus, wrote: "Let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his elevation (as a Christian, called to the true riches and to be an heir of God); and the rich (person ought to glory) in being humbled (by being shown his human frailty), because like the flower of the grass he will pass away." (James 1:9-10) (Amplified Version)

"Whosoever" includes both the moral and the immoral. "Celsus, an early opponent of Christianity, objected to this attitude, saying that other faiths invited in the respectable, the moral, the upright, but this faith scandalously invites in the riffraff, the immoral, the drunken, the dishonest, and welcomes them! It does! But the riffraff become respectable, the immoral become the moral, and the drunken become the sober, and the dishonest become the honest, and live and die for it!" (How To Be a Transformed Person; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 124)

"God, I see that 'Whosoever' includes the young and the old, male and female, free and slave, black and white, rich and poor, moral and immoral, learned and illiterate. You are not willing that any should perish!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus died for all, all can be saved–and that includes me!

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John 12:44-50

A New Quality Of Life

We continue to mine the wealth of John 3:16, perhaps the greatest verse in the Bible!

"BELIEVETH IN"–Individual Appropriation. Belief is the key to appropriation of God's salvation. What is belief? To believe, according to the Amplified Bible, is to "trust in, rely upon, adhere to." It is releasing one's weight upon God! It is commitment of one's heart and mind and life to the all-sufficient power of Christ. It is transferring one's trust from self to Christ!

"Believeth" is in the present tense in the Greek New Testament (John 3:16). The present tense is the continuous tense. This means that it is the person who persistently, habitually, and continuously believes in the Son who will not perish but who will have eternal life. Eternal life is not a deposit which God gives a person who momentarily believes, but eternal life is a relationship of love, maintained with God through obedience and faith. God's faithfulness and power to save and to keep are never in question. It is a question of the continuance of the believer's commitment, trust, and belief. Can faithfulness of God avail for unfaithful men? Indeed not!

"SHOULD NOT PERISH"–Individual Protection. Those who appropriate the grace of God through a continuing commitment to Christ are those who are continually renewed inwardly and outwardly, and thus saved from disintegration and degeneration. Those who don't believe are those who are gradually perishing–in attitudes, in relationships, and in physical constitution. To persist in unbelief is ultimately to perish eternally!

"BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE"–Individual Assurance. Eternal life is not a mere duration of existence, but it is a new quality of life! When I asked a 27 year old alcoholic, a son of a medical doctor, if he wished to have eternal life, he answered, "If I have to live forever like the h– of the life I have lived the last 27 years, then I don't want eternal life!" But he failed to realize that eternal life is a present and new relationship with Christ! It is not confined to time, and it is not limited by physical death. Physical death becomes merely a 'bridge' releasing one into the nearer presence of God, where one can express his new life without the confining limitations of time! Christ is the object of your faith, and new life is the result of your faith!

"God, help me to believe in you, not momentarily, but continuously, in order that I may continue to enjoy a new relationship of love and life! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am saved by believing, and I remain saved by believing–believing in the Son!

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Discussion Questions On 'The Sacrifice Of A Loving God'

  1. How was Jesus' ultimate and deepest identification with mankind manifested?

  2. Throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, when He often said, 'My hour has not yet come,' what did He mean?

  3. Do you agree or disagree with the following statements: "Jesus' death was not an accident of history or a mere incident of human cruelty. Rather, Jesus' death was the result of God's grace and of Jesus' own free choice. If Jesus had not chosen to come to earth to die, He still would have been holy and sinless. He was under no obligation (except the obligation of 'Love') to come to earth to give His life as a sacrifice for sinners."

  4. Describe what is meant by the statement: "Jesus was born to die."

  5. Was the death of Christ an absolute necessity, if mankind was to be saved from sin and from hell? Why or why not?

  6. Describe what you think Jesus meant when He said (while He was dying on the cross), "It is finished."

  7. In what ways did the Cross (death) of Jesus both appease the wrath of God and, at the same time, demonstrate the love of God?

  8. How is the wrath of God unlike the wrath of the pagan gods?

  9. What are the two contrasting attitudes which God has toward sin and toward sinners?

  10. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The more God the Father loves His children, the more He hates the sins of His children."

  11. Why did Jesus, while He was dying on the cross, cry out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

  12. The Cross (Death) of Christ is the answer to a great 'moral dilemma' which God faced. What was that 'moral dilemma,' and how did the Cross (Death) of Christ resolve it?

