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nChrist
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« Reply #30 on: February 10, 2006, 01:40:38 AM »

February 9

Reflecting on Grace: Humility and Faith

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich . . . Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God . . . If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  (2Co_8:9, 2Co_3:5, Rom_10:17 and Luk_9:23)

Let's take a reflective look at humility and faith. We have repeatedly encountered these two relational realities. This is to be expected, since "God . . . gives grace to the humble" (Jam_4:6), and "we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Rom_5:2).

In our first devotional study, humility and faith were evident. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich."  In order for Jesus to rescue us from our desperate situation, He had to become poor. When He hung on the cross for us, He took the spiritual poverty of our sin and guilt upon Himself. What a humbling picture of our innate spiritual condition. Basically, we had to agree with the Lord, humbling ourselves before Him, asking for His help. Additionally, faith was involved. We had to believe that through this death on our behalf, we could become spiritually rich, that is, forgiven of sin and righteous in His sight.

Humility and faith were later seen as vital for walking in this new life in Christ. "Not that we are sufficientof ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God."  The adequacy we need for Christian living does not originate in us. Actually, we must not think of "anything as being from ourselves." How humbling to learn, even as born again believers, that we need the Lord in everything. Then, how do we find the necessary adequacy? This is where faith pertains. "Our sufficiency is from God." This is truth that we are to believe.

When we examined Christian discipleship, humility and faith again appeared. "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luk_9:23). Jesus' call to come and follow Him can only be received by those who will say, "No to self" and "Death to self." This is humiliating to the self-life, to think it is not good enough, to admit that it belongs on the cross. This is especially humbling when we see that these are to be our daily confessions. The rest of the issue is settled by faith, trusting in Jesus each step of every day.

Dear Heavenly Father, give me this perspective on the Christian life. Teach me, Lord, touch my heart, that I might be willing to walk humbly before You day by day. Build my faith, Lord, that I might turn to You in dependence step by step throughout each day. Father, I humbly trust in You to do this work in my life, through Christ, my Lord, Amen.

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Day-By-Day By Grace by Pastor Bob Hoekstra
(Courtesy of Bob Hoekstra and Living in Christ Ministries)

Dist. Worldwide in the Great Freeware Bible Study package called
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« Reply #31 on: February 10, 2006, 01:42:31 AM »

February 10

Grace and Spiritual Fruit

The word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.  (Col_1:5-6)

The Lord wants His children to have significant measures of spiritual fruit developing in their lives. "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit" (Joh_15:8). Fruit is described in the scriptures in various ways. It includes godly character qualities. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . . " (Gal_5:22). Also, it involves worship offered to God. "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Heb_13:15). Additionally, it encompasses lives being touched by our ministry to them. "I often planned to come to you . . . that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles" (Rom_1:13).

Such spiritual fruit is a consequence of God's grace at work in and through our lives. Col_1:5-6 addresses this fact. "The word of the truth of the gospel,which has come to you . . .  is bringing forth fruit." The good news of Jesus Christ not only brings forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life, it also produces fruit in those who believe. All of this is grace operating in trusting hearts. "Since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth."

Rom_7:4 describes this same glorious process, using different terms. "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God." In order to bear fruit unto the Lord, we had to first be released from our dead relationship to the law. We could not perform effectively under that demanding standard. Thus, our lives were spiritually fruitless before God. Next, we needed to be joined in a new, living relationship with the risen Christ, that we might partake of His grace resources for living. We have experienced both through faith in the Lord Jesus. Now the risen Christ works by His grace in and through our lives, as we humbly depend upon Him.

Yes, the grace of God is His designated dynamic for producing spiritual fruit in our every day lives

Lord God of my salvation, thank You for the glorious message of the gospel. What good news it is to have forgiveness, eternal life, and daily transformation through Your grace. I embrace Your will that I bear much fruit . Lord Jesus, I rejoice that You have taken me out from under the law. I now look to You, the risen Lord, to bring forth spiritual fruit in and through my life, in Your exalted name, Amen.

