Grace for Grace

Being saved by grace through faith (Ep 2:8), we might think salvation‘s all there is to grace. What else could we possibly need once we’re eternally safe?

Well, there’s so much more to salvation than being saved from Hell. Justification occurs the instant we trust Christ (Ep 1:13), believing on Him, fully persuaded that He’s paid our sin debt in full (Ro 4:21), and it’s certainly a key step in the salvation process. Yet there’s much more; we’re on an eternal journey into oneness with God Himself. (Jn 17:21)

The Way is one of sanctification, being set apart as holy in God, by God and for God. (1Co 1:30) This is why Christ set Himself apart to die for us (19), that we also might sanctified, holy, set apart, transformed into His likeness through the Word of truth. (17) There’s no other way to God. (He 12:14)

So, as we’re saved by grace, we’re also sanctified — equipped to live in God and for God, by grace, which is the enabling, the ability or power to seek God and live for Him. The divine life is impossible for us all on our own, yet abundant, inexhaustible grace (power and ability) is given — made available — to each and every believer (Ep 4:7), gifts enabling us to be more like Christ (8) in as many ways as we desire. (1Co 12:31a)

The power to live for God is truly at our disposal; it’s phenomenal, resurrection-level power (Ep 1:19-20a), and it’s ours for the taking. Just as we’re saved by faith, we access this sanctifying grace by faith. (Col 2:6-7)

Believing Christ lives in us and through us, by His power (grace) we expect Him to deliver us from sin, lies and our old man, and so He does as He promises. (1Co 1:9)

This grace to continuously reach out in Christ to access the grace we need from Christ to walk with Christ … is also from Christ (Ro 5:2): we need ability (grace) from God to appropriate the power (grace) to live for God.

In other words, we’ve already received all of Christ we’ll ever need, yet we also need from Christ grace for grace (Jn 1:16): God must enable us to appropriate the power He’s already given us to live for Him. So, this is what He provides; He gives us everything we need to live for Him, if we’re willing to seek Him out and receive Him. (2Co 6:1)

The opportunity before each of us is unfathomable — what shall we do with it? Shall the gift of the grace of God, given unto us by the effectual working of His power (Ep 3:7), be in vain? (1Co 15:10a) Only if we neglect to seek out the grace we need to walk in the power we already have to live for God; only if we’re content having divine power at our disposal, but never actually laying hold of it. How shall it go for those who neglect so great salvation? (He 2:3)

Let’s seek from Christ the grace we need to live for God, believing His life in us equips us in every way to actually live in victory for Him.

And as we find this grace in Christ and do actually overcome for Him, we know it isn’t merely us walking worthy of God, but the grace of God which is with us. (1Co 15:10b) By grace let’s live out the mystery and the miracle: Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)

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Vessels of Mercy

Predestination and election are difficult to understand until we diligently consider the context — the dreadfully sinful human condition: Man’s Depravity. Apart from carefully integrating this concept throughout our theology, many fundamental precepts of Scripture appear hopelessly irreconcilable.

For example, how can God choose who will be saved while respecting Man’s Free Will? Similarly, How can a loving God be in total control when there’s so much evil and suffering? These are perhaps the hardest questions, and they aren’t peripheral; they’re fundamental spiritual bedrock. We can’t afford to dismiss them, yet resolving such mysteries seems impossible. Many stumble here, and go no further.

Yet God Himself gives us the key by addressing the problem directly, asking these same questions, and then answering them. God’s purpose in election will be realized (Ro 9:11) yet God will be totally righteous in it all (14), because God’s not obligated to be merciful (15) — by definition: mercy is undeserved, never justly required.

The reality is, if God didn’t elect anyone, choose anyone to be saved, and He let us all go our own way — we would: every last one of us would walk away from Him; we would not come to Him. (Mt 22:3) This would be fair, certainly, but then Heaven would be desolate (Lk 14:16-18a), and the world filled with even more evil and suffering than it already is. (Ge 6:5) This is what Depravity teaches us (11), if we listen. (Je 17:9)

So, if God chooses to intervene in a few of us, choosing us out from the masses and giving us new hearts and new wills that don’t run away, He’s showing mercy in election, not being unjust.

