Monday, April 26, 2010

EPHESIANS: Inheritance and Indwelling


EPH 1:10-11
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ . . . even in him:

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance . . .

We completed the first seven verses of Ephesians ch. 1, and here we continue to pursue this incredible study and by God's Spirit, plumb the depths of this rich and lush epistle, teeming with spiritual truth!

EPH 1:7
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Redemption is 'to purchase back' and in the actual Greek, can imply to 'buy out of the market place'. Slaves, those in debt, and those conquered in war time were purchased in the market place in ancient cultures.

Certainly we were slaves to sin, indebted by such to a Holy God, whose Law we have transgressed and thereby deprived Him of His rightful rule in our lives as LORD. Instead we've been ruled and conquered by sin nature, and have proven helpless to free ourselves from this bondage. This is why we were once the children of disobedience, children of darkness, those who are ruled by the god (ruler) of this world (system), that is Satan (see EPH. 2:2 and COL. 3:6; also EPH. 5:5-8; 1 THESS. 5:5 and lastly 2 COR. 4:3-4 and ROM 6:16-22): it has to do with our sin nature.

Such redemption of sinners, by necessity was paid for by blood; but why blood? And why the blood of Jesus Christ?

We know that scripture states that the "life is in the blood" (LEV. 17:11) and its because the fall of this one man (Adam) into sin, that life in this world and in us has been tainted, cursed, ruined by sin.

ROM 6:23a states that "the wages of sin is death". Note it says "sin" and not "the wages of sins is death". As is often the case in scripture, whenever sin appears in the singular form, it doesn't necessarily mean a singular sin (but it can), but refers to the sin nature, incorporated into our own human nature. Its what enables our conduct in our presently natural state. We don't become a sinner by sinning - - we prove that we are sinners because we sin.

Its the fact that we have this sin nature, that death came into the world as stated in:

ROM 5:12
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

In order to purchase us back from the incredible debt of sin, there was need of a man (one who could represent the human race before God), in whom there was no sin nature; therefore he couldn't be a descendant of Adam upon whom this curse of sin was laid.

This is the reason why the virgin birth is so crucial! Jesus by necessity could NOT HAVE BEEN the son of Joseph, Mary's husband, for if that were the case Jesus would have inherited the sin nature from Joseph (who ultimately inherited it from Adam). Yet since Jesus (in His humanity) was created directly by the Spirit of God, supernaturally, that He as a man possessed the divine nature of His Father, the LORD God Who is holy.

This one man, the God-man could take on the debt of the world's sin, the enormous ocean of humanity's transgressions and trespasses could be laid to Jesus' account, and when He died (He who is God, who should never have died as He is holy and without sin!) all of our sins died with Him. In exchange, through His resurrection, He imparted (See JOHN 1:12; 3:3-5) to all who believe, the Holy Spirit through Whom we can experience spiritual rebirth, become God's children and His holiness in our lives (See 2 COR. 5:21 and 2 PET. 1:4).

This is the work of redemption and of regeneration (the indwelling Spirit of God that resurrects our spirit which was dead [resulting from sin nature])!
. . . Whew, that was just one verse!

EPH 1:8
Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

To readily understand what salvation and all of its component parts really mean, or even to be able to grasp the truth of the Gospel, one requires the wisdom of God, because such Truth can only be spiritually discerned. Mankind in his own (of the flesh, that is of the self) wisdom is unable to comprehend this (1 COR. 2:14). Yet God has abounded towards us, His children, this wisdom and prudence. 'Wisdom' I think we all can understand conceptually, but this word 'prudence' requires a little exegesis (what something actually means).

The Greek word is phronesis; it means - "mental action or activity, i.e. intellectual or moral insight. To have understanding and denotes practical wisdom; prudence is the management of affairs."

We who are saved have the mind of Christ (1 COR. 2:16) and by this means God abounds towards us, these deep spiritual truths and makes them readily apparent to any who genuinely seek the truth, for God is a rewarder of those who express faith towards Him and those that diligently seek Him (see HEB 11:6).

God reveals these things to the humble, to those who approach the Kingdom of God as little children, full of faith and an acknowledgement that we, in ourselves, could never attain the wisdom of God via human intellect or reason.

The LORD Jesus had this to say about the "wise and prudent" of this world as opposed to those who express humility as children:

MATT 11:25-26
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight
.

Comparing this verse with our text, particularly vs. 8, we can conclude that 'wisdom and prudence' come in two varieties: heavenly and worldly (see JAMES 3:13-17). In the worldly, we can place all philosophy, ideologies both political and social, and all religions. In the heavenly: here is a category of ONE - GOD!

EPH 1:9-10
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

"Mystery" here is from the Greek word musterion, which is something that was formerly unknown or secretive, but by divine revelation has been unveiled to the mind of the redeemed.

