I have been having a conversation with the Holy Spirit the past couple of days. For you who think “conversation” has a narrow definition, the Spirit has been making certain impressions on my heart, which then leak into my mind when I am in a meditative mood (often). In turn, I prayerfully pose questions to the Spirit, asking for clarification. Often a pertinent verse of scripture will come to mind; a process that is only possible if one has taken the trouble to put verses of scripture into one’s mind in the first place. One of those, John 16:13, is relevant to the description that I am giving:
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
In any event, the this conversation concerns several notable times in my life when my circumstance turned dramatically and more-or-less permanently for the better, as a direct result of someone close to me either making a decision which negatively impacted them long term, or in another case, absorbed some grievous abuse such that I did not become a target of the same. I think I will not share the details of these, since the persons I am thinking of are deceased now and unable to consent to my sharing.
However, as I meditated on these life-changing events, I was led to a couple of passages. The first is Romans 8:28:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
All things – even decisions made of those close to us – decisions which proved to be good for me as this passage in Romans 8 promises even while apparently detrimental to the person following the path they decided upon. As I contemplated these situations from my past, the Spirit showed me that I was, in a way, a beneficiary of Judas’ decision to betray Jesus. (You can read about the beginning of that in John chapter 13.) We all needed Jesus to go to the cross to bear our sin and the death-wage we earned though it. Judas played a part in that, and you can see that Jesus acknowledged that it was necessary. If you follow the story, you find out that it did not end well for Judas, at least in life. Jesus Himself then suffered in our stead on that cruel Roman cross that we might be restored to the position of having God as our Father. I find it humbling to consider that I may thrive as a result of the troubles of others. Did God “do bad things” to them that I might prosper? No, no, no. He is not like that. Their choices were their own. (And in Jesus’ case, it was the reason He came.) Yet mysteriously, His grace persists, causing even the most unlikely of “all things” to work out for my good.
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
– 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.
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.
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”.
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
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
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
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
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
ABBA: Good morning
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
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
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
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
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!
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?
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
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
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
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.
I Am… Justified by
faith in Christ. Galatians 2:16
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
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.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and 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. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Romans 8 highlights
the importance of “putting to death the deeds of the body”:
12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Just as Jesus
wrestled with His upcoming crucifixion in the garden, so I have had
to make peace with the process of “dying” to the things I want
that are contrary to God’s will for me. Another way to identify
many of the things that need to see death is to recognize those
things that I desire that are not in my best interest. I don’t mean
my shortsighted desires either. I mean not in my best interest in the
sense of the total of this life and its continuation after I shuffle
off of this mortal coil. God has my best interests at heart, just as
he has yours. He is limited by nothing except His having opted to let
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. Luke 9:23
Please don’t think
that this is one more exhortation to hitch up your pants and redouble
your efforts to exercise greater willpower. There is one thing about
the dead; they don’t expend more energy than the difference in
their remaining temperature and that of their surroundings. This is
about turning over your “chooser” to God. Jesus made this
Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Heb 7:25
My wife and I make a regular practice of reminding ourselves of some of the traits of God by praying through them together. Jehovah M’kaddesh — God our sanctification — is one of those descriptions. This word M’kaddesh is a transliteration from Hebrew which is often rendered sanctification, meaning set apart for God, or made holy. Holy means without fault and wholly consistent. The word saint is derived from it. Note very clearly that this is one of God’s attributes and it is not energized by us. We’re supposed to be dying to the thing in question. Remember? So what’s the problem? Its His power, but our choice.
I’m leaving you
with a link to a set of sermon notes on this attribute of God. They
are not my notes, but those of the late Rev. Don Robinson. I have not
explored more of this person’s writings, but I found this
particular one a thorough-going explanation of the many times in
scripture that this word comes up. He also makes it clear that this
is a life-long pursuit. We have a long way to go, but infinite help.
Today, we celebrate Easter. I am grateful for the resurrection!
Note to the newcomer to this series. This is a set of meditations and conversations with God about the affirmations for the Christian found on the pictured piece of art by Christy Mitroupoulos.
I Am … The righteousness of God in Christ. — 2 Corinthians 5:21
20 Therefore, we are
ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through
us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made
Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become
the righteousness of God in Him.
Me: Good morning
Jesus: Good morning
Me: Talk about
adding insult to injury! Since I have been made more aware of my own
depravity, I have a hard time even imagining what it must have been
like for You to know no sin – in the sense of personal experience –
then to be made to be sin. My sin!
Jesus: The scripture
tells you that it was not easy for me to reconcile my flesh to the
task of taking on not only your sin and its deadly
consequence, but that of all
who will accept My salvation.
what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your
heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if
you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart
that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the
heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the
mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
I want this to be
clear to you; 2 Corinthians 5:21 is not talking about righteousness
by the best definition of men (or your own definition). What does it
Me: It says Your
Jesus: Are you there
Me: Clearly not. Yet
I have been taught that I need to have to have faith that I am
becoming so, and that (eventually) the result is assured because of
Your faithfulness. There is the assertion that this passage marks a
momentous exchange: You taking on our sin and we taking on Your
righteousness by faith. Some say, “God’s not finished with me
yet.” But on the cross, You said, “It is finished.”
distinction is that you are, as a matter of position, hidden in Me
(since you choose to be). —Colossians
3:3 It is as if you were called into court to answer for many
offenses, some of which are capital crimes. Your guilt is not in
question. The sentence is spelled out. Then I volunteer to submit to
the penalty you are due in your place. This part is finished. I
already served your death sentence.
Do not doubt that
the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) Contrary to what the schools
teach in your day, that everything living came to its present state
through purely natural means over eons of time, with death at every
turn; there was no death before sin. (Genesis 2:17) Things
degenerated from there…
“… O death,
where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of
death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God,
who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Corinthians 15:55-57 (First
two sentences are quoted
from Hosea 13 by Paul, recalling a lament by God over sin and
recognizing that man
trouble, as the law clearly
points out, but
now rejoicing at being
rescued by Me. )
Having been freed,
you still have the practical aspects of “becoming” My
righteousness. There is a process of transformation which you know
from walking in it.—