Did We Walk Sanctified?

December 31, 2012

Friends,
As this year rushes to a close, let’s be meditating on how we conducted ourselves throughout it. Did we act in accordance with Christ-likeness? Did we love God and others? Did we love the Truth and uphold it, proclaim it, further it, and live it? Did we hate evil and love righteousness and show this by our behavior? In other words, did we walk holy and in obedience to the Word of God?

There should be no excuse for not having done so. For if we have crossed over from death to Life (John 5:24), then we are in the sphere of Eternal Life. We are in Christ and in His Kingdom. And in that place, we are “being sanctified by the the work of the Spirit.” (See 1 Peter 1:2)

To be sanctified is not only to be set apart as sacred, but also to be cleansed (made clean and pure) by Christ in actuality. It means to be set free from sin (Rom. 6:18), set free from the old self with its sinful nature (v. 6,7 // Gal. 5:24), set free from the world (Gal. 6:14 // John 17:14,16), set free from the kingdom of darkness (Col. 1:13), and set free from the devil (John 12:31), his power (Luke 10:18,19), and his work. (1 John 3:8) It means to be set apart for God as sacred and cleansed vessels whom He can set up rule within so that we can be inhabited by Him, cherished by Him, and of use to Him. This is the Great News and our wonderful privileged position! It is a position of participation in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) by having become one in spirit with Christ (1 Cor. 6:17) so that we forever-after possess His divine power to consistently live spiritually strong and holy (v. 3 // 1 Peter 1:15 & 4:1,2 // 1 John 3:5,6,9), thus able to victoriously advance His Kingdom, not only throughout the earth, but within our own spirit.

Yes, we ourselves are to be adding to our faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, etc. (2 Peter 1:5-7), increasing in these so as to be spiritually effective and productive (v. 8 ) so that our salvation will be kept secure. (v. 10,11 & 3:17,18) We are to be progressing and growing, never stagnating, but continually bearing an abundance of fruit (John 15:2) –fruit that will last. (v. 16) God chose this for us all, and we do not want to refuse His will, or else we will be cut off. (same verses // v. 6 // Rom. 11:20-22)

Therefore, let us look back over 2012 and evaluate ourselves as to whether or not we behaved as one in-dwelt by Christ Jesus. (2 Cor. 13:5) Were we “training ourselves to be godly” (see 1 Tim. 4:7) so as to become increasingly conformed to the image of Christ? (Rom. 8:29) Did we grow in knowledge, wisdom, righteousness, and maturity as we incessantly made use of God’s Word in training ourselves to discern good from evil? (Heb. 5:12-14) Did we hear and follow (listen to and obey) the Shepherd’s voice (John 10:27) so that His Spirit could, unhindered, guide us into all Truth? (16:13) Did we allow His anointing to teach us all things (1 John 2:27) as we sought daily to know Christ better, and as we diligently pursued purity and blamelessness in God’s sight? (Phil. 1:9-11 // 1 Tim. 6:11-14)

Because, if we claim to have crossed from death to Life… if we claim to be walking in the Kingdom of God… if we claim to be in-dwelt with the Spirit… if we claim to belong to Christ… if we claim to be on our way to Heaven… then our holy conduct must be a reality. For if our claims are legitimate, then by having been thoroughly cleansed by Christ’s blood (Heb. 10:22 // 1 Peter 1:2), we will, in fact, not merely in claim, be living in accordance with this cleansing, fully able to do so because we remain in complete submission to “the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:2)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

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The Gift Of The Living Water

December 30, 2012

Friends,
Jesus coming to earth as the God-man to pay our debt of sin was God’s great Gift to mankind, for through His blood He purchased us back from the evil kingdom. All who put their trust in this Gospel cross over from that darkness to the Kingdom of Light. But God gave yet another Gift as well, One which we could not faithfully walk the road of Eternal Life without. This Gift is the indwelling Holy Spirit. And when bestowed with this Gift, we are actually baptized with Him and fire so that a spring of living water opens up within us. This is great news! A fantastic blessing!

