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New Faith and a New Nature

October 11th, 2018

Your new faith did not erase your old nature.

“Given to us are exceedingly great and precious promises, that you may be partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:4 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “new faith and a new nature.”

Salvation resolves the problem of your eternal destiny. Salvation does not solve all your problems in this life immediately. That is a process of grace. So, you are a Christ-follower now. Shouldn’t everyday life become easier? Do you ever wonder if you should be further along in your spiritual growth than you are? Should you be winning new battles instead of still fighting so many of the old ones?

Salvation reconciles your history and begins a wonderful new journey, but there is much more that God wants and needs to accomplish in you. God cares about your destiny. Remember when you finally realized that you could not save yourself by your good works? Paul wrote,  He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 NIV.

Yet it is alarmingly easy to still assume that now you can take it from here. The Bible calls those, dead works. You can no more live your Christian life on your best behavior now, than you could save yourself by your good behavior previously. You know what the problem is? Your new faith did not erase your old nature.

I envision Paul rejoicing as he wrote the words, Because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. Read Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV. You remain vulnerable to the relentless pull of desires incompatible with your confession and spiritual convictions.

And when that happens, feelings of guilt return and doubts cloud your confidence about salvation. You thought that battle was in the past, didn’t you? The Apostle Paul asked and answered the question our hearts ask, Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:23-24 NIV.  Here’s the good news! “Walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 NAS. I suggest that you cannot consistently and successfully walk in the power of the Holy Spirit until you request, receive, and realize that you have been filled with the Spirit.

By His Spirit, God Himself dwells within you to deliver you from your old nature, much the same as He redeemed you from your sins by Jesus Christ. See Galatians 2:20 NIV. You will be better, do better, and live better when you rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit. I have heard this wonderful progression of spiritual life and growth explained this way.

At salvation, you were saved from the penalty of sin. In the ongoing process of sanctification, you are being saved from the power of sin. And in eternity you will be saved from the presence of sin. The old nature will then be eradicated forever; never again will you contend with its inclination toward sin.

To accomplish this, there is both an indwelling and an infilling of the Spirit. The indwelling is constant and occurs when the Spirit baptizes you into the Body of Christ. Read 1 Corinthians 12:13 NKJV. The infilling occurs at your invitation – anywhere, anytime, every time – as Jesus baptizes you with His Spirit. The Bible says, 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is,18 be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:17-18 NKJV. The Greek word in that verse that is translated, “filled,” describes the influence of something rather than the quantity of something.

Consider this. A sail boat moves under the influence and direction of the wind when its sails become filled with the wind. Similarly, “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us . .“ Galatians 5:22 NLT. Live full of the Spirit; the Spirit then gives you the power you lack to forgive, be patient in trials, be loving when mistreated, trust and obey when you don’t understand, break habits, and live as your heart for God desires.

As a child of God, the infilling of the Spirit does not give you more of the Spirit than already abides in you. Yielding more of yourself to live within His authority releases the Holy Spirit’s fullness and influence. See Galatians 5:24-25 NIV. Live every day, in and by the power and influence of the Spirit of God.

Today I pray for you to rely every moment on the power of God’s Spirit.

Christian Communications 2018

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Nature and Nurture

August 11th, 2015

“Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27 NKJV.

Spiritual nurture is essential for effective and enduring change.

My thoughts and comments today are about “nature and nurture”

This morning, comments from my friend, Shane, prompted some reflection on the origin of behavior and development of character. It seems the debate ultimately centers on the influences of nature or nurture. Both are influential. Nature forms who you have been, expressed by what comes naturally to you for better or worse – your habitual reactions, possessive inclinations, prejudices, self-willed, or self-centered.

My friend cautioned about trusting nature over nurture, “Leave it to nature and you leave a blank canvas [for yourself and] others to paint on.” We were all conceived in sin, meaning that we were born into a fallen world, possessing a fallen nature, and separated from God and Christ. Paul accurately described life apart from Christ, “O wretched man that I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Read Romans 7:18-25 NKJV.

Conversely, nurture instructs and guides your values, traits, convictions, and conduct, therefore determining who you become. Paul understood our common dilemma but also God’s gracious redemption, “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Read Colossians 3:6-10 NIV.

In Christ, you have the hope and promise of becoming more than you are. “To all who believed Him and accepted Him, [Jesus] gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn!” John 1:12-13 NLT. Paul elaborated further on this remarkable transformation of your old nature, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV. Spiritual nurture is essential for effective and enduring change.

