Foolish Questions

We’re commanded to avoid foolish questions (Tit 3:9); so, not all questions are good. To understand the difference between foolish questions and wise questions (Ep 5:16), we ask: What kinds of questions are foolish? This particular question isn’t foolish; it’s wisdom.

The context is profitability (Tit 3:9b), implying a way to measure and evaluate questions. Is the question profitable? depends on what we value. To ask meaningful questions we must have a proper motive and direction to orient our asking.

So, when we’re considering a question, a good question to ask is: Why the question? What’s the goal, or objective, in asking?

Is the atheist seeking to destroy another’s faith or value system? Or distracting from the soul-wound they’ve been using to justify their hatred and dismissal of God? Or searching out an explanation to resolve what seems insurmountable inconsistency, extreme lack of credibility hiding behind the façade of religion?

Is the church-goer showing off, looking for respect, to be valued for their knowledge of scripture? Are they looking to generate controversy and cause divisions and offenses? (Ro 16:17) Or looking to avoid responsibility by casting doubt on instructions and raising up controversy? Or trying to learn and understand, so they can rightly order their thoughts and actions?

Is the biblical scholar ever asking, ever learning, yet never able to come to the knowledge of the truth? (2Ti 3:7) Are we content with theological exercises and pontifications, ducking relational responsibility, ignoring sins of the heart? Are we content piling up knowledge, without regard to the poor (Ga 2:10), the fatherless, orphan and widow?

Or are we asking so we can deliver ourselves from the bondage of our lies (2Ti 2:25-26), freeing ourselves to serve more effectively, more joyfully and fruitfully, equipping ourselves unto love and good works? (Tit 3:14)

If we’re after God and His kingdom (Mt 6:33), if we fear God and want to please Him (Pr 1:7), our questions should bring us closer to God, into more alignment with Him, more obedience to Him, more love for Him.

Jesus asked a lot of questions; we can learn from watching Him. He was always pointing others to the kingdom of God. His questions penetrated hearts and exposed motives, helping us see our need for Him and pointing us toward a more perfect knowledge of His Way.

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Friend

When Judas was in the very act of betraying Christ, Christ knew exactly what Judas was up to, how wicked it was, and how much pain and suffering it would bring upon Himself. Christ saw Judas coming toward Him in the garden of Gethsemane, temple guards in tow, to betray the Son of Man with a kiss.

The Passion of the Christ

Judas was committing, in all likelihood, most evil act in all of human history. Nothing else compares to it, betraying the perfectly innocent, precious Son of God to crucifixion and death. Jesus had already warned, The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.” (Mk 14:21) This was evidently a peculiarly unique and wicked sin. No other act is ever described in such grave terms.

Yet, as evil as this act was, as sold out to Satan himself as Judas Iscariot was at that moment (Lk 22:3), Christ addresses Judas as His friend. (Mt 26:49-50) Christ extends the offer of friendship one last time, as if to give Judas one final opportunity to be honest with himself, and with Christ, before they took Him away.

This may be the greatest example of fulfilling Christ’s own command, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mt 5:44) We’re to bless those who wrong us, do good to them, wish them well, not decide what their punishment should be or wish them any harm. If we truly believe God is perfectly just, and also perfectly merciful, we’ll not hesitate to leave all in His hands.

It’s not that we shouldn’t acknowledge sinful behavior for what it is, or protect ourselves and those we love from abuse, but when God calls us to suffering, we should not retaliate. We should be praying for our enemies and seeking their welfare, regardless what they’re up to.

When we behold the wicked, it’s so tempting to allow unrighteous indignation to well up within us, as if we’d never do such things, and begin to posture ourselves as knowing what they deserve and wishing it upon them. But this disposition doesn’t spring from humility and love; it isn’t Christ in us. It springs from the lie that God is unjust, that we can do better. We can’t. God is good, only God is good, and He is always good.

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His Own Purpose

Humans are distinct from animals in that we must have purpose in our lives, meaning, a reason to be alive. We act as if we’re aware that we’re designed with some objective in mind, and that we expect to be evaluated according to some standard, related to how well we’ve realized our purpose.

