“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17
God is always coming towards us, inviting us, wooing us, offering us himself to live by. In our natural state we are against God’s ways. In our humanness we would rather hate than love, condemn than receive.
For instance, our fallen human nature would rather put others down than lift them up. We tell lies where there should be truth and we are jealous where there might be contentment and peace. When we see wrong we condemn instead of giving grace, and we are often demanding with each other rather than living with each other in understanding ways.
We are told, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” Galatians 5:22, and in this it is obvious to see that we need The Spirit of the living God, we need the help of our Lord Jesus Christ if we are to obtain these things in lasting measure.
Whether we have known Jesus Christ a long time or are only just coming to know Him, we can all agree that none of us can manufacture or live these ways of The Spirit of God on our own. These things, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, are beyond our own efforts and ability.
Thankfully we are reminded that “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Thessalonians 5:9
God has not destined us for wrath – that is the enemies work, yet sometimes we get the condemner and God mixed up. Sometimes in our Christian zeal we take on a spirit of condemnation, of contempt, and of impatience with the lives of others, yet this way, we must remember, is a mark of the enemy and not of our God.
We forget that while “the wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
While sin extracts death, it always has and it always will, when we carry the mark of God upon our lives we live unto life and not unto death. We want to live in this free gift of God for the alternative is a sin-state that is turned away from the God who IS life. God does not punish us for our sins because sin is in fact the punishment. God’s heart, rather, is always for our good.
“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” Ezekiel 18:32
While sin, agreement with Satan and not with God, sets our life up for difficulty, disease, despair, danger, and the like, God in his great compassion and love saw our immense difficulty, that we were stuck in these never-ending agreements with Satan and death, and He stepped in to do something about it.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
By sending His son Jesus Christ, God made a way for us to turn from our allegiance to sin and to establish new agreements unto God.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
The question comes down to belief. Do we believe that Jesus Christ died on a cross and then rose the third day? Do we believe that sin has been taken care of by Jesus? Have we allowed His grace to penetrate our hearts and minds and lives?
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55:6-7
The work and blood of Jesus Christ is a covering that we choose to come under. When we choose Christ we come into the compassion of God, we come into pardon. A free gift to each and every one of us when we enter into the blood of Jesus Christ, we accept his work done on our behalf.
“Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
We respond, “Yes Jesus, I realize that I am a sinner. There are many parts of my life and being that I cannot make right on my own. My heart and life reveals striving and self effort, a life apart from your grace, but today I choose to agree with you Jesus and with your work done for me. I enter into your compassion and pardon. I receive you into my life. I receive your life on my behalf.”
And we are then told, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” John 5:24-26
What is profound in all of this is that God never tells us to work for our salvation. We are never instructed to make right our lives, to prove up, to become worthy, to work harder. Never. In fact, just the opposite.
It is when we are trying to work for our salvation, when we put trust in our own good works, when we feel justified in our habits, it is these times that we have in fact missed the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” Galatians 5:4
For those of us in the ministry of our Lord we must abide, we must remain in the grace of our Lord. We came to Christ in grace, we must remain in grace.
In zeal for what is right and wrong and for what is good and bad we can loose sight of our own sinfulness. The Pharisees, the church leaders at the time of Christ, had become experts in the law of the Lord, in habits of cleanness, in rituals of worship and scripture and more, but Christ called them whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27); they looked good on the outside but were filthy on the inside. They demanded that people act as perfect as they and this is what Jesus said,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” Matthew 23:13
The Kingdom of God is not about how good we are, it is about the goodness of God.
The Kingdom of God is ours only as we recall our impoverished state before the Lord and enter into the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Pharisees, the church leaders remember, refused to enter into the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and in this they missed out on the Kingdom of God.
The gospel message is not just for all those ‘out there’ it is for us, each of us. Every day gives us new opportunity and fresh experience of walking in Christ, of taking him on in our lives, of wearing his manner through our manner.
“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
3 thoughts on “Capturing God’s Heart – Choose Christ – Volume 33”
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Some think grace is primarily about God’s mercy and forgiveness; we mess up, and God pardons us through Christ’s death for our sins. Ephesians 2 is also a well-known text about being saved by grace through faith and not by works (especially 2:8-9, as quoted above). Yet your inclusion of God working in us and through us to transform our living is in fact the focus of God’s grace, even in Eph. 2:1,4-5 — “you he made alive, when you were dead through the sin in which you once walked;” “but God . . . even when we were dead through our sins made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” This section is then brought to a grand conclusion with 2:10 — “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Thanks for this distinction Lucas – amen