Christianity 201

November 25, 2017

Transformation

Today we’re back with fellow-Canadian devotional writer Elsie Montgomery at the website Practical Faith. Click the title to read at source.

The Lord guides each step

Christians are supposed to be different, not different-weird but different from the sinful, selfish people we once were. For instance, when Jesus encountered a rich man who was a “chief tax collector” and called a sinner by many who knew him, that man was transformed:

“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’” (Luke 19:8)

Today’s devotional passage also talks about that change, affirming that it not about pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, but about something God does by grace and for His purposes:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:4–10)

The changes made by God are because of His mercy and love, not anything I did or could do. I was “dead in sin” and dead people are useless. To that need, He made me “alive in Christ” together with other Christians and gave us an eternal place with Him in the heavenly places that we might experience His grace and kindness. That is a huge change. Before my salvation, I enjoyed “common grace” in that I could live and breathe, but I had no clue about the matters of God or His purposes for my life.

These changes produced by God are for good works, not because of good works. That is, I could not do anything to please God until after He sent Jesus into my life. However, He had prepared good works for me to do — even though I could not do them until He saved me by grace and changed my heart, motivations, attitude, and direction.

What delights me is that what God wants me to do (His will for my life) was planned and prepared beforehand. That is, God had my life mapped out long before He walked into it. I do not have to struggle with “what is God’s will for my life?” because He knows it and has saved me so I can do it. My part is paying attention to Him in obedience, one step at a time.

Jesus, this is a great assurance. You created the plan and You also direct it and make it happen. How do I know that? I know it because the most important step in that plan was changing my life just as You changed the life of Zacchaeus and millions of other people. There are times when I disobey for which I regret, yet You know all things and have worked out Your plan regardless of my stumbling and resistance. Because of your great love, I walk with You and am grateful that You know and guide each step that I take.

January 29, 2015

Persevering Grace

Our goal at Christianity 201 is to provide representation from a wide swath of doctrinal and denominational perspectives. Today’s bears both the perspective and the language of the Reformed or Calvinist tradition. This is Richard Phillips on

God’s faithfulness to preserve His own

 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Philippians 1:6 develops the theme of God’s preserving grace—which ensures the perseverance of His own—in three points.

First, Paul reminds us that since God has begun our salvation, we can rely on Him to complete it: “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” God always finishes what He starts, especially the salvation of His people.

It is in this way that God’s preserving grace fits with the other doctrines of grace. God the Father chose us in eternity past, and the Bible says that God’s purpose in election must prevail (Rom. 9:11). God the Son offered an atoning sacrifice for these same elect people. Should they fall into condemnation, then His blood would have been shed for them in vain. But He insists that not one of them shall perish and none shall be plucked from His hand (John 10:28). Likewise, the Holy Spirit brought these same elect sheep to eternal life by the irresistible working of His grace. Should eternal life be lost, the Spirit’s work would prove ineffective. Therefore, as faith is the gift of God’s grace, the Christian’s perseverance is the work of God’s continuing grace.

Second, Paul says that God, having begun His work in our lives, “will bring it” to completion. This indicates that God not only guarantees the completion of our salvation, but is actively involved in the believer’s life to bring this to pass. God works in our lives in the way a craftsman works to finish a product he has created. He smooths out the lines, sands the rough places, and puts its pieces together in proper proportion. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes:

God does not merely initiate the work and then leave it, he continues with it; he leads us on, directing and manipulating our circumstances, restraining us at one time and urging us on at another. Paul’s whole conception of the Church is that it is a place where God is working in the hearts of men and women.

God’s work is manifested in His will playing out in our lives. This is what Paul says a bit later in Philippians: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:1–213). Being a Christian is not easy. Persevering in faith requires warfare with sin, labor in prayer, plowing in God’s Word, and performing His will in the world. We are God’s workmanship, Paul says, and this means we are called to “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). God will see to it that His work for each of us is carried to completion. By His preserving grace, He will carry us to our destination in heaven. We are called to work this out, but, Paul insists, God is all the while working it in us (Phil. 2:13).

Third, we can see in Philippians 1:6 our certainty of successful “completion” if God’s saving work truly has begun in us. Far from dreading the future, as we must if we look for signs of hope within ourselves, every believer possesses a hope that is certain for the most joyful, glorious, and holy destiny through faith in Jesus.

One of the reasons I love Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is the portrait he paints of the eternity God has secured for every believer. Speaking of the believer’s entry into heaven, he writes:

I saw in my dream the two men enter the gate. As they did, they were transfigured. They had garments that shined like gold. Harps and crowns were given them. The harps for praise and the crowns for honor. Then I heard in my dream all the bells in the city rang again for joy. It was said to them, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

This may be a fanciful rendering from the Bible’s promises, but still it is our future history and not fantasy. For as Paul insists, God brings us to completion. One of the meanings of the Greek word translated as “bring to completion” is “bring to perfection.” That is what God has promised to do for every sheep who hears Christ’s voice and who shows the reality of his or her faith by following after Him through life. Whatever hardships, disappointments, or failures await us in this world, a Christian can anticipate the certain fulfillment of David’s exultant words in Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Terribly flawed though we all are now, God will bring our journey to completion and us to perfection, so that arrayed in perfect holiness we will live forever in His love.

This excerpt is adapted from What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips

March 2, 2014

Making Things New

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Today we pay a return visit to Georgia pastor Brad Whitt. You’re encouraged to read these articles at source and get to know the authors better. This post was originally titled Renewed in Jesus.

“Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me,“Write, for these words are true and faithful.”  Revelation 21:5

Here is a novel thought: to make all things new isn’t the same thing as simply making new things. You see, making things new is a work done in the heart, while making new things is a work done by the hand. So, whenever Jesus sits on the throne of a heart he does something nobody else can do: He makes all things new. I say that this is such an amazing thing because He does this without changing or altering something from the outside. It is first and foremost a work of the heart – of love.

making things newThink about this. The majority of this world is painted and colored from the inside. This means that it’s deepest, most vibrant, colors are conveyed from the heart to the eye. So, when the heart’s affection begins to fade, all of creation begins to pale. But, when Jesus sits on the throne of your heart, it is He who colors all of creation. He brings the ruby, red roses to the field and the brilliant blue to the morning sky. He doesn’t dabble or meddle in making new things. Rather, He excels at making things new.

I believe that many times we fail to understand just how much a thing’s value is determined by a thought. For example, what is the difference between a cut that comes from a surgeon’s scalpel, and one that comes from assailant’s blade? It’s a thought. It is the difference between one whose purpose is to help, and another’s intention to hurt. I believe this the part of the tremendous change that Jesus makes in this world. It is, as the apostle Paul once wrote, a renewing of the mind that totally transforms the way we see things.

There was a time when I viewed the “bad things” that came into my life as the hostile acts of a vengeful God. Too often I pictured Him tossing  thunderbolts from Heaven whenever I dared to step out of line. But, when Jesus took His rightful place on the throne of my heart I began to see things from a new point of view. Now I understand that the fires that I often face are there to cleanse me, not consume me. Surprise is now the evidence of my growing patience. Clouds come only to test, and in reality strengthen, my faith. Poverty just helps to prove my love. Pain is there to help heal sickness, and one day even death will be sent to carry me safely home to Heaven. This is just a simple glimpse of the stunning glory that comes to your life when Jesus reigns on the throne of your life and makes all things new.

What are some “things” you pray that Jesus “makes new” in 2014?