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Day-By-Day By Grace by Pastor Bob Hoekstra
(Courtesy of Bob Hoekstra and Living in Christ Ministries)

Dist. Worldwide in the Great Freeware Bible Study package called
e-Sword by Rick Meyer: http://www.e-sword.net/downloads.html
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« Reply #32 on: February 11, 2006, 06:08:30 AM »

February 11

More on Grace and Spiritual Fruit

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  (Joh_15:4-5)

Although these verses do not mention grace, they are a classic biblical explanation of grace bringing forth fruit in lives. The language depicts an actual vineyard, where fruit grows on branches that are properly related to a vine. Then, this physical reality is applied figuratively to spiritual fruit developing in our lives, if we are relating correctly to Jesus.

In this teaching, our Lord reminds us that literal branches are not able to produce fruit themselves. "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself." We are spiritual branches, so we will not be able to produce fruit either. "Neither can you, unless you abide in Me." In fact, our potential for manufacturing genuine spiritual fruit is zero. "Without Me you can do nothing." The best we could ever hope to produce would be religious, wax fruit. Such would come from our fleshly attempts to appear godly or effective. People may be fooled by this, but God never will be. Furthermore, people cannot be edified by partaking of such, and God cannot be glorified.

True fruit results from the ongoing development of life. Life is only innate to vines, not branches. For a grape to develop on any grape branch, the life of the vine must flow into, and work within, the branch. So it is with us. "I am the vine, you are the branches." This distinction is vital. We must never forget the difference, if we desire to bear fruit. The life we need for fruitfulness is in Him, not in us.

How do we avail ourselves of that life which is essential for fruit? "Abide in Me, and I in you." We are to look to Jesus for life, counting on Him to live in and through us. Then, His life, working in us, brings forth Christlike fruit. How do we know if we are abiding? If we are willing to depend upon Jesus for spiritual fruit as a grape branch relies upon its vine for grapes, then we are truly abiding in Christ. Such dependency brings valid expectation for great measures of Christlikeness to be developing in and through our lives. "He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit."

This is clearly grace at work, as seen in the relational realities of humility and faith. Humility is operating as we acknowledge"without Me you can do nothing."  Faith is exercised as we believe" that He who abides in Me . . . bears much fruit."

Lord Jesus, my true vine, I humbly agree with You that I cannot produce spiritual fruit on my own. I admit that apart from You at work in me, I could never manifest any genuine godliness. So, with great expectation I look to You to provide the life I need for much fruitfulness, Amen.

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Day-By-Day By Grace by Pastor Bob Hoekstra
(Courtesy of Bob Hoekstra and Living in Christ Ministries)

Dist. Worldwide in the Great Freeware Bible Study package called
e-Sword by Rick Meyer: http://www.e-sword.net/downloads.html
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« Reply #33 on: February 12, 2006, 08:09:48 AM »

February 12

Even More on Grace and Spiritual Fruit

He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit . . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering . . . .  (Joh_15:5 and Gal_5:22)

As we abide in Christ, spiritual fruit develops in our lives. This occurs through the work of the Holy Spirit, applying the grace resources of God to our inner man. This spiritual produce then appears as godly character in us.

Love is the primary indication that we are trusting the Lord to bring forth fruit in us. "The fruit of the Spirit is love." In fact, some see love as the singular fruit, with joy, peace, etc. as aspects of that love. This is divine love ("agape" love), a love that flows from the heart of God. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God" (1Jo_4:7). Such love is not stirred by the "loveability" of the object. It is a unique, heavenly love available only from the Lord.

"The fruit of the Spirit is  . . . joy." Joy is gladness of heart, an inner spiritual happiness that does not depend upon circumstances. It is a spiritual delight in the Lord that is always available, no matter what is happening around us. "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Phi_4:4).

"The fruit of the Spirit is  . . . peace." This peace is related to a cessation of hostility between parties. It affects our relationship with the Lord. "We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom_5:1). It also impacts our relationship with others. "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both   [i. e., Jew and Gentile] one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us" (Eph_2:14). This peace also involves a spiritual calm and tranquility within our hearts. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phi_4:6-7).