  13. Describe what is meant by the statement: "The cross on Calvary is the unveiling of the cross which has eternally been on the heart of God!"

  14. What did Dr. Roland Bainton mean when he said that he suffered from 'the secularism of familiarity'?

  15. In terms of 'Initiative,' how is Christianity so different from other world religions?

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    Discussion Questions On 'The Sacrifice Of A Loving God'

  16. Do you agree or disagree with Saint Augustine's statement: "God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love." What evidence is there that God loves you so personally and intensely?

  17. How can God remain just in His character and, at the same time, justify the ungodly and redeem a race of men?

  18. What evidence is there from a study of the New Testament (and especially from a study of the Gospels) that Jesus' love is universal rather than exclusive, that Jesus wants to save all persons instead of only a select few?

  19. If belief is the key to appropriation of God's salvation, what is the Biblical meaning of 'belief'?

  20. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Eternal life is not a deposit which God gives a person who momentarily believes, but eternal life is a relationship of love, maintained with God through obedience and personal faith."

  21. Can the faithfulness of God avail for unfaithful persons who drift away from God? Are believers ultimately saved without meeting any moral conditions other than the conditions of initial repentance and faith in Jesus Christ? What is the final condition that believers must meet if they are ultimately to enjoy eternal life in heaven? (Does the use of the Greek 'present tense' for 'believe' in John 3:16 help answer the above questions?)

  22. Is 'eternal life' only a future life to be enjoyed in heaven, or is 'eternal life' a present life to be experienced by sincere believers here on earth? Give a scriptural basis for your answer.

  23. What is the basis of your personal assurance of salvation?

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Introduction Pursuing a Holy Lifestyle

Introduction To Book Three – Holiness

Introduction To Book Three – Holiness

By

Ron Christian, Compiler

God has provided a double care for a double problem. Man's problem is twofold – outward practice of willful sins, and an inward attitude of self-centeredness and pride and rebellion. Man's need is twofold: forgiveness for what he has done, and deliverance from what he is. God's provision is twofold: reconciliation of the sinner to the Savior, and empowerment of the believer for victorious living.

"There sin abounds, both in its outward practice and in its inner attitudes, the grace of God super abounds. There is no guilt so great but what God's forgiving grace is greater. There are no willfulness and self-centeredness so strong but what God's cleansing power is stronger. God is able to "save to the uttermost." This salvation includes forgiveness of all volitional sins and also cleansing from all inherited sin. It is God alone who can forgive the guilty sinner and who can deliver the self-centered believer.

It is God's will (and command) that all believers be 'sanctified'. Sanctification (from a biblical understanding) means both 'separation' and 'purity'. If 'sanctification' means 'separation', then the sinner who experiences the new birth is 'sanctified' in at least an initial way. A sinner separates himself from an outward practice of willful transgressions against the known laws of God. The Bible says, regarding separation from a practice of sin: "Therefore come out from them and be separate. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians 6:17-18, NIV)

A new convert is one who has made" a moral U-turn." He has repented of his sins and has chosen to follow Jesus Christ. He no longer practices sin. He is new in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). He has separated himself from a life of sinning, and is thus 'sanctified' in one sense of the term.

Initial sanctification, we have noted, is that beginning separation from a life of sinning, sometimes called conversion. What is 'full' or 'entire' sanctification? Following is a definition of entire sanctification, as explained by one 'holiness denomination'. "We believe entire sanctification to be that work of the Holy Spirit, subsequent to regeneration, by which the fully consecrated believer, upon exercise of faith in the atoning blood of Christ, is cleansed in that moment from all inward sin and empowered for service. The resulting relationship is attested by the witness of the Holy Spirit and is maintained by faith and obedience. Entire sanctification enables the believer to love God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, and his neighbor as himself and it prepares him for greater growth in grace." (Doctrinal Statement of Free Methodist Church)

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Initial sanctification means separation from an outward practice of sinning, resulting in conversion, reconciliation, and regeneration. Entire or full sanctification means inward cleansing from a spirit of self-sufficiency and self-centeredness, resulting in Jesus becoming the Lord of one's mind, affections and will. Notes Donald Bastian: "Holiness of heart suggests that, at the center of one's being, Jesus Christ rules in the power of the Holy Spirit. Holiness of life suggests that, as a consequence, one's daily walk increasingly reflects Christ's kind of concerns and conduct at the personal, family, and social levels." (Adventures in Church Membership; pg. 84)

