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« Reply #270 on: March 11, 2004, 04:42:13 PM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 11

Three Wrong Responses to the Holy Spirit:

You always resist the Holy Spirit . . . Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God . . . Do not quench the Spirit.  (Act_7:51; Eph_4:30; and 1Th_5:19)

It is the will of God that we walk in daily independence upon the Holy Spirit. It is God's desire that we seek Him for the fullness of the Spirit's work in and through our lives. Three wrong responses that undermine the will of God are resisting, grieving, and quenching the Spirit of the Lord.

When Stephen was on trial before the religious leaders of Israel, he preached a powerful sermon declaring the faithfulness of God toward His consistently unfaithful nation. He concluded his message with a pointed, radical, accurate evaluation. "You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you" (Act_7:51). Here we are given the kind of attitudes that oppose the work of the Spirit. These people were "stiffnecked." They were stubborn and self-willed. They wanted their will, not the will of God. They also were "uncircumcised in heart and ears." They did not allow God to cut away the carnality of their inner being. They would not allow God to speak to them through His messengers. They were self-righteous and self-sufficient. When we conduct ourselves in this same manner, we also are "resist[ing] the Holy Spirit."

When Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus, he commanded them: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit" In the next verse he indicated the dispositions that bring grief to the Spirit of God. "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice" (Eph_4:31). Yes, the Holy Spirit is a person, not a mere power or influence. He can be saddened by our behavior. When we, God's people, harbor bitterness in our hearts and malicious words in our mouths, then we are "griev[ing] the Holy Spirit of God."

When Paul wrote to the saints at Thessalonica, he instructed them: "Do not quench the Spirit." Just as a fire can be quenched, the promptings of the Holy Spirit can be stifled. As we read the word of God, the Spirit can be stirring a spiritual fire of conviction within us. Will we respond to that heavenly influence, or will we suppress it? When the Lord is igniting a vision of service unto Him, will we yield or will we extinguish it? When the Lord is calling us to intercessory prayer, will we cry out to Him or will we suppress that desire He is kindling? Will we allow the Spirit to blaze within our hearts; or will we "quench the Spirit"?

O Father, I am convicted by Your Spirit of times that I have behaved in these same ways. I have resisted and grieved and quenched the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. Lord, I repent, and I ask You to show me any area of my life that is not yielded to the full work of Your Spirit. This I pray through Christ, my Lord, Amen.
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« Reply #271 on: March 11, 2004, 04:44:55 PM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 12

Reflecting on the Holy Spirit and Grace:

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.  (Zec_12:10)

Let's take a reflective look at our meditations on the Holy Spirit as a reminder that we are still studying about the grace of God. In considering how to live by the fullness of the Spirit, we have examined how to live more fully by the grace of God.

In Zec_4:6, we observed the connection between living by the Spirit and living by the grace of God. "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit." Serving the Lord is accomplished by the work of the Spirit in and through our lives, not by natural capabilities. The next verse restates this truth in terms of God's grace. "And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!'" Every completed task in the service of God is accomplished by His grace (God's undeserved resources), not by our ingenuity or merit.

We also saw how the early church experienced this relationship between the Spirit and grace. "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness . . . And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all" (Act_4:31, Act_4:33). The boldness they experienced through the Holy Spirit is described as a result of great grace at work upon them.

Jesus came to establish a new covenant. "This cup is the new covenant in My blood" (Luk_22:20). This covenant was characterized by grace, in contrast to the old covenant that Moses set in place. "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (Joh_1:17). This new covenant of grace is also a covenant of the Spirit. "Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2Co_3:5-6)

When the Lord Jesus returns and Israel humbly bows to Him as their Messiah, this wondrous response will be the result of "the Spirit of grace" (Zec_12:10) being poured out upon them. This glorious title, identifying grace with the Holy Spirit, beautifully sums up the grand truth that living by grace and walking in the Spirit are two perspectives on the same precious reality.

