Liberty And Providence
●Eph 1:3 ...Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.
I think we can safely put spiritual blessings into four categories: Providence, Spiritual Gifts, The Fruit of the Spirit, and Rewards.
Providence can be defined as the hand of God in the glove of your life.
Spiritual Gifts can be defined as special abilities for Christian service.
The Fruit Of The Spirit can be defined as Christ's personality; his very own heart and mind.
Rewards can be defined as compensation for loyalty and faithful service.
Some time ago, Joanne was listening to a radio bible teacher who was going through Ephesians. He said spiritual blessings are like an inheritance with our name on it. We can get some of it now and be wealthy, or we can ignore that inheritance and die penniless. She decided then and there that she didn't want to be a poverty stricken Christian.
My very favorite spiritual blessing is providence; and my very favorite example of providence is that great woman of excellence: Ruth.
When she set out one day to glean grain, Ruth was just going about her business in a normal way, manipulated by hunger and a concern for the welfare of her mother-in-law Naomi. We know from Ruth 2:3 that Ruth ended up in Boaz's field just by dumb luck. She didn't even know Boaz, was and was totally unaware God wanted that man married so he could perpetuate the blood that would eventually bring David into the world and ultimately, Messiah.
You know, watching Titanic reminded me of the insecurity that has plagued women down through the centuries. If Rose refused to marry Cal, then she and her mom would face poverty and the loss of all their possessions. I don't think that modern day American women really appreciate just how serious that was; what with their opportunity for independent careers and all.
Because of God's providence, Naomi's property was redeemed, Ruth remarried, and both women were safe and snug for the rest of their lives. We could tell you of many instances in our married life where we could just about swear that God manipulated our circumstances. But since we don't have a red phone line directly into heaven we can't prove any of it; however, we sure have some strong suspicions.
How To Cash In
But how does the Christian obtain their spiritual blessings? Well, I believe we get them the very same way that Joshua took possession of Canaan— by fighting for them. God promised Joshua that every place the sole of his foot walked would be his. But first he had to get rid of the evil inhabitants who were infesting that land.
It's no different for us today except that our foe is different. It's actually our own selves; human nature, the old man. Just as Joshua was required to put to death the Canaanites, born again Christians are required to put to death their natural selves so that the new self we got when we were born again can have control.
●Col 3:5-10 ...Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since 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.
The people of God really have no other viable option. If we want providence to work for us, and not against us, then we'll just have to knuckle down and claim Jesus' promise at John 15:10
●If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love...
But if we refuse to keep his commandments, then we run the very real risk of not abiding in his love; but instead abiding in his displeasure and becoming dead wood that cannot bear fruit.
●John 15:4-5 ...Abide in me, and I will abide in you. No branch can bear fruit independently; it must remain attached to the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain attached to me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a person abides in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; detached from me you can do nothing. If anyone detaches from me, he is like a branch that withers; such branches are gathered and discarded, thrown into a fire and burned.
Every Christian who neglects to get the new self online and up and running does not have Christ abiding in him. Adam's nature is running the show by the natural passions and impulses of human nature. I'm not saying Christians like that are damned. They're just carnal and worldly.
●1Cor 3:1-3 ...Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?
I sure don't want to become a dried up ol' yard debris Christian; one of the penniless believers that Joanne talked about. I want to abide in his love; I do not want to abide in his disapproval.
Follow Joanne's Lead
I like Joanne's system because it is so simple. Her system goes by the acronym of ROTC.
Read your Bible.
Obey His will
Talk with God
Confess your sins.
●1John 1:9 ...If we confess our sins he is faithful, and just, to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
●John 14:23-24 …Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me."
Think About Your Ways.
I was a loner type of guy back in the late sixties. After I was redeemed, and had what I wanted from God, I went right back to my reclusive life style and got into several interesting hobbies: astronomy, topographic maps, celestial geometry, shooting, CB radio, and hiking. Life was good. I was young and strong and did pretty much as I pleased. And I didn't really much care how Jesus and his father might feel about any of it.
After a while I was so far from God that I began to doubt my eternal destiny. I was frightened enough to come out of seclusion and visit a friendly pastor in Vista California to share my fears with him and try to figure out what was going on. As it turned out, I was in no eternal danger, but was so grossly disobedient to the will of God that His spirit was just about totally quenched.