God is faithful in dealing with His people. It is God's intention not only to enter your life in conversion, but also to sit on the throne of your heart, as a result of your full consecration. He wants to make you, not only a citizen of the kingdom, but also a soldier of the cross. He not only wants to create within you a desire to serve Him, but He wants to impart power to you to enable you to serve Him. He who imparted His love to you at the time of your new birth wants also to perfect His love in you at the time of your full sanctification. He not only wants to save you from the wrath to come, but He also wants to bring you into full harmony with the nature of God. It is God's will not only to take the repentant sinner out of the "world" of evil practices, but it is also God's will to take the "world" of carnal pleasures out of the heart of surrendered believers. Justification (being converted) admits you into the family of God on earth; entire sanctification (being filled with the Spirit) fits you for the society of God in heaven. The Holy Spirit wishes to become not only Resident in your heart at the time of your conversion, but the Holy Spirit wishes to become President of your heart at the time of your inner cleansing. It is God's intention not only to save you from the guilt of sin, but also to cleanse you from the pollution of sin. God not only wants to cleanse your conscious mind, but he wants also to cleanse your subconscious mind.

Notes E. Stanley Jones: '''The soul gets on by a series of crises.' I've found it so. In conversion there is the sudden, or gradual, rise to a new level of life, a life as different from the ordinary man as the ordinary man is different from the animal. Then after the rise life is on a permanently higher level. But on that new level there usually ensues an experience of ups and downs, of alternate encouragement and discouragement, of victory and defeat. It was so with me. For a year I lived under cloudless skies. The sun of my happiness seemed to have risen in the heavens to stay there forever. But after a year of unalloyed joy I found something alien began to rise from the cellar of my life. I felt there was something down there not in alignment with the new life I had found – ugly tempers, moodiness, deep down conflicts. The general tenor of life was victory, but there were disturbing intrusions from the depths. I was becoming a house divided against itself. I was puzzled, confused, hurt with a tinge of disappointment. Was this the best that Christianity could do – to leave me wrestling with myself; or with something alien to myself!' What was this dark something within?

"I was in a crisis. I was stymied by this inner conflict. And then a door out of the conflict

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opened, opened through a book. I began to read 'The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life', by HannaH Whitehall Smith, a Quaker. It told of complete victory for the person. My heart was kindled with desire as I read it. God spoke to me: 'Now is the time to find.' I tried to read on, but the words were blurred. I saw I was in a controversy with God, so I closed the book, dropped on my knees beside my bed, and said: 'Now Lord, what shall I do?'And he replied: 'Will you give me your all?' And after a moment's hesitation I replied: 'Yes, Lord, of course I will give you my all, all I know and all I don't know'. Then he replied: 'Then take my all, take the Holy Spirit. I paused for a moment: my all for his all; my all was myself; his all was himself, the Holy Spirit. I saw as in a flash the offer. I eagerly replied: 'I will take the Holy Spirit'. I arose from my knees, with no evidence, save his word. I walked out on the naked promise of that Word. His character was behind that Word. I could trust him with my all and I could trust him to give me his all. I walked around the room repeating my acceptance. The doubts began to close in on me. I walked around the room pushing away with my hands the menacing doubts. When suddenly I was filled – filled with the Holy Spirit. Wave after wave of the Spirit seemed to be going through me as a cleansing fire. I could only walk the floor with the tears of joy flowing down my cheeks. I could do nothing but praise him – and did. I knew this was no passing emotion; the Holy Spirit had come to abide with me forever." (A Song of Ascents; pg. 51-53)

To be filled with the Holy Spirit, is to be filled with God's love. "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:5, NIV) Holiness is not a mere negative experience of cleansing from sin, but holiness is a positive experience of empowerment to love! Holiness in the life of a believer is best seen by a      supreme love for God and by an unselfish caring for others. To the extent that a believer is actively practicing love, to that same extent is he genuinely experiencing God's sanctifying power in his life!

Commander Brengle, of the Salvation Army, began his little book with this startling sentence: "On January 9,1885, at about nine o'clock in the morning, God sanctified my soul. It was a Heaven of love that came into my heart. I walked out over Boston Column before breakfast, weeping for joy and praising God. Oh, how I loved! In that hour I knew Jesus, and I loved Him till it seemed my heart would break in love. I loved the sparrows, I loved the dogs, I loved the horses, I loved the little urchins on the streets . . . I loved the whole world. "

Love is the very essence of the Christian life and is the capstone of all the Christian graces. Said John Wesley: "Religion is the most simple thing that can be conceived. It is only humble, gentle, patient love."