O God of all Grace, I long to live by Your grace day by day. Lord, I thank You that grace is not merely some principle that I must apply, but rather a resource You must impart.Would You therefore pour out upon me in fullness the Spirit of grace? Amen.
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« Reply #272 on: March 15, 2004, 08:48:31 PM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 13

The New Covenant of Grace: A Resurrection Covenant:

I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes . . . This cup is the new covenant in My blood.  (Luk_22:18, Luk_22:20)

Just as the new covenant of grace is a covenant of the Spirit; it is also a covenant of resurrection. When the grace of God is allowed to work in us, God applies the resurrection of Christ to our lives. This gracious work gives us access to the eternal life of our risen, triumphant, living Lord Jesus.
The scriptures indicate in many ways that the resurrection is woven deeply into the fabric of living by grace. When Jesus was instituting the Lord's Supper (at His last Passover), He was but hours away from His impending death upon the cross. Yet, He indicated that He would again celebrate with them this memorial meal of salvation. "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." This would only be possible by a subsequent resurrection. This reference to His resurrection was made in conjunction with remarks about the new covenant. "This cup is the new covenant in My blood." The resurrection is here linked with the new covenant of grace.

Soon after this statement regarding His resurrection, Jesus would be crucified. Three days later, the resurrection would be a reality. When some of the women came to the tomb with spices and oils, angelic beings announced the victorious truth. "He is not here, but is risen!" (Luk_24:6). The resurrection was forever an accomplished fact of history. The resurrection powerfully proved that Jesus was the Son of God: "Declared to be the Son of God with power . . . by the resurrection from the dead." Jesus' sacrifice for sin was accepted by the Father. "And He Himself is the propitiation [i.e., satisfactory payment] for our sins" (1Jo_2:2). Now, God's grace could be poured out on all who would believe in the Lord Jesus.

Fifty days after the crucifixion (on the day of Pentecost), the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the followers of Christ. Empowered by His Spirit, the early church began to live in the power of the resurrection, proclaiming boldly the eternally ordained resurrection victory of their Lord. "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it" (Act_2:23-24).

Lord God of resurrection, I praise You for the resurrection of Your Son, Jesus, my Savior. Lord Jesus, I greatly anticipate celebrating the Lord's Supper with You some day in the full reality of Your kingdom. Meanwhile, please work in my life the richness of Your grace, secured by Your sacrificial death and resurrection victory. In Your mighty name, I pray, Amen.
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« Reply #273 on: March 15, 2004, 08:50:42 PM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 14

Grace Empowered Proclamation of the Risen Christ:

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses . . . the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses . . . Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead . . . And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.  (Act_2:32; Act_3:15; Act_4:10, Act_4:33)

At the Lord's Supper, the resurrection was implied. "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes" (Luk_22:18). At the tomb, the resurrection was documented. "He is not here, but is risen!" (Luk_24:6). With the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, the resurrection was proclaimed. "Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, and put to death; whom God raised up" (Act_2:23-24).

The risen Christ was the constant message of the early church. In Peter's Spirit empowered message at Pentecost, he repeatedly proclaimed the resurrected Lord Jesus. "Him . . . you have crucified , and put to death; whom God raised up . . .You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption . . . he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ . . . this Jesus God raised up, of which we are all witnesses" (Act_2:23-24, Act_2:27, Act_2:31-32).

Not long after this glorious beginning, another proclamation of the risen Christ occurred as the lame man was healed at the Beautiful Gate. When the crowds gathered to see what had happened, Peter's message was again centered around the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "You denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses" (Act_3:14-15).

Soon after this, the religious leaders arrested the apostles, "being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead" (Act_4:2). Here, Peter again proclaimed the resurrection. "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole" (Act_4:10).

It was the grace of God that empowered the church to witness boldly about the risen Christ. "And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all" (Act_4:33).

Dear Lord Jesus, I worship You as the risen One. I desire to proclaim Your resurrection to all who need to trust in You. Lord, in a world of doubt and skepticism, strengthen my faith in Your mighty resurrection. Empower me, I pray, by pouring out upon my life great measures of Your grace, in Your name, Amen.
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« Reply #274 on: March 15, 2004, 08:53:33 PM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 15

The Resurrection Essential to the Gospel of Grace:

And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain . . . And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins . . . But now Christ is risen from the dead.  (1Co_15:14, 1Co_15:17, and 1Co_15:20)

The early church persistently proclaimed the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was not an option for them; neither is it an option for us. The grace of God that is available in the gospel for both justification and sanctification requires a risen Lord. The resurrection is essential to the gospel, which is the new covenant of grace.