There are various mysteries expounded upon in the scriptures:

Of the kingdom of heaven (MATT. 13:3-50); the mystery of Israel's blindness during our present age (ROM 1:25); the mystery of the translation of the saints (1 COR. 15:51-52; 1 THESS. 4:13-17); the mystery of the N.T. church as one body composed of Jews and Gentiles (EPH. 5:23-32; ROM 16:25; EPH. 6:19; COL. 4:3); the mystery of the church as the bride of Christ (EPH. 5:23-32); the mystery of the in-living Christ as the incarnate fullness of the Godhead embodied, in whom all the divine wisdom for man subsists (1 COR. 2:7; COL. 2:2, 9); the mystery of the processes by which godlikeness is restored to man (1 TIM. 3:16); the mystery of iniquity (2 THESS. 2:7; MATT. 13:33); the mystery of the seven stars (REV 1:20); and the mystery of Babylon (REV. 17:5,7).
~~This series of references was taken from SCOFIELD's STUDY NOTES based on MATT. 13:11.

This revealing of this mystery is in accordance with the good pleasure of our Father, and is exactly like the LORD Jesus who "rejoiced in spirit" (LUKE 10:21) that God would confound the wisdom of this world and the proud recipients of such (see 1 COR. 1:20; 2:6; 3:19) in favor of revealing His mind to those who would simply approach Him by faith, and thereby be exalted by God far above the most learned of intellectuals, scholars and philosophers!

Note that this is in accord with the purpose "which He has purposed in Himself" and not in accord to the church's own designs, nor of any leader of the church or para-church ministry. In regard to the overall will of God, we only need be concerned with His purposes, as laid out in scripture and revealed by His Spirit. No other purpose no matter how well intentioned or magnificent in scope or design is relevant for the body of Christ.

"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ . . ."

There are two periods of time described in the Bible that are similar in phraseology: "the fulness of the Gentiles" and "the times of the Gentiles". Some biblical scholars view these as the same event, just by a different name, however if one examines them in context, they portray two different things -

The Fulness of the Gentiles (ROM 11:25) has to do with the body of Christ, and its yet-future completion, and that once complete, the LORD will remove His body of believers (primarily Gentiles) from this world (both living and dead) in the translation (1 THESS. 4:16 and 1 COR. 15:51-52).

The Times of the Gentiles (LUKE 21:24) however deals with the Gentile nations rule and, or oppression of the nation of Israel, beginning with King Nebuchadnessar of Babylon and down through history until the Beast rules the world and assumes an attack against that nation until Christ's visible return in which He defends His brethren, the Jews, decimates the Beast's military power, incarcerates the Beast and the False Prophet in Gehenna, and then regathers all of Israel to commence the Millennial Reign of Christ on Earth.

To which of these time periods this verse refers to, I'm not entirely certain but since it states that He will gather those "which are in heaven and which are on Earth . . ." it would seem that this refers to the gathering of the saints in the church at the event known as the rapture. The context of this passage, as it deals with the body of Christ, the church, not Israel, it seems reasonable to side with "the fulness of the Gentiles".

EPH 1:11-13
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise
,

Scripture says, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it come into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for them that love Him! (1 COR. 2:9). We have no idea of the glorious inheritance that God has in store for us, and He hasn't left us a description in the Word to any great detail and for a reason. I believe, as any good Dad, He LOVES to surprise His kids!

We all know what its like to bestow gifts to children, and at times we appear more excited about giving them than they are about receiving.

Imagine the divine thrill of excitement our Father must feel, knowing full well the depths and expanse of glory in this inheritance we will receive upon entering heaven's domain, and how He must eagerly yearn for the time when we ourselves will finally comprehend all that we have "in Christ".

In ROM 8:17 it states:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Joint-heirs with Christ gives us a clue as to the enormity of this inheritance! Since Christ Jesus is to receive "all things" then we who are heirs of God will receive a portion of that incredible inheritance as well!
AWESOME!!!

Truth is disparaged today as being merely 'relative' at best or non-existent at worst. Yet the Truth remains, steadfast, immovable, unchanging and unyielding. It can't be abrogated, altered or aligned to our own agenda: it stands alone and is the domain of God alone, as He is Himself TRUTH (JOHN 14:6).

Those of us who trust in the Truth are the recipients of the gospel (of our salvation), and apart from spiritual truth and acknowledgement of such, our partaking of the Gospel is impossible.

The truth of our sinful condition must be acknowledged as also the need of salvation. The truth of the provision of Jesus Christ and His atonement as the singular source of salvation must also be acknowledged. The truth of His resurrection, and reception of the power of that Life is obtained only when one yields to the truth: that we must transfer our 'slavery' from that of the world and Satan (cruel taskmasters, those!) to that slavery of Jesus Christ (via new birth), whose bond-servants (slaves) are treated with greater tenderness, attention and provision than a royal babe on the lap of the most noble King!

Once belief in the truth of the Gospel occurs, there is that action God takes referred to as 'the sealing of the Holy Spirit' (vs. 13).

The seal is not some spiritual element God employs on our behalf to secure us; rather this is the Holy Spirit Himself Who is the seal, and by His commitment to the believer in this way, He becomes the administrator of the finished transaction with God in matters of salvation; ownership as being bought by the blood of the Lamb and His indwelling; and finally as the security of our salvation by means of an eternal covenant by an eternal God.