Initial sanctification and full (entire) sanctification (which we have thus far been describing) are usually decisive, dated, and dramatic experiences of commitment to Christ, whereas 'progressive sanctification' is an ongoing and gradual experience of

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daily commitments to Christ, resulting in the believer's character progressively being perfected. The Holy Spirit daily and continually cleanses the believer from anything which is a hindrance to spiritual growth. The Holy Spirit constantly works in the lives of believers to bring them into full harmony with the will of God. A picture of the ongoing cleansing and perfecting work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers is seen in the picture of the Vine and the branches. Said Jesus, "I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Gardener. He lops off any branch that doesn't produce. And he prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops. He has already tended you by pruning you back for greater strength and usefulness by means of the commands] gave you. Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can't produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me." (John 15:1-4, Living Bible)

Being "born of the Spirit" is a description of conversion or initial sanctification. Being "filled with the Spirit" is a description of full (entire) sanctification. Learning to "walk in the Spirit" is a description of progressive sanctification. A. B. Simpson (the founder of the 'Christian and Missionary Alliance' Church) describes the 'dynamic' of this 'life in the Spirit' (progressive sanctification). "When I at last got my eyes off my sanctification, and my experience of IT, and just placed my eyes on the Christ in me, I found instead of an experience, the Christ larger than the moment's need, the Christ that had all that I should ever need who was given to me at once, and forever! I had not only what I could hold that little hour, but also in Him, all that I should need the next and the next and so on, until sometimes I get a glimpse of what it will be a million years afterwards when we shall 'shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of our Father' (Matthew 13:43), and have 'all the fullness of God'.

"I never had more holiness or healing at one time than I needed for that hour. He said, 'My child, you must come to Me for the next breath, because I love you so dearly 1 want you to come all the time. If I gave you a great supply, you would do without Me, and would not come to Me so often; now you have to come to Me every second, and lie on My breast every moment.' He gave me a great fortune, placed thousands and millions at credit, but He gave me a check book with this one condition. 'You never can draw more than you need at the time.' Every time a check was wanted, however, there was the name of Jesus upon it, and so it brought more glory to Him, kept His name before the heavenly world and God was glorified in His Son.

"I had to learn to take from Him my spiritual life every second; to breathe Himself in as I breathed and breathe myself out. So, moment by moment for the spirit, and moment by moment for the body, we must receive. You say, 'Is not that a terrible bondage, to be always on the strain'? What! On the strain with one you love; your dearest Friend? Oh, no! It comes so naturally, so spontaneously, so like a fountain, without consciousness, without effort, for life is always easy and overflowing.

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"Now, thank God, I have Him; not only what I have room for, but that which I have not room for, but for which I shall have room, moment by moment, as I go into the eternity before me. I am like the little bottle in the sea, as full as it can get. The bottle is in the sea, and the sea is in the bottle; so I am in Christ, and Christ is in me. Besides that bottleful in the sea, there is a whole ocean beyond; the difference is, that the bottle has to be filled over again, every day, evermore." (A pamphlet entitled 'Himself' by A.B. Simpson)

Initial sanctification, full (entire) sanctification, progressive sanctification – all provided by the blessed Holy Spirit who is more eager to impart these gifts to humans (to you and to me) then we are ready or able to receive them! The Giver (the Holy Spirit) is now making the Gift (of the fullness of the Holy Spirit) available to you! Through full surrender and faith, are you willing to receive His Gift? "God, who called you to become his child, will do all this for you, just as he promised." (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

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FOR A PERFECT HEART

O for a heart to praise my God, 
A heart from sin set free; 
A heart that always feels thy blood, 
So freely spilt for me: 
A heart resigned, submissive, meek, 
My great Redeemer's throne; 
Where only Christ is heard to speak, 
Where Jesus reigns alone. 
O for a lowly, contrite heart, 
Believing, true, and clean; 
Which neither life nor death can part 
From Him that dwells within: 
A heart in every thought renewed, 
And full of love divine; 
Perfect, and right, and pure, and good, 
A copy, Lord, of thine. 
Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart; 
Come quickly from above, 
Write thy new name upon my heart, 
Thy new, best name of love. 

