Word of the Day

Arise

John 11: 44

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

This puts me in remembrance of the Israelites in captivity in Egypt. God repeatedly said to Pharaoh, “Let My people go!” Jesus came to earth proclaiming liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners. We saw that Galatians 5: 1 reads, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” Most people who read this daily devotional are blessed to live in countries where they enjoy political and social freedom. The troubling truth, though, is that far too many of us are weighted down with grave clothes and are not living the life of freedom mentally, emotionally or spiritually that Jesus’ victory provides us.

The greater part of us are well acquainted with spiritual death. We were lost, just floundering our way through life when Jesus reached out and brought us into fellowship with him. That fellowship gave us new life, a redeemed life. It is a miracle and a daily joy but sometimes we forget how it felt to be dead. Do you remember what it was like before you had hope? Do you remember the daily frustrations and continuous trials?

Life in Jesus offers hope, but it also yields freedom. The more intertwined our lives become with his, the more free we live. It is amazing, truly. I have been a Christian as long as I can remember. Though, I can’t remember a time when Jesus wasn’t precious to me I have found a different way of living, a different flavor to my Christianity if you will. We have an ability to life our lives with and through him. Recall the words of Paul, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,” (Galatians 2: 20). Beyond mere Christianity is life in Christ and that is our real objective. It is living with him and for him in every moment of our existence. The concept is so far beyond what I originally learned that I still find it a mind stretching experience. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that if she would drink of the water he offers, she would never thirst again yet how many of us are spiritually parched. There is life and freedom in Christ. Those are not mere words. That kind of truth, however, only comes through laying down our own lives. How does one do that?

Here is my advice. Seek God with all your heart and might. Our Christian walk is often characterized by phases of growth often resulting in a different relationship with the Trinity. I began one of those deeper walks thirteen years ago which completely transformed my life. It began, though, with seeking him. Through that my life and his life have become one amalgamated existence. There no longer is any me without him. And, truthfully, I have become part of him too. This intertwining has changed every aspect of my life: my health, nutrition, relationships, patience, level of spiritual revelation, peace, even every day tasks are easier and I am more successful in the things I do because he is in the midst of them. He really is in everything, even your breath and this shakes the grave clothes from your body so that the life you live is one of vitality, joy, peace and, when we are doing it right, even ease. He gives us the grace to live above our ability, wisdom or knowledge. He gives us a lighter step and clearer eyes.

Shake the grave clothes from your frame. Arise and live. There is fullness of life in Christ Jesus and I honestly want every drop of it in you. My desire is that you live in overflowing abundance of his grace and goodness. Let my people go! Be free! Enjoy a life intertwined with Jesus.

Who Condemns?

Romans 8: 34              NIV

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Yesterday I wrote to you about condemnation and freedom. Today’s verse asks, “Who … condemns?” There is only one fit and worthy to condemn anyone. That is Jesus. It was he who went to the cross, died and then arose to sit in glory at the right hand of the Father. So, does he sit there whispering into the Father’s ear all the things we are doing wrong? No. He constantly intercedes for us. Intercession is prayer on the behalf of someone else.

Jesus won his battle. He accomplished his purpose. Why isn’t he just relaxing, eating grapes. For that matter, why doesn’t he complain about all he did for us and how we fail to utilize his good gifts and even the way so many people ignore what he did for them. We may not be very holy either but at least we recognize his sacrifice.

The only person who is worthy to condemn you has chosen, instead, to pray for you. What does that tell you about condemnation and freedom? God values liberty over criticism. He isn’t a disapproving God. He sent his son to you so that your approval is guaranteed. Rejoice in the loving God who accepts you and calls you His own.

No More Condemnation

Romans 8: 1 – 2

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Isaiah 61: 1 is Jesus’ commission. It is the passage he read which marked the launch of his public ministry. Let’s see what that means to this passage from Paul to the Romans. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” The Tree of Life version says that Jesus’ job was to free “those who are bound.” Bondage is, therefore, no more to those who are in Christ.

The prisoners are set free because Jesus set us free from the law of sin and death. This is the very essence of Jesus’ proclamation of liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners. We are no longer under the condemnation of the law because we have been set free.

This is a difficult passage in one way. Although it is great news, we can find it difficult in application because it touches on sin, judgment and forgiveness, all of which are very full and challenging topics. Here is what we all need to understand, though. Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death. Where Jesus exists there is life, light and liberty. Therefore, if you feel under condemnation, I would have you approach Jesus directly because he did not leave his blood on a cross so that you should live under condemnation.

This is not a license to sin. Who in their right mind thinks such a thing? We are to live our lives honorably to the Lord, our lives being our worship. “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me,” (Galatians 2: 20). Surely that is an intense statement of purpose. That is the only law worthy of our conversation, that we live our lives to Christ who willingly died for us. But doesn’t that statement also call us up to higher ground? I want you to live a life which honors Jesus’ sacrifice. That does not mean dead works. It means purposeful worship through your work, your daily workout, your diet, and even your driving practices. It means living with Jesus beside you every step of your day. It explicitly does not mean that you should feel condemned because you do or don’t do some of the things your church buddies think you ought. You better be able to take all you are and all you do into the very presence of the Almighty. If you cannot, then deal with that issue, but don’t let the law, or other people’s version of it put you under condemnation.

