The Opposition of the Natural – Devotional for Thursday, December 9, 2010

Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires —Galatians 5:24

We seem to easily recognize that as followers of Christ we need to abandon sin. The more difficult truth is that it is not just a question of giving up sin, but of giving up my right to myself, my natural independence, and my self-will. This is where the battle has to be fought. 
It is easy to share God at a prison. The inmates know they have sinned. They are reminded of it every day. It is much more difficult to share with “good” people. They like to grade on the curve. They believe they are better than a lot of other folks. The same is true of us who follow Him. We believe there are naturally good things we do but these things that are right, noble, and good from the natural standpoint are the very things that keep us from being God’s best. Once we come to understand that natural moral excellence opposes or counteracts surrender to God, we bring our soul into the center of its greatest battle. Very few of us would debate over what is filthy, evil, and wrong, but we do debate over what is good. It is the good that opposes the best. The higher up the scale of moral excellence a person goes, the more intense the opposition to Jesus Christ. “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh . . . .” The cost to your natural life is not just one or two things, but everything. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself. . .” (Matthew 16:24). That is, he must deny his right to himself, and he must realize who Jesus Christ is before he will bring himself to do it. Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence.
Nick

The Expensive Gift of Forgiveness – Devotional for Wednesday, December 8, 2010

By one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified —Hebrews 10:14

Perfection means completeness. We need forgiveness to be complete, to be what God intended us to be. Forgiveness is the door to the life we are meant to have. Why does God forgive us? Not because we are sorry or even because we repent from our sinful ways.  The only reason for the forgiveness of our sins by God, and the infinite depth of His promise to forget them, is the death of Jesus Christ. Our repentance is merely the result of our personal realization of the atonement by the Cross of Christ, which He has provided for us. The joy of the Lord is the peace and joy that comes with forgiveness. If our joy begins to slip away, you can bet we are losing a grip on our forgiveness and that guilt and “looking back” is taking over our lives. Our pride tells us our sin is too great; our faith is too weak. We begin to lose faith in the saving power of the cross.
God is just in saving bad people only as He makes them good. Our Lord does not pretend we are all right when we are all wrong. The atonement by the Cross of Christ is the propitiation God uses to make unholy people holy. If you have accepted His forgiveness, you are holy in the only way that matters. You are set aside for a purpose. You may not feel holy and, if not, you need to move out on your purpose. Nothing puts you back on the path of faith and joy, that walking the path of your purpose.

One step at a time, and be blessed.

Nick

Repentance – Devotional for Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation . . . —2 Corinthians 7:10
 
Everyone must have a real encounter with sin, recognizing what it is, not just a “bad thing” but an offense against God.

Conviction of sin is one of the most uncommon things that ever happens to a person. It is the beginning of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict people of sin (see John 16:8). And when the Holy Spirit stirs a person’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not that person’s relationship with others that bothers him but his relationship with God— “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight . . .” (Psalm 51:4).  Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, “I have sinned.” The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes— a reflex action caused by self-disgust.
The entrance into the kingdom of God is through the sharp, sudden pains of repentance colliding with man’s respectable “goodness.” Then the Holy Spirit, who produces these struggles, begins the formation of the Son of God in the person’s life (see Galatians 4:19). This new life will reveal itself in conscious repentance followed by unconscious holiness, never the other way around. The foundation of Christianity is repentance. Strictly speaking, a person cannot repent when he chooses— repentance is a gift of God. The old Puritans used to pray for “the gift of tears.” If you ever cease to understand the value of repentance, you allow yourself to remain in sin. Examine yourself to see if you have forgotten how to be truly repentant.

My Rainbow in the Clouds – Devotional for Monday, December 6, 2010

I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth —Genesis 9:13

It is the will of God that human beings should get into a right-standing relationship with Him, and His covenants are designed for this purpose.  All the great blessings of God are finished and complete, but they are not mine until I enter into a relationship with Him on the basis of His covenant.
When I have really transacted business with God on the basis of His covenant, letting everything else go, there is no sense of personal achievement— no human ingredient in it at all. Instead, there is a complete overwhelming sense of being brought into union with God, and my life is transformed and radiates peace and joy.

Being put to use – Devotional for Sunday, December 5, 2010

We are here for a purpose. To be useful, we need to be set aside for that purpose.  Salvation and sanctification have to do with that setting aside. Satan doesn’t want us to fulfill our purpose; one of his great gambits is to keep us focused on the salvation and sanctification so that we never move on to fulfilling a purpose. It is that gambit that keeps us sitting in pews wanting to hear yet again that we are saved; contemplating further this mystery of sanctification. He keeps us in a vicious cycle of recognizing our sinful nature, knowing we need a savior and turning to Christ. I know folks who have “gone forward” to accept salvation numerous times, but have never taken a single step to further the Kingdom past themselves. They become obsessed with “losing” their salvation or “becoming more holy.” As righteous as that sounds; it is completely SELF righteous; for it is completely focused on self. 
 