What is the “fire”? Undoubtably, it is the power of God to walk holy and strong in the will of the Lord and through the cleansing, testing, refining, and assignments He brings us. For when Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they would receive the Gift the Father had promised (Acts 1:4), He told them that this meant they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit through whom they would receive power to be witnesses everywhere. (v. 5,8) And when John the Baptist preached about the Messiah who was coming, and that He would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16), he was also preaching about Christ’s power and His authority to purge, separate, and judge. (v. 16,17)

Whatever the “fire” means, we do know that when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, we are given all the power we need for living spiritually victorious. This means that we have boldness to proclaim the Gospel, to speak God’s Word, and to rebuke and encourage as He directs. It means that we walk in love, joy, peace, and complete righteousness. It means that we have self-control. It means that we remain calm and patient at all times, even amid uncertainty or raging chaos. It means that we walk in wisdom and are seeking Truth. It means that we sit adoringly at Christ’s feet, eager to learn, and obedient to the instructions He gives. And, it means that we have a never-ending flow of living water welling up from within us that streams out across the earth. (John 4:14 & 7:38) This spring is the Spirit (7:39), “the Gift of God” (4:10), the living water which Jesus gives (same verse) when a person comes to Him to drink. (7:37) For when Jesus gives this water, it becomes within that person “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (4:14)

Without the living water, without the stream, without the flow, there can be no cleansing. But, if we walk in the Kingdom of Light, the blood of Jesus, the spring of water, the Spirit, the Son, keeps us purified of all sin. (1 John 1:7) This is the testimony God has given us concerning His Son (5:6-10), and so by having Him, we have eternal life. (v. 11,12)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Exhort Yourself

December 29, 2012

Friends,
One of the very best habits to get into is to exhort oneself daily. This practice becomes particularly beneficial whenever a crisis, small or large, comes our way, be it a traffic jam, tension with in-laws, isolation, rejection, job loss, sickness, or something worse. For no matter the difficulty, we who have the Spirit of Christ and God within our own spirit, have Him available for drawing strength and wisdom and Truth from, and even joy. Do we not “have the mind of Christ”? (1 Cor. 2:16) We do! Then by taking all our thoughts captive to be obedient to Him (2 Cor. 10:5), we are fully capable of speaking to ourselves just what is needed for the moment.

What is it that’s needed when worry, anxiety, depression, confusion, doubt, weariness, anger, or other temptations are threatening to engulf us? What is needed is for us to exhort ourselves, reminding ourselves of God’s Word which tells us that we have a Shepherd and a Deliverer, a Rock and a Fortress, a Savior and a Counselor who is none other than the All-powerful, omniscient God who loves us and cares for us and who has promised to rescue those who call out to Him from repentant, humble, trusting hearts.

If we’ve made it a habit to exhort ourselves, then what do we say when fear’s claws grab our heart? We say something like this: “Oh, heart, don’t fear! God tells you not to fear throughout His Word, like in Josh. 1:9, Isa. 41:13, and numerous other places. Doesn’t Ps. 46:1-3 exhort you to not fear even if the world quakes or blows up?! And why? Because God is our ever-present Help! And, if it’s evil people you are having to deal with, cheer up, my soul, for Ps. 27:1-3 tells me that with the Lord as my Stronghold, even besiegement from an enemy army need not shake my heart of confidence.”

If we’ve made it a habit to exhort ourselves, then what do we say when depression creeps up, due to rejection, isolation, helplessness, or for “just no reason”? We immediately say, “Oh, soul, stop your nonsense! Stop looking at the negatives! Look up! There is your God! Your Helper! The One who turns evil into good for all who serve Him. Yes, Rom. 8:28 says so and I believe all of God’s Word. Look, soul. Look at all the good things God has done for you. Remember, heart, and count the blessings He has bestowed upon you. Start praising the Lord for having heard your cries again and again, and now thank Him and praise Him, even in song. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength, as Phil. 4:13 says you can. Therefore, you can sing even if you don’t feel like doing so. Start, and think of it as the ‘sacrifice of praise’ (Heb. 13:15), and God will not only honor you for it, but He will well it up into joy for you! For obedience to God’s commands reaps joy! I know this because I know what God’s Word says, as in Ps. 97:11 and John 15:10,11.”