The existence of a design standard further implies someone, the Grand Designer, Who is evaluating us, and that there are real consequences for neglecting or resisting our design, rewards and punishments involved in this life and the next, due to our performance. (Php 2:12) This is all instinctive, built deeply into our very physiology; we know it’s true, and we can’t escape it. (Ro 1:20)

To pretend we are the ultimate judge of ourselves is to miss the whole point; we didn’t design ourselves so we can’t give ourselves purpose. We know the standard isn’t arbitrary, it’s not something we can simply make up as we go. And no other created person can tell us our purpose any more than we can.

We may try to obtain some semblance of meaning by taking up responsibility, putting ourselves together and trying to make the world a better place. The fact this actually works is telling; it must be somewhat aligned with our true purpose. (1Ti 5:8) If there weren’t an ultimate Designer, this might be the best we could do.

Yet our instincts reflect reality; we’re fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), and it’s our Creator Who gives us meaning: if God says we’re missing the point in some way, ignoring this isn’t helpful. God is love, and His design is best.

God has set specific, unique objectives for each of us (Ep 2:10); this is our calling, which we must discover in Him and pursue. (2Ti 1:9) It’s an invitation to challenge and adventure, to discover beauty and fulfillment of indescribable value; though there are shadows all about us pointing us to this reality, there’s no earthly parallel.

The genius of God’s Way is that it not only perfectly suits our individual design, it places each believer within the context of a cosmic team, part of a divine body pursuing an eternal goal together, for which we’re all perfectly suited. We aren’t struggling through this life, enduring all its suffering and malevolence, alone. (1Pe 5:8-9)

It is only within this context that suffering itself can truly be called a gift (Php 1:29), when we’re voluntarily suffering for a higher purpose. (Mt 5:11-12) What He has called us to is unspeakable glory in Him. (Ro 8:18) Perfect fulfillment and satisfaction on every conceivable level.

Christ, our perfect example (1Pe 2:21), perfectly exemplified how to find and fulfill our purpose: He didn’t come to make everyone happy, or even Himself (Ro 15:3); He came to do His Father’s will, and to finish His work. (Jn 4:34) In the same way, we’re to prove the will of God for ourselves, and then do it. (Ro 12:2)

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Dead Unto Sin

God says, “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Ro 6:11) What does He mean?

When we’re dead we’re unresponsive; we don’t interact with the world or function within it any longer.

To be dead unto sin then is to be beyond its reach, no longer subject to its appeal, disinterested in its enticements, to say as Christ did, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” (Jn 14:30) It’s natural to ask then, How might we attain to such a state?

Yet this is evidently the wrong question for the believer: God’s telling us we already have attained to this state; we’re to reckon this to be true, acknowledge it, and live accordingly. The right question to ask is then, How do I identify that part of me that’s dead to sin? How does that part of me live my life, and not the rest of me?

Paul identifies part of himself, the flesh, offering nothing good; it doesn’t equip him to do anything good he wants to do. (Ro 7:18) So, there’s a part of him which wants to obey God, which knows what’s right, an inward man which delights in God’s Law (22), which he calls his mind, and a different part (the flesh) which wars against the good part. (23)

So, we might think of ourselves as having a sort of dual personality, two different versions of us which behave very differently under the same conditions. (Ro 7:19) We might also think of a set of beliefs as a personality which embodies these beliefs; it’s a perfectly reasonable way to describe it. (Pr 1:20-23)

So, we might think of our flesh, the carnal mind (Ro 6:7-8), or the old man (Ep 4:22), as that body of lies to which we’re still clinging, either intellectually or perhaps emotionally or subconsciously, due to wrong teaching, being emotionally biased because of a wound or carnal desire harbored within us, etc. Whatever the root symptom, the underlying substance is the lie.

Putting off the old man, and being renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ep 4:22-23), is then to rid ourselves of these lies and to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Ro 12:2), such that we’re progressively walking more and more fully in the Way, the Truth and the Life – Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)

Reckoning then is noting that all the lies we believe are terminal; each one has a unique death sentence pronounced over it. (Ps 1:6) We’ve no allegiance to it, no obligation to follow after it.

It’s also remembering there’s a part of us which already believes the truth, a part of us which is alive unto God (Ro 6:11): this is the life of Christ in us.

When we look for this part of us, asking God to enable us to recognize it, to realize that we believe the truth and experience our faith in Him, He does so. (He 4:16) We’re free to walk in the light with Christ, if we will. (Ro 6:22)

When we engage our will to walk in this new man (Ro 6:19), the spiritual man, the mind of Christ (1Co 2:16), Christ delivers us from the body of sin (Ro 7:24-25) so we can walk in newness of life. (Ro 6:4) We overcome, because greater is He that’s in us than whatever’s in the world. (1Jn 4:4)

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Make Friends

The parable of the Unjust Steward is challenging, putting it mildly. When Christ says, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” (Lk 16:9), is He saying befriend the wealthy so when we fall on hard times they’ll be there to rescue us?

