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? #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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Am I? Are you? #8


I am grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice on my account!

I AM … Crucified with Christ. — Galatians 2:20

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 us decide.

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 possible:

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.

http://www.brandonweb.com/sermons/sermonpages/leviticus3.htm

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Am I? Are you? #7


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!

Jesus: Good morning Jon!

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. (Luke 22:39-46)

Romans 10:8-10—But 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 say?

Me: It says Your righteousness.

Jesus: Are you there yet?

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.”

Jesus: The 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.

—1 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 was in 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.— Romans 12:2

Me: Thank you Jesus! I love You!

Jesus: You are welcome! I love you!

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Am I? Are you? #6


I am grateful for having made Eric’s acquaintance.

This is the sixth affirmation found on the piece of Christy Mitropoulous’ artwork that we have been working though.

I Am … More than a conqueror. Romans 8:37

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 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. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31-39

My life is mercifully devoid of deadly peril most of the time. Hardship? More like occasional inconvenience. Nakedness? Hardly ever in public, except nightmares remembered from childhood where I was a helpless mannequin on display in the J. C. Penney store. I guess I was feeling sorry for the public embarrassment of the mannequins that worked there.

Persecution? Well, that is certainly on the increase. It is a plot by dark powers faithfully executed by those who follow them, whether wittingly or unwittingly. The policies of most companies have been changed to restrict open expression of convictions supporting traditional moral values. They may or may not be regularly enforced, but are a snare waiting for the unwary. Does this documentation mean your company is actually against traditional values? They could be. Probably though, they are just observant and pragmatic. They observe that if a complaint is lodged against you they are open to be sued because of your beliefs, unless they have taken a position against them. The courts have proven repeatedly to come down on the side of anyone but the one who is following convictions based on Christian belief. Christ-believers are now in a condition where one can’t work for a living and vocalize one’s traditional beliefs without taking on significant risk.

Most of this is in a still-trifling state, compared to the full aims of the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). This passage in Romans 8 stands ready to console, however bad it gets.

Death? I am convinced, like Paul, that death is no enemy for the Christ-follower. This doesn’t imply my sense of self-preservation has ceased to function normally. Though I know that none of us gets out of this world alive, I am sure that this existence is not all there is. Yesterday, I learned my friend Eric, who had been valiantly fighting cancer, had passed. I watched him battle the symptoms at fairly close range and fervently prayed daily, expecting his restoration. I never talked with him when I did not come away uplifted by his sense of gratitude and grace. There is no doubt in my mind that the attitude he displayed was merely an artifact of the upward road he was walking, right to the end of this phase of life. There in no end of the list of things that Eric was conquering. If you had known him, you would have seen that clearly too. Death is now one of them.

Life is in Paul’s list of things that cannot separate us from the love of God. I need to be reminded at every turn that I am a conqueror over the issues of life. God has given us in the scriptures a perfect life manual, He has given us a reprieve in Jesus from the spiritual death sentence we each had earned. He has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us to move in the life we are called to live. Why, you might ask, would I need to be reminded that I am a conqueror over life? You can likely answer that question yourself before it is fully formed on your lips. Life is sometimes not a bed of roses. Sometimes if is filled with many of the other troubles in Paul’s list. For me, though, it is my past history as a serial abuser of the free will that God has graciously given me, doing things that I wanted to do that were not in my best interest. Why? Well, inexplicably, because I wanted to. Still, I find Him unfailingly faithful. Unerringly true to His word. Helping me to be more than a conqueror, even over life. And this is the best part, simply because He loves Me.

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Are you? Am I? #5


I am grateful for the fascinating uniqueness of every person. You, our Creator, are AWESOME!

I Am … A new creation. — 2 Corinthians 5:17

(This is the fifth entry on Christy Mitropolous’ artwork.)

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Me: Good morning Jesus!

Jesus: Good morning Jon!

Me: I want to ask a hard question.

Jesus: Yes?

Me: I was grumpy and surly last night. Even working outside on a gorgeous spring evening, I seemed incapable of proper appreciation.

Jesus: You were preoccupied with comparing your performance at work against your perception of the many demands on your time. You scarcely notice the extra-special sunset I created. Have you thought about why having more to do than you can focus on causes you stress? One of the people you met with yesterday about the likely impact of changes to an electronic controller published an email naming you an expert on the subject at hand.

Me: The guy who actually made the changes was out sick. I knew the details because he reports to me and had graciously kept me involved because he recognized the stakes were high, business wise. But to your question, I feel like a juggler who is struggling to keep all the balls in the air. The last act of my day at work was fielding a question from my manager, who asked me something I had not had time to study. I had no idea.

Jesus: When I was “in the flesh”, so to speak, I answered such a question, about the consummation of all things.

I said, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”. Mark 13:32

My point is, there are things it is not up to you to know. Or do.

I am glad that you recognized your attitude was not right yesterday and then brought it to Me. If your peace is disturbed, it is a red flag that something in your beliefs is not founded on the truth that I Am in control and that I Am willing to guide you through. You have a tendency to think “new creation” implies final perfection. What it means is because the power of sin is broken in Me, there is the possibility. A baby is a new creation, who has a lifetime of learning and development ahead following the process of becoming (v21) what he is created to be.

Me: Thank You Jesus! I love you!

Jesus: You are welcome! I love you!

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Are you? Am I? #4


I am grateful for more Spring-like weather! Time to rake the gravel out of the grass from plowing the driveway last Winter!

The fourth statement on Christy Mitropoulous’ artwork is:

I AM – A slave to righteousness. Romans 6:18

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 16:15-23

Me: Good evening Jesus!

Jesus: Good evening Jon!

Me: My wife reminded me of Jim Richards’ definition of righteousness, as living the way things ought to be (I’m paraphrasing).

Jesus: When you were living the way you thought things ought to be, you were not righteous. Finding out My definition of the way things ought to be and living according to that in the power of the Spirit is the way to be free from enslavement to sin.

Me: I have had large swaths of my life when I agreed your way was right, but still did not or could not follow it.

Jesus: Yes, mere agreement will not suffice to transform your life. What was the word Paul used as an indicator?

Me: Obedience?

Jesus: The proof is in the outcome. Obedience is a verb. Agreement is a position. Change requires action. Obedience in your own strength is works, and as you know from experience, you will ultimately fail. Obedience operating in My strength, in the grace I have extended to you, is key; I will never fail you.

The other day, in a meeting with friends, you observed that the trajectory of your life had gone from a steady downward spiral to one that was consistently upward. There are many ways to describe the divide Paul is speaking of in this passage. It all comes down to this: will you walk with Me, or not? Many think this means asking Me to walk with them. That is not the way to freedom either.

Me: Thank You Jesus! I love You!

Jesus: You’re welcome! I love you!

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