Listen and Do

“Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be My people, and I will be your God, that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, LORD.”

(Jeremiah 11:4b-5a ESV)

Ears to hear and a willingness to obey. Those are the “franchise requirements” for the people of God. Was under the Old Covenant. So it is with the New.

Can’t help but read this morning within the context of our class last night. We’ve been wading into what Kevin DeYoung has said “may be the most important doctrine you’ve never heard of”, our union with Christ. To be “in Christ” and for Christ to be “in us” is mind-stretching, awe-inspiring, and worship-invoking. To think of the practical implications of what it means that, because I have been crucified with Christ, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20) is to enter into the contemplation of a God-ordained, Son-enabled, Spirit-empowered venture into living out who I am “in Christ.” And a big part of that is being saved by grace through faith so that I might walk in obedience.

It was the Jeremiah passage which first grabbed my attention, this morning. God’s people are those people who listen to His voice and do all that He commands. Sounds pretty “Old Testament.” But the Old Testament isn’t portraying a different God or different economy for being the people of God than does the New Testament. It actually sets us up for the good news of the power revealed in the New Testament to practically live out being the people of God.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”

(John 1:43 ESV)

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

(James 2:18 ESV)

Jesus says to Philip, “Follow Me!” Listen and obey. To follow Jesus, we know, is to deny yourself and take up your cross (Mt. 16:24).

James says that to follow by faith will manifest itself in a walk characterized by works. Obedience being the fruit of faith. Duty being born out of grace.

And, while we might view grace and duty as in holy tension, not so with Jesus. The Son is “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14), “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17). And yet, the Son who is grace in essence, would say, “I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me” (Jn. 5:30). In the garden He would pray, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Lk. 22:42). So that as a Son “He learned obedience through what He suffered” (Heb. 5:8).

The perfect Man, representing all those who are “in Him”, brings together grace and duty. He brings to all those who have been saved by grace alone through faith alone, the rest found in His finished work (Jn. 19:3) while enabling all those who obey the call to follow Him with the resources to accomplish the good works prepared in advance by God for them to do (Eph. 2:10). This because of our union with Christ.

Grace and obedience. Not an either/or thing, but a both/and thing. As Rankin Wilbourne puts it in his book, Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God, “Because of your union with Christ, these songs of ‘Extravagant Grace’ and ‘Radical Discipleship’ can no more be separated in your life than Christ himself can be torn in two.”

“Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be My people, and I will be your God . . .”

Listen and do. Only as we are in Christ.

His ever-patient grace in us. His perfect obedience living through us.

For our good. For God’s glory.

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He Makes Everything Beautiful, So Fear Him

The “fear” filter kicks in again this morning.

Yesterday I briefly shared the difference Michael Reeves’ book, Rejoice and Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord, has made in how I’m seeing what it means to fear God. That the fear of God which we are to have is not a fear which recoils before a God who in His holiness will govern by Law, but beckons us into the presence of a God who in His goodness deals with us according to grace. A fear that draws us near in a response of loving adoration towards the God who mercifully and graciously gives us all things, even Himself.

This morning’s case in point was encountered in Ecclesiastes.

I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil —  this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before Him.

(Ecclesiastes 3:10-13 ESV)

What is the dynamic that should cause people to revere God? To stand in awe of Him? To honor and respect Him? To fear Him? The fact that He makes everything beautiful in its time.

It’s the reality that He has wired us with a sense that we were made for more than a few decades on this earth. That even in our “toil”, our daily routine, there can be joy as we “eat and drink and take pleasure” in whatever lot the Sovereign Creator has assigned us because we anticipate the beauty of a future time — and there is a time for everything (Eccl. 3:1)

Creation itself gives hint to the fact that “whatever God does endures forever” — and we are something He has done. We too will endure forever.

And why has the God of all things done this for mere mortals? So that people fear before Him.

Awe born out of adoration. Reverence as the fruit of redemption. Honor because of the anticipation of heaven. Respect as a result of His self-revelation.