"The fruit of the Spirit is  . . . longsuffering." Longsuffering would include patience and forbearance. It would embrace a willingness to forgive and to not seek vengeance. "Put on . . . longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another" (Col_3:12-13).

Note carefully; we do not produce these qualities by our capabilities. This fruit is a work of God in us: "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering."

O Lord, my hope and my sufficiency, I readily confess that at times I am unloving, joyless, strife-torn, or impatient. Lord Jesus, I want to abide in You. Please work in me by Your Holy Spirit. Bring forth increasingly in my life this beautiful spiritual crop of Christlikeness. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

____________________

Day-By-Day By Grace by Pastor Bob Hoekstra
(Courtesy of Bob Hoekstra and Living in Christ Ministries)

Dist. Worldwide in the Great Freeware Bible Study package called
e-Sword by Rick Meyer: http://www.e-sword.net/downloads.html
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(The goal of Rick Meyer is to distribute excellent Bible Study
Software to every country on earth in their own language FREE
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« Reply #34 on: February 13, 2006, 07:53:41 AM »

February 13

Once More on Grace and Spiritual Fruit

He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit . . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering . . . .  (Gal_5:22-23 and Phi_1:11)

As the Holy Spirit works the grace of God in our hearts, the various aspects of spiritual fruit are manifested through us. "The fruit of the Spirit is  . . . kindness." Kindness is moral goodness and integrity conveyed toward others. It includes showing concern and consideration to people, desiring not to offend them. "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another" (Eph_4:31-32).

"The fruit of the Spirit is  . . .  goodness." Goodness is quite similar to the preceding term, kindness. The additional perspectives contained in goodness would be acts of generosity and beneficence. This somewhat repetitious concept indicates the high priority that God places upon our treatment of others.

"The fruit of the Spirit is  . . . faithfulness." Faithfulness embodies responsibility and loyalty. It also comprises reliability and consistency. "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful" (1Co_4:2).

"The fruit of the Spirit is  . . . gentleness." Gentleness is explained by such terms as meekness and lowliness. Such quality of character takes on special significance when we recall these words of Jesus. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Mat_11:29).

"The fruit of the Spirit is  . . . self-control." Self-control is a fascinating subject, because it is not what it seems to be at first. Natural human thinking would assume it refers to self keeping self under control. Such a description would have to be listed under the previous verses pertaining to "the works of the flesh" (Gal_5:19). Here, it describes the Spirit of God maintaining control over our lives.

When we reflect upon the fruit of the Spirit, the character of Christ typically comes to mind. This is appropriate, since godly fruit comes to us through the presence of Jesus in our lives. "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." When we depend upon the Holy Spirit, He imparts the life of Jesus, our true vine, into and through our experience. The character of Christ is then seen in us. Consequently, all glory and praise goes to God!

Dear Lord Jesus, how I long to be more like You. I can easily be selfish, inconsistent, or out of control. I see that  only Your Holy Spirit working in me can bring the necessary fruit. Lord, I pray, work deeply in me by Your irreplaceable grace, for Your glory and praise, Amen.

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Day-By-Day By Grace by Pastor Bob Hoekstra
(Courtesy of Bob Hoekstra and Living in Christ Ministries)

Dist. Worldwide in the Great Freeware Bible Study package called
e-Sword by Rick Meyer: http://www.e-sword.net/downloads.html
Full Featured - Outstanding - Completely FREE - No Strings Attached

(The goal of Rick Meyer is to distribute excellent Bible Study
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« Reply #35 on: February 19, 2006, 01:32:06 AM »

February 14

Grace and Good Works

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.  (1Co_15:10)

The grace of God is not only His dynamic for producing spiritual fruit in our lives, but it is also His means of developing good works in us as well. The Apostle Paul had a powerful testimony to this truth. Paul became an early church leader who was engaged in more good works than any other believer. "I labored more abundantly than they all."

No one worked harder in ministry than Paul did. He traveled the known world preaching the gospel. He discipled those who put their trust in the Lord Jesus. He gathered those believers into churches, often functioning as their initial pastor. Then, he would appoint leaders and even visit them on occasion for further encouragement and training. Additionally, he wrote major portions of the New Testament, typically while locked up in prison.