Being sealed by that Holy Spirit of promise is revealing as God has always honored His promises to His saints, especially His covenant agreement with and promise to Abraham, which was unconditional.

EPH 1:14
Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

That term "earnest" is as significant as the word "seal" in the original Greek!

arrhabon - a pledge, i.e. part of the purchase money or property given in advance as security for the rest. This word meant originally "earnest money" deposited by the purchaser and forfeited if the purchase was not completed. [In] the New Testament it is used only of that which is assured by God to believers; it is said of the Holy Spirit as the divine 'pledge' of all their future blessedness - 2 COR. 1:22; 5:5 and in EPH 1:14, particularly of their eternal inheritance.

See also EPH 4:30 where it states the Holy Spirit by Whom we are "sealed until the day of redemption".

It is for these reasons I believe that the salvation of the sinner, and the further sanctification and glorification of the saint is eternally secure. If the Holy Spirit is granted as an earnest, a pledge deposited until the entire purchase is redeemed, that is, of our bodies at the rapture of the church where we believers are transformed, and if God in His foreknowledge knows who are His and who are not, then He would make such a pledge only in regards to those who are genuinely His.

Unfortunately there are those who, believing in eternal security, then feel they have a license to live a sinful, carnal life and lean upon the assumption of genuine salvation based on having said 'a sinner's prayer' but have failed to truly repent of the old life and of sin, and turned themselves over to Jesus as LORD as well as SAVIOR.

Saints, set apart from the world and for God will, as a matter of their new nature, desire godliness, sanctification, and obedience to Christ Jesus at any and all costs, regardless of personal inconvenience or loss; saints born of God's Spirit will become renewed in the spirit of their minds, put on Christ, put on the new man, and put off the old man (new vs. old natures) and continually grow in spiritual maturity as they yield to the life transforming power of the Holy Spirit Who indwells us!

This concludes this segment of Ephesians chapter One.
The next segment will conclude chapter One (vs. 15-23).

May the LORD Jesus reveal to us His love and grace, His truth and mercy, His peace and glory as we grow in the knowledge of Him!

Monday, April 19, 2010

EPHESIANS: Born Into God's Family


EPH 6:19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel 

A group of brothers and myself have for a while now, been in downtown Tucson on Friday nights, preaching on the streets and sharing the Gospel. It occurred to us that we should start up a Bible study where those of us who are called to teach can exercise their gift, and this would also serve as a means of discipling any potential converts that will no doubt be coming our way.

One of the two books we've been looking at is the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians; for the past two weeks or so I've come across different passages here and there in my goings about, and these have all been verses from this book, and they've spoken quite powerfully!

So I thought I'd whet my whistle a bit and do a short series on this book, beginning (of course) with chapter one.
But first . . .

SOME BACKGROUND -

The city of Ephesus was at one time extremely prosperous as it lay along old trade routes, and it was gifted with a considerable harbor there in Asia Minor (Turkey). It was also a highly religious center for the various pagan deities of the day, particularly Diana (Artemis in the Greek culture), the Asian goddess of fertility.

The Temple of Diana in Ephesus was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, such was its opulent splendor. Devoted servants of Diana donated their gold and jewels, among these masses were Potentates and prostitutes alike.


Paul the Apostle came and ministered in this city for three years and laid the foundation for one of the strongest Christian churches of the first century.

In the book of ACTS, chapter 19, it states that magicians heard the gospel preached by Paul and brought their paraphernalia before him, confessing their deeds, and burned their books in an act of repentance, so powerful was the work of the Spirit there.

There were many adversaries as people forsook the worship of Diana in favor of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth; Demetrius, the silversmith was so noted for one that opposed Paul. Once Paul moved on, Timothy, his young protege along with John the Beloved (Apostle) carried on the work there in Ephesus, along with six other churches in the area.

Christianity advanced, and the pagan worship of Diana declined until finally in 262 A.D. her temple was plundered and burned by the Goths. It, along with all other pagan temples, was closed by the Edict of Theodosius.

Within a century, silt that persistently washed up along the shores of that city, eventually clogged up its harbor and Ephesus declined in importance from then on. Paul probably wrote this epistle around 60 A.D. or so; his first visit is recorded in ACTS 18:18-21; his second in ACTS 19:2-7 where he continued the work there with great success, though there were also great conflicts.

His final farewell exhortation is recorded in ACTS 20:17-35 where he warned the Ephesian elders of what was to come:

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears (vv. 28-31).

An exhortation and warning we would be wise to take heed today in our world, as well! The LORD Jesus likewise addresses the church at Ephesus in REV 2: 1-7. It was the habit of Jewish believers to ostracize their Gentile counterparts who themselves were Christians and thus spiritual brethren; Paul wrote to encourage them in their Christian unity, thus a key verse in this epistle is EPH 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (other references along these lines are 1:10; 2:6, 14-22; 4:3-16).

Christian unity is nothing that we as saints need to create in an ecumenical sense, for that would be by the intent and will of human effort, and such is not only superfluous, but quite unnecessary, and quite probably dangerous (as is any work of the flesh [self-will] where the work of the Spirit in the body of Christ is concerned).

No, Christian unity must only be maintained as its already been created by God through Christ Jesus in the work of the Holy Spirit; such is evident in the passages found in this epistle.

KEY WORDS and PHRASES -

EPH. 1:10; 2:5,6; 2:22
In the study section of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible for the book of Ephesians, various key words/phrases are used to demonstrate the unity of believers through Christ Jesus: Together - "gathered together" in 1:10; "quickened together" in 2:5; "raised up together", "sitting together" in 2:6 and "builded together" in 2:22.

EPH. 2:15-16, 18; 4:4-6
One - indicating unity; "one new man" in 2:15; "one body" in 2:16; "one Spirit" in 2:18; "one hope" in 4:4; "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" in 4:5-6.

"In Christ" - EPH. 1:3, 6, 12, 15, 20EPH. 2:10, 13; EPH 3:11; EPH. 4:21

"In heavenly places" - EPH. 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10.

Riches - "of grace" in EPH 1:7; 2:7; "of glory" in EPH. 1:18; 3:16; "of Christ" in EPH. 3:8.

Concerning Christian unity which is not in man to orchestrate or maintain by his own powers, but "in Christ" and by His Spirit, this is a vital doctrine as any general commanding an army will tell you. The old tactic of "divide and conquer" is quite effective, and it's a tactic that the enemy, Satan, has used for ages, and is every bit as effective today as it was any time in the past! Therefore as the premiere epistle that elaborates on spiritual warfare (ch. 6) the practical aspect of obtaining victory in Christ rests upon this unity.

Thus the body of Christ will know unity, just as our LORD prayed for in our regard in JOHN 17:21-23 "That they may be one even as [We are one]." Think of how astounding that is: that we may be one even as the Father and the Son are one! How could there possibly be any greater unity that this? How is such a thing to be achieved? ONLY by the Spirit of God!!

How practically is this worked out in the life of the believers?

COL 3:14 And above all these things put on [love], which is the bond of perfectness.

In Christ we possess our spiritual unity, and equally in Christ we are enabled to fulfill the command of Christ as mentioned in JOHN 13:34-35.

This is yet another astounding verse, in that we are commanded by the LORD Jesus, the Head of the body, to love one another as HE LOVES US! Again, this is impossible in the flesh or will power of the individual (in fact the self-will or flesh must die, we must reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, if the Spirit is ever to have the liberty to exercise His power in and through us); if it isn't a work of the Holy Spirit, then its an impossibility.

So as we can see, the Christian life is not merely difficult: it's impossible except through the power of Christ in us. This is what we must remember as we traverse the length and breadth of this epistle, as well as our continued discipleship in the Word of God, seeking its manifestation in our lives through obedience by His Spirit.

Chapter One then can be broken down as follows:

vs. 1-2: The salutation.
vs. 3-6: The Divine origin of the church. The plan of salvation-
vs. 7-8: Through the redemptive work of Christ.
vs. 9-10: Universal in its scope.
vs. 11-14: Insuring a rich spiritual inheritance.
vs. 15-23: Prayer that believers might be fully enlightened as to the riches of its provisions. Let's dig in and see what the LORD would speak to us!

EPH 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul declares his office as an apostle of Jesus Christ, and this commission was granted to him by the will of God, not by any of the original apostles or by some church body. The authenticity of his apostleship was never questioned by any of the other apostles; if it had been, it certainly would have shown up in the writings of the New Testament, and surely there would have been mention of it in the Council in Jerusalem in Acts ch. 15.

The fact that his writings were considered as authentic scripture, particularly by Peter, reveals that Paul was universally accepted by the church (with notable exception by those who, while saved (?), held to the dogma of circumcision, a.k.a. the Judaizers);

See 2 PET 3:15-16 and vs. 16 specifically as Peter notes a comparable equity between Paul's scripture and "the other scriptures", lending equal weight to both.

The epistle is addressed "to the saints at Ephesus", those Christians who are by spiritual birthright separated from the world, and any allegiance to such, and for the LORD God in special relationship and allegiance to the Kingdom of God. This is a blessing enjoyed by all who are born of the Spirit and baptized into Christ (thusly included in the body of Christ, the Church universal). It is likewise addressed to "the faithful in Christ Jesus" and so while addressed specifically to a certain church body, its also addressed to the Church universal (Catholikos).

EPH 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Its worth noting that both the grace and peace mentioned in this verse is from the Father as well as from the LORD Jesus Christ. That the same quality and essence of this grace, and of this peace, should proceed from both the Father and the Son is highly suggestive of their equality, that is, from God the Father, and from God the Son. Grace (Charis) is the common Greek salutation, whereas peace is the common Jewish salutation (Shalom).

As has been mentioned repeatedly by countless commentators and expositors, we must experience the grace of God before we can ever experience the peace of God. Its when we receive God's grace in salvation, specifically justification from sin, self, judgment, death and hell that we experience peace with God (see ROM 5:1).

Once such a spiritual relationship is established between the Holy God and the repentant sinner, now endowed with the Spirit of grace "whereby we cry, Abba, Father", as adopted sons of God (see ROM 8:15-16, GAL 4:6-7) we can then experience the peace of God (PHIL. 4:7 and COL. 3:15)!

The word "shalom" carries far greater weight than merely peace, but encompasses a far reaching parameter of health, strength, protection, prosperity, soundness of mind as well as body, blessing, vitality and wholeness (and peace).

EPH 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

These spiritual blessings derive from the very salutation, that is, the grace and peace from God, and these are found in the Person of Christ Jesus in Whom all such blessings are bequeathed to the beloved! Such a rich treasure house as this was never known by any monarch, Pharaoh or Emperor, and even their meager wealth is one of horribly temporal condition, whereas the inheritance of the saints is "eternal in the heavens" and "fadeth not away"!

On a side note, how tragic that those of the Word-Faith/Prosperity Movement are involved in such a half truth as what they proclaim: the prosperity that is ours in Christ (true!) can be found by faith (true!) in acquiring anything heart can wish for in the blessings of this world (false!).

The church is NEVER promised prosperity in the things of this world; here, in this renegade planet we who are the righteous and the godly of Christ Jesus are promised persecution instead! This is not to say that God doesn't bestow His blessings and favor to His own in this world, but even these are fleeting and never considered our birthright as is those spiritual blessings that are ours both now and in eternity!

EPH 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

God chose us, according to this verse, when? Before the foundation of the world, that is, before God ever said "Let there be light"; before God ever brooded on the waters, or caused the Earth to come into form and being, God in 'eternity past' chose us, the members of the Church, in Him (Christ).

This brings up a controversial issue that can get quite involved (I can't afford a lot of time on this either!), and in fact as compelled many a theologian and philosopher to write books that literally fill libraries the world over; this issue is predestination vs. free will.

While in the church there are both perspectives present and supported, those of predestination (sovereignty of God) and those of free will (sovereignty of man), as is so often the case, I believe the truth resides somewhere in the middle.

When asked by others, Do you believe in predestination or free will? I consistently reply, Yes! This creates an expression of confusion on the inquirer's face.
These two points of view are only contradictory if one attempts to examine them within the framework of our physical universe, particularly that aspect which we know as 'time'.

Time is just as much a physical aspect of this universe as is the monitor through which you are reading this blog at the moment. Time is effected by mass, acceleration and gravity; its an integral part of creation as much as space, matter (space tells matter how to move, matter tells space how to curve) and energy!

Yet God is transcendent of His creation; He is not bound by the constraints of time. To God, the future is as certain as yesterday's news (even more so as reporters sometimes are erroneous in their reporting!). He sees all that transpires, He knows each individual and recognizes their speaking and actions before we ever actuate them!

Thus God in His foreknowledge, knows those who are His, knows those who will decide to receive Christ as LORD and enter into the kingdom, and those who will not. So from His vantage point, according to His foreknowledge, we are predestined. From our own vantage point however we all were once confronted with the Gospel and made a decision without coersion, without a Will imposing its power upon us.

Nor were those who reject the Gospel wrestled into their decision by a Deity that decided for them to reject His grace. It's quite enough for our purposes here that God in His sovereignty is SOVEREIGN ENOUGH to allow His creatures to use their power of choice and volition to either accept or reject Him, and for all that, He still accomplishes His Divine purposes; such are His resources and eternal power and authority and foreknowledge!

Glory to God!

EPH 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

In verse 4 it states that "we should be holy and without blame" and this ties in with our adoption as children [of God], for as with any father, his children share in his attributes. Even more so with God our Father, who in the Person of Christ invests in us His own divine nature.

As we Christians partake of this divine nature through the Spirit, the attribute that becomes evident is love and holiness and a yearning desire for such! See 2 PET 1:3-4.

For the Christian to assume that such holiness is not necessary as a practical working out of our daily living, for, they say, we are saved by grace and any sin committed can easily be repented of afterwards is dishonoring to the LORD Jesus (and His empowering grace which alone enables us to walk in holiness)! Paul had a scathing rebuke for such thinking:

ROM 6:1-4 
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Holiness, and our pursuit of such in our daily living should endeavor to climb towards that lofty positional holiness we all acquire at the point of salvation. Once justified by Christ's Holy Blood, we are considered by the Holy God, Judge of all the Earth, as Holy, purely and thoroughly.

No one, not even Paul, can attain that perfection while still in this mortal body of corruption, born into sin; yet such is our mandate (see 1 JOHN 2:6)!

God commands us to "be holy, for I am holy". He didn't say "You are holy, as I am holy" for Peter is addressing our practical need for holiness that will reveal itself in our character and exemplify Christ-likeness.
"BE[ing] holy" therefore is not some legalistic burden, but rather an obedient heart that says "not I, but Christ liveth in me."

The fact that my life, as a Christian is predestined by God brings a deep well of peace and restful joy in knowing that He has all things in hand, and has assured me, though the road I sometimes travel is pitted and rough, that He has secured my spiritual heritage and future; He will see that my life as a follower of Jesus Christ will be completed at the end, according to His predestination.

As Paul declared in:

PHIL 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [Gr. epiteleo - complete, to accomplish perfectly] it until the day of Jesus Christ

EPH 1:6-7 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Here is where we will end this portion of the study, and what a place to come to rest, and meditate on these sublime truths! What a joy to ponder such blessings as these!
To know that His grace which is freely given to us is glorious, that its a manifestation of God's goodness, His holy nature; His abounding, unconditional love, His limitless passion and all-consuming desire for fellowship with us! How Great Is Our God is the song that comes to mind when I meditate on these things!

To recognize that God is not against us, He is not our enemy (yet while in our sin nature, we ourselves are at enmity with Him), that He longs for an intimate, loving, tender relationship with us and has PROVED THIS by making us ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED. ACCEPTED!

Think of Heaven with all its pomp and stellar royalty, its pure holiness, unmarred by any corruptive influences, God-breathed and scented with sanctity and glory! In this eternal domain Holy Angels of such power as to be deemed god-like, who humbly bow their knees and for the brilliance and glory that proceeds from the very Throne of God, dare not raise their eyes, even if they could penetrate that glorious Light, for the Holy One that rightfully rests there with scepter and crown adorning Him!

It is in this place, "in the heavenlies" as stated in vs. 3 of our text, that we who were terribly tainted with treacherous transgressions and scarred by the consumptive sin deep within our souls, that are washed clean, whiter than snow by the blood of the Lamb!

We who were once paupers of perdition have become ACCEPTED in the Beloved! We have become Princes of the Divine Potentate, and readily received by our Righteous Advocate and the Royal High Priest of the faith!

The riches of His grace are so abundant that it not only cancels out the mountains of sinful debt for the entire human race, but vastly exceeds that debt to bless us with glories both untold and unfathomable; so extraordinary are these riches that if we were exposed to them while still in our mortal bodies, they would overwhelm and undo us!

Saint, if saint you are, blood bought and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, do not let the enemy once breath condemnation upon you and thereby falsely accuse God in your ears, that He no longer loves or desires you... that you have transgressed once too often and that He is finished with you!

Come boldly, that is, with confidence, to the very Throne of Grace, and find mercy and grace to help in time of need! Know that you are supremely LOVED by God our Father as He has purchased you with the blood of His BELOVED Son: what greater proof of His love could He possibly provide?

HEB 4:15 
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.


Only now, walk worthy of that vocation with which you are called, as one who is already ACCEPTED INTO THE BELOVED, which is your reasonable service!

ROM 12:1-2 
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

May the LORD Jesus bless and keep you walking in love, truth, holiness and grace and peace! brother James Fire

Friday, April 2, 2010

The CROSS, The KINGDOM and The CROWN


1 COR 1:17-18
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

1 COR 1:21, 23
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;


2 TIM 4:8
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.


1 PET 5:4
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.


REV 3:11
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.


REV 4:4

And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.


The above references deal with the cross of Jesus Christ, and some passages about crowns received by the faithful servants of the LORD.
This is a message about the cross in the lives of believers, and how it effects their service in the kingdom of God, and as a result of that service, crowns granted based on faithfulness to the calling of God in our lives.

As already cited, the cross as well as the preaching of the same, is seen as foolishness to the world, even a stumbling block (particularly to Jews who don't recognized the LORD Jesus as the Messiah, much less His atonement on the cross). Yet to us, it is the power of salvation.
For more than a century now, in ever growing numbers, beginning with the Modernist Movement, and into such current Movements as seen in today's world, the cross and its Divine blood stains are disparaged and denied as being barbaric and unnecessary.

Others see the cross as a symbol of suffering servanthood, but don't recognize its central message of salvation as preached in the biblical gospel.
Here today, in this article, you're gunna hear some preachin'! It's some of that 'old-time' gospel, which I will proclaim in today's entry!
It's that compelling power of the cross of Christ Jesus that will draw all ("whosoever will") to Him (JOHN 12:32).

Without the cross, there is no hope for sinful mankind; without the cross there is no cure for an incurable heart prone to rebellion against the King of the Eternal Kingdom; without the cross the entire human race falls under the condemning Judgment of the Holy God Who not only will not tolerate sin (which is an actual form of spiritual treason against His Holy Majesty, the LORD God) but must judge sin because of His intrinsically Holy Nature.

God cannot merely overlook, or excuse sin; 
God is a Judge of the Holiest integrity and will insist that Justice is carried out (Look through the Psalms and you'll find ample references to God as a Judge: so for all of you New Agers and members of what's known today as "the New Spirituality", sorry but God IS a Judge!) And He's read the evidence against us in light of His Ten Commandments and arrived at a verdict which He has pronounced over all humanity: GUILTY as charged!

Yet God is unwilling that ANY should perish:

2 PET 3:9
The Lord is . . . longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.


God is a Judge, but He is also a God of compassion and longs to have a relationship with all of us sinners as a loving Father to His beloved children. How did God rectify this seeming dichotomy?

The CROSS! The Cross of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (JOHN 1:29)!

At the Cross of Jesus, where the LAMB of God took upon Himself our own sins, from the first man (Adam) to those last souls (whoever they may be) that will enter this world before the LORD's Return, all and every individual sin ever committed by the rebellious sea of humanity, crushed Him in their infernal waves of iniquity. Above this inconceivable wash of misery, He also took upon Himself the full brunt of God's fury against this sum total of sin!

The physical agony of the cross, as excruciating as that was (beyond imagining) I believe, utterly pales before the greater spiritual agony that our LORD endured while hanging between the heaven and the earth, in those six hours in which He stepped into a pocket of eternity and endured this Passion. A Passion of such depth, breadth and height as to go far beyond the greatest of human mind's grasp of understanding.


All of this was done on our behalf. All done by His Supreme, Undying love for you. For me (and I find myself tearing up once again, as I think on how our beloved, gentle, tender-hearted LORD meekly accepted this horrendous mission without a moments hesitation - until that fateful moment in the Garden of Gethsemane, but in that moment of Truth, He marched from there and laid down His life - of His own accord!).

The LORD Jesus said that there would be (relatively) few who would be saved; that the vast majority of humanity would go down that broad way, rather than the narrow way that leads to life, and down into destruction (MATT.7:13).

Yet on those who received the salvation of the LORD Jesus Christ, as a result of confessing and repenting of their sins, and committing their lives to Him in new life (forsaking the old life and its sinful tendencies out of a Divinely-infused love for our LORD), consider the preciousness of these in the eyes of the Father, who spent the very blood of His own dearly beloved and only begotten Son, the LORD Jesus! How incredible is His LOVE for us; doubly precious for, one: the price that was paid; and two: the few of us that have accepted the LORDSHIP of JESUS by receiving Him as our KING, and thus granted authoritative passage into His Kingdom!

JOHN 1:12
But as many as received him, to them gave he power
(authority, right) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:


JOHN 10:9-10
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.


Now that we've become the children of God, via the new birth through Jesus Christ and the atoning blood shed for our sins, we have a kingdom in which we have a role or calling to fulfill. There isn't a saint anywhere in this kingdom that is exempt from at least ONE calling that I know of! That is the call to holiness.

1 PET 1:16
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.


(This is written throughout the book of Leviticus)

The LORD's love for us isn't limited to merely saving us from sin, death and hell (though that would be enough in our minds!), but He loves us so, that He longs to see us clothed in His holiness which is so potent that it manifests itself plainly in our every day lives - - or so it should.

I recall an old expression: "Christians aren't sinless, but they should sin less!" (and less and less as we mature in Christ).

MATT 18:23-27 

Now that parable goes on to say that the servant who was forgiven that debt refused to forgive the debts that others owed him. Its a parable to illustrate how that since God has forgiven us our debts, how much more so are we to forgive others.

I want to divert from that aspect and use the former part in a different illustration. Suppose that servant, now totally forgiven the debt, was also sickly, dressed in rags, lived in a hovel of a shack, and while now debt-less, hasn't a penny in his pocket. What would a compassionate and generous lord do for such a one?

We know what our JESUS would do, and what He does all the time!
He enriches our lives not with mere gifts delivered FROM His hand, but with the supreme enrichment of HIMSELF, His glorious nature of holiness, love, grace, peace, joy, patience, mercy, and on and on.

He so blesses us with the rich robes of righteousness and all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies (EPH 1:3) that if we were to fathom the quality of them all, we would be overwhelmed by them! Yet do we accept these treasures?
Do we put on such robes, do we receive these blessings for daily use?

Or are we content, now that we have salvation as our "get out of hell free" card, to go our merry way and be like the world, live like the world, and for all appearance look no different at all than the world?!

It is true that we have an qualified position in Christ regarding our righteousness, that is, our positional righteousness. Its been said before, that the Father sees us through 'Jesus-colored glasses', so that its Him and His perfection that the Father sees, and not myself.

However there is also the practical form of righteousness that is manifested to one degree or another in the lives of Christians. This is where we are to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (PHIL 2:12)"
and that deals with sanctification (To learn more about this, may I suggest you read the following article(s) -

The Simple and Serious Gospel of Salvation – Phase II The Sanctifier is the Saint's Fire )

In this fallen world of sin, full of wickedness, depravity, injustice, and all that the absence of God's Spirit represents, there is one flesh and blood source found on this planet of grace and love, peace, mercy and truth - that is the true church of the LORD Jesus Christ, Who Himself indwells them!

To the degree that each saint lives a sanctified, consecrated life, to that same degree is JESUS manifested to this world, and in one peculiar sense the kingdom of God is revealed. I'm not at all suggesting that this is all that the Kingdom of God entails, for one blessed Day, the King Himself shall return and set up His Messianic Kingdom just as the LORD God promised to King David (2 SAM 7). Nor am I suggesting that Jesus is limited in His revelation of grace and peace and love only to the church! He reveals Himself directly to individuals in such a manner all the time! He did to me nearly 30 years ago! What I am saying is that you can 'be' Jesus to this world by allowing His Spirit to reign through your consecrated life!

Yet how is this practical sanctification to take place? Once again - -
The CROSS!

ROM 6:6,11-14
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

Saint of God, there is a war going on right now, a battle for your mind: on the one side you have Satan and your sinful nature, desiring to lure you into fleshly desires and lusts that will lead to sin, and from sin to death (destruction of various means and methods); on the other side is the LORD Jesus and your Divinely born nature (when you received the Spirit of Christ into your heart) that will lead you into holiness and abundant life.

Which kingdom will you serve? The kingdom of darkness or the Kingdom of Light? Which nature will you manifest, and who will you honor by your conduct - the LORD God who purchased you with His blood, or Satan your old master and the god of this world?

As Christians we are more or less aware of our weaknesses, and where we are prone to sin; so does Satan.

The next time you are tempted by any sin, do this:

Lay hold of that thought, or circumstances and in your heart, drag that tempting thought or situation to the Cross, there to get nailed down on the blood drenched wood. It may cry and scream with rage, it may whimper and whine and try to offer a truce or a compromise, but be determined to do this. Show no mercy, nor a moment's hesitation. With hammer and nail impale that hellish temptation to the Cross of Jesus and believe that as you do so, that this is truly dead to you, and you to it. That when Jesus died, so did you; thus in a very real, spiritual sense, believe by faith that that sin has no more power of temptation over you than it would a corpse in a casket.

That's whats known as the mortification of the flesh.

ROM 8:13
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

COL 3:5
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

Now for the vivification of your spirit by the Spirit of God that indwells you; just as you nailed that thought in your mind to the Cross, now fill your mind with the power of the Spirit by the Word of God and prayer!

In prayer, surrender your mind, your thoughts, your body to Jesus and ask Him to flood you throughout your being with His Power and Might. Ask Him to reign in place of that thought, and take up His rightful residency as the LORD of your life, in that area of weakness. By doing this, you are being incrementally transformed by the RENEWING of your mind!

ROM 12:1-2
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
(See also PHIL 2:5-16)


After having done this, Satan will not allow you to go unchallenged! He will attempt to reassert himself, and put the pressure on, step up his lure and temptations. He will take it up a notch.
So must you! Diligently, consistently, faithfully take each thought captive -

2 COR 10:5
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Consider it to be dead to you, and you to it. Your old life is OVER! Its been crucified with Christ (GAL 2:20), and you belong to NEW Ownership! You have a NEW heart, and are working on re-NEWing your mind by God's empowering grace! You have a NEW Lord and a NEW destiny!

There isn't a Christian on this planet that is practically speaking perfect; positionally we are perfect in Christ for His atoning work is complete, and we are assured of heaven because of this! However we will fail and fall into sin; we will fail to take every thought captive, we will fail the reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin. Christ Jesus has forgiven us all sin and trespasses by His shed blood. Don't allow yourself to wallow in condemnation! When you do fall, confess it, repent, get washed in the blood of the LAMB and get right back in the FIGHT!

Your LORD's Honor is at stake!

Not only that, but as you live a victorious life over sin, you will be manifesting the kingdom of God to others, both saints and sinners alike: trust me, you WILL get noticed! People are going to want what YOU have!

Not only that, but as you live a surrendered, crucified life, mortifying the flesh with all the suffering and struggle that that entails, you will have rich reward for obedience (and obedience is NOT legalistic!!) on that day when you see the LORD face to Face! He will ask you, with His own scars in full view, what you have accomplished in His Kingdom as the servant of the KING of Kings!

Then He will examine your life with His eyes of Holy Fire, and test your works, and see if they were done in the Spirit, in love for the LORD who has demonstrated repeatedly His Supreme Love for us, in unflinching obedience to His Divine will and founded with Christ as the Foundation. If such works survive the fire, these will be rewarded or if they are burned up there will be a lack of reward, yet the saint will still retain their salvation - sadly, just no rewards (See - 1 COR 3:11-16).

I know the hearts of my brothers and sisters who truly love the LORD Jesus, and how they yearn to hear on that Day: "Well done good and faithful servant"! I want to hear that too, and such a commendation is within our grasp, but are we willing to live our life at the Cross of Christ?When any visible appearance of sinful thoughts and tendencies arise, are we willing to nail it there and allow it to die, so that Christ may live more fully in us?

JESUS died so that we may live eternally in HIM! Let us now die to ourselves so that He may be eternally honored and glorified by living His omnipotent LIFE in and through us, to reach this dying world with the Life Giving power of the GOSPEL!
G
.ods O.mnipotent S.alvation P.roclaming E.ternal L.ife


May the LORD Jesus bless us all as He leads us into Life eternal by way of the Cross, through His Kingdom and to the Crowns which we will cast as HIS feet and declare "Worthy are You, LORD to receive all glory and honor and power . . . "