– Charles Wesley –

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Pursue a Constant Growth

Pursue A Constant Growth

Chapter Four

Pursue A Constant Growth
The Excuse Is Inexcusable 58 Infectious Love 65
Trusting The Holy Spirit For Personal Guidance 59 God's Lifetime Cultivation Of Christlike Character 67
When Tailgating Is Proper 61 Living In Anticipation 69
I Can 'Become' Through Him! 62 Discussion Questions 71

Jeremiah 13:23, 2 Corinthians 5:17

The Excuse Is Inexcusable

In the Judges, Chapter 6, we read of an angel who had a task for Gideon, but Gideon did not want to get involved, so he gave the following excuse. "My family is poor and I am the least in my father's house". (Judges 6:15) God's answer was "I WILL BE WITH THEE."

The leopard cannot change it's spots, neither can the Ethiopian change his skin. But, even though certain 'features' in the physical world cannot be changed, you and I, in the moral and spiritual world, can change! You and I have no valid excuse for retaining habits, lifestyles, and attitudes that hurt others. I am sure you have heard the same excuses I have for an uncontrollable temper "I am a redhead", "It's my Irish blood", or "Bad tempers run in the family".

A man asked permission to borrow a rope from his neighbor. "Can't do it", replied his friend. "I need it to tie up my milk". "Milk"? Replied the neighbor. "You can't tie up milk". "I know that, but when I don't want to loan something, one excuse is as good as another".

There is a lot of truth in the man's reply. How easy it is for us to make excuses for our behavior traits that annoy others. We may even want to change, but Mr. Excuse comes along and offers reasons for our unpleasing behaviorism. When we yield to his suggestions, we refuse to admit that God can help us change. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul wrote the solution for living a Christlike lifestyle.

I too have had character flaws. The men in my family have the ability to lose their tempers easily. Since it seems to be a family trait, I could have used the excuse "It is in our genes. We can't help it". Because I believe 2 Corinthians 5:17, I discredited that excuse. In my early teens, I made the decision not to give into family traits. Faith in God's Word and His work in my life, has freed me of such temper. PRAISE GOD!

Is there something in your life you want changed? Read 2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:4 and Ephesians 4:22-24. GOD IS MORE THAN ABLE TO CHANGE YOU.

"Father, in the Name of Jesus Christ, I ask You to work in my life, and make me the person you want me to be. Change the traits that hinder my Christian testimony".

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I want God to mold and shape me on His divine potter's wheel. I am ready, Lord!

– Lowell Weller –

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John 3:1-15

Trusting The Holy Spirit For Personal Guidance

Taking the trash to the curb on the night before it is collected has never been a memorable experience, although I have repeated this task at least 800 times since we moved into our house. This night was a time to remember, it was a "three can night" with each one standing properly in its place, creating a straight row. The evening was cool and I could feel the soft breeze dance across my face. I turned into the wind to capture the essence of this calm beautiful night. There was silence all around me. The only sound I could hear were the leaves vibrating in the gentle breeze.

There appeared to be a cat walking toward me in the street. I thought that unusual because a cat will normally stop or turn a different direction. In a moment, I realized that it was not a cat, but, of all things, a balloon!

Instinctively, like a little child, I walked to the balloon to hold it in my hands. I wondered where it came from and how far it had traveled. Not able to bring myself to stuff this soft sphere into one of my neatly aligned trash cans, I could only do what my heart was telling me – set it free. I released the balloon and watched it rise a few feet above my head before it descended onto the street where the wind continued to propel it along its original course. I watched it roll along the street and into my neighbor's yard, heading into a fence. Fearing its journey was at an end when it came against the strong fence, I was relieved as it changed direction, moving along the fence line, past the house and out of my sight.

Envious of its carefree life, how it traveled with no worries or fears, my wish for the night was that my life could be like that balloon, unconcerned with how rough the road of life is or unafraid of life's obstacles. That was the moment of my revelation. As the wind is to the balloon, so is God's Spirit to my life. I may bounce along a rough road or come against some unconquerable situation, but God's Spirit will continue to gently nudge me the direction He wants me to move. When I run into barriers, He will even redirect my life. The point is I don't have to worry about where I've been, or how far I have come, or even how far I have to go! If I trust God, He will like move me.

Like a balloon in the wind, God will compel us in the direction He wishes us to move. "The wind blows wherever it pleases … (John 3:8)

"Lead on, Holy Spirit. Lead me where I need to go. I do not wish to follow the path the world takes, which leads to destruction. The path which the Lord directs is my choice. Lead on, Holy Spirit. Lead me where I need to go. Amen".