Yes, Paul "labored . . . abundantly." In another letter he wrote: "To this end I also labor,  striving" (Col_1:29). Elsewhere he stated: "For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day . . . we preached to you the gospel of God" (1 Thessalonians 2:9). As he wrote the believers in Corinth he recalled: "Are they ministers of Christ . . . I am more: in labors more abundant . . . in journeys often . . . in weariness and toil" (2Co_11:23, 2Co_11:26-27).

How startling to learn that Paul was not the cause behind this wondrous effect. This seen in his confession: "yet not I." Paul exerted himself for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How can a man labor strenuously and yet not be the cause of it all? The answer is in the remainder of his testimony: "yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." God's grace at work in Paul's life was the effective dynamic that brought forth such godly labor here on earth. "But by the grace of God I am what I am." If we put our hope in the Lord, His grace will prove effective in our lives as well, giving us a testimony similar to Paul's: "and His grace toward me was not in vain."

Access to this transforming grace is once more linked to the two relational realities of humility and faith. Paul humbly admitted this fact:" yet not I." He also exercised faith in this corollary truth: "but the grace of God which was with me."

 O God of all grace, I cry out to You to work Your grace in my life, producing abundant good works in me, as You did in Paul. Lord, I desire to labor in Your service. I am encouraged to see that I do not need to measure up to Paul myself. I only need to trust in Your grace, the same grace that was not vain in Paul's life. So,humbly confessing my inadequacy, I exercise faith in Your effective grace, in Jesus holy name, Amen.

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Day-By-Day By Grace by Pastor Bob Hoekstra
(Courtesy of Bob Hoekstra and Living in Christ Ministries)

Dist. Worldwide in the Great Freeware Bible Study package called
e-Sword by Rick Meyer: http://www.e-sword.net/downloads.html
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(The goal of Rick Meyer is to distribute excellent Bible Study
Software to every country on earth in their own language FREE
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« Reply #36 on: February 19, 2006, 01:33:43 AM »

February 15

More on Grace and Good Works

From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. And when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.  (Act_14:26-27)

When the Apostle and his team left their home church of Antioch, they were commended to the grace of God." The believers at Antioch trusted in the Lord to impart sufficient grace for this demanding mission.

What an amazing journey it was. They encountered a false prophet early in the trip, as they attempted to reach a local official. Paul boldly confronted his opponent, by the power of the Spirit. "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? " (Act_13:10). When the Lord struck this sorcerer blind, the civic leader believed.

Then, in Perga, Paul effectively preached the risen Christ in the synagogue. "And the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God" (Act_13:44). When Jewish opposition arose, the team offered the gospel to the Gentiles. "Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord . . . And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region" (Act_13:48-49).

Next, in Iconium, much fruit ensued, in spite of substantial opposition. "A great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace" (Act_14:1-3).

Later, at Lystra, Paul was stoned by those who resisted the gospel. Yet, he would not be silent, continuing to Derbe and other towns. "And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned . . . strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith" (Act_14:21-22).

Now, the missionaries are back at their home church of Antioch. The work God intended was finished, because His grace brings His work to completion. "They had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed." Then, when they brought their report, they spoke of what God did, not what they did. "They reported all that God had done with them."

Dear Father, please teach me to rely upon Your grace for the tasks to which You are calling me. Lord, I too easily trust in myself, and end up with an unfinished job. Also when the responsibilities are completed, may all glory go to You, and not to me, Amen.

____________________

Day-By-Day By Grace by Pastor Bob Hoekstra
(Courtesy of Bob Hoekstra and Living in Christ Ministries)

Dist. Worldwide in the Great Freeware Bible Study package called
e-Sword by Rick Meyer: http://www.e-sword.net/downloads.html
Full Featured - Outstanding - Completely FREE - No Strings Attached

(The goal of Rick Meyer is to distribute excellent Bible Study
Software to every country on earth in their own language FREE
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« Reply #37 on: February 19, 2006, 01:35:19 AM »

February 16

Even More on Grace and Good Works

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.  (2Co_9:8)
When considering the connection between grace and good works, God's ability is the priority issue. "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you." The Lord intends for us to be the objects of His ever flowing grace. Our God is fully capable of accomplishing such an outpouring of His grace.