Far from cowering, we come close. Rather than turning our back, we give Him our face — though bowed to the ground.

He will make everything beautiful in its time. So that people fear before Him.

The fear of the LORD. Such is our response to grace. Such is the response which will bring Him glory.

Amen?

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Fear the LORD Who Gives the Rain

A couple of months ago I listened to a book which, at the time, I thought could be life-changing because it had adjusted a paradigm and refined a filter on one of those holy tension areas of being a follower of Christ. It was a book about the fear of God. And I was right about it being life-changing.

Rejoice and Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord by Michael Reeves rocked my world. While “reverential awe” is what I’ve had for most of my Christian life as a working definition for the fear of God, Reeves opened up a new filter. One which came into play this morning as I was reading in Jeremiah.

In Jeremiah 5, God’s indictment of Israel and Judah through the prophet is their failure to repent. Their transgressions were many and their apostasies were great (5:6) and yet they “refused to take correction” and instead “made their faces harder than rock” (5:3). And at the heart of the matter was a heart that did not fear God.

“But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.‘ Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you.

(Jeremiah 5:23-25 ESV)

They did not say in their hearts, “Let us fear the LORD our God.” Thus, out of their hearts came what Jesus would describe centuries later as “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Mt. 15:19). But check out what should have been the catalyst for the fear of the Lord. Check out the attributes and actions of God that should have ignited this holy fear.

It wasn’t God’s power to judge. It wasn’t the fire of His holiness that could consume. It was His faithful, gracious, practical, daily provision. The God who gives rain in its season, the God who oversees the appointed harvests, is the God whose actions should evoke the fear of the LORD. Far from highlighting those attributes of God which would make one afraid of the LORD, the prophet’s appeal to fear God is because He is the One, who James would say, is the Giver of every good gift and every perfect gift from above, “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). The goodness of God is at the heart of that which should evoke the fear of God.

Quoting John Bunyan, Reeves puts it this way, “Godly fear flows from a sense of the love and kindness of God. Nothing can lay a stronger obligation upon the heart of God than a sense of, or hope in, mercy.” Mercy, that’s what the wayward children of Israel had known but failed to recognize.

For generations, despite their wayward, wandering tendencies, God in His mercy provided for their daily needs. Though they had inherited and inhabited a land which they did not build, though they enjoyed the abundance of vineyards they did not plant, they did not recognize God’s great mercy and grace and respond in a manner worthy of such unmerited favor. And so, they did not love with heart-bowing adoration the God who had loved them. They did not fear the LORD.

If I’m picking up on what Reeves is laying down, then the fear of God is not about being afraid of God. Rather, it is a love that trembles before God because His boundless provision, from daily bread through eternal salvation, reveals Him as One who is overwhelmingly holy, good, and glorious. And thus, He is to be feared with a sense of overwhelming love.

Recommend reading Reeves’ book. Thankful for the filter it has provided. Look forward to encountering more of the “fear of God” as read I the Scriptures.

That I might say in my heart, “Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain.”

Because of His all-abounding grace. For His all-deserving glory.

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The Same Yesterday and Today and Forever

You read it and, while you can’t help but whisper “Amen” ’cause you know it’s true, it does strike you as being kind of out of place.

Starting in on the final chapter of the letter to the Hebrews. And, as is so common in these New Testament letters, after so much time spent on what to believe, the writer is clear on the “so what” and how to behave.

And so, to these believers who were shaken in the faith — those, to quote the hymn writer, who were “tossed about with many a conflict and many a doubt; fightings within and fears without” (Just As I Am, Charlotte Ellliott) — the writer exhorts them with a series of rapid commands as to what it would look like to remain faithful. Because of the rejection from their kinsmen and the persecution of their statesmen, they were to: continue in brotherly love; show hospitality to strangers; remember those in prison; hold marriage in honor; keep their lives free from the love of money being content with what they had; and, they were to remember their leaders (because they had been martyred?) and imitate their faith (Heb. 13:1-7). If I’m doing the math correctly, there’s eight rapid-succession commands to obey in these seven verses.