The Spirit of God emphasized this strongly, as He inspired Paul to write: "And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain." If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, our preaching would be empty. If Christ were still in a tomb, His salvation mission ended in failure, not victory. Jesus is the object of our faith. If He is not alive, our trusting in Him would be fruitless. Jesus frequently taught of His death and resurrection. "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day" (Luk_9:22).

Furthermore, Paul wrote: "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." The gospel of forgiveness of sins includes the resurrection. "I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1Co_15:1, 1Co_15:3-4). Faith is only as effective as its object. If our Lord is not resurrected, it is useless to place our confidence in Him. If we are trusting in a dead Savior to forgive us and set us free, we are still guilty and bound.

However, our Lord is not in an ancient tomb. "But now Christ is risen from the dead." He rose victorious over sin and death, bringing everlasting righteousness to all who believe. "[faith] was accounted to [Abraham] for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us [i.e., credited to our account] who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Rom_4:22-25). Thus, all of the grace blessings of the resurrection are ours by faith. "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace" (Rom_4:16).

Dear Father, I rejoice in the resurrection victory of Jesus, my Lord! I praise You, Jesus,  as my risen, living Savior. What a mighty salvation You have secured through Your victory over sin and death. Glory be to Your name for providing it all by grace through faith.  Teach me to trust in You more and more, in Your holy name, Amen.
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« Reply #275 on: March 15, 2004, 08:56:00 PM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 16

Resurrection Victory by the Grace of God:

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1Co_15:56-57)

1 Corinthians 15 is the great resurrection chapter of the scriptures. In verse 56, we see two of the enormous problems that the resurrection of Jesus Christ overcomes. "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law." The sting that brings physical and spiritual death to the family of man is sin. "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom_6:23). Adam sinned and immediately died spiritually.

Eventually, he died physically. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Rom_5:12). We sinned in Adam, our leader. Also, we personally walked in sin and spiritual death until we came to Christ.

The strength that sin exerts over lives is the law. "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom_3:19). There is no way that man by his own strength can remove the guilt of sin which God's law holds powerfully over him. The righteous power of the law holds sinful humanity fully accountable before the Lord.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ validates His sacrifice for sin, removing sin's sting. "O Death, where is your sting?" (1Co_15:55).  Eternal life replaces sin's sting for all who believe in the Lord Jesus. "The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom_6:23). Such victorious grace stirs gratitude in the hearts of the redeemed. "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Notice the language of grace used to describe that which is provided through the resurrection. "The gift of God is eternal life . . . thanks be to God, who gives us the victory." These two terms ("gift" and "gives") are the language of grace. Eternal life comes to us as a gift, an undeserved generosity from God. The victory that we receive through the resurrection is established through Jesus Christ. Then, this victory is given to us, not earned or achieved by us. Thereafter, our Lord desires to guide us daily in His resurrection victory of grace. "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ" (2Co_2:14).

O Righteous Father, I confess that I sinned against You, just as Adam did. Lord, I struggled under the spiritual deadness that sin brought. Your holy law, O God, rightly locked me under guilt and condemnation. I could do nothing myself to bring relief. Then, You gave me eternal life, as I trusted in Your Son. By Your grace, You gave me victory. Thank You, Thank You! Now, Lord, please lead me in that victory, Amen.
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« Reply #276 on: March 18, 2004, 05:38:14 PM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 17

Resurrection Victory for Effective Christian Living:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.  (1Co_15:57-58)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings spiritual victory over sin and death to all who believe in Him. "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." As we allow the Lord to be our guide through each day, He "leads us in triumph in Christ" (2Co_2:14). When this process is unfolding, an effective Christian life is developing, by the grace of God at work in us.

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast." It is the will of God that our lives be marked by steadfastness (constancy and stability). Paul rejoiced concerning fellow believers who manifested such attributes: "rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ" (Col_2:5). He later added that they were to be "rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith" (Col_2:7).

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be . . . immovable." Our heavenly Father also wants us to be "immovable" (firmly persistent, unable to be swayed). Paul was a good example of this. Although he faced many threatening difficulties, he professed "But none of these things move me" (Act_20:24). When Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus, he warned of another threat to spiritual persistency: "that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph_4:14).

