Uncompromising

In my recent daily Bible reading, I have spent some time in 2 Chronicles 17-20, reading of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.  In a long line of kings of Israel and Judah, a long line of men who failed to follow the Lord, Jehoshaphat did better than most. He sought God, followed His commandments, removed high places and Asherim from Judah. He sought to be like King David, and be a man with a heart for God. He did much good as the king of Judah.

Yet a key passage for me was 2 Chronicles 19:2-3:  And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you. Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God.”

What I see here is that God’s standards are uncompromising, and since He is Holy, those standards are of the highest possible order. Even in the case of a good king like Jehoshaphat, a man sincerely trying to seek and obey the Lord, there is a rebuke at the beginning of 2 Chronicles 19 for his actions in militarily supporting Ahab, a wicked king of Israel. Jehoshaphat’s reign was one of reform and turning to the Lord, especially in times of trouble. The Lord delivered Judah for her enemies, but at the end of 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat again displeases God in his alliance with Ahaziah of Israel. God “broke” the ships they readied to go against Tarshish. When Jehoshaphat died, Jehoram succeeded him and killed all his brothers, I assume to secure his throne against possible contenders. Was this the fruit of Jehoshaphat’s wicked alliance with Ahaziah? I think that is a distinct possibility.

One can see in these chapters in 2 Chronicles a man trying to live for the Lord, trying to lead his nation back to the ways of God. Yet he stumbled at times and incurred the Lord’s displeasure. Given how the kings of Judah before and after Jehoshaphat behaved, you would think the Lord would cut him some slack. But God’s standards are uncompromising because He is Holy. We cannot please Him with half measures or going almost all the way for Him. Close might count in horseshoes, but it doesn’t get the job done with the Lord.

Not surprisingly, I find the story of Jehoshaphat points to Christ and our need for Him. Romans 8:1 talks of there being no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He meets the standards that we cannot, that men and women have never been able to meet. Even good men like Jehoshaphat or King David, who was a man after God’s own heart. It is humbling to stand before a God who is Holy, who will not compromise His Holiness and requires holiness from all who stand in His presence. Humbling to know that while we cannot meet His standards, He sent His Son who could and did meet them on our behalf so that we can stand in Christ before the Father and He will not see us but Jesus in us.

As we live in this troubled world it would be great if we could lead like Jehoshaphat, seeking to reform things and turn others back to the Lord as well. But we will fall short in our efforts because of who we are, and due to the fact that only Jesus in His Second Coming can truly make things right and keep them that way. In the meantime, let us be strong, bold and uncompromising in the Lord. Let us be strong and bold in knowing that His grace will overcome our failings.

We can do nothing but bring the news of Jesus to the world that desperately needs it. Nothing but let Him use us for His purposes in obedience to His will. The Lord requires nothing but we behave as faithfully as did His Son as He walked to His death on the Cross. As we cannot walk in such a way, He graciously provided the means for us to walk in Christ instead.

But that is enough for us to do in a situation that requires an uncompromising standard of performance and behavior that we are unable to meet.

 

Sanctification, It Is Work!

In our series of articles entitled “Words of Grace for Strength” it is our practice to take an excerpt from an article, book, or sermon written sometime in the past, which in its message or teaching, is as relevant today as when it was first written or given. While undoubtedly the excerpt stands on its own, our goal is to confirm its relevance for today, and perhaps to embellish its importance and understanding to the reader so that he might be better able to apply the teaching to his life and personal growth in Christ Jesus.

Our excerpt today is from “Things Which Become Sound Doctrine” written by J. Dwight Pentecost in 1965. The excerpt is from his teaching in the section on Sanctification.

God’s purpose for His child is that he should live in Jesus Christ. God desires to reproduce Himself in His children so that He might be glorified through His children. And when we present ourselves, or sanctify ourselves, or yield ourselves to the Spirit’s control, the Spirit will reproduce in us His own fruit, that we might live to the glory of God.

This practical holiness will manifest itself, as Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:18, in our growth in grace and knowledge. Peter says: “… grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We often refer to this as progressive sanctification – where Christ, who formed in us by the Holy Spirit when we were born into God’s family, is being reproduced in us, more and more, by the Spirit’s control. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul says, “… we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed (or, literally, are being changed) into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Paul emphasizes in that passage that there is a work of the Holy Spirit by which we are progressively being conformed in our daily experience to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are being changed into the same image, going from glory to glory. Our position before God is that we are sanctified, set apart unto God; our experience is that we are being sanctified in daily life, by the Spirit’s power, as we grow in grace and in the knowledge, and as we are controlled by the Spirit of God.

The child of God recognizes that no day is lived in practical righteousness and holiness. We stumble and fall, in thought, word, and deed. There is sin of omission, and sin of commission, and we stand convicted before a holy and righteous God. The Apostle John has given us a solution to this problem in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Jesus Christ can be reproduced in the life of the child of God because the spirit of God can convict the child of God of his unholiness and can bring him to the place of confession so that sin might be forgiven and the believer might be restored, and that the Spirit might continue his work of reproducing Jesus Christ in the life of the child of God.

But is there no termination to the struggle? Must we always be subject to Satan’s snare? We recognize that as long as we’re in the flesh, we are living in an unredeemed body. We are living with an unredeemed sin-nature within us which may manifest its fruit unless we live by the Spirit’s power. But the word of God reveals a third precious truth concerning sanctification, and that is our ultimate sanctification. The apostle John so clearly presents this truth in 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” Observe carefully what John wrote. We will be like Christ in that we will be sinless, we will be deathless, and we will be brought to maturity in spiritual things. We will be like him. But when? When we’re old, and gray-haired? No! When He shall appear. It is the coming of Jesus Christ to gather His own to Himself that will bring us, God’s saints, to a realization of the position which is ours. At the coming of Christ – when the body of Christ is been completed, when the last redeemed one has been brought into God’s family – we will be translated out of this sphere of sin and into His glory, and we shall be like Him then our experience will confirm to our position throughout the unending ages of eternity.