The pastor showed me a simple directive from the New Testament:
●John 15:16 ...You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, to go and bear fruit; fruit that will last. Then the father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
To my chagrin, I discovered that Jesus doesn't accept people for redemption and then cut them loose so they can do whatever they want after that. And if you will notice from that verse, effective prayer is directly related to obedience.
A friend once wrote a desperate email to us about their employment situation, and ended the letter with this sad epitaph: "I have prayed and prayed, and received no response. I thought I could count on God as a friend, but He let me down. Now I stand alone."
Here's the reply we sent to our friend.
First off, I assure you that I do NOT believe your current state of affairs is because you're a bad Christian. No; not at all. Bad luck comes to all Christians regardless of their degree of piety, and they're all forewarned to expect it. Just because people believe in God does not grant them immunity from problems in life. Job believed that too.
●Job 1:21 and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."
●Job 2:10 Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?
Paul wrote and told his friends at Corinth that they should expect to experience every kind of trouble known to Man. It's just the normal round of life; even for Christians.
●1Cor 10:13a No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.
The meaning of the word *temptation* in that verse isn't the usual meaning; like luring one to sin. In this particular case it means: trials and adversity things like unemployment, a death in the family, illness, divorce, car wrecks, debt, loneliness, depression, betrayal, war, and things like that.
The tenor of your email bothers me a bit. You seem to think God has abandoned you, and are now doubting whether there really is a God or not. That is not good. Christians are not supposed to feel abandoned. Abandonment is what orphans feel.
●John 14:16-18 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
Christians are supposed to have God's spirit; and the Spirit is supposed to make them feel loved.
●Rom 8:14-16 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 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!" The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
See how that's supposed to work? The *spirit of adoption* is a spiritual blessing that imparts to believers the heartfelt bond that enables adopted children to feel the love, and the friendship, and the security feelings that natural-born boys and girls feel with their birth parents.
You aren't supposed to be feeling alone, or that there is no God, or that God has let you down. You are supposed to be feeling loved. You are supposed to be feeling confident that your adoptive Father in heaven will somehow get you out of your current mess.
●1Cor 10:13 And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
You are not supposed to be feeling alone; or that God has let you down. That is not a good symptom. At the worst, it could mean you don't have God's spirit; and that is a very serious condition.
●Rom 8:9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
The sinful nature, contrary to the spirit of adoption, is alienated from God.
●Rom 8:6-8 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
Your alienation from God could also mean that you have somehow grieved God's spirit so badly that it is quenched, and therefore unable to help you to sense the love and concern God feels for you.
●Eph 4:25-32 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
●1Thes 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit;
The only way to find out what grieves God's spirit is by systematic, conscientious Bible study.
●Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is his good, pleasing and perfect will.
My friend was in a bad way, not so much financially, but spiritually. He somehow managed to push God too far, and His spirit went off-line in my friend's life; fulfilling the very thing God said in Genesis long, long ago.
●Gen 6:3a And the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever"
Who Cares About Spiritual Blessings Anyway?
Cliff, suppose I am like you were and have no interest in living a righteous life. Will God still redeem me?
Absolutely; because redemption is a rescue, not a self-help effort that depends upon Man's will power to achieve.
The best example of that is Samson. He was so carnal! He was cruel to animals, loved to party, fight, sleep with whores, start fires and destroy private property. That man was designated for God even before he was born but never once took it seriously. He constantly defiled his Nazarite separation until finally the unthinkable; a hair cut. A Nazarite was never to cut his hair. It was the last straw. God's spirit departed from him, and he lost his eyesight and eventually his life because of it. But we know from Hebrews 11:32 he was, nonetheless, a hero of faith.
Rom 5:6-11 says this about Jesus:
●For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now acquitted by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath. Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Did you catch all that talk about reconciliation? Jesus didn't die for any of us after we first cleaned up our act. No. He died for each of us while we were sinners and while we were his father's enemies. And now today it's his mission in life to keep us safe from wrath. His death broke down the wall of hostility between sinful man and holy God. That's as plain as day in that passage.
Then why should believers bother to live a righteous life?
