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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By His Blood

The Old Testament lays the foundation of justification by substitutionary atonement: blood must be shed to atone for our souls. (Le 17:11) There’s never been any other way to take care of our sin problem: something or someone must take our place.

Yet it’s clear that animals are an insufficient sacrifice for human sin (He 10:4); a sacrifice of sufficient worth must be presented for our souls. Jesus Christ is that perfect sacrifice (Jn 1:29); God makes Christ to be sin for us that we might be made perfectly righteous in Him (2Co 5:21); His blood is what eternally justifies us before God, makes us perfectly righteous in His sight. (Ro 5:9) Nothing else even gets close, but God is perfectly satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. (Is 53:11) Jesus Christ: He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1Jn 2:2)

So, being now justified by Christ’s blood, we are saved from wrath through Him. (Ro 5:9). This positions us to overcome the enemy (Re 12:11a), delivering us from the penalty of sin: death. (Ro 6:23)

The blood of Christ not only secures our justification, redeeming us — buying us back to God after we sold ourselves into the slavery of sin — through Christ’s sacrificial atonement for us on the altar of God, forgiving all our sins (Ep 1:7), it’s also sprinkled upon us (1Pe 1:2), as animal blood was sprinkled upon Israel (He 9:19-21), to sanctify us (He 10:29) and set us apart from this world so we can safely draw near to Him. (He 10:22) His blood purges our consciences of dead works so we may serve God. (He 9:14) Christ thereby effects and secures our sanctification (1Co 1:30), which results in us having a practical testimony, a righteous message or word emanating from our lives, which proves out our justification. (Re 12:11b)

Christ shed His blood to atone for our souls, securing our justification and sanctification. Yet some would take it upon themselves to try and apply His blood upon their houses, pets, furniture and cars, or upon an atmosphere, or setting — as if this would deter evil spirits from being able to access material things or invade our living spaces. This treats the blood of Jesus as an amulet or a charm, like an incantation or a magic spell in reverse. Is this an appropriate application of the precious blood of the Son of God?

I see no instance in scripture of anyone using the blood of atonement and sanctification in this manner, and no indication that evil spirits might be afraid to come near the blood of Christ. The entire nature of spiritual warfare is based upon entirely different principles, which are totally unrelated to such techniques.

God never tells us to resist and overcome the devil by pleading the blood of Christ; He teaches us to resist and overcome the enemy by believing and acting in truth. (2Ti 2:25-26) To the degree that lies have a home in our minds and hearts we’re in bondage (Jn 8:32); lies lead to sin, and sin enslaves. (34)

Inevitably, one will claim that pleading the blood works in their experience: it produces the results they want. This may be true on occasion, but this doesn’t justify the technique. Witchcraft works. (Ac 8:11) Why wouldn’t the enemy entice with superficial results if he can deceive us into demeaning and abusing the blood of Christ?

Trust in such devices may indeed be just one more way the enemy gains ground to steal, kill and destroy. We must be very careful, staying true to scripture and walking in truth. In spiritual things, the ends do not justify the means.

The precious blood of Christ has secured our redemption (1Pe 1:18-19) and brought us near to God. (Ep 2:13) Let’s be exceedingly thankful for this priceless gift, and reverent and sober in how we treat it.

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Ye Are Gods

Each and every person, being made in God’s image, is an eternal being; we’ll all transcend physical creation and endure forever. The salient question isn’t how long we’ll exist, but what we’re becoming. Since existence itself isn’t an option, we ought to soberly consider the consequences of an eternal, limitless transformation.

From our temporal experience, becoming is a matter of trajectory, a journey, a vector with force and direction. In an eternal trajectory then, once we’ve established a general direction of travel, we’re headed for one of two extremes. We’re either becoming the equivalent of gods and goddesses (Jn 10:34-36), at least in the mythic sense, or demons and devils. (Jn 6:70) There’s no middle, neutral ground in this eternal centrifuge of becoming.