To be holy doesn’t mean to be good, it means to be set aside for a purpose. To have a purpose, you have to do something.
Have you EVER told anyone about Jesus? Have you lifted a hand to help one widow or orphan or prisoner? Do you delight in the belief that “God is still working on me” and that one day you will do something that will give your life eternal meaning? Or does it have meaning now?
 
The grace of God is absolute and limitless, and the work of salvation through Jesus is complete and finished forever. I am not being saved— I am saved. Salvation is as eternal as God’s throne, but I must put to work or use what God has placed within me. To “work out [my] own salvation” (Philippians 2:12) means that I am responsible for using what He has given me. He has given me talents and resources. What have a done today to use these gifts for His glory?
Tomorrow is Sunday and it will be great to attend service; but it would be so much better to bring someone, to help someone, to DO something.
Aren’t you tired of being useless?
Nick

The Law Of Opposition – Devotional for Saturday, December 4, 2010

To him who overcomes . . . —Revelation 2:7

As I work on this devotional I am listening to a high school football play off. It’s a war. If we experience life we learn early that much about life is a war, a continuing struggle. This is true in the natural, physical, mental and spiritual.  Life without war is impossible in the natural or the supernatural realm. It is a fact that there is a continuing struggle in the physical, mental, moral, and spiritual areas of life.
Health is the balance between the physical parts of my body and all the things and forces surrounding me. To maintain good health I must have sufficient internal strength to fight off the things that are external. Everything outside my physical life is designed to cause my death. The very elements that sustain me while I am alive work to decay and disintegrate my body once it is dead. If I have enough inner strength to fight, I help to produce the balance needed for health. The same is true of the mental life. If I want to maintain a strong and active mental life, I have to fight. This struggle produces the mental balance called thought.
Morally it is the same. Anything that does not strengthen me morally is the enemy of virtue within me. Whether I overcome, thereby producing virtue, depends on the level of moral excellence in my life. But we must fight to be moral. Morality does not happen by accident; moral virtue is acquired.
And spiritually it is also the same. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation . . .” (John 16:33). This means that anything which is not spiritual leads to my downfall. Jesus went on to say, “. . . but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” I must learn to fight against and overcome the things that come against me, and in that way produce the balance of holiness. Then it becomes a delight to meet opposition.
We are in a war, multiple wars actually. Be He has already won; but the struggle goes on.
Nick

Not By Might Nor By Power – Devotional for December 3, 2010

My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power . . . —1 Corinthians 2:4

Human wisdom is grounded in experience. That’s why “older and wiser” run together. Generally those who have experienced the most, demonstrate the most wisdom. And there’s the rub. Human wisdom is also limited by experience. That’s why we should never base our discussion of Christ on our experience alone. Even if we have walked with Him for years, we can experience only a morsel of all that He is. This is not to say we shouldn’t share our testimony, our experience. We certainly should. But we should make clear that we are relating what God did in OUR lives. Leaving open the possibility He may do differently and greater in the life of another. 
Nor should we rely on our “clever” or “precise” recitation of our experience. Rather we should rely on the Holy Spirit to pick the words and the time of their speaking. Only He knows what the need and state of the listener is.
God is reality. We must be rooted in Him. Our hope for others is that they too will learn of Him and be rooted in Him and not just in our experience of Him. If another believes God is only as we have experienced Him then when their experience varies from ours, they will be shaken. Once you are rooted in reality, nothing can shake you. If your faith is in experiences, anything that happens is likely to upset that faith. But nothing can ever change God or the reality of redemption. Base your faith on that, and you are as eternally secure as God Himself. Once you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you will never be moved again. 
Nick

Christian Perfection – Devotional for Thursday, December 2, 2010

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfect . . . —Philippians 3:12

It is a difficult, but crucial point, to recognize that God doesn’t want to make us perfect — God’s purpose is to make us one with Himself.  What shines forth and reveals God in your life is not your relative consistency to an idea of what a saint should be, but your genuine, living relationship with Jesus Christ, and your unrestrained devotion to Him.

But doesn’t Christ say to be perfect even as the Heavenly Father is Perfect? When you start talking about perfection, people immediately become very uncomfortable. None of us are perfect, as in flawless. We all make mistakes, we all do and say things we are sorry for. So what is the perfection our LORD is referring to in the above verse? We see the translation for perfect is: complete, of full age. How do we come to completion? How do we arrive at full age, or maturity? We grow up in Christ. We die to our flesh, our carnal thinking and reasoning, and learn to live totally under the guidance of the Spirit of God. That is why Christ gave His life for us. He paid the price for mankind to have the opportunity to become fully reconciled to the Father. When we think of perfection as an unattainable goal, we are rejecting the truth of what Jesus’ sacrifice bought and paid for.

Christian perfection is not, and never can be, human perfection. Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship with God that shows itself to be true even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of human life.  I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not admiration for myself. Thoughts about myself hinder my usefulness to God. God’s purpose is not to perfect me to make me a trophy in His showcase; He is getting me to the place where He can use me. Let Him do what He wants.
Nick