I believe this is a very freeing verse, but I also think it is saturated with personal responsibility to the Lord Jesus. I will not make his blood of no consequence nor shall I take his and the Father’s sacrifice for granted. At the same time, I will not let another use Jesus’ martyrdom as an opportunity to imprison the beloved. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery,” (Galatians 5: 1).

Who is Your God?

Ruth 1: 13, 21         GW

My bitterness is much worse than yours because the Lord has sent me so much trouble. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi when the Lord has tormented me and the Almighty has done evil to me?

This is classic Old Testament confession. The people of those times didn’t have the years of history we now have, nor did they have the written Word. They are the history we read. They didn’t know about Satan. They actually knew very little about the Holy Spirit. Of course, they didn’t know Jesus. How different their experience is than ours. When something happened, either for good or for ill, the only cause had to be God.

It chagrins me more than I can express to tell you the whole truth in this regard for I have found that we are not that far removed from our ancestral roots. Despite the years of experience of the saints, the coming of Jesus, the sending of the Holy Spirit, page upon page of revelatory writing by the prophets, disciples and apostles, we still hold very close to Naomi’s confession.

Recently, I attended a prayer breakfast for the National Day of Prayer. It was a great event. One of my friends, though, said something that bothers me. He told me about a gentleman with cancer then followed up by saying that He thought God used disease to help us grow. After all, he told me, we don’t grow in the mountain top experiences but in times of trouble.

Well, first of all, I don’t believe that is true for me. I find my greatest extensions on the mountain top communing with Jesus. Under intense stress, I withdraw and that is not where I find growth. His statement really hurt my heart and I pointedly did not agree with him. I told him that I believe God is good and that He is good all the time. Moreover, God doesn’t have cancer in heaven to give us. To which he remarked, “Yeah, there are no tears in heaven.” There is a revelation in there. We agreed that regardless of the cause, we know he who is the answer.

I am still bothered by this dynamic though because I hear it more frequently than I hear statements of faith and belief in a loving God. Or are people saying that God loves them so much that He gave them cancer so they would grow? That seems ludicrous to me. After thousands of years, the Messiah and the Holy Spirit, we still sound like Old Testament people who knew no better. We are Old Testament believers when we should be thinkers who have been renewed by the gracious good news gospel of Jesus Christ. Will someone give me an Amen!?

There is death and doubt in our churches and if that doesn’t pain you perhaps we should be asking why. Why are we claiming calamity in the name of God Almighty, the merciful? We are no longer ignorant. Are we? We know there is a devil out there and that his full intent is to rob, kill and destroy (John 10: 10). How is it, then, that when we see destruction, death and robbery we attribute it to God?

Somewhere along the line, each of us needs to decide; do we believe in a good God, one who is merciful and full of lovingkindness or do we believe in a cruel task master? Who is your God? That is the question. Let me introduce you to mine. He is love – all the time. He wants to protect and keep you. He said He has good plans for you, plans for your well-being rather than calamity, a plan for hope and for a future (Jeremiah 29: 10). That verse cannot be reconciled with a God who gives you cancer. So decide. Who is your God?

Conscience Bath

Hebrews 9: 14

How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

The writer of Hebrews makes the comparison between the Old Testament sacrifice of the blood of animals to the New Covenant established in the blood of Jesus. The blood of animals was able to purify people so that they were presented clean. How much more the blood of Christ? However, let us take note. This verse really isn’t so much about being washed and, thus, presented holy and clean as it is about sin consciousness. There is a big difference.

Would you feel more clean, more justified if I sprinkled you with the blood of a sacrificed animal? That is the issue here. The blood of Christ is pristine enough to sear our consciousness of sin, that is, if we allow it. There is power in the blood of Christ but there is more power in your authority as the decision maker. As I have written before, you are either an old sinner or you are saved by grace. To say that you are an old sinner saved by grace makes a good sound byte but the reality is that you are either one or the other. We understand what people are attempting to convey with that statement, and it is meant to be a statement of humility. However, the greatest statement of all is, “I am clean.” Now that is a faith statement and it takes throwing yourself completely into the blood and sacrifice of Christ to make it.

The point of this verse and this theme is that since Christ cleansed you from all unrighteousness and washed away your sin (past, present and future) with his blood, then you ought to have a clean conscience as well. If we maintain a guilty conscience, or awareness of our sin, then that is a confession that Jesus’ blood was not sufficient. A continuing reminder of our former sin, then, tends to give way to dead works. What are dead works? Those are the things we do, even subconsciously, to earn salvation.