If we’ve made it a habit to exhort ourselves, then what do we say when an angry spark ignites and tries to flare up? We say, “Oh, soul, you are to forgive. Think right now on all that God has forgiven you for, and so lay that anger down now at the foot of the cross. Why use up valuable time being angry?! Rom. 12:19 tells you that God takes the responsibility for avenging the oppressed. Pray for your antagonist, that God will show mercy as He judges.”

If we’ve made it a habit to exhort ourselves, then what do we say when feelings of worry, confusion, impatience, or helplessness threaten to freeze our joyful trust in God? We say, “God promises to take care of my concerns. His Word tells me to wait on Him and I will not be disappointed. God’s timing is very different than mine. God comes to the aid of those who call out to Him in trust. Soul, are you trusting God? Soul, have you repented of all known sin? Then wait. Wait in grateful praise. Extol Him for who He is, for the peace that passes all comprehension, for His eagerness to work the impossible for you. Because you are trusting, and showing you are by your patience and thanksgiving, God is about to do wonders for you. Therefore wait on Him with confidence.”

Having hid God’s Word in one’s heart (Ps. 119:11) helps a lot, for our confidence comes by resting in the Truth of His Word. This is why we need to be meditating on the Word of God, for by it we live victorious over all attacks of the evil realm. (Matt. 4:4 // Eph. 6:17) For those who know it, let’s be using it, and by the power and words of the Spirit within us (He who is eager to remind us of what it says –John 14:26), let’s understand that we are completely capable of preaching to, rebuking, encouraging, and exhorting our own selves, as well as responding to such exhortations in faith and obedience.

Praise God for this ability! For though the words of the natural man would have little effect, those of us who walk in the Spirit and in the Word, can and should, “speak the very words of God” (see 1 Peter 4:11), even if it’s ourselves we’re exhorting.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Jesus teaches us that if we say we love Him, the proof of our love is that we will be obedient to His commands. (John 14:15) He also teaches that only by seeing that we are obedient, will He and the Father (as the Spirit –v. 16-18) come to indwell us. (v. 23) The apostles taught this as well. (Acts 5:32 // Rom. 8:9 // 1 John 3:24)

The most simplistic explanation of what it means to be “obedient to God” is to “repent and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15) or, even more simply put, “to believe in Jesus.” (See John 3:15,16,36) For if anyone truly believes in Jesus (Emmanuel / God-with-us), then that person will also believe His words; and to believe His words equates to obeying them, with the renunciation of sin being the first step.

Jesus equates these two (belief and obedience) repeatedly. For example, in John 12:47, Jesus teaches about “the person who hears My words but does not keep [obey / follow / adhere to] them.” In verse 48 Jesus teaches that to fail to keep His words is to actually reject Him, for He goes on to say, “There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not accept My words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” Then in verses 49 and 50, Jesus says that His words are in exact accord with the instruction and teaching of the Father, and that this doctrine is eternal life.

In other words, Jesus is warning us that to not obey His words is to not obey the Father’s commandment (order / doctrine) concerning His Son, and that, conversely, obedience to this charge (directive / instruction) is the only way to inherit eternal life rather than condemnation.

Walking in obedience to Christ’s teachings, or not doing so, is the determinant of our eternal destination. Jesus warns of this over and over and asks, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) For as His words make clear, it is only the person who is repentant, humble, and purified (Matt. 18:3 & 19:17 & 23:12,25-33), and who puts His words into practice (Luke 6:47), who will escape eternal destruction. (v. 49)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
One way we can know that we are abiding in Christ and God’s will –meaning, walking in the Truth and the Life and living holy and Christ-like lives– is that we will be experiencing peace of mind, heart, soul, and spirit.