Christ will ultimately divide us into two distinct groups: sheep and goats. (Mt 25:32) But in this eternal division there won’t be any close calls, we’ll have cleanly divided ourselves into good and evil, benevolent and malevolent, beauty or horror, well before God begins to sift through us. By then it will be mere formality.

These two paths we tread are vast in scope; the destinations are infinitely disparate: there’s no upper (Php 1:6) or lower bound to what we can become. (2Ti 3:13) As the distance between two divergent lines, no matter how slight the angle, eventually becomes infinite, every step we take, every move we make, has an eternal, limitless, unfathomable consequence.

So as we interact with one another in this apparently finite, temporal space below, we’re dealing with eternal beings, beloved children of God (Ac 17:29), those infinitely loved by the Almighty. (Jn 3:16) God reveals how we value Him in how we treat one another. (40) Do we honor all as bearers of the divine image? (1Pe 2:17) Do we esteem others better? Or set ourselves up as judges? (Mt 7:1)

How do we call forth from within ourselves, and from those we meet, the best we each have to offer? (Php 4:9) Knowing the depravity of Man, how do we, in wisdom, beckon to fellow pilgrims in this eternal journey to walk in the light with us? (1Jn 1:5-7)

In fear and trembling (Php 2:12), knowing the terror of God (2Co 5:11), we prayerfully aim our lives at God, seeking Him with our whole heart (Ps 119:10), pressing toward the mark (Php 3:14)joyfully pointing the eternal trajectory of every thought and action toward Him the best we know how.

And we trust in God as we extend the welcome, benevolent hand of brotherhood to every soul we encounter, loving our neighbors as ourselves, praying for everyone (1Ti 2:1), listening and looking for how we might nudge each and every soul more into the Way of righteousness. (Da 12:3)

We don’t do this naively, in weakness or passivity, foolishly presuming others are good; we wait only upon God, knowing He only is our Rock and our Defense (Ps 62:2), our Light and our Salvation (Ps 27:1), that He works all things together for good to those who love Him (Ro 8:28), and that all He calls will come to Him. (Jn 6:44)

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Toward the Mark

Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time. To live with no aim, no goals or purpose, is to miss life altogether. We’re created with a sense that life has a purpose, and this purpose relates to a goal. As we pursue our goals we fulfill our purpose, and experience deep satisfaction and fulfillment. This makes for a much more rewarding and satisfying life. (2Ti 4:7)

Frustration is what we feel when we’re being blocked from achieving a goal. Something which seems beyond our immediate control is making it difficult or impossible for us to reach a goal and fulfill our sense of purpose. For example, trying to balance a budget when our spouse is constantly overspending. This can cause feelings of anger, grief and depression – and lead to envy, strife, coercion and manipulation (1Co 3:3), passive-aggression and/or violence to try to overcome what’s blocking our way.

The very nature of frustration tells us how we overcome it. By definition, there’s only one way: change – we must adapt and grow. (Ep 4:15) Frustration is God’s way of telling us we’re missing something; the only remedy is to discover what we’re missing – and put another precious piece into the puzzle of our life.

We might have an improper goal: we might be aiming at the wrong thing, or have an expectation that’s misaligned with reality. This often happens when our goals are not within our power to achieve, as when they involve the will of other people — who tend to have different goals than we do. (1Co 16:12)

Proper goals will always be within our personal control, and relate to our own behavior, not that of others. (1Pe 4:15) When the reality of other people’s goals gets in our way, as they inevitably will, we must ether course-correct or continue to bump heads with the universe. The universe will eventually win, needless to say. Wisdom is choosing to grow up by refining our goals, and learning to aim at better things. (Ep 5:17)

Yet, even if our goal is wholesome and good, aligned with reality, within our personal control, we may still be frustrated if we aren’t pursuing it correctly, or with the correct mindset. In this case, we grow by disciplining and controlling ourselves, praying, and adjusting and refining our beliefs, behaviors and expectations so we pursue our goal more patiently and efficiently, reaching our goal in a timely fashion, in accordance with reality.