The Lord desires to "make all grace abound toward you." He wants to impact our lives with every aspect of His grace ("all grace"). He has grace available in every category that we will ever need. He is ready to flood our lives with such grace ("abound toward you"). This term ("abound") could be illustrated by compelling waves consistently rolling up on the seashore, leaving their inevitable imprint.

God's grace impacts humble, trusting hearts in such a manner, imparting all that is needed for effective service. "That you, always having all sufficiency in all things." Whenever we place our dependence in the Lord, He supplies everything that is necessary ("all sufficiency") for everything He would have us to do ("in all things).

The immediate context relates this truth to financial provision; yet, the language goes far beyond any circumstantial limitation: "having all sufficiency in all things."  This speaks of any need in any situation. If we need grace for biblical family life, it is included here. If we need grace for running a godly business, it is offered here. If we need grace for witnessing, it is included here. If we need grace for church ministry, it is extended here. "That you, always having all sufficiency in all things."

Our God is a bountiful Master, who loves to lavish His resources upon His servants. "That you . . . may have an abundance." However, this bounty is not for personal whim or carnal indulgence. It is for "every good work." God's abundance is for the furthering of His will here on earth. So, we can be encouraged. If our desire is to serve our Lord, immeasurable spiritual treasures are available for our service.

This does not mean we are exempt from seasons of apparent lack. We have lessons to learn that must be taught during times of adversity as well as abundance.  "I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phi_4:12-13).

O Lord, giver of every good and perfect gift, remind me to look to You for abounding grace in every trial and in every opportunity. Lord, I know that I need You in the delightful times, just as much as in the agonizing times. Use me for implementing Your will in this rebellious world. I praise You that finding the grace I need for serving You depends on Your ability, not mine. Pour out Your grace, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

____________________

Day-By-Day By Grace by Pastor Bob Hoekstra
(Courtesy of Bob Hoekstra and Living in Christ Ministries)

Dist. Worldwide in the Great Freeware Bible Study package called
e-Sword by Rick Meyer: http://www.e-sword.net/downloads.html
Full Featured - Outstanding - Completely FREE - No Strings Attached

(The goal of Rick Meyer is to distribute excellent Bible Study
Software to every country on earth in their own language FREE
of charge, and that goal gets closer by the day.)
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« Reply #38 on: February 19, 2006, 01:36:50 AM »

February 17

Once More on Grace and Good Works

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  (Eph_2:10)

In examining grace and good works we are again seeing God's grace is not only His willingness to forgive us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but it is also His resource for shaping and using our lives as believers.

God desires that we become amply engaged in good works, to glorify His name in the edifying of His people and the reaching of the lost. Although we are not saved by good works ("not of works, lest anyone should boast" Eph_2:8-9), we are saved unto good works ("created in Christ Jesus for good works").

Our hope of abounding in good works rests upon the gracious working of God on our behalf. First, He remakes us through new birth in His Son: "created in Christ Jesus." Then, He continues to work on us. We do not shape ourselves into an instrument that the Lord can use. God willingly takes that responsibility upon Himself.  "For we are His workmanship." God wants to shape our lives like a work of art, thoroughly crafting us in relationship to His purposes for each of our lives.

God's gracious work extends beyond new birth and subsequent fashioning. He even prepares the good works in which He wants us to eventually be engaged. "Created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand." Think of it. The Lord has already arranged the acts of service in which He intends for us to be occupied! Then, why are we not always involved in such good works? The answer is related to this phrase: "that we should walk in them." We do have a strategic responsibility in this process. We are to humbly and dependently walk with the Lord Jesus every day.