The mammon of unrighteousness would be material things this unrighteous world values, tools for good and evil. They aren’t ours (Ps 24:1), so we’re all stewards, and like the steward in the parable (Lk 16:1-2) we’ll all be accused of mismanagement (Jn 5:45) and held accountable. (Ro 14:11-12)

So, we all find ourselves in a similar crisis: we’re flawed in fundamental ways, our record shows this and judgment is coming; we should prepare to make the best of it using every means at our disposal. Pass or fail, the consequences will be eternal. (Ro 2:6-11) In this predicament, Christ is telling us, “make friends.” In other words, live such that when Judgment Day comes those testifying in the heavenly court will be on our side, welcoming us into Paradise.

Consider that everyone who has ever lived will be present at this final Day of Judgment, and those we’ve impacted through our lives will be testifying about us (Ja 5:4), agreeing with God in how they view us, being for or against us. (Mt 12:41-42) Our own works will also bear witness (Ja 5:3), our every act testifying in heavenly court. (Mt 12:36) There will be no deception or partiality; if we’ve walked in holiness before God even the wicked will be forced to agree. (1Pe 2:12)

So, the kinds of friends we should be thinking about here aren’t those who’d pay our bills when we’re unemployed, but those who’ll be receiving us into everlasting habitations, standing between us and our eternal home, inviting us in or barring our way. We must keep short accounts (Mt 5:25-26) and manage our affairs with an eternal perspective. (Col 4:5) As the unjust steward wisely navigated his crisis to secure his earthly comfort for a season (Lk 16:8), Christ is calling us to holy intensity (Mt 5:29-30), striving to secure our eternal welfare. (2Pe 1:10-11)

As we steward earthly resources we’re laying an eternal foundation (1Ti 6:17-19), so let’s make it solid, grounded firmly in the Rock of our salvation (Ps 95:1), to withstand the blasts of God’s penetrating inspection. (Mt 7:24-25)

This isn’t salvation by works; we’re saved by faith (Ep 2:8-9), but our works do reveal our faith. (Ja 2:18) We show what we believe by what we do, so when our actions don’t align with faith in Christ it’s a faith issue (Lk 6:46), a peril of sobering consequences. (Ro 8:13)

To find healing we examine ourselves (2Co 13:5), confess our faults to those who are praying for us (Ja 5:16), and root out the lies which bind us. (Jn 8:32) Living this way doesn’t produce salvation – it’s the life salvation produces. (Ep 2:10)

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Carried by Angels

The Bible describes what occurs as we die, and there’s no hint that it’s going to be different for anyone, same for all of us: angels appear and carry us away to our eternal home. (Lk 16:22-23)

Yes, as we speak, angelic beings are evidently escorting eternal souls departing this world, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Da 12:2) Some are soaring through the celestial wonders of the universe (Ep 4:8), others plummeting into the fiery bowels of the earth. (9) It makes all the difference in the world where we’re headed, but the means of transportation appears to be shared in the nether world.

Why such a conveyance system? Well, stating the obvious, we might not know the way to our eternal home, and it isn’t clear that we’d be able to travel there on our own even if we did know how to get there; we do appear to be stuck wherever the angels drop us off, unable to visit other places. (Lk 16:26) And the damned inevitably evade and resist; a secure escort is appropriate.

Yet for those of us in Christ, of course, evasion isn’t a consideration; there’s no better place to be than with Him. (Php 1:23) As we’re abiding in Him here, we’ll be ever closer to Him each instant of our journey home, with a singular delightful focus on Him (Ps 72:25), the most beautiful Being in the universe. (Ps 45:2)

Since each elect soul has at least one angel attending them throughout their entire life (He 1:13-14), it stands to reason they’ll be present with us as we die, and it may in fact be their responsibility to get us all the way home.

It also seems reasonable to think that these personal angelic attendants might grow fond of the saints over time, watching over us day and night, knowing us inside out, and have some personal affection for us since our common Master loves us uniquely, and so very much. Their joy in our homecoming will certainly be evident; perhaps they’ll engage us in some worshipful conversation as we journey into the immediate presence of our Savior (2Co 5:8), enquiring about our walk with Christ (1Pe 1:12) before they depart for their next assignment.