If our goal is godly, we need not sin against ourselves or anyone else to achieve it. (Ja 1:16) If sinful behavior is necessary to achieve a goal, then it’s not a good goal by definition; it’s misaligned with eternal reality and pursuing it will bring us to ruin. (Ro 6:23)

As we address our frustrations in wisdom, seeking the will of God as our ultimate goal (Php 1:21), we can receive frustration itself as a welcome friend, a gift from God, exposing another area in our lives where He wants us to grow.

As we ask God to show us our hidden goals and motives, and prayerfully expose them to the light of God’s Word (Ps 119:105), He will reveal Himself and His way to us, that we may cleanse our way (Ps 119:9) and have His perfect peace. (Php 4:6-7)

The path of life is full of challenges and difficulty. It is at times bewilderingly painful and complex. As we face each trial in our pursuit God, we should count it all joy (Ja 1:2), realizing God’s glorious intent, constantly adjusting, shifting and growing to be conformed into the image of Christ. (Ro 8:29) This is how we work out our sanctification (Php 2:12), how we press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ. (Php 3:14)

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A Clean Heart

A clean heart isn’t merely forgiven, it’s also free of corruption, darkness and lies, inclined toward and aligned with its Creator, free to live according to His design. To the degree that our old man continues to dominate our lives, our heart isn’t clean, and we’re prisoners to sin (2Ti 2:25), which isn’t good. (He 12:14)

So, when King David found himself in a bad way with God, having sinned grevously, he asks God to create within him a clean heart (Ps 51:10); he wants a miracle, to be a new man.

God is certainly able to do this, yet one should know how God chooses to go about these things, to understand His methodology in such creative acts. It isn’t what we might think.

Our inclination may be to expect God to zap us such that we’re instantly holy, and all we need to do is sit back and enjoy the excitement. Yet this is a bit disingenuous; like claiming we desire physical cleanliness while neglecting to bathe.

So, while only God can perform miracles, He generally tends to work them through us as we engage with Him in His work. (Php 2:13) It’s no different here: He gives us instructions on how to clean our own hearts, and works the miracle of a clean heart in us as we obey Him, working through our obedience to cleanse us.

How then does God tell us to cleanse our own hearts, and put ourselves in order before God? By paying attention to our thoughts, feelings and motives and constantly holding them up against the Word of God as a plumb line. (Ps 119:9) We hide God’s Word in our heart, so we know it from memory and are constantly thinking about it, so we won’t disobey Him through forgetfulness (De 26:13) or carelessness (Ps 119:11), then we commit to obeying all of it that we can as well as we can. (Ps 119:6)

This makes perfect sense, if we think about it for a bit. How can we even desire a clean heart if we’re still carelessly toying with sin, willing to disobey God, unconcerned about the trajectory of our lives? If we aren’t alert, paying attention, looking for where we might be missing His Way, asking God to help us, we’re acting as if we love darkness, as if we have no real interest in a clean heart.

So, though it’s true no one can fully cleanse their own heart (Pr 20:9), we can’t say that we even want a clean heart unless we’re willing to try, to take the first step and do what God says to do. As we try to obey Him He enables us, and does things in us that we can’t do for ourselves.

As we’re meditating on His word, as we find gaps between our behavior and God’s standard, we ask Him to quicken and enable us to align with Him (Ps 119:25), to make us go in the path of His commandments. (Ps 119:35) We ask Him to expose and correct the lies within us (Ps 119:29), asking Him for enabling grace whenever we need it. (He 4:16)

Since we’re seeking strength to do God’s will, we can be sure He hears us. (1Jn 5:14-15) We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice that He is transforming our character, step by step into the image of Christ. (Ro 5:2) This is how grace reigns in us through righteousness unto eternal life (Ro 5:21), enabling us to overcome sin. (1Jn 5:4)

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