And then, seemingly out of the blue, there’s this:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

(Hebrews 13:8 ESV)

True statement! Theologically sound. Christologically accurate. Foundationally necessary. If Jesus isn’t the same yesterday, today, and forever then “the fullness of God” doesn’t dwell within Him. And if He is not the incarnate embodiment of the fullness of God, if He is not in essence God Himself, well then, no reconciliation and no peace made by the cross (Col. 1:18-20). Like I said, true statement. Great theology. But why’s it dropped here?

I’m thinking it has something to do with the fact that these believers were struggling with remaining faithful to their beliefs and behaviors because they were losing their bearings. Their situation was impacting their determination to live for Jesus. Their circumstance was tempting them to rethink their spiritual stance. Their season was an assault to their sanctification. So, when exhorted to behave according to what they believe, the writer anchors these commands with a situation-transcending truth — Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.

The Jesus who is the better revelation of God, who is better than angels and better than Moses, who is the better high priest and the better sacrifice, and is the guarantor of a better covenant, is better, in large part, because He is eternal and unchanging. We need to believe that, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). But not only do we believe in an eternal, unchanging Savior, we behave according to an eternal, unchanging Lord. Our obedience not about the convenience of the situation, circumstance, or season, but all about our Savior who is the same yesterday and today and forever.

And so we keep on keepin’ on — not ’cause it’s easy but because He is worthy. We obey, not in our own power, but in the power of the risen Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit. We aim to live in a manner worthy of who we are in Christ — not to show that we are something, but as a response of love conveying that, for us, He is everything.

The same yesterday and today and forever. Such is Jesus. Such is our holy determination, through His enabling, to faithfully walk in obedience.

Only by His grace. Only for His glory.

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Either Way, You’re Gonna Get Burned

Okay . . . this is one of those mornings where it’s more like eating from a buffet than chewing on a single verse. Verses from three of my readings running through my head. All to do with fire, burning, and light. Connected, I think. Not sure if I can bring it together in a way that makes sense, but where I’m landing this morning is that either way, you’re gonna get burned.

Here goes . . .

Let’s start in Hebrews 12.

See that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject Him who warns from heaven. . . Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

(Hebrews 12:25, 28-29 ESV)

The writer to the Hebrews is wrapping up his letter. After explaining the “better-ness” of Jesus, after exhorting these weary wanderers to keep on keepin’ on entering the rest, after reminding them that what began by faith will be finished by faith, he says, “Do not refuse Him who is speaking.” How come? Because our God is a consuming fire. The One who tests hearts is a furnace that will one day judge all men. But, in this last part of Hebrews 12, he also reminds these wavering believers that their relationship to the fire is a different relationship than those outside of Christ, and that’s why they can offer “acceptable worship” to God — because they’re receiving a kingdom.

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest . . . But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering . . .

(Hebrews 12:18, 22 ESV)

Mount Sinai was enveloped by the God who is a consuming fire (Ex. 19:18) and it caused even Moses to “tremble with fear” (Heb. 12:21). Do not touch! Do not come near! Keep your distance! That was the order of the day for those who saw God reveal Himself afire in the Law. You didn’t come to Mount Sinai, you stayed away. BUT — oh, glorious but — those under grace are invited to approach a different mount, Mount Zion. God not overshadowing it with blazing fire holiness, but God in the midst of it as with a holy fire that replaces the sun, so that “the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (Isa. 60:19-20, another of this morning’s readings).

Far from the consuming fire of God repelling us from a mount shaken by the tempest of His unfathomable holiness, it actually invites us to draw near and receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken because of His sacrificial love. Made holy through the finished work of Christ, we are beckoned to boldly approach the holy (Heb. 4:16).

But if we draw near, we’re still gonna get burned.

When [Jesus] was at table with [those He met on the road to Emmaus], He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And He vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?”