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In God's hands, I am safe. What harm can come to me while I am trusting the Lord? I will go where He leads me.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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When Tailgating Is Proper

Tailgating is a form of road rage, therefore, it is against the law. There is a time however, for tailgating. The following Scriptures show when following closely is good advice.

THEY DID             2 Chronicles 34:33

THEY DIDN'T       1 Kings 11:6-11

WE MUST             John 12:26

Female eels swim to the Caribbean Sea to give birth to their young. They travel from France, Norway, Japan and other parts of the world. A deep hole exists in those waters that attracts them. The mother eel lays her eggs and then leaves. After the eggs are hatched and the baby eels are old enough, they begin their journey to their home waters. The young eels swim through oceans, streams and rivers, regardless of the distance or direction, until they arrive. How did each eel know where to swim? Which part of the world did their mother come from? Can there be any other answer than God? Only God-given instinct could enable them to achieve this.

While stationed in Korea, our medical unit received word that two men had been killed by buried bombs, known as "Bouncing Bettys". The other soldiers stood still, afraid to move. It was imperative that each follow in the footsteps of the demolitionists, in order to survive. Their obedience, to follow closely. Brought the remaining men to safety.

In Numbers 14:24, we read, Caleb "hath followed Me fully". 1 Kings 18:39 gives the account of the prophet Elijah who commanded the people "if the Lord be God, follow him". After the fire fell, the people said, "The Lord, He is the God". David remarked that he delighted in God's statues. Psalms 119:16 and verse 47 Psalms 119:47, "I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved". In Matthew 16:24, Jesus commands you to take up your cross and follow Him. Jesus' words are pertaining to soldiers, servants and pupils. As Christians, we are soldiers of the cross, servants of God, and pupils of Christ.

If I intend to arrive safely in heaven, I must follow Christ closely, walking in His footsteps.

"Lord Jesus, today, many want to be leaders. Help me to be Your follower. Help me to follow the instructions given in Your Holy Word".

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Follow, follow, I will follow Jesus. Anywhere, everywhere, I will follow on. Follow, follow, I will follow Jesus. Everywhere He leads me, I will follow on. (W.O. Cushing)

– Lowell Weller –

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2 Peter 1:1-11

I Can 'Become' Through Him!

Several years ago I penned the following thoughts as my testimony to the joy I felt when I reflected on the changes I had experienced during my 'walk' with Christ.

During my fifty-nine years of living, I have changed from a frightened, dependent person to a healthy, reasonably confident woman. As I have tuned into God's grace and love, moving step by step, I have, indeed, been "born again". I am becoming receptive and responsible to God through Christ alone. Further, I am growing to sense the inner light of the Spirit of Christ guiding, freeing, and influencing me to desire what is good and in His Will.

These changes do not come quickly. The process is more like the planting and tending of a garden – cultivating, watering, weeding, waiting, and finally, reaping. Neither do they happen through God's "zapping" me or through anyone else doing it for me. Yes, God's Sprit encourages me to believe that I can "become" through Him; yes, other people are helpful models, sounding boards, and burden sharers. But the responsibility is mine. I am not finished, and I am sure God is far from finished. The tide is not yet in, but I see the shore more clearly. To grow into fuller maturity in Christ is a long process, involving my cooperation with the Spirit of the Living God. Peter teaches this lesson clearly. "God will give you, through His great power, everything you need for living a truly good life… But to obtain these gifts, you need more than faith; you must also work hard to be good, and even that is not enough. For then you must learn to know God better and discover what he wants you to do. Next, learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and godly, gladly letting God have his way with you. This will make possible in the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like him, and finally you will grow to love them deeply. The more you go on in this way, the more you will grow strong spiritually and become fruitful and useful to our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:5-8, Living Bible)

I am experiencing some wonderful by-products in this process. As I have taken steps to grow in one area, I have almost spontaneously, stepped out in others. For instance, as I was exerting courage to deal with a tough area in personal family relationships, I also found the courage to overcome a disabling childhood fear of the water. I learned to swim and earned lifesaving certification. I managed a municipal swimming pool one season! This is the changing woman who previously "could not" put her head under water. My old fear of heights also dissolved somewhere along the way. I don't even know when this happened. I believe that we are "all of a piece'. Therefore, as I (and you) become healthier spiritually and emotionally, I (and you) also tend to become physically healthier – and the reverse is just as true.