God never actually turns anyone away who seeks Him, or causes anyone to do evil; He controls by mercifully restraining us from acting out our full evil nature according to His sovereign purposes. (2Th 2:7) There’s nothing at all inappropriate about restraining evil; so, God’s in absolute control of all that happens (Ep 1:11), yet He’s also perfectly good, just and merciful; He’s righteous and holy in all He does. (Ps 145:17)

In giving us new hearts God doesn’t force us against our will; what He does in His elect is heal our will, displacing our love of lies, which moved us to distrust and despise Him, with a love for truth; He works in us to will according to His good pleasure (Php 2:13), such that we begin to want to do good. He works all this in us for our good and for His glory. (Ro 8:28)

The only remaining challenge here is: Why doesn’t God save everyone if He has this ability? The answer lies in God’s glory: He’s most glorified in fully revealing His nature, His wrath and power as well as His love and mercy. (Ro 9:22-23) If God didn’t let most all of His enemies act like enemies, and treat them as He does, we’d know much less about Him, so that’s exactly what He’s doing; God is perfectly revealing and glorifying Himself by only saving a few. (Re 15:3)

Rather than faulting God for being absolutely sovereign, and for choosing only a remnant to be saved, we ought to let all the blame for evil lie where it truly belongs: with sinful Man, and glorify God for His mercy. (Ro 15:9) Rather than complaining and running away, we seek God until we find Him (He 11:6), and discover that we’re indeed elect, vessels of divine mercy. (Ro 9:23)

And in being vessels of infinite mercy (Ps 103:11), undeserving recipients of God’s kindness, love and favor, we also ought to be merciful (Lk 6:36), to be compassionate toward those who are out of the way (He 5:2), esteeming others better than ourselves. (Php 2:3)

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Thy Judgments Are Right

The goodness of God ensures His judgements are right (Ps 119:75); the righteous understand that any affliction or punishment He prescribes is perfectly appropriate, faithful and just, more than deserved. (67,71) To resist or complain when God afflicts us is to defiantly reject His goodness and claim He’s inherently malevolent and evil; it’s exalting ourselves above God, arrogant presumption of the highest order (Ps 19:13), insisting we know better. (Ge 3:22)

This includes all those suffering everlasting punishment (Mt 25:46); to believe in God and receive Him from there, from Hell itself, which the wicked should certainly still do (Re 22:17), is to acknowledge that all divine punishments are appropriate in response to offenses and crimes committed against God; the wicked shouldn’t complain against or resist the wrath of God, even from Hell. (Re 15:4) They should exclaim with all Heaven that God’s judgments are true and right. (Re 16:7)

However, the wicked will not do this (Ge 4:13), because the very wellspring of wickedness is the belief that God is not good, that He is unjust. (Ge 3:5) Even to escape the fires of Hell itself, the wicked won’t repent of this sin against God; they’ll stubbornly persist in it. (Re 6:16)

Consider the story Christ tells of a rich man in Hell, lifting up his eyes in torment, pleading with Abraham to relieve him in his misery. (Lk 16:23-24) He plays on mercy to tempt the righteous to do what God will not do, and thereby admit God’s justice is too severe. Yet Abraham aligns with God and refuses, reminding the rich man of his sins against God and Man, having profoundly neglected the helpless in their earthly suffering (21), and of the righteous consequences. (25)

The rich man’s next move is to again beg Abraham to do something else God will not do: send someone back from the dead just to warn his family to flee the wrath to come. (27-28) This is a second attack upon God, directed at His self-revelation, claiming it’s insufficient, again implying His punishments are unjust. Abraham again refuses, pointing out that his family has perfectly sufficient proof of God’s character and expectation: God has plainly revealed Himself in Torah and the Prophets. (29)

The rich man persists in his denial of the sufficiency of God’s provision, insisting that his family would repent and be saved if they witnessed such a spectacular miracle. (30) This is a third arrogant attack upon God, directed at His knowledge of Man: his presumption is that God is misinformed, that we’re mostly reasonable people, his family in particular, undeserving of eternal punishment; we simply lack sufficient warning to live in light of eternity. Yet Abraham remains faithful: God knows Man’s depraved heart and is revealing Himself to mankind accordingly.  (31)