This does not mean that we will have peace and harmony with those walking in opposition toward God (Luke 12:51 // 2 Cor. 6:14-18), for with such people there cannot be agreement (though if the Lord chooses to keep us in their midst, He will eventually give us rest even there. –Prov. 16:7) Certainly we are to try to keep peace with everyone, as far as it depends on us (Rom. 12:18) and as we always do what is right (v. 17), but harmony is often impossible with those who are argumentative or vindictive, or who are full of pride or other sin. Even so, for the Christian within God’s will, there will be supernatural inner peace no matter what is happening around us or to us. For we’ve been given Christ’s own peace. (John 14:27) This is His promise to those of us who have His Spirit ruling within us, for His rule creates for us an existence of real righteousness, and those who walk in righteousness have peace. (Isa. 32:17)

But, for those who are unrighteous, who refuse to pay attention to God’s commands, peace will be elusive (Isa. 48:18), for, “‘There is no peace,’ says the LORD, ‘for the wicked.'” (v. 22) God repeats this statement in Isa. 57:21, and in verse 20, we read, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.” Ugh. What a person to not want to be around. Like a “tossing sea”? Never at rest and churning up slime and muck? Oh, that the wicked would see the poison and misery they dispense about them and thus run to Christ to be delivered!

There is deliverance in Christ. But we must renounce sin and come into Christ. There we must abide / stay / remain. Then we will have continual peace, for resting there in Him, we participate in His Life, His mind, and His perspective. (1 Cor. 2:16 // 2 Peter 1:3,4) What a blessing!

Do true Christians lose their peace sometimes? They do. But they do so only because they’ve disobeyed God’s Word and taken their focus off their Shepherd. God’s Word tells us to trust in the Lord (Isa. 26:4), to keep our eyes and hearts on Him (Heb. 12:2, Col. 3:1), and to keep our minds thinking on Him (Isa. 26:3), on things above (Col. 3:2), and on all things lovely and praise-worthy. (Phil. 4:8) If we do this, which we do through obedience to His Word, our peace need never be broken. For we will be abiding in Christ, and He in us.

Therefore, may we rejoice in the privilege of being one with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17), He who is “the God of peace” (Rom. 15:33), the “King of peace” (Heb. 7:2), and “the Lord of peace” (2 Thes. 3:16), and be allowing Him and His peace to continually rule our hearts (Col. 3:15) and thus our whole being — “at all times and in every way.” (2 Thes. 3:16) For doing so will mean we are abiding in Christ and God’s will, and as a result, are walking the road marked “Eternal Life”. (Matt. 7:13,14,21 & 12:50 // 1 John 2:17 & 5:20)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Dead To Self & Living Christ

December 26, 2012

Friends,
If a person is submitting to the desires of the sinful nature, that person is not saved.  That person is not going to inherit Heaven.  That person is walking in death, not Life.  Only IN Christ, is a person living in Life, for anyone who steps out from obedience to Christ, is not in Life and Light, but in death and darkness.  Jesus says it very clearly:  “Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness.”  (John 8:12)  And “Whoever follows Me will… have the light of Life.”  (same verse)

If someone is walking in sin, they are walking in darkness, thus death, and thus the road to eternal death.  Only by repenting –which means a complete turn-around and a walk in the opposite direction, from walking the death road, to walking the Life road– can a person expect to end up in Heaven.  Most of the world, including most so-called “Christians”, are under a strong delusion as they refuse to believe the plain Truth of what God’s Word teaches us.

If a “Christian” insists that he cannot help but sin, then he is denying Christ, for he is denying all that Christ came to earth to give us.  The Lord came to redeem us from all sin, all wickedness, all sinfulness, all iniquity.  (Titus 2:14)  How can it be said any clearer?  God’s grace that brings salvation has been offered to all people (v. 11) –(that means, “all people”, Calvinists!) who believe, repent, follow, and obey (Luke 13:3 // John 3:36 // Heb. 5:9), and who remain in Christ so that they have His power to do these on a continual basis forever.  (John 15:1-10 // 1 John 2:3-6)