(Luke 24:30-32 ESV)

If we heed His voice and draw near, we should expect that our God, the consuming fire, will burn us. Not with flames that bring death, but with a fire that stirs us to life. His blazing fire no longer a feared flame, but a friendly fire which brings light and ignites the heart. Ready to hear His voice without the fear which sends us fleeing is to be ready to be consumed by His fire with an attracting and responsive fear fueled from knowing His overflowing, steadfast love. Try to run from Him, or purpose to run to Him; either way you’re gonna get burned.

Oh, to know the heartburn of being at the table with Jesus. To hear the voice of the consuming fire of Sinai now say with the faithful fire of Zion, “Come dine with Me.”

By His grace. For His glory.

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I Need an Interpreter

I read in Proverbs how a culture would rejoice when the righteous increase but groan when the wicked rule (Prov. 29:2) and think to myself, really? Then I read in Isaiah 58 the LORD God’s take on the difference between fake fasting and real fasting. And it sounds a lot like you gotta perform before God will hear your prayers. So, I sit back and scratch my head. And then Hebrews tells me that my “struggle against sin” is for discipline and I need to endure because “God is treating you as sons”, so buck up and “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” (Heb. 12:4-7, 12). And I’m like, “What’s that about?”

This voice in my head, which is trying to process the hard things of Scripture, needs another voice to speak to my heart to provide understanding. And it’s something I read in Luke 24 this morning that reminds me I need an interpreter.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

(Luke 24:27 ESV)

It’s a story made for the imagination (Lk. 24:13-35). Two dejected followers of Jesus heading out of Jerusalem and home to Emmaus. The One who they thought might be the Messiah, “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people”, had been delivered up by their religious leaders to be condemned to death and crucified. And though there were reports of an empty tomb and a risen Christ as they left Jerusalem that day, their hope is all but gone that He would be “the one to redeem Israel.” Then Jesus Himself joins them on the road and walks with them. Though, writes Luke, “their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” And so, they chat.

These disciples try and make sense of what has happened over the past several days in Jerusalem, He patiently waits to make Himself known to them. And the pre-work for opening their eyes and hearts to see Him? “All the Scriptures.” He begins at the beginning and ends at the end and shows them that Christ had to suffer before entering into His glory. He interpreted to them . . . the things concerning Himself.

I read this, pause, and think to myself, “Self, He did it then; He’s still doing it now.”

No. He’s not here in the room beside me. But He’s here in the room within me. And, just like those confused disciples traveling the road to Emmaus, I need Him to reveal Himself and His ways through the Scriptures.

I need Him to make sense of a culture which calls good evil and evil good and seems to care less when the wicked rule. I need Him to reconcile saving grace with required works before prayers are heard. I need Him to help my heart understand how my struggle against sin is not to add to my shame but is evidence of His on-going salvation, as a loving Father disciplines me through all-manner of hardship to produce in me the everlasting fruit of righteousness. I need an Interpreter.

This morning, I’m reminded that I have an Interpreter.

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. . . . When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

(John 16:7, 13-14 ESV)

He will take what is mine and declare it to you. The Spirit of God will open your understanding of the word of God which is about the Son of God and give insight to those who are the children of God.

Every morning I open my Bible, I’m on the road to Emmaus. Whatever questions, concerns, confusions I have, He engages in the conversation. Not saying that every morning there’s always clarity, or clear-cut answers, but there is an awareness of communion.

And so, we continue the conversation. A pondering pilgrim listening for the voice of His patient Lord. The heart hearing Him by His ever-present Spirit.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Satisfied

To say I’m “chewing” on Isaiah 53 this morning would be to imply that it’s bite sized. Far from it. Isaiah 53 is a full meal deal, enough within it to process for an eternity. Not because it’s appetizing, not because it’s sweet and savory. Rather, it’s bitter. In fact, it seems overloaded with bitter herbs and hard to digest flavors. But feast on it, and in the end . . . satisfied.

Bore our griefs. Carried our sorrows. Pierced for our transgressions. Crushed for our iniquities. Taking upon Himself the chastisement that brought us peace. And with His wounds we are healed. (Isa. 53:4-5).