For the lost, however, the journey may not be so pleasant; the fear and dread of eternal destruction (Pr 1:27) evidently comes upon the wicked quite suddenly at death. (Ps 73:18-19)

Angels meeting an unsuspecting soul departing this life might intimidate unto dread (Mt 28:4), and introduce their victim to a sample of God’s eternal hatred. (Ps 139:21) They will surely accomplish His mission for them, unmoved by the cries of the damned; their grip firm and unyielding, their faces — if bewraying honestly — will surely brim with the terror of God. (2Co 5:11)

The secret things belong to God, but those things which are revealed belong to us. (De 29:29) God has revealed mysterious things to those who seek Him (1Co 2:9-10), and we do well to cherish everything He shows us about His way, imagining as well as we can what this final journey home will be like.

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God Worketh in You

The brilliance and wisdom of God is seen in His commanding us to do things which we ought to do, yet which we’re unable to do without His aid. He doesn’t command us in ignorance, unaware of our weakness, but as a way to engage His image in us, and work through us to achieve His purposes.

The fact that God is sovereign, in total control of all things, including us (Ep 1:11), suggests to some that we’re excused from engaging our will in obeying Him, as if to say, “I can’t do anything without Christ anyway (Jn 15:5), so why try?” The error produces passivity, an idleness of the mind and will, which turns out to be the chief basis of demon possession (Ep 4:27); if we don’t resist the devil he will retake in us the ground he used to have (Ep 2:2) and more. (2Ti 2:26)

So, though God is able to sanctify us without engaging our cooperation, He is pleased to work in and through us (Php 2:13), inviting us into our sanctification as participants and enablers, workers together with Him. (2Co 6:1) This doesn’t jeopardize His plan in any sense, it magnifies His omnipotence, but it does reveal something amazing in His agenda.

God is about making us, all of His elect (Mt 24:31), like Himself, training us up as saints such that we think and act like He does. (Ep 5:25-27) He engages His image within us with the very life and mind of Christ to conform us to Christ (Ro 8:29), reincarnating Himself in us (Col 1:27), calling us to act and strive and then working through our will: our willingness and intent to obey Him becomes the vehicle through which He manifests Himself.

God is putting us through the mill down here, through the ringer, so to speak, sort of like boot camp, refining us and sanctifying us, preparing us to rule and reign with Him. (Re 20:4) He will eventually give us unfathomable responsibility – like passing eternal judgement on the angels. (1Co 6:3) He wouldn’t let us participate with Him like this without utmost confidence that we’d call each situation correctly (Ro 15:14), exactly like He would. (1Co 2:16) He is capable of doing this in us, and He will, for His glory. (Ep 2:10)

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Thou Shalt Not Covet

Lust, especially for men, can be an uncomfortable topic. Finding a woman attractive and giving her more than a passing glance is commonly understood to be sin, equivalent to adultery. As men are primarily visually oriented, it’s no surprise that men struggle here; it’s the focus of many an accountability session.

Women, on the other hand, don’t seem to find the topic troublesome at all and seldom discuss it, other than perhaps in confronting men. Evidently, most of us have bought into the lie that it’s primarily a masculine concern.

But what if, as in so many other ways, we’ve made up our own definition of lust, cherry-picking verses out of context to suit ourselves, and overlooking the heart of scripture?

God clearly defines lust in the 10th commandment – Thou shalt not covet (Ro 7:7): we’re forbidden to desire what belongs to another, such that we’d wrongly dispossess them if given opportunity.

This is different than thinking it might be nice to have what our neighbor does. Clearly, if we like our neighbor’s boat and offer him a reasonable sum — this isn’t lust, it’s basic economics: there’s nothing unholy or unloving here.