Jesus addressed this matter. "Then they said to Him, 'What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent'" (Joh_6:28-29). Exercising faith in the Lord is what brings us into the workings of God for our lives. This involves believing in His plan, as revealed in His word. This includes trusting that His will is best for us. This comprises walking in reliance upon Him, allowing Him to guide us each day into the appropriate good works. Such a response brings service empowered by grace, as seen in the early church. "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).

Creator of heaven and earth, I thank You for creating me anew in Christ Jesus. I praise You for Your ongoing work in me. Please shape me into an instrument You can use. Lord, forgive me when I am irresponsible through self-will or self-sufficiency. Lord, I want to humbly and dependently follow You each day, in the light of Your word, Amen.

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« Reply #39 on: February 19, 2006, 01:38:25 AM »

February 18

A Reminder Concerning the Word of God's Grace

The word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance . . . The word of the truth of the gospel . . . is bringing forth fruit . . . faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  (Act_20:32, Col_1:5-6, and Rom_10:17)

These three scriptures, interspersed in our previous meditations, indicate how God wants to use His word to impact us with His grace. The first passage describes God's word as "the word of His grace." God explains His grace to us through His word. He offers his grace to us through His word. He works His grace within us as we are nurtured in His word, trusting in what the Lord has to say to us. As God's word is taken into our lives, its capabilities are unleashed, demonstrating that it is "able to build you up and give you an inheritance." Those who believed at Thessalonica had such an experience with the scriptures. "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe" (1Th_2:13).

The second passage declares that the word can produce fruitfulness in God's people. "The word of the truth of the gospel . . . is bringing forth fruit." Such fruit is the consequence of spiritual life maturing within us. Jesus taught that this life is brought to us by His word. "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (Joh_6:63). The word of the Lord brings this life to us initially: "Having been born again . . . through the word of God which lives and abides forever" (1Pe_1:23).God's word then nurtures the life it originally brought to us: "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (1Pe_2:2).

The third passage gives insight on faith, which is a vital element of living by grace. As we have seen, faith accesses grace. "We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand." (Rom_5:2). Here in the third scripture, we are told how faith develops in our lives. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." As we humbly receive God's word into our lives, our faith in whatever He is proclaiming can be growing.

In light of these grand truths concerning the scriptures, we would be wise to cultivate the same perspective of essentiality that Job had toward God's word. "I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12).

O Lord of grace and truth, thank You for giving us Your word, which is grace and truth. Forgive me, Lord, for not cherishing Your word as highly as I should. Everything that Your word can do, I am unable to do on my own. I cry out earnestly to You. Please work in me a deepening hunger for Your living and eternal word, in the name of Jesus, Amen.

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« Reply #40 on: February 19, 2006, 04:53:22 PM »

February 19

A Warning Against Changing God's Grace

I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith . . . For certain men have crept in unnoticed . . . ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness.  (Jud_1:3-4)

From the early days of the Lord's church, a constant threat has been posed by those who want to change God's grace into something it is not. The attempted changes always relate to either licentiousness or legalism.

Jude addressed this problem in his powerful letter of warning. He called all followers of Christ to engage in a zealous battle for the integrity of the word of God. "I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith," Such contending is essential, because carnal religious people desire to alter grace, as they quietly operate within churches. "For certain men have crept in unnoticed . . . ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness." Their intended modifications involved turning grace into license. Grace is God's means of forgiving our sins, as well as transforming the sinner that he might sin less and less. Grace is not God's sanction by which we plan and excuse our personal indulgence.

This issue also appears in Romans, as some took God's grace in an unwarranted direction. They started with a glorious truth. "Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more" (Rom_5:20). What a grand actuality this is! No matter how atrocious the extent of our sins, the grace of God unto forgiveness and transformation is far greater. Yet, how heinous is the licentious thought that more indulgence in sin would be a good thing, since such would only present another opportunity for more abounding grace. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" (Rom_6:1). The answer is a resounding negation. "Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? " (Rom_6:2). Anticipated grace is never an excuse for planning to sin.

In Galatians, the converse problem of legalism is confronted. "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ" (Gal_1:6-7). Here, some were trying to add law requirements to the good news of God's grace. This attempt to turn grace into a performance standard is described as a perversion, a grievous twisting, of grace. Whether license or legalism, both change and undermine the grace of God.

