God’s work not mine

“The obedience that comes from faith.”
(Romans 1:5)

Reflection:
Paul is quite clear in this great letter that justification before God is by faith alone. However, he is also quite clear that faith is an active and not a passive state. If we have faith in Jesus as Saviour we must also have faith in Jesus as Lord – the two titles cannot be separated.

The sin of disobedience brought about our fallen state and separated us from God. It cannot be expected for a moment that we should continue in that state, but now with a cloak marked ‘justified’ over us. The Scriptures reveal that a radical change is expected to take place:

  • “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom 12:2)
  • “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:22-24)
  • “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”(1 Pet 1:15-16)

Having been justified by grace through faith our proper response now is to put our complete faith and trust in God by turning away from the ways of the fallen world. We choose instead to live according to the ways of God – not as if they were imposed laws, but because our belief is that His ways, and His ways alone, are the ways of life – not only in the life to come but in this life as well. We are called to a new life and a new way of living. Jesus is Saviour and Jesus is Lord. “Follow Me” is a call both to direction as well as to method. They go together.

Now having found it impossible to live out the old Godly way of life there is no reason to expect that in our own strength we can live out the new. So God has taken that in hand for us.  He has given us the gift of His Holy Spirit  to both guide us and strengthen us. Therefore in His New Covenant commitment He  promises that,

  • “I will put My laws into their minds and write them on their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10)
  • “I will be their God” (Hebrews 8:10)
  • “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12)
  • “I will give you a  new heart and put a new spirit in you”” (Ezekiel 36:26)
  • “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:27)

 It’s all about God and what He does. Our work is to believe, receive and let Him live it out through us. And although God does gives us both the desire and the strength to do His will it still remains our choice.

  • “It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13)
  • “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

Response:
We are saved by faith – now we live by faith and not by our own efforts and strength,

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, please help me to perceive the truth and to live by it. Help me to look at Your teachings, recognise them and accept  them into my everyday life – to Your honour and glory. Amen.

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Love in Action

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
(Romans 5:8)

Reflection:
In the film My Fair Lady, Eliza Dolittle burst into a song in which she said that she was sick of words so “If you’re in love, show me!” The Bible has numerous references to the fact that God loves us, but His love is not only revealed in words. It has been demonstrated before us in the most telling way possible.

“Greater love has no one than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends.”
(John 15:13)

Jesus went on to prove His point by giving His life for us – not when we were good and pure, but whilst “we were still sinners” and, therefore, “God’s enemies” (Romans 5:10)

This great act of salvation was carried out in the in the most public way possible, and has been remembered and proclaimed in many ways and numerous times every year for the past 2000 years. Because of it we can place the utmost confidence in each and every reference to the love of God contained in the Holy Scriptures. We can look for no greater demonstration and proof than that revealed by the Cross. There can be no doubt – God really does love us, and He loves us that much!

And whenever we have doubts we can look at and contemplate the awesome reality of that Cross.

The fact that the world is in a mess, and that the Church itself is not looking too good at the moment, is not a reflection on the quality of God’s love. It is, rather, an indication of humankinds perpetual desire to put themselves first and to do everything their own way. God’s original gift of the freedom to choose has never been withdrawn. His desire is that we choose Him because we want to, not because we are puppets or programmed that way.

God’s love for us is, really, beyond doubt. Given the opportunity it becomes expressed in the most wonderful, tender, joyful and uplifting ways. Ignored, it does not wither – it just is not known. The real question is not ‘does God love me’, but have I entered into that love?

  • “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”(Jeremiah 29:13)
  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)
  • “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

Response:
Ask God to enter more fully into your life, and help you see, receive and know His love. Read the Gospels and hear what they say to you about Him.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You do love me. Please help me to trust and accept that love, and to live within it. Amen.

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Spirit of Love

 

“God has poured out his love into our hearts
 by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Romans 5:5)

 

Reflection:
God great desire is that we should all be a people of love. And because God Himself ‘is love’ the main commandments point us in that direction.

  • “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37)
  • “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39)
  • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34)
  • “Love your enemies” (Luke 6:35)

Paul goes on and teaches that without love nothing is achieved or of any value in the sight of God.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

If we were completely honest with ourselves, one of our greatest desires and needs would be both to be loved and to be able to love, freely and openly. Yet as we look around us the one word that we would use to describe our society, nation or the international situation would not be anything like the word love. Clearly then the love which God is talking about is not natural to human beings in general or to the society that they create.