What would God do if the wicked softened their hearts in Hell and acknowledged His goodness? If we know God well we know how He’d respond: His mercy is infinite toward those who fear Him. (Ps 103:11)

Why won’t the wicked honor God then, even from Hell? Why would anyone ever deliberately sin against God? This is indeed the true mystery, the mystery of iniquity (2Th 2:7): the desperate wickedness of Man; the godly are horrified by it; we may never fully understand it. (Je 17:9)

In repentance, regardless of our suffering at God’s hands (La 3:9), we admit to receiving the due reward of our deeds (Lk 23:41) and heed God’s warning to flee the wrath to come. (Lk 3:7) This is God’s gift to all who are willing to acknowledge that He is, and that He faithfully rewards all who diligently seek Him. (He 11:6)

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How Can Ye Believe?

Christ asks how we can believe in God when we’re more concerned about Man’s approval than God’s? (Jn 5:44) The implication is we can’t: before we can believe in God we must be seeking God’s kingdom and pleasure first and foremost as a manner of life. (He 11:6) If we’re out to please others we aren’t servants of Christ (Ga 1:10); and if we aren’t obeying Christ we aren’t seeking Him – we’re His enemies, headed for destruction. (Php 3:18-19)

This follows from the fact that esteeming Man’s approval above God’s is to trust unfaithful sinners more than the Holy One; it’s believing in Man rather than God, disvaluing God by serving the creature more than the Creator. (Ro 1:25) So, preferring the praise of men is unbelief in God by definition.

This begs the question: what other conditions preclude us from having saving faith? Any disposition to sin intentionally, on purpose, means we don’t fear God (Ro 3:18): we don’t revere Him as our King. This also is to mistrust Him, to reject Him, to disbelieve in Him. Salvation is far from such a heart. (Ps 119:155)

Is believing in and trusting God even something we can decide to do? Is this subject to the power of our will at all? (Ro 9:16) Believing God exists is certainly a necessary first step, but that’s not the same as believing in Him, trusting Him, receiving Him as He has revealed Himself to be. (Jn 1:12-13)

Suppose a man stretches a tightrope across Niagara Falls and balances a wheelbarrow across the raging torrents. To cheering spectators he yells, “Do you believe I can push a man across in this wheelbarrow?”

How do you respond?  Can you make yourself believe? Is this an act of your will, like scratching your nose? Maybe you figure he can, so you nod in subtle agreement, but then, pointing directly at you he commands: “Get in!”

Ah! Now we’ll see if you believe! Perhaps you’d be willing to risk your life, but if you’re shaking like a leaf … if you have any doubt at all (Mk 11:23), any hesitation at all (Ja 1:6), any fear at all, this isn’t trust, belief – faithFaith is knowing you’re safer in that wheelbarrow than anywhere else in the universe – perfectly secure, chill enough to fall asleep. That isn’t something you can just will yourself into knowing. Faith in God is a miracle: it’s supernatural assurance. (He 10:22)

Consider, if placing saving faith in God is an act of our will then it’s a work; for if an act of the will isn’t a work, then nothing is a work. Acts of our will are works by definition.

However, believing on God saves us from sin (Ge 15:6), yet no work can save anyone from sin. (Tit 3:5) Since no work can save anyone from sin, experiencing saving faith in God can’t be our work; so faith can’t be an act of our will; this must be the work of God. (Jn 6:29)

Yet God commands us to repent and believe on Christ (Ac 17:30), so how can this not be an act of our will?

Well, God requires us to be perfect (Mt 5:48); this isn’t an action, but a state of being from which our actions originate, and one clearly beyond our reach. (Pr 30:29) God’s command doesn’t imply our ability; it’s righteous for God to demand perfection of us: He can’t rightly accept anything less. (Eze 18:20)

The reality is that faith and repentance aren’t things we do, or actions we take, but characteristics of our state of being as we’re transformed by God; they’re two sides of the same coin (Ac 20:21) – both are gifts of right beliefs, affections and desires, a new heart, a Godward disposition. We don’t do faith, we have faith … to trust and obey God when our blind heart is healed to see and know Him more as He truly is.

