Am I? Are You? #15

I Am… at peace with God. (Romans 5:1) And I am grateful for it.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Me: Good afternoon Father!

ABBA: Good afternoon Jon!

Me: This passage in Romans is one of those where You are obviously active in all of Your aspects, Father, Son, and Spirit.

ABBA: That is always so, for I Am One. Have you considered My wrath in verse nine? Let me tell you about that, as well. It is in light of my wrath that peace with Me is even worth mentioning.

My wrath speaks of My settled opposition to evil and all its out-workings. What does my word say Jesus’ mission was, as far as the devil?

Me: In 1 John 3:8, it says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”

ABBA: That is right, starting with death that is earned through sin.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10

You are called to that same purpose.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

You see, many recognize their sinfulness and assume that mention of My wrath means I Am mad at them over it. I am not. Toward them, I am compassionate. My wrath is directed toward the evil that enslaves them and had doomed them to destruction. I sent My Son to bear their death-wage in their place, if only they will turn and accept the gift of peace with Me, purchased by His blood.

Me: Thank You for that explanation of Your wrath, Father! And thank You for Your unimaginable Gift! I love you!

ABBA: You are welcome! I love you!

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Am I? Are You? #14

I Am… Accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world , that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. Ephesians 1:3-10

Before there was a single molecule of earth. Depending on how expansive one is willing to be with the word “world” [Greek κόσμου – kosmou], possibly before there was a single physical particle of anything, anywhere; we were chosen. I shared at some length in my last post the conversation I had with God the Father on the intriguing subject of predestination as an aspect of God knowing the end from the beginning, so I am not going to divert into that mystery here, other than to recognize again that the scripture is replete with these references that center around God being omniscient and eternal. Since we are bound in time (at least for now) and He is not, we presently have little concept of just how these things work.

The important thing for me to see, is that before there was any “there” there, God looked at my need to be rescued from the downward death-spiral of sin and disobedience and determined to save me by the sacrifice of the Son. The word “grace” in verse six also connotes that it is a free gift and contingent only upon my willingness to accept it. In other words, when Jesus uttered, “It is finished.” from the cross, there was no further action necessary from God’s side of things.

God is truly extravagant in His giving. Paul used the word “lavished”. Marvelous. Marvelous! Marvelous indeed! No wonder verse six mentions praise! I return for a moment to the words “He chose” in verse four. We are not accidental beneficiaries. No, we are adopted (verse five). I daresay any adoptive parent will attest that adoption is not a random-chance event; no one ever said, “then an adoption happened”.

One last thing. It says “in the beloved”. I am a first-born son, as far as my natural family goes. Like most first-born children, I was trained early in a performance-based sense of self. I need to lay this mindset down. I understand that intellectually now but it is deeply ingrained. Some might ask, “Just why do you need to abandon this sense of yourself”? The answer is precisely because in my self I cannot live up to the holy life that is being spoken of, life that is even capable of true communion with God. Only One has ever managed it. The real mystery is that He made a way for me to be “in” Him. That is the way of acceptance, the way of salvation, the way of communion, of joy, of peace, of adoption. Of love.

I Am the way… John 14:6

Am I? Are You? #13

I am grateful, Father, to be in Your family!

I Am… An heir of God. – Romans 8:17

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

16 The Spirit itself* beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

* Short side trip: Greek αὐτὸ is the third-person pronoun (he, she, it) determined by context. I believe the Holy Spirit is a person, an essential part of the Person of God (Deuteronomy 6:4), even as our spirit is an essential part of our being. I don’t presume to fault the KJV translation too much; it is impossible for the mind of man to contain a full understanding of God any more than a child knows a parent fully. We may know the Spirit as He incrementally reveals Himself to us in our spirit when we become intentionally still enough to hear.

17 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.

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Me: Good morning Father!

ABBA: Good morning Jon!

Me: When I went to investigate Romans 8:17 further, I began to meditate on all of Romans 8, and I found it to be a cache of endless treasure (and a few hard concepts).

ABBA: When you were raising children, did you find that they were usually able to comprehend the full depth of things that they asked questions about?

Me: No, they were able to recognize and ask about many things that were both mysterious to them and wonderful at the same time. Deeper understanding often required more intellectual background than they yet possessed. Really, more than I yet possess.

ABBA: How would you answer them?

Me: Some dads would say, “Ask your mother” but I have always been disposed to try to give some response. I wish I could say I generally gave a heart-centered answer, merely acknowledging that it was a complicated question. At a young age, they were usually trying to decide how to relate to the thing, not learn how it was designed. I wasn’t heart-centered enough myself in those days and would ususally give an answer they were unprepared to make use of. I suppose I am still prone to do that if anyone asks me something.

ABBA: Yes, most young children are trying to learn, whereas some adults are trying to control. I understand you want to be accurate. I made you that way. Still, you have to consider the questioner and their frame of reference. I sent My Son, in part, to communicate My love for you (John 3:16) in a way that was unmistakable.