The Word of God nurtures Christian growth and Godly character, “[God has] given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature . .” Read 2 Peter 1:2-11 NKJV. Especially note verses 5-9.

The Holy Spirit nurtures discipleship and obedience, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.” Read Romans 8:1-11 NIV.

Spiritual discipline nurtures firm resolve, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV.

Christian Fellowship nurtures spiritual life and growth. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, but exhorting one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV.

For me, these words sum up any debate about nature versus nurture, “Christ in you, the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27 NKJV. The remedy for all you have been and the potential for all you can become is found ultimately in Jesus as Lord and Savior. See 1 John 3:2-3 NLT.

Today, I pray for you that you are nurtured in your faith and an encourager to others.

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Abiding and Abounding

January 6th, 2014

“God is able to make all grace abound toward you.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV.

Providence is the expression of His nature resulting in the supply of your need.

My thoughts and comments today are about “abiding and abounding.”

In recent days, my heart’s desire for our family, and for you and yours, has been for, “a life blessed with God’s abiding presence and overflowing with His abounding providence.” However you would express your desire for God to be gracious, I think our yearnings would be similar. I welcome God to be near not far, active not passive; I embrace God’s gracious care and generous provision.

Imagine your life, “blessed with God’s abiding presence.”God does not come and go at whim; He abides. The Psalmist quoted Moses, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” See Psalm 90:1-2 NKJV. He has always been; He will always be. Theologians correctly speak of God as pre-existent (Genesis 1:1/John 1:1 NKJV) and omnipresent (Acts 17:27-28a NIV). Moses had an interesting exchange when God promised, “’My Presence will go with you’ . . then Moses said to Him, ‘If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.’” Exodus 33:14-17 NKJV. There is never a reason to continue your journey without God’s company. No one need do so.

The Incarnation of Jesus is the supreme assurance our God is ever present, “Immanuel, which is ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:23 NKJV. See John 1:14 NKJV. God’s presence is constant and unchanging, yet you consciously enter into His presence.God does not hide from you; He waits for you. “Come before His presence with singing . . Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.” Psalm 100:2/4 NKJV. See Psalm 16:11 NKJV. Though God is ever surrounding, you must enter His presence intentionally. God is known through the study of His Word and the devotional practice of thanksgiving and worship.

Imagine your life “overflowing with God’s abounding providence.” Providence is rich in meaning, describing both God Himself, as well as His meticulous care and provision. Providence is defined as, “God, especially when directing the affairs of man with wise benevolence,” or “the foresight, care, and guidance of God for His creation.” Providence is both who God is and what He does.

Paul describes the abundance of God’s ability and attentive purpose to provide. “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you having all sufficiency in all things may have an abundance for every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 NKJV. Personalize those words, then read them until conviction of their truth grips your heart, reflecting on the extraordinary description of your Father’s overflowing providence.There is neither hesitancy in His intent nor inadequacy of His supply.

Providence is the expression of His nature resulting in the supply of your need. Listen to Paul’s testimony, “I have all and abound, I am full . . And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:18-19 NKJV. God’s abounding providence is out of His incomparable, immeasurable “riches in glory.” How can you be sure that God’s generosity extends to you? Paul’s reasoning is brilliant and inarguable, “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up [freely] for us all, how will He not also, along with [His Son], graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32 NIV. Having freely given Jesus to be your Savior, what would God withhold?

My prayer for you today is that you will be persuaded of the grace and generosity of God.

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Empty Lives

July 22nd, 2013

“That you may be filled with all of the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19 NKJV

A life void of internal strength succumbs to surrounding pressures.

My thoughts and comments today are about “empty lives.”

In High School, I learned a simple principle of physics; “Nature abhors a vacuum.” To demonstrate, our science teacher presented a metal can, proceeding to extract air out of it until we watched the sturdy can gradually collapse. As resistant, internal pressure is reduced, nature pushes into any void to fill the emptiness. The external pressure was stronger than the strength of the can to resist.

A person’s life can be like that. If your life is void of internal strength you lose the power to resist and withstand, gradually succumbing to the pressures of the world and culture around you. Life is not easy; temptations are many. The pressures to compromise – to give in, to go along to get along – will seem irresistible. The Bible recognizes such spiritual realities and gives the strength to resist such situations successfully. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore . .“ Ephesians 6:13-14 NKJV.