And to repent, to stop believing lies, to have faith and start believing truth, God must intervene: He must give us repentance and faith so we can identify and dismiss the lies as we acknowledge the truth. (2Ti 2:25) So, while God may command us to be a certain way (1Pe 1:15-16), this doesn’t imply that we’re actually able to obey; our will is broken and corrupt. (Je 13:23)

Faith is rooted in the divine nature from which godly action springs (Ja 2:18): what we need in order to believe in God is a new nature (Ga 6:15), and we just can’t decide to have one.

Our inability to align with holiness lies in our being in a state of unbelief and enmity against God (Ro 8:7); in this state we deliberately choose patterns of disobedience which further enslave our will. We are, in our broken state, eating the fruit of our own way and being filled with our own devices. (Pr 1:31) Engaging sin leads to deeper bondage, the continual weakening of our ability to resist sin and choose good. God isn’t responsible for this condition, for our inability to choose good: we are.

Alienation from God is the result of our own ignorance and blindness (Ep 4:18), which comes upon us as we reject the light (Jn 3:36) and respond inappropriately to God. (Ro 1:21) In blindness we make more choices which alienate us even farther from God (Ps 73:27), leading to ever deeper sin and bondage (Ro 1:24), such that we’re continually becoming more irrational, confused, deceived, believing more and more lies about God, others and ourselves. (2Ti 3:13)

We can no more escape this spiraling descent into bondage and corruption through the effort of our own will than a rotting corpse can raise itself up from the grave (Ep 5:14), or the non-existent can conceive and birth themselves (Jn 3:7), or the wicked can give themselves new hearts (Ez 18:31) – yet God requires this of us.

God isn’t cruel to command the impossible – He does this in mercy, as a promise: if we hear His command, humble ourselves and seek life from Him (Ps 119:107), trusting He’s faithful (1Co 1:9), He quickens us (Col 2:13), conceives us with the truth by an act of His own will (Ja 1:18), and gives us new spirits and hearts (Ez 36:26) which delight in His Law. (Ro 7:22)

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Theirs Is the Kingdom

Who are the children of God? Who will dwell eternally with Him? Am I one of these blessed souls? Are you?

We’ve been asking this question for millennia (Ps 15:1), and God’s been answering (2), but it’s easy to miss Him if we aren’t seeking. (Ro 10:16)

As Christ begins His public ministry, He gives us a window into this precious company of eternal souls, telling us what we’re like, how to begin to identify us. He doesn’t describe those with a particular theology or doctrine; rather, Christ shows us what we believe by describing our behavior, how we live. (Mt 7:20)

He begins with the poor in spirit (Mt 5:2): we who, finding ourselves entirely insufficient to meet God’s righteous standard on our own merit (Ro 7:18), to please Him in any way in our own strength (2Co 2:16), to even think clearly without Him – find God Himself to be our sufficiency. (2Co 3:5) We enter into His rest by faith. (He 4:10)

Note this well: these blessed souls, the poor in spirit, comprise the kingdom of God: in other words, all in God’s kingdom are poor in spirit, and no one else is – the kingdom is ours. (Mt 5:2b)

He continues to describe these precious souls – God calls us saints (Ep 1:1) – as those who mourn (Mt 5:4), who grieve as God’s law is broken (Ps 119:158), especially within the church. (1Co 5:2) Saints find no ease in the midst of sin (1Co 13:6); we’re afflicted in it, we mourn and weep over sin, both within and without. (Ja 4:9) As we do, we’re comforted: Christ is our sin, and He’s making us righteous. (2Co 5:21) He’s also restraining sin in the wicked according to His perfect will and plan (Ps 76:10), so we thank Him in and for everything. (Ep 5:20)

Christ continues to describe the blessed: we’re meek (Mt 5:5), submitted to God and obedient to Him (1Pe 1:2); we hunger and thirst after righteousness (Mt 5:6), continually pursuing the living God and wanting to be more like Him (Ro 2:7); we’re merciful (Mt 5:7), rejoicing when others repent and turn from their sin. (Lk 15:10); we’re pure in heart (Mt 5:8), cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2Co 7:1); we’re peacemakers (Mt 5:9), encouraging every soul around us to align with the eternal God. Consequently, we’re also persecuted (Mt 5:10), we don’t fit in with the world because we’re no longer of it. (Jn 15:19)

When we find God at work in our souls like this, conforming us to the image of His beloved Son, we confirm we’re blessed, bound for eternity with God: ours is the kingdom – it belongs to us, and no one else. (Ep 5:5-6)

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Made Righteous

The brilliance of the Gospel is that God is righteous and just, yet also the justifier of a sinner believing in Jesus. (Ro 3:26)

The key to unlocking this mystery lies in the concept of a Federal Head: by being in an ancestor we inherit their inward nature, and as that nature manifests in our own behavior we also inherit the standing of that ancestor before God. (1Co 15:22) In that sense we all have a federal representative before God; as he stands or falls before God, so do we.