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be . . . always abounding in the work of the Lord." Our Lord wants us to be abundantly laboring with Him. This is one of the purposes of Jesus' redemptive work for us: "Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Tit_2:14). Yes, living by grace will produce abounding good works. The glorious fact is that such labors are actually the Lord at work in and through us: "always abounding in the work of the Lord." As the Lord sustains His work with us, we can grow in a certainty that this kind of laboring will be effective: "knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."

Note the key word that indicates the basis for all of these desirable traits: "Therefore." This refers back to the resurrection victory provided by the Lord Jesus. In light of this victorious work of Christ on our behalf, anyone trusting in this reality will find these spiritual virtues developing in their lives, by the grace of God at work.

Dear Lord, I long to walk in spiritual stability. I yearn for a life that cannot be swayed. I want to abundantly labor with You. Therefore, Lord, I  place my confidence in the reality of Your resurrection victory. Work in me by Your grace, I pray, Amen.
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« Reply #277 on: March 18, 2004, 05:42:10 PM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 18

The Resurrection Related to Justification and Sanctification:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.  (Joh_11:25-26)

It would be appropriate to again follow a pattern we have used previously, applying our present subject (the resurrection) both to our starting out with God (justification) and our going on with God (sanctification). The great value in doing such is to be repeatedly reminded that the grace of God that starts us out in this new life in Christ is the same grace that develops this life in Christ.

When Jesus proclaimed the words of our present verses, He was standing at the tomb of Lazarus. Martha, one of the sisters, was interacting with Him. She had hoped that Jesus would have arrived earlier, knowing He could have prevented this death. "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died" (Joh_11:21). Even now, with her brother in the tomb, she realizes He could possibly yet intervene. "But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You" (Joh_11:22). Jesus comforts her by assuring that Lazarus will be resurrected. "Your brother will rise again" (Joh_11:23). Martha assumes that Jesus is referring to the final resurrection of the saints. "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day" (Joh_11:24).

At this point, Jesus offers one of those glorious "I am" revelations. "I am the resurrection and the life." Then, He added two wonderful applications. First, faith in Him can even bring the dead to life, like Lazarus. "He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live." Second, faith in him can ensure eternal life to those who are yet alive. "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."

Think again of the implications connected with Jesus' basic statement. "I am the resurrection and the life." Martha desired an immediate resurrection for her brother. She wanted him to live once again. Jesus revealed that He Himself was what Martha desired for her brother. He was "the resurrection and the life." Jesus provides resurrection and life, because in His very person He is resurrection life. He is the resurrection that we all need from our deadness, whether physical or spiritual. "I am the resurrection."  He is the life that we need, if we are to live as God intended. "I am . . . the life." Knowing Christ by faith makes us partakers of what He Himself is: "the resurrection and the life." This is vital to see, because the Christian life is a resurrection life. Such a life can only be found in a resurrected Lord, and it can only be developed following a resurrected Lord.

Jesus, I bow down before You as my resurrected Lord. Apart from You, I would only know spiritual deadness as a fallen son of Adam. In You I have a spiritual resurrection to new life. Now, I want to pursue You daily to see that new, resurrected life more fully developed in me. Lord Jesus, lead me, I pray, into more life, Amen.
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« Reply #278 on: March 21, 2004, 02:23:22 AM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 19

The Resurrection and Justification:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  (1Pe_1:3)
We have a myriad of reasons to bless our great God, to speak of Him with grateful praises. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Our heavenly Father has mercifully showered us with so many blessings that we rightly desire Him to honored and blessed. "For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You" (Psa_86:5). Based on His great love, He sent His Son to pay for our debt of sin. Through faith in His name, we have received forgiveness and new life. Day by day He is present with us and is working in and through our lives. How blessed we are!

In the scripture before us, God's merciful heart toward us is focused on a magnificent matter: "who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope." The Lord's mercy has provided a plan whereby He can righteously hold back the awful judgment that we rightly deserve. This plan of salvation offers new birth. God has "begotten us again." This could be rendered, "caused us to be born again." We all were begotten of our earthly parents, a birth that brings temporal human life. For all of us who believe in the Lord Jesus as our personal Savior, we have been given a new birth from God into everlasting spiritual life in Christ. This is one of the heavenly realities that relate to justification (being declared righteous in God's sight, and thereby able to begin a walk with God).
This new birth is also "to a living hope." When we were born into the Lord's family, real "hope" became available to us everafter. Biblical hope is about absolute certainties concerning the future. It is about guaranteed expectations for time and eternity. These are vital needs for every person. Otherwise, people flounder in hopelessness and despair, or they march along in vain fantasies and imaginations.