Words of Grace for Strength:

When an individual makes the conscious decision, that they  are standing condemned before God because of their sin nature, needing to accept and acknowledge Jesus Christ as redeemer and Lord, they become justified in God’s sight. This is the first position of the redeemed in the eyes of God. Justification. In other words, because Jesus Christ’s finished work at the cross (His death, burial, and resurrection) offers to everyone who accepts the payment of sin debt; the redeemed individual no longer stands in judgment before God. And so, everyone who accepts the free gift of Salvation, offered through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, experiences Redemption, and Justification.

However, even though we are justified through Jesus Christ, we still possess our old sin nature. We may not necessarily want to sin, but it is still our nature to do so. This is the reason we need Sanctification. What is Sanctification? It is Holiness, the act and process of being set apart unto God by obtaining the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Positionally we were Justified and Sanctified in Jesus Christ when we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. But because of our sin nature we find ourselves continually falling short of the Holiness we were first placed in. However, by continually communicating with God through prayer, confessing our sin, and diligently studying His Word, we can continue the process of Sanctification.

Sanctification is not an event, it is an act bestowed upon the believer by Jesus Christ, and is a process in which the believer should be constantly involved in order to become more like Jesus Christ. What this means for us is that throughout our lifetime as Christians we continually need to be growing in Jesus Christ, growing both more Christ-like and more Holy. If we are not persistently pursuing Sanctification our Christianity does not simply go dormant, rather we begin to fall farther and farther away from God because we are not in an active relationship with Him. Sanctification is a hard and continuing work, but it is certainly work which we can do in Jesus Christ for our benefit and His good pleasure. When we are properly following Jesus Christ, not only will we be becoming more like Jesus Christ, we will have the proper attitude and desire to serve Him among men.

The last paragraph of Dr. Pentecost’s teaching above tells us that our Sanctification process will come to an end when we see Jesus. 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” It is never a function of our life, the span of our lives or the amount of effort or obedience to the Lord that decides when we see Him. It has nothing to do with our times nor our timing. It is all about Him, and the timing established in our Lord’s will as to when each of us is called home individually, or the Father tells the Son to step out onto the clouds and call to His Church, to His Bride, “Come Up!”

We don’t know about y’all but we’re ready for that day. So let’s work our sanctification till Jesus comes and work it fervently…because Jesus is coming soon!

EvenSoCome

Love Is God’s Sovereign Law

Excerpted  from “The Eleven Commandment” – Lehman Strauss (1946)

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you. that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).

A man who is about to leave this life will doubtless express the deepest feelings of his soul. One may not realize that death is near, and die in silence. But when our Lord knew that His hour had come, He gathered His disciples about Him and spoke to them concerning the deep things of God. There were statements uttered by Christ in the Passover Chamber that the disciples had never heard before. It was in the Upper Room of fellowship where he spoke about “The love of Christ which passeth knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). In issuing this New Commandment, “That ye love one another,” He was setting forth the Sovereign of Christian Love. Whatever authority of divine approval accompanied the Mosaic Law, we may be sure that this Sovereign Law carries the same authority plus the Personal testimony of the living Christ.

The New Commandment that the Lord enjoined upon His friends and He had faithfully demonstrated before them by His life. And now it is to cost Him that life to utter the words: “As I have loved you.” Indeed, Christ alone was the perfect Pattern of Love. He alone could interpret the word in its fullest meaning. If we are to learn the Law of Love we must look at God’s Son, for in Him is the love of God perfected. “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

In ages past God had been speaking through His prophets at different times and in various ways, revealing Himself as the God of holiness, might, truth, and mercy. But not until Jesus Christ came into the world had man fully known the love of God. In more ways than one the angels are superior to men, and for centuries they too were God’s messengers to reveal Himself to the world. But when prophets or angels stand beside the Son of God it is evident that He holds the position of incomparable majesty and glory. God “hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son” (Heb. 1:2). The heart of the Father was never fully revealed in His infinite love until His only begotten Son left Heaven to dwell among men. Jesus is the highest revelation of God. God is love and, “No man hath seen  God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared (or fully revealed) Him” (John 1:18).

We can see in Christ the Pattern of Love in His submission. Only love could draw the Eternal One from the Ivory Palaces into a world of woe.

Words of Grace for Strength

If you want something done right, do it yourself. Not meaning to be flip nor disrespectful, but in essence, this is what God purposed to do when the Father sent His only begotten Son into the world as the means of our salvation. As the only means of our salvation, for there is none in any other but Jesus. Nothing and no one, angels and prophets notwithstanding, can convey the message and majesty of God like Jesus can.

It doesn’t get any better than this. Again, in all seriousness. We have been given the Son’s death on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins and our eternal salvation. We have His words, His message, His promises. There is no where else to go, there is no better deal, there can be nothing better than the gift of salvation divinely promised and guaranteed.

All you need is love. Not kidding here either. The Sovereign Love of God, to which we are commanded to engage in, is able to overcome all the problems of the world, all that ails us and bogs us down. His love lifts us above all earthly cares and concerns, makes the urgent and important fade if it is not centered in and focused on Him. He is our Rock and our Redeemer, He is our Lord and Savior.

Love is God’s Sovereign Law and in many respects, an Eleventh Commandment. What more powerful way for Him to show His love, what clearer and more impactful way for us to see, understand and grasp hold of that love, than to realize He sent His Son to die for us so that we could live with Him.