Dear gracious Master, I repent of those times when I have used grace as an excuse for carnal indulgence or have treated Your grace as a call to religious performance. Thank You for Your forgiving and transforming grace. Grant me discernment and courage to earnestly contend for true grace, through Christ, my Lord, Amen.

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« Reply #41 on: February 23, 2006, 05:28:41 AM »

February 20

The Grace of God and the Holy Spirit

This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"  (Zec_4:6-7)

The scriptures reveal a profound connection between God's grace and His Holy Spirit. Living by the grace of God and walking according to the Spirit are two different perspectives on the same reality. As we consider what walking in the Spirit comprises, we are also gaining insight regarding living day by day by grace.

Our passage from Zechariah confirms this correlation between grace and the Spirit. Here, the Lord gives a message to Zerubbabel, telling him how service is rendered unto God. "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit," Human might and power will never be a sufficient resource for living life as God intended. Rather, the Holy Spirit must supply what we need for a life of service to the Lord.

In the next verse, this same truth is restated, using different terms. Now, the Lord is addressing the mountain of impossibility that stood before Zerubbabel. "Who are you, O great mountain? " This leader of Israel was given  the challenging mission of reestablishing the testimony of God in Jerusalem, as the people returned from captivity. The obstacles had the appearance of being a "great mountain."  Nevertheless, God declares that this mountain of obstructions would become a highway for advancement. "Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!" Then, as God's man attended to God's assignment by the empowering of the Spirit, he would eventually place the final stone with an intriguing exclamation. "And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it! " This summary testimony would declare that God's gracewas the explanation for the completion of the task. The relationship between grace and the Spirit is clear: "by My Spirit . . . grace, grace to it!" When we depend upon the Spirit, He works God's grace within our lives.

The early church also illustrated this "grace-Spirit" association. "They were all filled with the Holy Spirti, 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 former statement indicates that their boldness came from the Holy Spirit. The latter statement, two verses later, reveals their boldness was a result of grace impacting them.

Almighty God, thank You for revealing this "grace-Spirit" association. In living by grace, I see that You must provide what I cannot produce or earn. In living by Your Spirit, I see that grace is not just a concept I apply, but rather it is a gift that must be imparted to me by the Spirit of God Himself. Lord, do Your work in me, I humbly pray, Amen.

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« Reply #42 on: February 23, 2006, 05:30:15 AM »

February 21

The New Covenant of Grace: A Holy Spirit Covenant

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.  (Eze_36:26-27)

As noted earlier, the new covenant is about grace, as contrasted with the old covenant, which is about law. "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (Joh_1:17). The connection between grace and the Holy Spirit can be seen in various scripture passages on the new covenant, including this glorious prophecy. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." The first verse in this prophetic promise concerns regeneration, spiritual new birth. Through faith in the Lord, our original, hard, lifeless heart is removed, and a new, pliable, living spirit is given to us.

The second verse pertains to transformation, the ongoing development of this new life. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes." The developing of a life that increasingly complies with the will of God depends upon the work of the Holy Spirit within us. We know that unredeemed humanity has no hope of living a life that is pleasing to God. Yet, many Christians could be unaware that even the new creature in Christ cannot please God on his own resources. The Spirit of God must be the heavenly cause that produces a heavenly lifestyle in believers.

What is promised here is not an automatic experience. The life of many Christians does not consistently match what is described here in Eze_36:27. The reason is that they are not relating properly to the Lord in humble dependence. Yes, these two relational realities (humility and faith) also determine whether or not the Spirit of God is our resource, just as they were determinative concerning grace.

Two statements by Jesus expound upon this fact. "You have no life in you . . . It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing" (Joh_6:53, Joh_6:63). We do not innately possess life as God intends it to be lived. Natural human resources are of no benefit in developing a godly life. Such revelation is very humbling. If we embrace Jesus' evaluation of our personal inadequacy, then we are willing to relate to God in humility. Further, there is truth in which we are to place our trust. "It is the Spirit who gives life."  As we count on this truth, we are relating to the Lord in faith. The result of such humble reliance is God's Spirit becomes our vitality for living godly.