Me: The heart message in verse fifteen is one that is at the very center of the good news of the Gospel – that in Jesus we are adopted into Your family and no longer under the fearful severity of the law (which we instinctively understand we have violated). Now, we are brought in by love (1 John 4:8).

ABBA: You understand that the law is satisfied because Jesus suffered the penalty due to you. Do you also understand that as heir you have all of My resources available to carry out our mission? Do you know, you inherited a part of My mission as well? (Matthew 28:16-20)

Look at Romans 5:5. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Do you understand that this promise is that My very nature is being manifest in you?

Me: I am trying to understand. I hope that is what this series is accomplishing for me and for any who read it with a spirit of contemplation. I know these things intellectually. I can read them in the scriptures. It is the heart that is stubborn. Usually, I don’t even realize that it is being so obstinate or that I have some negative self-talk running in the background. I do know that I need to repent of those internal messages that run contrary to the promises You have made to us.

ABBA: Keep listening for My Spirit to guide you into all the Truth. Keep delving into the scripture while looking to Me for Guidance. Commit My promises to memory and the Spirit will bring them to remembrance when you need them.

Now, what do you consider a hard concept?

Me: As I read on in Romans 8, I got to wondering about the “predestination” concepts in verses 29-30 (and many other places). I decided to read a bunch of other’s take on those verses. I was surprised by what I found.

ABBA: How so?

Me: I found a lot of people identifying as “Calvinists”, making all kinds of assertions about You and what this passage means. Some were mostly taking aim at “Armenians” whom they said were wrong to not put enough emphasis on it. Some seemed to be emphasizing Your loving nature, but perhaps only to some particular insiders of Your choosing. Others took what I would say are extreme views, claiming any foresight You have is equivalent to a final determination and that man has no free will and therefore no responsibility. Some claimed they were saved and others were irrevocably out because You had not chosen them. I found that the banner of Calvinist flies over all kinds of doctrinal positions. So much so, that I would say it is meaningless in a practical sense. I am sure I have not scratched the surface, nor that I want to.

Why do people feel the need to put You in some kind of box that they can circumnavigate? Don’t they even have a sense of Your limitless nature? Don’t they ever go outside at night and look up at some of what You have done? And how do some so handily ignore the Great Commission, or the fact expounded in Scripture that You are not willing that any should perish, while recognizing that some choose to reject. And that is another thing, some of these particular Calvinists used the fact that some reject You as “proof” that You did not choose them. If I know You at all, I know that is not true.

I believe you led me to these related scriptures:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance

Romans 3 – Speaks of the inclusive will of God.

Ephesians 4: Grieve not the Holy Spirit. (Why give this instruction if, as I understand the extreme position of some, that the will of God is irresistible?)

Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (This explains well enough to me why it is hard to get a persons to change their mind. Their way seems right to them. Convinced of it they are, yes. They don’t see the end because it is, well, at the end.)

John 1:12-13 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

ABBA: Of course I led you to these scriptures and you know your identity as My child. The philosophies of men do not and can not describe Me. I have repeatedly shown you that a few of those who emphasize My sovereignty do so in order to be dogmatic about something they think they know about Me – that they really have no choice. At least they recognize the universe is not all about them. But they miss this fact; the only one who can restrict Me is Me. You are made in My image in this regard. You can control what you do, too. To belabor the point, I can of My own will, let you act according to your own will. It should not be lost on you that true love between us is not possible under other circumstances.

Me: Thank you Father! I love you!

ABBA: You are welcome! I love you!

Postscript:

I live and work in a community where perhaps the majority of the population attends churches where the members would identify as Calvinists. Many have been schooled at Calvin College, or one of the many similar institutions. Please understand that I know something of the hearts of these people and I am in no wise intending to paint my friends and acquaintances with a broad brush because of the extreme views of the few internet denizens that I mentioned above. I know from conversations with friends that these local churches have active missionary programs. Why would they do that, if salvation was an irrevocably-settled issue through “predestination”? It was through one of these churches that I initially learned that I could have a direct and intimate conversation with God and expect to hear from Him in my spirit through His Spirit.

On the other hand, if any finds him or herself subscribing to the notion that we don’t really have a choice, please keep seeking. Consider this: Why would the scripture spend so much time telling us how to live in alignment with God’s plan, if we could not fail to do so?