The unique hope the Lord provides for us is a "living hope." It is a hope that pulsates with resurrection life. "[God] has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." This hope is permeated with the Lord's resurrection. This resurrection hope is sufficient to raise us from any agonizing deadness, whether in our aching hearts or in our threatening circumstances.

Lord God of mercy, I praise You for Your abundant mercy toward me. I thank You for new birth. I am especially grateful for living hope. I now ask You to work in the dead aspects of my life. Lord, You know what areas of my heart are lifeless. You see the circumstances that are killing me. Raise my heart to new vitality. Lift me above circumstantial living, through the reality of the resurrection of Your Son, Amen.
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« Reply #279 on: March 21, 2004, 02:25:21 AM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 20

More on the Resurrection and Justification:

 [You were] buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses . . . He has made alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.  (Col_2:12-13)

These truth-packed verses unfold the role of the resurrection as we started out with God through justification, when He declared us righteous in Christ. In this initial work of the Lord on our behalf, we were "buried with Him in baptism." Here, baptism is referring to our identification with Christ, not water baptism. When we first believed on the Lord Jesus, we were joined to Him, made one with Him, identified with Him. "We have been united together in the likeness of His death" (Rom_6:5). From God's perspective, we who trusted in Jesus Christ died on the cross with Him and were buried in the tomb with Him. Water baptism bears testimony to this truth, but it does not produce this reality.
Identification with Christ makes this our spiritual history before God. In God's sight, our old life was crucified and buried.

Through faith in Christ and our identification with Him, we were also raised from the tomb with Jesus. "In which [that is, by identification] you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." Just as His death became our death through identification, so also His resurrection became our resurrection. "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom_6:5). In God's sight, we were raised to a new life in Christ. "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism [that is, by identification] into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom_6:4).

The next verse in Colossians offers another aspect of our need for a personal spiritual resurrection. "And you, being dead in your trespasses . . . He has made alive together with Him." Before we were justified through faith in Christ, we were not only guilty and condemned, we were spiritually dead. We had no true life in us. We could not relate to God or interact with Him. For us to start out with God in justification, the Lord had to raise us with Christ from our spiritual deadness.

O Glorious Lord, what a good reminder this is of the desperate condition I was in when You justified me. I was not merely needy; I was spiritually dead. I thank You for burying that old life with Jesus in His tomb. I praise You for raising me with Christ to a new life. I rejoice in the radical nature of Your saving grace. Lord, by the power of the resurrection, lead me in the reality of newness of life, in Jesus name, Amen.
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« Reply #280 on: March 21, 2004, 02:27:43 AM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 21

The Resurrection and Sanctification:

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know . . . what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.  (Eph_1:18-20)

Just as the resurrection had an essential role in our starting out with God (in justification), it also plays an irreplaceable part in our going on with God (in sanctification). In the new covenant of grace, the resurrection is involved from start to finish in the Christian life.

Our scripture meditation is from one of the great prayers in all of the Bible. This portion begins by asking God to give us spiritual insight: "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened." What the Lord addresses in this prayer determines whether a believer will live by godly power or by human weakness. God desires to give us heavenly insight on this vital matter. Then, He intends for this spiritual enlightenment to lead us into a personal walk concerning this reality: "that you may know." The issue of this prayer is to become a part of our daily experience.

God wants us to experience the proper power source for living the Christian life: "that you may know . . . what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe." We who have been justified (declared righteous) through faith in Christ are not supposed to face each day by our meager, inadequate resources. We who have been born again by the Spirit of God are to live this new life by the power of God!

The aspect of God's power in view here is resurrection power: "according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead." Think of the mighty power of God that was at work to bring Jesus from a crucified Savior to a victorious risen Lord. This is the power that our God wants to unleash upon us day by day.