All of us were born in Adam; he’s our common ancestor, and a sinner; when he sinned in the Garden we were there in Him, participating with him in that sinful act, and we died in him when he died. (Ro 5:17)

Not only did we inherit guilt for the original sin by being in our father Adam, we also inherited his evil nature, such that we all start out voluntarily engaging in sinful acts just like he did: we are all made sinners. (Ro 5:19) All of us start out in Adam as children of wrath just like everyone else (Ep 2:3), the god of this world operating in and through us (vs 2) as he pleases. (Jn 8:44a) We each start out this way, with Adam representing us before God as a sinner.

Yet just as we’re initially born sons of Adam, in receiving Christ we become sons of God. (Jn 1:12) This is no more an act on our part than being born physically is; being born of God (vs 13), conceived and begotten by Him according to His own will with the word of truth (Ja 1:18), is an act of God imparting life to us (Ep 2:5), moving us to trust in Him and love Him, as He becomes one with us. (1Co 6:17)

The sons of God are now in Christ, having a new federal Head, no longer in Adam; since Christ has perfect standing before God, so now also do we who believe. (Ro 8:1) Just as we were guilty in Adam’s sin, we are now innocent and pure before God in Christ because of Christ’s obedience, being made the righteousness of God in Him (2Co 5:21), counted perfectly righteous through the perfect obedience of Christ. (Ro 5:19)

Further, as we were all made actual sinners through the offense of Adam, such that we all inherited his evil nature and participated in it through voluntary acts of disobedience, so we who believe in Christ also inherit the holy nature of Christ such that we voluntarily walk in righteousness (Ro 5:19), set apart by the Spirit unto obedience. (1Pe 1:2)

Christ justly becomes our federal Head as we believe in Him, representing us before God and containing us within Himself, because He is willing to die in our place and become our sin when He has no sin of His own. (2Co 5:21) He is punished as a sinner when He is not a sinner; so the justice of God is honored as He justifies believers. In believing on Christ we experience a divine transaction, the exchange of our guilt for His righteousness: God sees the innocent travail of Christ and is satisfied on our behalf. (Is 53:11)

God is not unjust to receive us as righteous, even though we were born in Adam, because we have now been born spiritually into a new federal Representative: Christ Himself; we inherit His perfect righteousness as well as His righteous nature — while Christ becomes an offense to God on our behalf, and suffers everything we deserve for our sin. So, God can be just, and the justifier of anyone who believes in Jesus. (Ro 3:26)

Federal headship is both positional and practical – we recognize our position in Christ through the ongoing transformation of our inward nature into the likeness of Christ by the power of God. (2Co 5:17) Only being made a new creation in Christ can put us in right relationship with God. (Ga 6:15) The one we are in, who represents us before God, either Adam or Christ, and our nature and behavior, disobedient or obedient (Ro 2:6-8) — it all goes together; the one does not exist without the other. (Mt 12:33)

It is of God that we’re in Christ (1Co 1:30); salvation is a miracle we can’t live without. (Mt 19:26) The gospel is simply amazing, something no one could possibly invent: the wisdom of God in a mystery, which He ordained before the world unto our glory, and His. (1Co 2:7)

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To Be Saved

The question of the ages: “What must I do to be saved?” (Ac 16:30) has a straightforward answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (31) Salvation isn’t complicated; little children can get this.

Yet, as simple as this is, we may miss it by changing believe on Jesus for something else. For example, we could say as Billy Graham did, believing on Jesus means repenting of our sins, asking Christ to come into our hearts and save us, and committing our lives to serve Him.