Oppressed, afflicted, a silent lamb led to the slaughter. Cut off from the land of the living. Stricken for the transgression of His people. His grave made with the wicked, though He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth (Isa. 53:7-9).

Enough already!

And yet, despite the bitter taste, I’m drawn to read it over and over again. Drawn to fixate on God’s Servant, His appearance marred beyond human semblance, His bodily form barely recognizable as human (Isa. 52:14). For the LORD had laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:6) — my iniquity.

But as I hover over this holy ground, I’m struck by this: that despite all the Savior suffered, despite all He bore on our behalf, through the prophet we are told He is satisfied.

Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous One, my Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities.

(Isaiah 53:11 ESV)

Satisfied. The Christ is satisfied. The Son of God, who drank of the bitter cup of the Father’s wrath, now enjoying the sweetness of a cup filled to the brim with the fruit of His finished work. The Lamb of God who poured out His soul unto death, now with a soul overflowing as He communes with the life He has wrought within His creation. He shall see and be satisfied.

What does He see? Me. And all those like me who have been bought with His price and redeemed by His grace. Satisfied not necessarily because of “how well I’m doing”, but because of how well I have been bought and how much I have been graced. Satisfied as He sees us wearing His robe of righteousness. Satisfied as He sees us being conformed increasingly into His image. Satisfied as He experiences the reality that the finished work of His cross is sufficient to complete the redeeming work He has begun in us.

Satisfied. God’s holy Servant, my Lord, is satisfied.

Because of His grace. For His glory.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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A City

Morning devotions have a way of re-orienting the mind and soul. Quiet time before the Lord in His word, wanting to hear the voice of His Spirit, has a way of recalibrating “true north.”

What’s amazing, is how only a 24-hour period can so disorient you. So busy. So much stuff crammed in our calendars. So many things to be concerned about. Not saying they’re not legitimate things . . . just that they are many things. They are the “Martha things” — things about which we become anxious and troubled, things that distract (Lk. 10:40-41). That’s why we need to make time for the one “necessary thing”, being a Mary who sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to Him (Lk. 10:39, 42). And this morning, for me, He resets my internal GPS towards a city.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.

(Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)

Except for Enoch (11:5), they all died. Abel and Noah, Abraham and Sarah. Though they considered Him faithful who had promised (11:11), and though they had tasted and sampled the fulfillment of those promises during their lifetime, they but greeted them from afar before leaving this earth. They walked by faith, and they died in faith, not having received the fullness of the things promised. And that, because they were seeking a homeland.

Regardless of what earthly passport they possessed, they desired a better country. A country literally out of this world. A heavenly country. And so, on earth they lived as strangers and exiles, believing that God who brought them into relationship as their God, had prepared for them a city.

A homeland. A better country. A city.

Commence recalibration. Refocus on the long game. Set your mind on things above (Col. 3:2).

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. . . And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

(Revelation 21:2, 22-23 ESV)

Another 24-hour period, Lord willing, is before us. Another day–though filled with very real tasks to do and concerns to be concerned about–to walk by faith and not by sight (2Cor. 5:7). To remember we’re just passing through. To serve faithfully here while sure fully of a homeland there. Taking care of business now even as we’re homesick for a better country then. To know that we’re not going it alone, for God is not ashamed to be called their God. Another day, Lord willing, to live in anticipation of a city.

Only by His grace. Always for His glory.

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We Are Not of Those

They needed endurance. The going continued to get tough, and some of those who had so far toughed it out were now considering getting going.

As they became known as followers of Christ, some were publicly exposed to reproach and affliction. Some had known the plundering of their property. Some had even been thrown in prison. And so for some, the taking away of their livelihoods was tempting them to throw away their confidence in the promise of a great reward. Thus, says the writer to these harangued Hebrews, “You have need of endurance” (Heb. 10:32-36).