You can successfully stand firm, strong, and righteously if you have a greater power within you than the one oppressing you; “Because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” 1 John 4:4 NIV – a greater power with you than opposing you, “Don’t be afraid for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 2 Kings 6:16 NIV.

Jesus sat purposefully beside Jacob’s well at noonday when a woman from the city came to draw water. Read John 4:3-30 NKJV. Her supply was gone; her life was empty. In vain, she tried to fill her emptiness with relationships that did not work and pleasures that could not satisfy, never finding a sense of fullness until she met a Man unlike any other she had known. Her emptiness met Jesus’ fullness. Other men only took precious things from her – sanctity, dignity, integrity; Jesus gave the most precious of things to her – forgiveness, freedom, and fullness.

Jesus saw the emptiness of her heart, and invited her to a fullness of life she had never known. “If you knew the gift God has for you, and Who I am, you would ask Me and I would give you Living Water . . people soon become thirsty again after drinking this water, but the water that I give takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:10-13 NLT. In a moment, her life went from empty to full, from life always failing to life ever flowing. See Colossians 1:27 NIV.

Your response can be as hers, “Please sir, give me this Living Water that I may never thirst again.” John 4:15 NKJV.  Recognition is the first step to release. Read John 7:37-39/2 Corinthians 9:8. What did she do? She drank deeply of the Living Water offered her, and then straightway ran to her village and told everyone she knew, “Come; see a Man who told me everything I ever did!” John 4:28-30/39-42 NKJV. You don’t change by denying your past; you change by releasing it to Jesus.

You can know the Savior, yet still struggle with spiritual emptiness, lacking His sufficiency of grace, love, joy, peace, patience, trust, rest, or provision. See Galatians 5:22-25 NLT. God invites you to overflowing, abiding fullness, “That you may be filled with all of the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-21 NKJV. Everything you will ever need or look for, its fullness is found in Jesus. 

My prayer for you this day is: understand that empty lives find fullness only in Jesus.

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For Goodness Sake

May 31st, 2010

“The good man brings good things from the good stored up in his heart.” Luke 6:45 NIV

“Goodness is important, because goodness matters to God.”

My thoughts today are “for goodness sake.”

My Mom seemed to say that a lot when I was growing up. “Allen, for goodness sake don’t do that.” She was a good lady, caring, selfless and generous, and loved by all who knew her. It must have been her way to appeal to what was better in me, wanting me to learn to consider what would be for the best when making decisions or choosing a course of action. I couldn’t tell you whether that was very effective at the time, because teens aren’t always as concerned about the result of things, as they are of their desire at the moment. But at least she planted an idea inside my head, and maybe into my heart, by sincere repetition.

To many, goodness just doesn’t seem good enough. Goodness often sounds so mediocre – so plain vanilla – nothing particularly exceptional about it. Badness at least has some thrill to it; goodness sounds boring. Greatness, now that will get attention; goodness just doesn’t seem to rate much notice. But I suggest that goodness is important, in spite of a culture that evidences anything but that. Goodness matters to God, so that should matter to you, a lot!

Jesus said, “(Even) a tree is recognized by its fruit . . the good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:43-45 NIV. So, here’s the deal. If you want to live for goodness sake, it starts in the heart. Goodness is not some occasional, big important thing that you do; goodness is really about who you are, all the time, in things great and small.

Goodness begins with what is “stored up in the heart.” (See Proverbs 4:23 NKJV) It happens over a sustained period of time by living a life that is consistently obedient and pleasing to God. You don’t “get” goodness all of a sudden; you become good by living everyday “for goodness sake.” “That you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work . . growing . . strengthened . . joyfully giving thanks . .” Read Colossians 1:9-14 NIV.

Goodness is expressed by “good things.” You don’t try to do them; they just naturally happen because of what you have placed purposefully into your heart. Good people characteristically do good things. Bad people mostly do bad things. Both are capable of doing either sometimes.

Goodness is the new, redeemed nature of a “good man.” Goodness is a product of God at work in your life. See Galatians 5:22 NIV. “I am convinced that you are full of goodness, complete in knowledge, competent to instruct one another.” Romans 15:13-14 NIV. See Ephesians 5:8-10/Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that your heart’s desire is to live to please God always.

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