Just one little problem: no one in the Bible was saved like this, and in the end it didn’t even work for Dr. Graham himself (he had no assurance of Heaven). With the world ablaze in the wrath of God (Ro 1:18) and nowhere to hide (Re 20:11), we can’t afford to get this wrong.

To help us understand, God describes believing on Christ from multiple angles. It’s receiving Christ as He claimed to be (Jn 1:12a), believing on His name (b) … totally convinced He will do as He says He will do (Ro 4:21), that He’s trustworthy and perfectly good. (Ep 1:13) It means entering into His rest (He 4:3), ceasing from dependence upon our own works to gain acceptance with God (10), trusting implicitly in the finished work of Christ for our redemption (1Th 1:4-5a), the total payment of our sin debt to God. (Is 53:11)

God says we must be born again (Jn 3:7), conceived by God (Ja 1:18), quickened by the Holy Spirit (Ep 2:5), made a new creation. (Ga 6:15) We’re saved by grace through faith (Ep 2:8), supernatural confidence that only comes from the enabling power of God. This is a miracle, not a human work (Jn 1:13); only God can do this, with Man it’s impossible. (Mk 10:27)

So, if we don’t have supernatural assurance in the finished work of Christ, resting confidently in Him as our only hope of eternal salvation, trusting Him and believing in Him as He has called us to, knowing we are as safe from the wrath of God as Jesus Christ Himself, this then is our greatest need. Let us not go back to a memory of praying to receive Christ, or pray again to receive Him now, but let us look to the cross itself (1Co 2:2), asking God to reveal the Lamb of God to us (Jn 1:29), to give us faith in His blood. (Ro 3:25) Let us seek the Lord until we find Him (He 11:6), striving to enter the narrow gate, until we know He has borne our sins in His own body on the tree, and has set us eternally right with God. (1Pe 2:24)

Give diligence to make your calling and election sure – we cannot accept “not sure” for an answer. (2Pe 1:10) His death is available to us all (2Co 5:15) that we may know for certain that we have eternal life. (1Jn 5:13)

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Lay Hold

Paul tells Timothy, an earnest Christian, to lay hold on eternal life (1Ti 6:12), and to encourage others to do the same. (vs 17-19) Why should we do this, lay hold on eternal life, if we know we already have eternal life? (1Jn 5:13) Why lay hold on what we can never lose? (2Ti 4:18)

For one, it’s exceedingly unwise to presume we have eternal salvation unless our lives are consistently reflecting this reality (He 6:9), proving it experientially (2Co 13:5), as we’re earnestly pursuing the living God (Php 3:12), to know Him more deeply, to obey Him more consistently, and to love Him more passionately. (2Pe 1:5-7) Those who are complacent in their walk with God, comfortable in this world and focused on it, are actually enemies of the cross, headed for destruction. (Php 3:18-19)

It’s good for us to intentionally and firmly grasp the salvation of God (Mt 11:12), to strive to enter the kingdom (Lk 13:24), to cleave to God and His redemption as our only hope, the precious anchor of our souls. (He 6:19) Our old man takes for granted the infinite mercy shown us in Christ, the incomprehensible price paid for our redemption (Ro 8:32), forgets we’ve been purged from our old sins, loses sight and perspective, and would pull us back into dullness and blindness. (2Pe 1:8-9)

Laying hold of eternal life is laying hold of Christ Himself: He is our life. (Col 3:4) It’s abiding in Him (Jn 15:4), partaking of Him (He 3:14), grounding ourselves in the promises and nature of God (Ep 3:17-19), continually reminding ourselves of His way and word. (Col 3:16) Those who won’t abide in Christ are trodden down (Ps 119:118) and cast away. (Jn 15:6)

Ultimately, laying hold of eternal life is letting go of everything else (Php 3:7-8) that we may know Him. (Jn 17:3)

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Like a Lost Sheep

Sheep may be the most defenseless, vulnerable creatures on earth; they tend to die when they roll over, unable to get up, and when they get lost, since their primary defense is in being part of a herd. The very brain of the sheep is hardwired to follow other sheep, so isolated sheep become agitated, and when one sheep goes off in a bad direction, the rest will likely follow.