For to stop walking by “the new and living way” that Christ opened to them by His blood and through His flesh, to stop drawing near to God in full assurance of faith with hearts cleansed and bodies washed by the cleansing blood of Christ (10:19-22), was to risk going back into deliberate sin, trampling underfoot the person of Christ, and profaning the blood of the Christ (10:26, 29).

The stakes were high. They needed endurance.

Hover over this for a bit, and it’s enough to make the weary follower a bit anxious. To cause great concern for the one who has held on to Christ for dear life, but as the price for holding on increases, as the cost becomes more crushing, the grip feels like it is slowly weakening. Yeah, I need endurance . . . but can I endure?

Yeah, I can. How come? Because we are not of those.

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the Coming One will come and will not delay; but My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

(Hebrews 10:35-39 ESV)

We are not of those who shrink back. That’s not what saving faith produces. Those who are saved by the power of the gospel, are kept by the power of the gospel. Those who are counted as righteous through the finished work of Christ on the cross, those who are being made righteous through the on-going work of the Spirit infusing their lives, are those who will walk in righteousness “from faith for faith” — “as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith'” (Rom. 1:16-17). That’s who we are. That’s our born again being in Christ. In Him, we are of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

We have need of endurance. Sometimes to endure the consequences of following Jesus, sometimes just to endure the hardships of life. But because of who we are in Christ, we will endure. We are not of those who shrink back and retreat. Sure, we may slip up and trip up and give up ground temporarily to the flesh and to the world. But we concede not the holy ground we have been graced to stand upon. We lean into the cross. We apply afresh the blood of the Lamb. We again fix our eyes on the prize, and we endure by faith, preserving our souls by His ever-present, enabling power.

We are not of those who shrink back. That, dear saint, is not who we are.

Instead, we are of those who purpose to do His will, and keep on keepin’ on doing this will, confident that we will receive what He has promised. For yet a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay.

By His grace alone. Through faith alone. For His glory alone.

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Contrasts of Salvation

It’s the contrast that hits me this morning. The contrast between the God who, through Isaiah, declares He is God like no other (Isa. 45:5-6), and the same God, recorded by Luke, who is crucified on the cross (Lk. 23:32-34). The contrast between the One who promises to send a Servant, cloaked in the Spirit, who will bring forth justice to the nations. and that same Servant who, sentenced by the representative power of the nations to die, cries out to Him who sent Him, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Behold your God. Behold the Servant. Worship in the Spirit.

And then I read in Hebrews how this One God in Three Persons has orchestrated these mind-blowing contrasts to secure “an eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12b).

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

(Hebrews 9:13-14 ESV)

The blood of goats and bulls had its place, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (9:22). But it was a temporary fix for an eternal problem. The blood of bulls allowed the high priest to enter the holy of holies each time he came to administer atonement. The blood of goats was sufficient to pay the price for those needing cleansing from the defilement of sin. But the blood of goats and bulls was insufficient to purify the conscience, thus releasing it from slavery to sin.

“But when Christ appeared as High Priest” (9:11), He, once for all, entered the heavenly holy of holies (of which the earthly inner sanctum was but a picture) by His own blood and secured an eternal redemption. Thus, the contrasts found in Isaiah and Luke this morning reveal the supernatural workings by which my conscience could be forever cleansed, and my soul forever saved. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Saved for what purpose?

To serve the living God.

That’s not the “price we pay” for being saved. Service to God isn’t “our end of the deal.” Serving the living God is salvation. It is the abundant life! As those created in His image and purchased by blood to be His people, it is the secret sauce to flourishing as sons and daughters of God.

A God unlike any other god — so other-worldly that He would come in flesh to redeem His creation.

A Savior unlike any other Savior — the Son giving Himself freely so that the Father might, with justice met, freely forgive our sin.

A Spirit unlike any other Spirit — the eternal power of God that raised Jesus from the dead and infuses us with His life. A new life to serve the living God.

Oh, the contrasts of salvation. Oh, the wonder of salvation’s plan.

Purposed by the God like no other. Accomplished by the Savior like no other. Internalized and energized by the Spirit like no other.

What amazing grace.

To Him be all the glory.

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