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Archive for the ‘Christian life’ Category

elijah

The prophet Elijah had just experienced a gigantic “mountaintop” experience (literally – and I mean that literally). God had shown Himself to the people of Israel in great power and glory on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40). The prophets of Baal – false prophets all – had come up woefully short in a contest set up by Elijah.

Israel’s wicked King Ahab quickly reported the news to his pagan wife Jezebel, who sent a “watch your back” note to Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-2). She promised to do to him what he’d done to the prophets of Baal – kill him, in other words. The prophet’s mountaintop high turned into a “valley” experience as soon as he heard the note read to him. “And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there” (1 Kings 19:3).

From Beersheba, he continued on to Horeb and hid in a cave. All this time, by the way, God provided everything He needed. At one point, Elijah said to Yahweh, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10). He thought he was the only one left in Israel who was obedient to God and zealous for Him. He wasn’t, of course, but that’s how he felt.

Elijah needed some fact-checking, which is exactly what God did. In verse 18, the Lord told Elijah that, in fact, there were 7000 prophets in Israel who hadn’t bowed the knee to Baal. Therefore, even though Jezebel was after him, he wasn’t alone in his devotion to God.

It isn’t hard for us to fall into the Elijah Syndrome, especially when we’ve been on the mountaintop but now find ourselves in the valley. We can think we’re the only person who’s really interested in following the Lord, but He says otherwise.

No, you’re not the only pastor in your town who’s faithful to the Lord. God has others.

No, you’re not the only teacher in your district who’s faithful to the Lord. God has others.

No, you’re not the only student in your school who’s faithful to the Lord. God has others.

No, you’re not the only one in your vocation who’s faithful to the Lord. God has others.

No, your church isn’t the only one that’s faithful to the Lord. God has others.

The list could go on and on, but the point is straightforward: You’re not alone in your faithfulness and devotion to the Lord. He has His people everywhere, and that should be encouraging to us whether we find ourselves on the mountaintop or in the valley.

 

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Grace – God’s unmerited and undeserved favor – is amazing in more ways than we normally think. Titus 2:11-14 illustrates it: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” 

“The grace of God has appeared” (verse 11) in the person of Jesus Christ. That grace brought “salvation.” God saves us by His grace and we praise Him for it! He opened our eyes when we were spiritually blind; He opened our spiritually deaf ears; and He gave us a heart of flesh in exchange for the heart of stone each of us have by nature – and He did all of this by His grace! We didn’t deserve it, couldn’t earn it, and, in fact, deserve the exact opposite.

Everyone who has repented of their sin and has believed in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation did so solely because of God’s grace. We’ve been redeemed by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. But does that give us a “get out of jail card free card” with respect to our behavior and conduct as a Christian? Can we live any way we want because we’re saved by grace?

No, it doesn’t and no, we can’t! Still on the subject of “the grace of God” from verse 11, verse 12 begins with the phrase “instructing us.” The grace of God not only saves us, but instructs us (or teaches, disciplines, trains us). To what end? Grace instructs us “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” In other words, grace doesn’t softly whisper in your ear to go ahead and indulge yourself because God doesn’t really care anymore; rather grace teaches us, trains us, and disciplines us to say no to ungodliness and yes to godliness. While we’re at it, we await the second coming of “our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (verse 13), who “redeemed us from every lawless deed” on the negative side, and is purifying “for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (verse 14). By His grace, God has redeemed us “from every lawless deed” and “for good deeds.” God is just as concerned with our birth (justification) as He is with our growth (sanctification).

God’s grace is truly amazing – through it we’re saved, taught, empowered, and changed!

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calvin

After quoting Romans 12:1-2 (“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”), Calvin writes,

This is a marvelous thing – we are consecrated and dedicated to God to the end that we might not think, speak, meditate, or act unless it be to His glory. The sacred can’t be put to profane use without injustice to God.

If we are not our own but the Lord’s, it’s clear what errors we must flee, and what we must direct our whole lives toward. We are not our own; therefore, neither our reason nor our will should dominate our plans and actions. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make the gratification of our flesh our end. We are not our own; therefore, as much as possible, let us forget ourselves and our own interests.

Rather, we are God’s. Therefore, let us live and die for Him. We are God’s. Therefore, let His wisdom and will govern all our actions. We are God’s. Therefore, let us – in every way in all our lives – run to Him as our only proper end. How far has he progressed who’s been taught that he is not his own – who’s taken rule and dominion  away from his own reason and entrusted them to God. For the plague of submitting to our own rule leads us straight to ruin, but the surest way to safety is neither to know nor want anything on our own, but simply to follow the leading of the Lord.

Let then our first step be to abandon ourselves, that we may apply all our strength to obedience to God. When I say “obedience,” I don’t mean giving lip service to God; but rather, being free from the desire of the flesh, turning our minds over completely to the bidding of the Spirit of God.

(A Little Book on the Christian Life, by John Calvin, translated by Aaron Denlinger and Burk Parsons, pp. 22-23; Reformation Trust, 2017.)

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Ps32.1-2

This morning I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 32. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: Don’t be stubborn and prideful – humbly confess and repent of your sin.

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If you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, God has blessed you with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3), and all of them are because of His amazing grace! So what are some of those blessings? Here are just a few as compiled by F.E. Marsh:

  • An acceptance that can never be questioned (Eph. 1:6).
  • An inheritance that can never be lost (1 Pet. 1:3-5).
  • A deliverance that can never be excelled (2 Cor. 1:10).
  • A grace that can never be limited (2 Cor. 12:9).
  • A hope that will never disappoint (Heb. 6:18-19).
  • A bounty that can never be withdrawn (1 Cor. 3:21-23).
  • A joy that never need be diminished (John 15:11).
  • A nearness to God that can never be reversed (Eph. 2:13).
  • A peace that can never be disturbed (John 14: 27).
  • A righteousness that can never be tarnished (2 Cor. 5:21).
  • A salvation that can never be cancelled (Hebrews. 5:9).

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ps 30

This morning I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 30. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: A God-centered life is one that praises God for deliverance in order that others will praise God, too.

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Ro8.34

“Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13)

It’s wonderful to hear that someone is praying for you. Sometimes you can almost feel it. Their willingness to go before the throne of God on your behalf is a tremendous blessing. It means something when we pray for each other.

But there’s Someone else who’s praying for us, too – the Lord Jesus Christ. In his epistle to the Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul said, Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies;  who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:33-34). 

If you belong to Jesus Christ, you can be confident that He’s praying for you (see also Hebrews 7:25; John 17:20-26 and 1 John 2:1), just as He prayed for His disciples (Luke 22:31-32; 23:34; John 14:16; 17:6-19). Better than anyone, He knows precisely what and when to pray. He knows when we’re tempted and what it is that tempts us. He knows when we need strength or comfort or exhortation. He also knows His plan and purpose for us, meaning that He knows what we really need (not always what we think we need).

How wonderful is it to know Jesus is praying for you? How much of a blessing is it? It should be encouraging to us, to say the least! Knowing we’re being prayed for by our brothers and sisters in Christ and by Christ Himself gives us both confidence and hope.

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