As great as this display of power was, even more is available to us: "and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places." This mighty divine power that brought forth Jesus from the dead, also raised Him to the right hand of the Father in the heaven realm. Surely, this power is sufficient to lift us out of any deadening situation of our minds or our surroundings.

Dear God of resurrection power, too many days and years have passed without me turning to You for this mighty power. Too often I have lived by a power that came from me will power, emotional power, mental power. I repent for relying upon such feeble resources. Lord, by Your grace I see that heavenly resurrection power is to be my supply, so I look to You now for this work in me, in Your mighty name, Amen.
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« Reply #281 on: March 23, 2004, 03:48:29 AM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 22

More on the Resurrection and Sanctification:

I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord . . . That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.  (Phi_3:8, Phi_3:10)

Sanctification is that process whereby the redeemed are increasingly set apart for the purposes, use, and glory of God. The resurrection of Christ and the power of that resurrection are interwoven into that entire process. Our present passage offers additional insight into this sublime truth.

The power of the resurrection is again in view. However, the context involves more than heavenly empowerment: "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection." The primary context is getting to know the Lord. "I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." Paul's passion was to know His Lord, to become more intimately acquainted with Him. He refers to this blessed goal as the greatest value available in all of creation: "I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ," Paul was ready to lose anything in order gain more intimacy with the Lord. To him, such a knowing of Christ was "the excellence" This could be translated, "the excelling value."

Our relationship with the Lord began in "the power of His resurrection." We were dead in our sins, and the Lord raised us to new life, as we believed upon Him. What a wonderful way to start out our acquaintanceship with God. A glorious season of joy and gratitude accompanied this personal resurrection. His resurrection power gave us such a great appreciation of who our Lord actually was, a God of might and power.

As time marched along, we discovered that there are other ways to get to know our Lord more fully: namely, "the fellowship of His sufferings." Many of us who follow Christ were startled when, after believing in Jesus, we encountered some personal suffering. In our early joyous days with Jesus, we maybe assumed that trials would never come our way. Eventually, we began to suffer as Jesus did (for doing the right things, for righteousness sake). "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1Pe_2:21). How much deeper did our relationship with Him grow in those trials. We learned more of the difficult path He walked here on earth. We found out how faithful and compassionate He was when we called upon Him in our need. Once more, our love for Him grew.

Dear Lord of power and compassion, I magnify You for Your resurrection power. I extol You for Your matchless compassion. You have allowed me to experience these that I might grow in knowing You. Unleash Your power in my weakness. Pour out Your compassion in my sufferings. Let me know You more, through Christ I pray, Amen.
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« Reply #282 on: March 23, 2004, 03:50:49 AM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 23

Even More on the Resurrection and Sanctification:

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.  (Phi_3:10)

Paul's all-consuming passion was "That I may know Him." This verse does not list four matters for which Paul sought an acquaintanceship (a knowledge of God, resurrection power, a fellowship in Christ's sufferings, and conformity to His death). Rather, it points out one great quest (a knowledge of God) and three different arenas in which that knowledge could grow (resurrection power, a fellowship in Christ's sufferings, and conformity to His death). We saw in our last meditation how resurrection power and suffering can increase our knowing of the Lord. Now, we add another amazing aspect to a growing acquaintanceship with Jesus: "being conformed to His death."

There were some unique aspects to the death of Christ upon the cross (for example, His atonement for sins). However, there were other aspects of His death that God wants to repeat in our lives. As Jesus was placed upon the cross, it looked like defeat. It seemed to be the greatest wrong that man could ever do. Yet, God was working out His sovereign purposes. "Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death" (Act_2:23). At times, we are placed in situations that seem certain to lead to a deadly defeat. Yet, the Lord is unfolding His sovereign plan for us. In taking us through such impossibilities (and turning apparent defeat into victory), the Lord is allowing us to become more acquainted with Him and His ways.

When Jesus was dying, He hung helpless upon the tree. He entrusted Himself into the hands of His Father. "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" (Luk_23:46). The Father would have to prove faithful, if Jesus were to come forth from the grave. "Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father" (Rom_6:4). At times, we are in circumstances that are personally crucifying. We are in situations where everything so obviously requires a mighty work of God. If He does not prove faithful on our behalf, there will be no way out of the agonizing dilemma. When our Lord is so clearly our only hope (and then He comes through faithfully), we again grow in a deeper knowledge of Him and His ways.