The definition of lust implies it violates the law of love in some way. (Ro 13:9) So, if a man finds a woman attractive, enjoys her beauty as he would a sunset, and seeks her welfare, where’s the harm? But in entertaining a plan to entice her, knowing she’s married, he’s crossed a forbidden line. (Pr 5:20)

We must define lust in the context of God’s Law (Ro 7:7), not in the context of common sentiment. Changing the definition of sin is harmful on so many levels. Finding a woman attractive is perfectly natural and wholesome, but seeking to use or defile her definitely is: it violates Torah. (Pr 6:29)

And we must not focus simply on sexual desire; the precept relates to any unwholesome appetite: inappropriate diet (De 14:3), worldly attention and praise (Jn 12:43), materialism, the abuse or perversion of most any good thing. (Ep 2:3)

God has created us to enjoy beauty and pleasure, designing us specifically for this, and providing Himself as our ultimate satisfaction. (Ps 16:11) Unto the pure, all things are pure, but unto the defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled. (Tit 1:15) Yet some are weak by design, some through a soul wound, some taken by false teaching. Torah enables us to sort out what’s lawful from what’s merely taboo, and Christ offers us the wisdom to know how to build up and encourage others in joyful living for God without becoming overly focused on mechanics. (Ro 14:17)

God has given us richly all things to enjoy (1Ti 6:17), yet it’s better to forego than to encourage others to violate their conscience (1Co 8:12), or to bring a reproach on the name of Christ.

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Add to Your Faith

In drawing us toward Himself, God tells us to add a number of personal traits to our faith, and to do so in a particular sequence, or with a given precedence or priority: first virtue, then knowledge, then temperance, then patience, then godliness, then brotherly kindness, and finally charity. (2Pe 1:5-7)

He says that with this interlocking foundation solidly in place we’ll be successful and productive in our spiritual life (8), but without this entire footprint in our character we’re blind, ignorant of the basics of our salvation. (9)

The implication is that if we’re missing one or more of these building blocks, or get them out of sort in some way, then we have an incomplete, improper foundation: we’re building on sand, and the result won’t play out well. (Mt 7:26-27) Perhaps it’s good to focus on each of these qualities and see how they interrelate to faith and to each other.

Virtue is moral excellence, Christ-like character, a willingness and intent to pursue the highest possible standard. Having virtue in faith keeps us from pride as we add knowledge (1Co 8:1) – not to impress but to enable us in worship (Ps 119:7) and service. (105) Apart from virtue we’re oblivious (Jn 1:5), ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2Ti 3:7) To presume we can rightly comprehend the very first principles of the Kingdom without deep, practical reverence for God is deception. (Pr 1:7) Without virtue firmly in place, adding anything else to our faith is pointless.

Knowledge is critical as a next step; ignorance of God, of ourselves, of our enemy, of the first principles of our faith, it alienates us from the life of God (Ep 4:18), incapacitates us and wastes our virtuous passion and skill on distractions and dead ends. (Ho 6:4) The enemy is quick to exploit our ignorance and capitalize on it to sideline us. (2Co 2:11) Faith and virtue in themselves are insufficient for the journey ahead; we must diligently pursue truth, to understand and apply it, to show ourselves approved of God. (2Ti 2:15)

Temperance keeps us balanced as we walk out our faith. It’s so tempting to become overly obsessed with minutia and lose the big picture in our walk. Even with all confidence, virtue and knowledge, it’s self-control, self-mastery (Pr 25:28), the ability to moderate and adjust our behavior (Php 4:5), to re-focus, re-calibrate, re-align and continually fine tune our motives as we learn and mature, this keeps us out of the ditch. (1Co 9:27)

Patience, cherishing God’s goodness through trial, keeps us from bitterness and equips us with endurance and tenacity, so we’re perfect and entire, lacking nothing for the long journey home. (Ja 1:4)

Godliness, a faithful orientation towards God and His testimonies (Ps 119:24, 31, 36, 59, 99, 111, 129) in this journey orders our steps in holiness such that we’re ever growing more and more into the likeness of Christ along the Way.

Brotherly kindness bears with others (Ga 6:2) in the confines and abrasions of close community with the meekness and gentleness of Christ (2Co 10:1), maintaining the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. (Ep 4:2-3) Without this we may ultimately do more harm than good, causing others to stumble and making their journey much more difficult. (1Co 8:12)

And finally Charity, the unconditional benevolence of God, is the capstone, the greatest of all (1Co 13:13), coloring and accentuating all our activity (1Co 16:14), keeping our motives rightly aligned with God’s heart. Without this, we are nothing. (1Co 13:2-3)

Each of these additions to our faith are the fruit of the Spirit working in us; they compliment faith to complete us in our maturity in Christ. Which piece can we afford to omit or neglect without the whole edifice collapsing? None? Let us then attend to this with all diligence, dig deep, and build on the rock as the Master bids. (Mt 7:24-25)

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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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