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"Loving God, help me to use the patterns and insights I have discovered, to continue to make the changes that will result in my becoming more and more Christlike."!

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because I am daily learning to follow Christ more closely, I increasing like the person I am becoming!

– Kay Kline-

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Romans 5:1-5

Infectious Love

One time while doing maintenance on my car, I received a deep gouge on my hand. Failure to properly care for the injury resulted in swelling and soreness. After applying hydrogen peroxide (I like to see it fizz), mending began, swelling receded. Then for the following two days because of travel, once again there was swelling, redness, and pain. Not only that, but the infection had reached a lymph gland in the arm. Under a doctor's care, the hand healed and only a small scar remained.

The analogy may be limited, but the thought is worth our consideration. Infectious Love! Paul wrote: "Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us". (Romans 5:5, JBP)

I like what the writer in "Response" (Seattle Pacific University's alumni paper) said of a board member: "Dick Klein '47' has lived with an infection most of his life. Call it hereditary". The term was used of SPU, and Klein's dedication to this institution.

This "infectious love" – what does it do in my "bloodstream"?

First, it consumes what is unholy. As a fire it burns up "the dross of base desire". This includes the principle of sin in the heart. Then the fountain from which flows the varied aspects of life is clean.

Second, it refines every passion and appetite. When saved and wholly sanctified, one is not dehumanized. The three drives within – the self, the heard, the sex drives – remain, but when surrendered to God, He refines these three basic human drives or urges. They are controlled and placed in the proper perspectives of life.

Third, it brings everything into proper focus. Whatever life throws at us can become instruments whereby we mature in grace. Not bitterness or resentments toward these happenings, but is deepening in the grace of God.

Resentment and bitterness are as infections which spread throughout every aspect of one's life. They poison relationships, choke effectiveness, burden with suspicion, and damage the soul. Without the refining fire of the Spirit, without the pouring in of God's love, there these remain, smoldering, and may in time break forth into some soul catastrophe. A misunderstanding, for example, within a family grows 'into a feud, alienation", and hurts.

'By allowing God's "infectious love' to flow into the soul, healing begins and restoration is realized. Bishop K Paul Taylor in 'Holiness, the Finished Foundation', writing of

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entire sanctification which "enables the believer to love God … and his neighbor", said" "When the heart has 'set its affections on things above and not on things on the earth'. The love of God within is normal health, and this inner health has a power of resistance that makes it impossible for the germs of the world to find a point of contact or any room in which to work and incubate". (pg. 166)

Just as the devastating infection does its work in the body through the blood stream, so the "infectious love of God" can permeate every cell of our being – controlling, constraining, conveying.

"Jesus, thine all victorious love, shed in my heart abroad; then shall my feet no longer rove, rooted and fixed in God … Scatter thy life through every part, and sanctify the whole". Amen (Hymn by Charles Wesley)

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In a world of sin's infections, I deeply desire, by God's grace, to bring love, healing, and blessing to hurting people.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Philippians 1:3-11

God's Lifetime Cultivation Of Christlike Character

I love to work with wood! Your porch swing has aged to the point it needs to be repaired. After selecting the pieces of redwood for this project, I cut and drilled the planks to the correct size and began to apply a finish to protect the wood. While sanding and putting the finish on these boards, God reminded me of a very simple truth. The process of finishing these wood slats is much like the process God uses as He puts His finishing touches on us.

Applying the first coat of finish reminded me of my conversion into Christ Jesus. The finish was so quickly absorbed into the wood that it did not appear to have even been put on. Like water to a sponge, the liquid finish soaked immediately into the dry, porous wood. Similarly, when I received salvation from Jesus, I felt like God's love was filling me and I just soaked it in. The effect was mostly inward. Not much changed outwardly at first.

The second coat went on as smoothly as the first, but this time it left just a little shine. Although, it had a bit of a shine, it was not enough to say the job was finished. As God continued to work in my life, Be filled the emptiness where I may not have allowed Him to completely come in. Furthermore, He added a shield around me for my protection from the Devil and the world. As a second coat of finish is not enough to give wood a lasting protection, I also was too new to the Christian faith… I needed more of God to face the dangers and troubles which lay ahead.

The third coat developed a hard protective finish over the wood, just as God's continued presence shielded me from more aggressive attacks from Satan. After three coats, the woodwork appeared to be finished, but I could see a benefit for even more coats of finish. In like fashion, we are constantly under construction spiritually. God keeps adding coats of finish to us until He knows we have what we need. This constantly being under construction is not so much to fill us with God's power or even to protect us from the devil. We are a constant work of God, so that in His coming Kingdom, He will be able to present us as a shining example of His glory! The work God does on us today is not only for our benefit, but will also enable us to shine for Jesus in heaven.