Dear Father of glory, help me to not shrink back in fear and doubt when You are conforming me to the death of Your Son. When everything looks like defeat and disaster, remind me to look to You to work out Your will, in spite of the evil intentions of foolish or godless people. When I am hanging helpless in the midst of crucifying circumstances, remind me to commit myself to You and Your great faithfulness. Lord, I want to You more through any means You choose, Amen.
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« Reply #283 on: March 25, 2004, 01:26:29 AM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 24

Still More on the Resurrection and Sanctification:

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  (Phi_3:10-11)
As we are getting to know our God of resurrection (by learning about and then partaking of His resurrection power, Christ's sufferings, and conformity to His death), our lives are being changed. We are attaining to "the resurrection from the dead."

This phrase brings to mind the final resurrection of the redeemed in the last day. "When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just" (Luk_14:13-14). Yet, the final resurrection cannot be in view in our meditation verses. The overall teaching of the scriptures would lead to this conclusion. One's place in the final resurrection is determined by one's relationship to God. That issue is settled through exercising saving faith in Jesus Christ. Those who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior have a part in the last resurrection, unto eternal life.

Furthermore, the immediate context of Paul's statement indicates that attaining to "the resurrection from the dead" was something he was reaching out for now, hoping to grow into it increasingly during this life. "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me" (Phi_3:12). Paul confesses that he had not fully gained the type of resurrection about which he is writing. Yet, the final resurrection was already his expectation, through justifying faith in Jesus. So, Paul is pressing on for something else.
Earlier, the Apostle had revealed what He was seeking after. "I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ" (Phi_3:8, Phi_3:10). This is why Paul wrote, "that I may know Him." This was the one passion of his life. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do" (Phi_3:13). The one thing that Paul was aiming at was a growing acquaintanceship with his resurrected Lord. He desired to know His risen Lord so well that he might attain to "the resurrection from the dead." He wanted his developing relationship with the risen Christ to produce a resurrected lifestyle in him. He wanted to face each situation of life with a heavenly, resurrected perspective and attitude, a way of life completely different from the dead and dying world all around him.

Dear Jesus, my resurrected Lord, I praise You for providing for me a place in the final resurrection. Now, I pray, help me to get to know You better, that I might live a resurrected life day by day, in Your mighty name, Amen.
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« Reply #284 on: March 25, 2004, 01:28:36 AM »

Hoekstra Devotion - March 25

Once More on the Resurrection and Sanctification:

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us.  (2Co_1:8-10)

Our passage speaks again of the Lord's resurrection power operating in our daily Christian lives, in the process of sanctification and spiritual growth. The setting in which the Lord did this resurrecting work was in the midst of trials while serving God.

Paul did not want other believers to be unaware of his difficulties. "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia." Too often, we are tempted to keep our struggles totally private. Thereby, we rob glory from God, when He delivers us. Also, we keep others from learning important lessons that come from watching God fulfill the faithful promises of His word.

Paul's battles were severe on this occasion. "We were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves." Spiritually speaking, these trials were killing Paul and his missionary team. They were pressed down, overwhelmed, helpless, and hopeless. When we are in hopeless despair, our sufferings seem to be pointless. Yet, our difficulties (like Paul's) have this invaluable purpose built into them: "that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead." We have frequently noted that living by grace requires humility and faith. God gives grace to the humble, and faith accesses grace. Well, in the trials of life, God is working on developing these relational realities (spiritual realities that become real through a growing relationship with Jesus).

Trials and difficulties become occasions to be humbled before God. We are provoked to cry out to God in helplessness. Also, trials present new opportunities to trust in the Lord. When the trials are intense, God is purging us of the primary obstacle to trusting in God, and that is self-trust. "Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead." Thus, convinced that we cannot handle it, we call upon God, who faithfully resurrects us from our circumstantial death. "Who delivered us from so great a death." Thereby, faith grows that He will continue to rescue us: "and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us."

O Lord, my Deliverer, come to my aid in the trials that bury me in despair. Show me where I am trusting in myself. Purge me of self-trust. I want to embrace humility and put my trust in You. Resurrect me, Lord, in Jesus name, Amen.
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