O Lord, the source of true life, thank You for establishing such a gracious arrangement as the new covenant. I praise You that Your Holy Spirit is my heavenly dynamic for godliness. I confess that my fleshly attempts to please You are so inadequate. I humbly ask You to cause me to walk in Your good will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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« Reply #43 on: February 23, 2006, 05:31:42 AM »

February 22

The Holy Spirit Giving Life

It is the Spirit who gives life . . . [God] 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."  (Joh_6:63 and 2Co_3:6)

The Lord's new covenant of grace is a covenant of the Spirit: " [God] also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant . . . of the Spirit." Any approach to God other than by the Spirit results in spiritual deadness.

People need life, initially and continually. We need it initially, because all of us began spiritually dead due to our sin and guilt. "And you . . . were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh . . . and were by nature children of wrath" (Eph_2:1-3). The only remedy for such spiritual death is spiritual life. "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" (Eph_2:4-5).

People also need life continually, "for the letter kills." If we were left to our best efforts after we were given new life in Christ, we would be struggling under a human performance bondage of rules and regulations. That is spiritually deadening.

Jesus came to earth to offer people fullness of life. "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (Joh_10:10). Jesus taught that if we looked to Him for our spiritual nutrition, we would find ongoing life. "And Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life'" (Joh_6:35). Jesus did not refer to Himself as a leader establishing a new religion. Rather, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life' " (Joh_14:6). When the early disciples were freed from prison, they were not told to recruit members to a movement. Instead, they were instructed to "Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life" (Act_5:20).

The life Jesus came to provide is His life expressed in and through us: "Christ who is our life" (Col_3:4). That life produces a lifestyle marked by His love, His joy, His peace, His wisdom, His courage - - and whatever else is of His holy character. The new covenant of His grace holds forth this life, and the Holy Spirit delivers that life into humble, trusting hearts. "It is the Spirit who gives life."

Lord Jesus,You are my life. I have no other hope or source for finding true life. I praise You for Your patience with me when I try to produce a Christlike life by rules and regulations. Lord, just as You gave me life initially, please flood me now with new measures of Your life, as I humbly rely upon Your Spirit, Amen.

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« Reply #44 on: February 23, 2006, 05:33:05 AM »

February 23

The Holy Spirit and Starting Out with God

Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit . . . You must be born again.  (Joh_3:5-7)

The new life that allows us to start out with God comes through a spiritual birth that is brought forth by the Holy Spirit. "Unless one is born of . . . the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Just as man must be physically born into the human family, so man must be spiritually born into God's family. There is no other option. That is why Jesus said,"You must be born again."

The reason spiritual new birth is a necessity is because "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." Natural human birth brought about by natural human resources can only produce a life that is natural. Being a child of God involves a supernatural life that God alone can provide.

When Jesus came to secure our redemption, He was generally rejected. "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him." (Joh_1:11). Nevertheless, some realized that he was Messiah, the Anointed King and Savior sent from the Father. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (Joh_1:12).

Believing in Jesus name involves trusting in His person and His work. It encompasses relying upon who He is, what He says, and what He has done and can do. Such faith brings a unique new birth. "Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,  nor of the will of man, but of God" (Joh_1:13). This birth is from God. It cannot come by inheritance or genetics through our human bloodline. It is not available through an exercise of our human will. Neither can we have it pronounced upon us by some religious leader.

The Lord desires for us to walk in a heavenly, spiritual life, not a mere earthly, human existence. Only a birth from the Spirit of God could bring us this type of life.  "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." All genuine spirituality must come from a work of the Holy Spirit on our behalf. This is true concerning our starting out with God in new birth and justification. "You . . . were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." (1Co_6:11).  We will see in subsequent meditations that this is true concerning our going on with God in growth and sanctification.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for making me Your child, through faith in Your Son, Jesus. I praise You  for the new life Your Holy Spirit has brought to me. Help me to understand from Your word that the entire Christian experience is to be as supernatural as being born again was. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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