The only source of this love is, in fact, God Himself. He is prepared to share the love that is in Him with us –those whom He has in Christ adopted as His daughters and sons. It comes with and through the Holy Spirit whom He has given us. Note how Paul uses the word ‘poured’ to describe the process – not dribbled or dripped or rationed in any way, but POURED. The sense is of the recipient’s heart being absolutely soaked in the love of God – so much so that it leaks out into every part of their life and being.

John sums it up for us as He again says simply,

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19)

Paul, having met and experienced this love for himself prayed that we too would know it for ourselves. It is a prayer that we could make our own.

“ And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

It is because we have been and are loved by God with this great, free, unmerited, unrestricted and unconditional love that we can begin to love Him and others in a similar way. Our first response, and our daily ongoing response, needs to be to ask God to pour, continue to pour and to keep on pouring this love of His into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And, as He does so, we can then let it out towards others. We need to, and the world in which we live needs us to – for if we do not pass it on it dries up within us.

Response:
Ask for love and give love in faith – for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love

Prayer:

Father please pour Your love into my heart by Your Holy Spirit. Help me to open myself to recognise and receive it and to begin to share it with others even now. Thank You Lord. Amen.

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I need help

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning,
with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.
Everyone in the camp trembled”
 (Exodus 19:16)

Reflection:
When the Lord descended onto Mount Sinai to meet with Moses He did so in such a way that the people were terrified. They said to Moses,

“Speak to us yourself and we will listen.
But do not have God speak to us or we will die”
(Exodus 20:19)

This response stands in stark contrast to their reaction when the Lord led them out of Egypt.

“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud
to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire
to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night”

(Exodus 13:21)

In the same way the cloud of the Lord’s presence settled on the Tabernacle.

“On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up,
the cloud covered it. From evening till morning
the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire”

(Numbers 9:15)

At Sinai they were terrified but at other times the presence of the Lord in the cloud was a comfort and assurance of His presence.  It was also a guide for them as they moved when He moved and stayed when He stayed.

With the whole Christian Church we look ahead to next Sunday when we celebrate the Day of Pentecost. This is the day when the Lord, in fulfilment of His promise, gave to His people the great gift of the Holy Spirit. He came to be not just with us but to live within us, both collectively as the Body of Christ and individually as well.

This is the same God as the majestic and terrifying God of Sinai. However He now chooses to reveal Himself to us in a different way, a way in which He can work within us and through us – transforming us and reaching out to those around us in love, guidance and healing.

The Israelites could not have left Egypt and found their way to the Promised Land by themselves.  So too we cannot find our way out of the bondage of our own lives and into the place that the Lord has prepared for us. We need His help – His involvement, His guidance and His power. With it we need His forgiveness and His healing. This comes through the Holy Spirit who makes our union and relationship with the Lord real, and who gifts, guides and empowers us for the life which God calls us to lead.

Paul puts it clearly for us.

  • “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9)
  • “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14)
  • “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16)

Response:
Ask God to help you to open yourself to the Holy Spirit more and more.

Prayer:

Lord God, thank You for the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. Please help me to open myself to His presence, guidance and ministry so that He may be released in ever increasing ways in my life and living. Amen.

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A new day will dawn

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs
–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ”
 (Romans 8:17)

Reflection:
The glorious truth about our salvation is that we do not become ‘poor relations’ in our new identity as the sons and daughters of God. We become His heirs – in fact co-heirs with His great Son, the Lord Jesus.

This is beautifully illustrated by Jesus Himself in the account of the Prodigal Son. When the son returns to the Father in the rags of failure and rejection the Father calls for him to be re-clothed in the ‘best robe’.  That would be the Father’s own most special robe that He was giving to His son. It would also be a sign to everyone around that he had been completely accepted and restored.

Our inheritance will be to participate in and enjoy fully everything that belongs to the Father – all that He has and all that He will have, all that He has created and all that He will create, and all that is being prepared for us.

  • “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2)
  • “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”  (1 Corinthians 2:9)

We do not know the detail and extent of it all – we do know however that it will be a place and time of wonderful completeness, unending joy, perfect peace and glorious love. And we will forever be an integral part of all that the Father is doing.

No matter what our experiences in this life – the joys and pain, the successes and failures, the acceptance and rejection, the moral heights and the sin-obsessed depths, the laughter and the desolation – one thing is certain. As the children of God we have a glorious inheritance in Jesus Christ – and it begins right now as we accept and lay hold of the wonder of our new relationship with the Lord. For many it has been, and will be,  the great truth onto which they hold in the darkness.