We know we are unworthy of salvation. Therefore, we subconsciously do the things which we think will earn us favor with God. We try to do the “right things.” At one level these behaviors and the motivation for them appear, if not holy, at least rightful. In truth, though, they are repugnant, a stench in the nostrils of God. Why? The reason is because the entire paradigm is based on an egocentric religion. It does not flow from faith and thanksgiving to the Almighty. It does not depend on the blood of Christ. This salvation depends solely on our worthiness. This righteousness comes through our own strength. We must earn the favor of God through behaviors.

The true faith lies in surrender. It requires much greater faith in God and in the sacrifice He and Jesus made to say, “I was unworthy but now I am clean.” God says you are His righteousness now. (2 Corinthians 5: 21). There is nothing you can do to add to your standing with Him and the blood of Christ, when it is fully and freely accepted, cleanses, purges the consciousness of sin and stain. Our very conscience will be wiped clean from dead works. In that clean conscience is living worship and service to the king.

If you can’t say, “I stand clean before the Lord,” then meditate on this scripture and 2 Corinthians 5: 21. You have been made clean by Jesus’ blood. You will never be more clean than you are at this moment nor will sin stain your conscience if you accept what Christ did. You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, no longer an old sinner but fully and completely saved and washed by grace. Glory to God and our precious Lord Jesus!

True Freedom

John 8: 32

You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

Jesus said that when we know the truth, that truth will set us free. What truth is it that will set you free? Does this sound simplistic? Perhaps it does but it reveals a deep truth that is often overlooked. Only the truth about you, will set you free. The truth about me will do little to change your life. We can learn from other people’s examples and that is incredibly valuable but what sets a person free is that truth about themselves which they accept in their innermost being, that truth which they allow to have a transformative impact.

You could go to a four day seminar and hear the truth all day long for the entire four days and never let one bit of it impact you. You may even sit there thinking about all the people you know who need to hear this wisdom. You will only get your money’s worth when you allow the truth to penetrate to your heart and hear what it means in your own life. A healthy self-esteem allows us to let Jesus speak to our hearts. When we are not secure, then these lessons become a threat. We don’t want to hear advice and teaching from others because it challenges our façade, threatening to reveal the real us which lies just below the thin mask we wear.

Another major revelation can be had by seeing this verse in context, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,”  (John 8: 31 – 32). Jesus spoke, here, to believers. Of course, even though they were Jewish, they were also converts. Jesus presented a new way of thinking. He told them how to become disciples. That is to continue in his word, which is a viable test of discipleship even ‘til today. There is more though, and it is important that we not miss the nexus between verse 31 and verse 32. You see here that the truth comes from the Word. If you continue in the Word and you allow that Word to speak to your heart, then you will not only prove yourselves disciples, but you will also set yourself free from the bondage of your past. When you meditate on this verse, it will grow such that you will see that it truly does have great power to set at liberty the captives, which, after all, is part of Jesus’ commission.

There is a distinct difference between reading the Word, studying the Word and allowing it to transform your life. Those of you who can say, “Amen” to that statement have experienced the soul shaking power of the Word. It penetrates even to the deepest parts, when we allow it, and heals the broken heart. It finds places within us where strong ropes of belief, misunderstanding and hurt have tied us down to living life within those restraints. Jesus meant for us to be free. He came to set us free and it is his word and the truth it reveals about us to us that breaks the yoke of bondage off of us.

Get real with yourself and with Jesus. It is not painful. He isn’t looking to tell you what a loser you are. You and others have done that plenty well enough already. Jesus wants you to know how loved and valuable you are. He wants to reveal lies you have believed which have kept you from the life he prepared for you. He wants to give you abundance. If you will allow him and his truth into the deepest, darkest recesses of your heart, he will heal the hurts and shine his light in your heart. It’s all good. Don’t be afraid.

One Voice

Ezekiel 22: 30            GW

I looked for someone among you who could build walls or stand in front of me by the gaps in the walls to defend the land and keep it from being destroyed. But I couldn’t find anyone.

More than once the nation of Israel worked themselves into a position of destruction. God’s desire was to save them. He sought someone who would stand for them, someone who would bear the burden of prayer for the nation. Sometimes He found someone, Moses for example. In today’s verse, we see God’s lament that He could find no one willing to “stand in the gap” for the nation. How important is one person? Reread the verse. For the want of just one faithful person, the entire nation suffered.

Who are you in the body of Christ? Do you feel like a nobody? Well, Israel sure could have used you all those years ago. If God could have found just one faithful person, He could have saved an entire nation.

What is the condition of your nation? Or your town, state or province, for that matter. You may be the only thing that is standing between your town and destruction. The prayers of a righteous person are effective and powerful (James 5: 16). They can save a city. You may not be the best orator in your town. You may even be bashful about praying in public. However, in the sanctity of your home, you can save the nation.

Never minimize the importance of just one person. Especially, do not devalue the power you have in your land. There is no one unimportant in the body of Christ. Turn off the TV and pray for an hour. Pray for you political leaders as well as other leaders, pray for your nation, you church, your pastor, your state and town. Pray for the teachers, police and fire fighters, and so on. There is no shortage of people and institutions you can pray for so don’t feel like you are only a little toe in the body of Christ. You may be the one God is counting on for prayer. That makes you important.

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