Am I? Are You? #12

I Am… Saved by Grace — Ephesians 2:8

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

Probably, the most well-known verse about salvation is John 3:16.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This is good news indeed, if one can believe it. In fact, believing is the key to the door (John 10:7, Hebrews 11:6). Ephesians 2:8 uses the word faith. Others relate this fact by using the word trust, which is backed up by Romans 15:13, among many other passages.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why so many different expressions? Are we not clear on the premise? How could we be? Plumbing the depths of this astounding gift requires more meditation and resulting revelation than we could receive during the days alloted to a mortal lifetime. I have found increasing faith, deepening belief, and growing trust with no practical end of the quest in sight. The reason for this delightful endlessness is that an aspect of of salvation is that we are coming to be in Him (Acts 17:28) and He is without limit. Eternal. Omniscient. Omnipotent. Omnipresent. He is all of these things and He is love (1 John 4:8).

I have heard grace defined as “unmerited favor.” Merriam Webster has the first entry as: “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification”. Unmerited is right. Scripture aside, I only have to look back on my own path to recognize that truth. The scripture, of course, bears this out too.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

I am grateful that Ephesians 2:8 is explicit in pointing out that salvation is His work and is a gift to us. Yes, we have to believe. If we come to recognize Him at all, belief is a very low threshold.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

It is finished. I love this passage! No more work required. If I think by my works I am going to add something, I am painfully deluded and lacking in faith.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12

So what does “work out your salvation” mean? To me, it signifies that journey of trying to understand, and endeavoring to make my actions line up with the truth revealed in the scripture. “Am I? Are You?” Why fear and trembling? Because. Sometimes I act like I am insane. I do things that are counter to the Truth (capital T, as in “I Am the Truth”). I can’t even claim that I don’t know any better.

I am grateful for this too:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

I need that power to restore me to sanity.

Finally, I want to observe this:

so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28

Though His sacrifice is finished (complete), He is not done with me yet. Nor, I suspect, is he done with you.

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Am I? Are You? #11

I Am… Hid in Christ Colossians 3:3

Put On the New Self [Colossians 3:1-17]

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Here is a great insight with nearly endless application for an improved life:

The truth will make you free. (John 8:32)

The passage in Colossians above is a bottomless spring of blessing. I can only counsel you to meditate on it.

A son of disobedience (v6). That has been a pretty accurate description of me at (hopefully former) times of my life. But I am being rescued from that “life” that I was choosing, and ushered into a glorious life (!) of His design. There are some pretty awesome characteristics of this new life listed here. You can participate in this great exchange too. If you want to, and if you are willing to tell the deceiving lying voice that claims you are going to give up something more worthwhile, to just. shut. up.

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Am I? Are You? #10

I Am… God’s Workmanship. Installment 10, working through the affirmations in Christy Mitropoulus’ artwork shown in the featured image.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Definition of workmanship

1 : something effected, made, or produced : WORK
2 : the art or skill of a workman
also : the quality imparted to a thing in the process of making

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/workmanship

His workmanship. His. He is the author of the universe and everything in it. As beautiful and majestic and mysterious as the creation is to us – though we have extremely limited understanding – and we have not personally seen it in its original unsullied “very good” Genesis 1:31 state. This lack of insight extends to us:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1 John 3:2

As His workmanship, we ought not lay claim to glory for good works as though they are of our own manufacture. The good works we are called to walk in are specially prepared for us. To do them is our purpose. We were uniquely crafted to be able to carry them out. If my relationship with Him is not one of open communication, of diligently seeking Him, and listening with rapt attention, how will I ever discern what I am made to do? If I come to my understanding without Him, I will flounder.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8

So King Rehoboam strengthened himself in Jerusalem and reigned…He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord. 2 Chronicles 12:13-15

There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12

Yet when we align with Him, things are right.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

Though God is sovereign, He restrains Himself in this: He lets us choose which way we will go. Where there is no choice, there can be no love. He is love; the very definition of it. What this means is that outside of Him, there is no love. Perhaps there is that which we would call love, but which falls far short of His love for it lacks the power of the divine.

Love is not the total of His workmanship in us, but it first in the list. Also, the fact that He lets us choose implies we have the power to live up to the promise or to go another way.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:16-24

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Am I? Are You? #9

I Am… Justified by faith in Christ. Galatians 2:16

16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

Me: Thank You Jesus! For this great exchange, for your radiant rightness in exchange for our wretched wrongness.

Jesus: Isaiah saw the need:

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.—Isaiah 64:6

In fact, any who have seen the result clearly after trying to live right, will acknowledge the truth of Isaiah’s words. And those who do not see are worse off still and in bondage to blind pride. (Matthew 23:3)

There is none righteous. No, not even one. Isaiah 45:21; Romans 3:10; Mark 10:18

And the scripture makes sure knowledge of this salvation I Am providing cannot be missed:

Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. Isaiah 28:16

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Mark 11:23

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. John 6:35

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. John 6:47

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:38

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, John 11:25

And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. John 12:44

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. John 14:12

just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Romans 9:33

For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 1 Peter 2:6

Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:5

Me: Thank You Jesus! What a treasure of promise! I love You!

Jesus: You are welcome! I love you! Remember, the kind of believing these scriptures are speaking of is of the heart, not mere mental assent.

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