If someone is not training themselves to be godly (1 Tim. 4:7) by being submissive to the Spirit (Rom. 8:9) so as to learn how to continually say “No” to ungodly temptations (Titus 2:12; see also Gal. 5:16-25), then such a person, by instead submitting to sinfulness, will reap eternal destruction.  (Gal. 5:19-21 & 6:8)  Gal. 5:24 makes it crystal clear:  “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”  And verses 19-21 make the contrast plain:  Those who commit “the acts of the sinful nature… will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

Will God’s Spirit dwell with a person who continues to sin?  No.  The whole Word of God tells us this over and over!  Rom. 8:13 says that those who live according to the sinful nature will die.  It contrasts this, in the same verse, with those who live by the Spirit who will live, and so, as verse 14 says, are sons of God.  It’s very clear:  Be sinful, reap eternal death.  Live in obedience to the Spirit of God, reap Eternal Life.

By living in submission to the Spirit of God and Christ, we are living Christ, not ourselves.  But we cannot live Christ if we are struggling to maintain rulership, control, and our own way.  This is why we must die.  Self must be dead.  If we truly came in to Christ, and received His Spirit, then we really did undergo a death to Self (Rom. 6:1-7), and that position, that clothing (Gal. 3:27) must be kept on.  We must abide in the Truth, walk in the Truth, and be controlled by the Truth.  This is what it means to “serve in the new way of the Spirit.”  (Rom. 7:6)

In His Word, God has told us what the Truth is.  He has told us the Truth concerning His Son.  (1 John 5:10)  “And this is the testimony:  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”  (v. 11)  If someone has the Son (v. 12) –that is, His Spirit dwelling within (John 14:21,23 // Rom. 8:9)– then that person is walking the Road of Life.  (John 11:26 & 14:6 // 1 John 5:12)  But this is impossible if someone is not living in obedience to the Spirit.  (Acts 5:32 // Rom. 6:16)  For only those who obey His commands live in Him and He in them.  (1 John 3:24)  Yes, only those who behave just as Jesus did.  (2:3-6)

It doesn’t matter what people claim.  If they live sinful lives, then they are walking in darkness.  (1 John 1:6)  To say they have fellowship with God is, at least to God, a very obvious lie.  (same verse)  A true Christian is one who has been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20), meaning –crucified to the world (6:14), crucified to law (Rom. 7:4), crucified to sin (6:2), crucified to the old Self (v. 6,7 // Col. 3:3,9,10), and crucified to the sinful nature.  (Gal. 5:24)

And by being dead to what once bound them (Rom. 7:6a), so that the power of the sinful nature was, for them, broken and demolished forever, these born-anew creations (2 Cor. 5:17) live in the new way of the Spirit.  (Rom. 7:6b)  –That is, one with Christ (1 Cor. 6:17), able to discern what is best for pure and blameless living (Phil. 1:10), filled with the fruit (acts, thoughts, deeds, results) of righteousness (v. 11), and walking in the victory of Eternal Life that/who is theirs!  (1 John 5:3-5,11)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Today as we celebrate Christ’s birth, are we “thanking God for His indescribable Gift”?  (2 Cor. 9:15)  We should be!  For God came in bodily form to live here so that He could die to pay the penalty for sin.  (Col. 1:19,20)  This pardon is more immense than we can fathom, for mankind’s vileness and rejection of Him and His ways are more wicked than we seem to realize.  May we therefore seek to better understand what He has in fact done for us so that we can be more appropriately grateful and serve and worship Him with all our hearts!

It was while we were still sinners that Christ our Lord died for us.  (Rom. 5:8)  He did this to prove His love for us (same verse // 1 John 4:9,10) and so that we need no longer be powerless before sin (Rom. 5:6 & 6:17), but instead have all the power we need to reject sin as we live through Him (1 John 4:9 & 5:3-5) and He through us!  (Gal. 2:20)  This grace, privilege, and Life, within this Person, is the indescribable Gift God has given to the (otherwise condemned) human race.  But, the Gift must be believed in, accepted, and appropriated –continually.

Here is one of my favorite songs that captures some of the beauty and wonder of God’s marvelous Gift to us:

May we all give Him exceedingly grateful praise for what He’s done!

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel