Tag Archive | Mercy

What Is Salvation? Ephesians 2:1

Bud.Bday.2019.WP

Last Wednesday my family celebrated Buddy’s 11th birthday. I don’t know his true birthday, only that he was a summertime puppy. However, a little over 8 years ago on August 21st, 2011, I picked up Buddy from Barbara, who was working with Silky Terrier Rescue as a foster mom, so that’s his unofficial birthday. He’s been a great little pal and I’m very thankful to them both for rescuing and fostering Buddy till he came into my life. And am praying that Buddy will have many more happy and healthy years.

It’s my belief that many people don’t understand what salvation is, not only nonbelievers, but also many people who claim to be Christians. I agree with the Basic Gospel ministry that many preachers teach only “half a gospel”, i.e. that to become a Christian you repent of your sin. True enough.

But the problem with humanity is not that we sin, but that we are sinners. We sin as a result of who we are: fallen humanity. Whether you believe in Adam or Eve or not, the point of the story is that humanity chose to believe satan, rather than God. They chose to be their own gods and choose for themselves right and wrong, rejecting God as their Lord Who defines right and wrong.

We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). God is a triune being–Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So, we too, were once triune beings–body, soul and filled with God’s Spirit. When our human ancestors rejected God, the Holy Spirit left the human race. As a result, we are all born incomplete: body and soul only. Everyone is born spiritually dead. That is why everyone feels incomplete and tries to fill that emptiness with food, drugs, alcohol, pleasure, sex, whatever, to make that wrong feeling go away. But it never works because that hole in your soul was meant to be filled with God’s Spirit only. Nothing else will satisfy and make you feel complete.

What that means is that, as Apostle Paul explained to the Ephesians who lived in a culture steeped in the occult:

“You were dead in your trespasses and sins,…” Ephesians 2:1

Doing good works or being good or knowing enough or being wise isn’t going to give you life. The problem isn’t just that you are bad and God is good; the problem is that you’re dead in your sin and need spiritual life.

And only Jesus Christ can give you life.

That’s the problem that unbelievers don’t understand. And what many Christians don’t understand, either. It’s not about a list of rules to obey. Christianity isn’t just a religious system: It’s about your soul being resurrected spiritually from the dead so that you can interact with God. Only spiritually alive people can enter heaven; only spiritually alive people can relate to God the Father.

It is the reason why, after Adam and Eve listened to satan and rejected God’s authority, that they ran and hid from Him. And God was walking around asking, “Where are you?” It wasn’t that God isn’t omniscient and didn’t know where they were physically; it was because they were no longer connected to Him spiritually (Genesis 3:9).

Jesus died for our sins; He took the punishment we deserved to satisfy God’s wrath for our sinful behavior.

But Jesus was also resurrected from the dead, proving He was God in the Flesh (Immanuel, Matthew 1:23). When we put our faith in Him, we are also resurrected from the dead with Him and seated in the heavenly places with Christ. Which is the symbol of baptism: having our sins washed away and then resurrected to a new life.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surprising riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 2:4-9

So the main point I’m trying to get across is: your works don’t make you right with God because you’re spiritually dead without the Holy Spirit indwelling you. You have to become spiritually alive and trying to be good doesn’t cut it. You can never be good enough to earn the Holy Spirit. You receive Him by asking in faith, admitting that you are sinful, i.e. cannot meet God’s standards and need Him to change you through His resurrection power.

It takes away all boasting before God because you cannot stand before Him and say, “Look how good I am. God is really pleased with me.” That’s what Christians call “legalism”: thinking that you can follow God’s rules to be right with Him. And those people are usually mean and judgmental. It may not be that they are not saved but that no one properly explained to them what salvation is after they accepted Jesus by faith.

Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”–Luke 11:13

After accepting Christ, you’ll once again be whole: body, soul and Spirit.

Much love from Dawn and Buddy

***

There is much more that could be said to clarify, but, hopefully, I’ve laid the foundation for a greater understanding of why we need Jesus in our life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bronze Serpent: Numbers 21:4-9

buddy-wp-vet

The day before I flew out of town last December, my little Buddy was in a great deal of pain and had to be rushed to the vet. Above, he is trying to get onto my family member’s lap in the vet’s office. Not only was he in pain, but I was in pain, listening to him squeal whenever we walked near him or tried to pick him up. I just wished he could tell us what was wrong.

Many skip reading the book of Numbers in the Bible as it has a lot of lists and numbering of tribes and persons, etc. which is, honestly, a bit of a snoozer and likely interesting only to archeologists. But there are some story gems sprinkled in the book.

The Jewish people were getting impatient with the journey to the Promised Land. They wanted immediate possession, not wandering about in the wilderness to get there. They didn’t trust God to lead them safely to the land in His timing. Once again they sinned by grumbling against God, displaying no faith in His goodness or willingness to bless them.

“The people spoke against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.'”–Numbers 21:5

The food being referred to was the manna that God miraculously provided for them. Talk about ingratitude. God didn’t take them directly to the Promised Land because they would’ve immediately encountered hostile tribes before they were properly prepared for warfare. The indirect route was His way of protecting them.

In response to their grumbling, God sent fiery serpents among the people which bit and killed many of them. When the people acknowledged their sin and asked for the serpents to be removed, God commanded Moses to create a bronze serpent set upon a standard. All anyone had to do to be healed of their wound was to look at the serpent. Those with faith in God’s Word through Moses, looked at the bronze serpent and were healed. Those who scoffed and refused to look at the serpent and focused on their wounds instead, died.

Jesus referred to this incident as recorded in the Gospel of John, 3:14-15:

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the serpent image echoes the serpent in the Garden of Eden who led to the downfall of Mankind, causing Adam and Eve to sin, bringing both spiritual and physical death to their offspring. We all have a choice in life: To listen to the devil and focus on our sins, or by faith, look at the Cross of Christ. By simple faith, we can have eternal life by acknowledging our sin and believing in Jesus’ sacrifice to pay for our sins.

But, not only that, every day we all have a choice as Christians: to focus on the wounds the serpent, Satan, inflicts us with and our sinfulness, or look to Jesus for healing of those wounds by accepting His love and forgiveness. We can choose to be miserable, focusing on our hurting wounds and failures, or look to Him Who promises:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”–Philippians 4:8

The choice is yours: focus on Jesus Christ and His might, mercy and love, or wallow in your sin, hurt and guilt.

Not that I am perfect. How often do I agonize over my failures or someone’s bitter behavior toward me till I remember to look to my dear friend and Savior, to finally find peace for my soul.

Make the better choice, my eternal friend in Christ.

By the way, it turned out that Buddy had strained a muscle in his neck. When we walked near him, he was shrieking to warn us to stay away so that we wouldn’t accidentally touch him and injure his neck further. He’s doing great now, after a rather pricey vet bill, but I’m thankful I had the money to pay for it.

Note: All Scripture quotes are from the NASB. And I gratefully acknowledge the great Christian leaders who’ve shared their Biblical knowledge over the years so that I could put this blog together. It is their teaching, distilled today, that I share.

Holding My Hand: Psalm 37:23-24

feedingbuddywp

In this photo Buddy is getting some leftover snacks from my restaurant visit.

Jesus sent the crowd away and sent the apostles out in a boat without Him while He went to a private place to spend time in prayer. Later He walked on the sea to catch up to them. Peter asked Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” (Matthew 14:28) And Peter did walk on the turbulent sea, as long as he kept his eyes focused on Jesus. But when he took his eyes off the Lord and looked at the wind and the angry waves, he began to sink.

There are many lessons to be derived from this incident but here is the thought I’d like to share: God is kind. He does not reject us when we stumble in our faith.

Peter began to sink, but he didn’t sink so fast that he plummeted to the bottom of the sea and lost his life. When he cried out for help, “Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him,” (Matthew 14:31). Jesus noted Peter’s little faith, yet He not only responded immediately when Peter acknowledged he was sinking, but brought him into the safety of the boat with Himself.

God promises in Psalm 37 that when we fail, ie. mess up, stumble in our faith, He will reach out, grab our hand and set us back on the right path. He doesn’t want us sink to the bottom and drown. We just have to trust in His kindness and forgiveness and acknowledge we need His help. Because He loves us and doesn’t want us to stay down. Like a baby learning to walk, He grasps our hand and sets us back onto our feet.

“Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”–Psalm 103:13-14

He wants us to continue with Him, not get discouraged and give up on our walk of faith:

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”–Psalm 37:23-24

He’s a good Father. If you have a personal relationship with Him, call out when you’re struggling with sin or weakness or temptation. He’ll reach out to you, because He delights in His children.

All scripture quotes are the NASB version.

Thank you for your time. My eternal friends, have a blessed week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Lovingkindness: Psalm 23:6a

walking-behind-wp

For some time I’ve been pondering and praying over these words from Psalm 23:6a*:

“Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,”

David’s psalm begins with the good Shepherd walking in front of His flock, leading the way, but ends with Him following from behind. Why?

It perplexed me for some time. If God is leading me through dark times to a lush, pleasant highland to rest and refresh myself, why is He suddenly walking from behind?

And then I considered this very famous verse from Apostle Paul, Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,”.

God leads “us in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3b*) The problem is, I don’t always follow Him and wander off the path. Sometimes it’s because of foolishness, or lack of trust in Him, or just simply not knowing what I should be doing. And, I hate to admit it but it’s true, it’s just outright rebellion, thinking I know better than God.

Stupid to think I know better than the omniscient God, isn’t it?

We do have to pay the penalty when we wander off course. Not because God is mean, but consequences teach us to stay on the path. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”–Galatians 6:7 *

However, God is merciful and loving. What I finally realized is: When I mess up, my merciful Father helps me get back on course. He follows behind, helping me to get out of the hole I’ve dug for myself and to fix the mess I got myself into. He doesn’t kick me when I’m down. There are some things that cannot be reversed, for example an abortion, but He brings healing to the suffering woman who’s had one through godly Christian counseling and friendship.

But God isn’t mean: He doesn’t want us to stay down when we slip up. A common metaphor preachers use is: Like a little child that’s learning how to walk and then falls, God has ahold of my hand and lifts me back up again and helps me walk forward. The Christian life is a process. We’re not instantly perfect when we become born-again; learning to be a godly person is a lifetime task.

I think anyone who knows me would certainly agree that I’m far from perfect.

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.”–Psalm 37:23-24*

It’s comforting to know that the Lord has “enclosed me behind and before,” (Psalm 139:5*). I’m not alone in trying to clean up the mess I’ve made. My merciful Friend is right with me.

*All quotes from the NASB version of the Bible.

(Also, please note that I’ve been influenced by many godly persons and preachers in my lifetime. Not everything I write is 100% original with me; for instance, the metaphor of a child falling down and being lifted up again by the Heavenly Father. But I certainly couldn’t tell you where I first heard it.)