There is a dual purpose for allowing God to put His finishing touches on our lives. It is for our benefit as well as for His glory. Whenever I sit on our porch swing, I will remember this small lesson from God. We are not finished until God says we are finished. When that time comes, we will really shine!

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"Lord, I know You are not finished with me yet. Thank You for Your patience as You smooth the rough edges of my faith. In Your hands, I trust You will complete what You started. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In the hands of God, I will become all He wants me to be.

– Thomas Duckworth –

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2 Peter 3:8-14

Living In Anticipation

" ….. what kind of people ought you to be?" Why does Peter ask this question? In today's Scripture Reading, Peter is telling about the end of the world and the coming of the Lord.

Peter tells us in verse 10 (2 Peter 3:10), " … the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire and elements will be destroyed by fire … everything will be destroyed in this way."

Are we so connected to this old globe that we want to deny it will come to such an end? Unthinkable? But think, is it? Could it be the needed solution? We are told in Genesis that God put man in the Garden of Eden, " … to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15) But after that, man fell into sin. Man and the earth have both suffered lasting effects from that fall.

As people increased they began to abuse the earth they were told to care for. We too, in our day, have denuded and polluted the home God gave us. These days, tugs and ships carry our waste and destructive garbage to far places.

And what to do with all the nuclear waste? Contaminated air and water are growing problems. Is there any solution?

Yes! God has the solution. He will cleanse the earth of sin and its effects. How? Be will use fire, that great leveler and purifier. "But God has promised us a new heaven and a new earth, where justice will rule." (2 Peter 3:13) Isn't that something wonderful? The Contemporary English Version follows that with, "We are really looking forward to that!"

But let's come back to our original question: "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought we to be?" Peter answered his own question, "My friends, while you are waiting you should make certain that the Lord finds you pure, spotless, and living in peace." (2 Peter 3:14)

Clean lives can go a long way in purifying the spiritual and environmental atmosphere that is around us now. And certainly pure hearts will personally prepare us for the new heaven and the new earth ahead.

We aren't warned to be withdrawn survivalists, but to grow "…in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come." (Matthew 6:10)

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"Lord Jesus, help me to live a clean life both spiritually and physically, making a difference now."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will live now in anticipation of God's coming Kingdom.

– Beth Stewart –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Tell why, you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "You and I have no valid excuse for retaining habits, lifestyles, and attitudes that hurt others." (Note 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:13-32; Romans 6:4)

  2. From your own personal experience and from your reading of the Scriptures, what are some of the greatest "motivations" for closely following the living example and the explicit commands of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? (Note 2 Chronicles 34:33; 1 Kings 11:6-11; John 12:26; Numbers 14:24; Matthew 16:24-25)

  3. After reading the following statements, share your personal experiences which illustrate the gracious and powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit who has enabled you to enjoy victory during life's difficult circumstances; "As the wind is to the balloon, so is God's Spirit to my life. I may bounce along a rough road or come against some unconquerable situation, but God's Spirit will continue to gently nudge me the direction He wants me to move. When I run into barriers, He will redirect my life."

  4. Tell why you agree (or disagree) that the following description of Christian Growth is Biblically accurate and reflective of reality: Changes do not come quickly. The process is more like the planting and tending of a garden – cultivating, watering, weeding, waiting, and finally, reaping. Neither do they (personal changes) happen through God's 'zapping' me or through anyone else doing it for me. The responsibility is mine." (Note 2 Peter 1:1-11)

  5. Share at least one behavioral or attitudinal change which you have experienced in your life, as a result of your obedient and disciplined response to God's initiating grace in your life.

  6. What is meant by "the refining fire of the Holy Spirit", and why is it vitally necessary for every believer to regularly experience this "refining fire"?

  7. With a Biblical understanding of Holiness "in mind", give your interpretation and application of the following statements: "We are constantly under construction spiritually. God keeps adding 'coats of finish' to us with. He knows we have what we need. We are a constant work of God, so that in His coming Kingdom, He will be able to present us as a shining example of His glory!"

  8. As citizens of a fallen world where evil is widespread, what should be the response of earnest Christians? (Note 2 Peter 3:8-14)

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