We’re all like sheep in that we’ve all gone astray, turned from the right way, to live our own way. (Is 53:6) Even the godly Psalmist admits this (Ps 119:176a), asking Jehovah, his shepherd (Ps 23:1), to seek him (Ps:119:176b), grounding his request in the fact that he has kept hold of God’s commandments; he has not forgotten them. (176c)

Asking God to seek us when we aren’t keeping His commands in our hearts, trying to obey Him the best we know how, is nonsense — like a man pleading to be rescued while resisting and fending off his rescuer, trying desperately to get away — it’s a contradiction. We don’t even want to be found if we’re not already obeying God the best we know how; this kind of seeking is just the carnal mind playing tricks, not wanting to be reconciled with God at all, just wanting to avoid the tragic consequences of rebellion. (Ge 4:13)

Yet we can easily go astray, even as we’re keeping God’s commands in view. We can be dull in our understanding of God’s Way (Ps 73:22), unable to fully perceive even as we’re trying our best (1Co 8:2), incapable of detecing our own blind spots. (Re 3:17) Ignorance not only blinds us (Ep 4:18), it blinds us to our very blindness. (Jn 9:40-41)

In our lostness we’re thus truly lost; like a lost sheep, we’re utterly unable to find our way back to God on our own. (Ro 7:24) We’ve only one hope: that God Himself will rescue us (25a) as we serve His law with our minds as best we can (25b), in spite of the insidious nature of our old man. (25c) It’s not a vain hope though, it’s a valid one: God finds all who seek Him. (He 11:6)

Seeking God is seeking truth wherever we can find it: in the Word, in science, in history, and in others. Thoughtful perspective in others is particularly helpful; all of us see things a bit differently, perceiving things about each other and the world that the rest of us miss. We should value differing opinion like gold, asking others to challenge our thinking and looking carefully at their reasoning. What are we still missing? The slightest indication that we aren’t fully aligned with reality at every level of our consciousness is a window to more truth; we should jump at the opportunity to climb through it.

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According to Our Works

In one sense, there are only two eternal destinations: Heaven and Hell, no third option. (Mt 25:46) So the chosen strive to enter Heaven (Lk 13:24), seeking the Lord for eternal salvation until they have it. (He 11:6) We can’t afford to get this wrong. (Mt 16:26)

But this dual nature of eternity can be misleading; in only two possible general outcomes, we might fail to see the many possibilities within each one: there’s surely joy in every heavenly place (Jud 24), and sorrow throughout Hell, but some heavenly states are much more desirable than others (Mt 5:19), and some hellish places far worse than others. (Mt 11:24)

Scripture is clear that we’ll all be recompensed based on our behavior (2Co 11:15); those who’ve done good will be resurrected to life, and those who’ve done evil will be raised unto damnation. (Jn 5:28-29) It isn’t that we can earn salvation by being good, but those who know God love Him (1Pe 2:7), and do their best to please Him. All the saints will receive a reward (2Ti 4:8), yet some of us serve God better than others, and will get a better reward for our labor; it makes a difference how we live. (Ep 6:8)

Christ will repay each and every one of us according to our works (Mt 16:27); so, as there are degrees of good and evil, there will also be degrees of rewards (Mt 5:19) and punishments. (Lk 12:47-48a)

To the degree that our works are deficient, corrupt, tainted with wrong motives, even as believers in Heaven we suffer loss. (1Co 3:13-15) And if we’re actually despising the truth, headed for Hell (Ro 2:8), we’d be much better off if we’d never known the truth at all. (2Pe 2:21)

The boundaries of both Heaven and Hell lie in the infinitude of God Himself. His fury can address the deepest depravity, of Satan himself, and His delight the purest heart, that of Christ Himself. He is capable of giving the saints more than the very best of us can possibly fathom or enjoy (1Co 2:9), and is able to crush His enemies (Lk 20:18) with a fierceness and indignation that even the most rebellious heart cannot endure. (Na 1:6)

Though we aren’t saved by works (Ep 2:8-9), how we live each day does make an eternal difference (Mt 10:42); whatever we sow we reap (Ga 6:7); the more we sow the more we reap, whether for good or evil. Every single choice is thus an eternal one.

Run for a reward in God (1Co 9:26); He calls us to run that we may obtain (1Co 9:24), so run with all your might — for this reward is God Himself. (Ge 15:1, Php 3:8)

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