Response:
Where we will be is better than where we are. The way we will be is better than the way we are.

Prayer:

Father thank you so much for Your great love that reaches down for us into the darkest depths – so that You can raise us to You in the highest heights. I hold on to You Lord. Amen.

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God at work in me

“And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.”
(Romans 8:28)

Reflection:
In this short sentence Paul sets out what for him are five unshakeable convictions. As we look at them we can begin to see their importance as foundations to our own believing, thinking and living.

They are:

  • God is at work in our lives – “God works”.

He is not a passive spectator but an actively involved God Almighty, whether or not we perceive it.

He is with us, in us and around us. As we saw yesterday He began a good work in our lives and will carry it on to completion.

  • God works for our good – “God works for the good”.

It is unthinkable that the God who sacrificed His Son for us would then work to harm His people or ignore them. From whatever happens in our lives God is able to bring a blessing.

  • God works in all things – “in all things God works”.

Not just some things but in all things. Even where we get things wrong and fail miserably God will still be at work – not least in encouraging and helping us to get up and have another go at life! And when we sin, and battle with sin, God is still able to use it as an opportunity to work in something valuable that will amaze us – particularly relating to His love for us.

  • God does this for those who love Him – “for the good of those who love Him.”

This love, as Scripture tells us, is expressed in our obedience to Jesus commands (John 14:21). By doing this we open the door for God to express Himself in and through our lives. Where we don’t we keep Him at a distance. God does not wait for perfection on our part – the first stirrings of love and obedience within us draws God closer, seeking to help, strengthen, comfort and bless us.

  • God works His purpose in our lives – “who have been called according to His purpose.”

He has a purpose for us (Ephesians 2:10) and it fits in with His will being done ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ In His purposes our lives are planned to be significant. For this He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts that we will need.

 Wherever we happen to be – physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally – God is with us. As we turn to Him in the prayer that acknowledges Him, in the love that seeks to live His way and in the faith that might even be as ‘small as a mustard seed’ we open ourselves to His working in and through us. Whatever may be happening around us God is building something in our lives and the lives of His people. Trust Him!

Response:
Learn the verse and the five convictions. Ask God to help you believe and live their truth.

Prayer:

Father Your word ‘will not return to You empty but will accomplish what You desire and achieve the purpose for which You sent it.’ Help me to take this word of Yours into my life, in Jesus name. Amen.

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Forgiven for yesterday, today and tomorrow

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
(Colossians 2:13-14)

Reflection:
Paul has a way with words! There was a time when we were both dead and dying because of sin and our sins. Like the uncircumcised person we were spiritually unclean and seen to be outside the provisions and scope of the covenant. There was nothing we could do to alter this state – it was as if we carried within us a written conviction and sentence of death. Then God did something – Jesus Christ came and took into Himself our sin, our sins and our conviction and sentence, and went to death on our behalf. The sentence has been paid and, when accepted, our sins can no longer be held against us in God’s judgement court – “He forgave all our sins.”

As believers we no longer live under the law, we live in the grace of God – we live in forgiveness as those who have been forgiven, even in advance. Instead of facing death we have entered into life. That is not a mandate for us to live carelessly or to indulge ourselves in sin – that can never be acceptable when we look at the terrible cost to God of our forgiveness. It does, however, mean that when we do sin we can go to the Father and ask for forgiveness, a forgiveness that has already been achieved for us. But let us never forget that it is ‘the blood of Jesus’ that ‘purifies us from all sin,’

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9)

Although this amazing grace is extended and available to all people it is not a blanket provision acquired by all. It is a gift to be recognised, accepted, treasured and received. Those who reject the gift, reject God. Those who reject God reject the gift. Those who believe and put their faith and trust in the Saviour enter into the grace and love of God, as His sons and daughters, for eternity.

As believing Christians, no matter how difficult we find it to live pure and holy and faithful lives, the grace of God and the blood of Jesus have purified and continue to purify us. When we live in the grace of God we live in forgiveness, and in the new life and relationship that He has given to us. How wonderful is that! Learn to live in it every day – you are made right with God!

Response:
Acknowledge and accept the truth.

Prayer:

Thank You so much Father for Your wonderful love and grace. Please help me to believe, accept and live in it every day – for Jesus sake, Amen.

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