To apprehend Providence, Spiritual Gifts, the Fruit of the Spirit, and Rewards. Believers need to recognize that redemption is not a reward because they'll be totally confused until they do.
There's an eternity out ahead with a completely new universe coming up. This earth, that Greenpeace, ELF, and all the other environmental junkies are so concerned about preserving, is slated for complete meltdown, incineration, and total replacement. Jesus has already inherited a new universe from his father and just by virtue of the fact that he died for us, we're getting in on it too. That's all totally free part and parcel of redemption.
But there are special compensations we can earn while we finish out our lives in today's evil world if we would but submit, and make ourselves useful to Christ. No one is forcing anybody to comply with the will of God. They can ignore all of it if they want and still be perfectly safe. But it will cost them something in the end. And they will always feel deserted by God; because the day will come when God's spirit will be quenched. Jesus promised his own he would not leave them as orphans. But they will sure feel like one if they continually fail to please him. And a sheep too far from its shepherd is an insecure sheep, and vulnerable to predators.
●John 14:23-24 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me."
●1John 1:3-7 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make your joy complete. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Change Your Mind.
Christians are expected to know God's will; and to do it.
●Rom 12:1-2 ...Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Godthis is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will ishis good, pleasing and perfect will.
●Eph 5:13-17 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." Be very careful, then, how you livenot as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.
In light of what God has done for us, in giving his own son over to indignity and painful death, is it really too much to ask to show some respect for God and not just to please ourselves any longer? He's not saying we have to operate one of Mother Teresa's hospices, or drain our savings and donate huge chunks of money to charities; or even let bullies slap us in the face. None of that.
Instead, focus on simply becoming a righteous person who's conduct pleases God. That, primarily, is exactly what God asked of Abraham.
●Gen 17:1 ...When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, I am El Shaddai. Walk in My ways and be blameless."
We know from 1John 1:6 that if we say we have a working relationship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. And we know from 1Peter 3:12, the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of The Lord is against evildoers Christian or otherwise; makes no difference.
Ransomed from judgment by the kindness and generosity of God, by the blood of his own kin, we're urged to listen to God now instead of the people we admire who are often screwed up anyway and not live like them either, because you can see where that has gotten many of them.
Psalm 1 makes a promise to the person who will stop ignoring God and pay attention. That person will flourish like a fruit tree planted near an abundant source of water. That's a rock solid guarantee of spiritual health.
Your Life; A Living Offering
Me and Joanne and Nate only just a few weeks ago had a discussion to hammer out the exact meaning of Rom 12:1-2. Nate was having trouble with that word *transform* in the second verse. He was confused because he thought it meant God's spirit changes our personality by Bible study. I will not deny that can happen, but it's not really the focus of Rom 12:1-2. If that's all we had to do to become new people, then the Jehovah's Witnesses would be the most transformed Christians of all because they study the Bible way more than the average churchian.
But that passage is not about regeneration. The focus of that passage is not that at all. That passage implores believers to take some personal initiative of their own and clean up their act. Make up your mind that you are not going to think like worldly people any longer. We know from Eph 5:1 that God is the believer's new role model now, not the people we admire.
See how it works? Rom 12:1-2 is not about the power of God, but instead it's actually about the believer's volition. Here's a good example of a proper response to Rom 12:1-2.
When our son Nate was at the DMV getting his learner's permit, things were not going smoothly and he was becoming irritated and very annoyed. But through his Bible studies, he was aware that God did not want him to give in to the impulses of human nature. So Nate stifled his ugly feelings and then later complied with 1John 1:9 to clean himself up and get forgiven.
That's all God requires and it's really not all that hard. But if Nate had been unfamiliar with the New Testament, he probably would have flown off the handle and made a scene. That's the real, and the practical purpose of Bible study; and the very reason it is so strongly encouraged at Rom 12:2, Eph 5:13-17, and 1Pet 2:2.
Rom 12:1-2 is not about the power of God, but instead it challenges the believer to get with the program. And that brings us up to spiritual turpitude.
How To Die
When believers are defiant, and willfully refuse to comply with a passage like Col 3:5-17, we know for a fact from Rom 1:28 that those believers are not only depraved; but we also know from John 15:1-6 that they are dead wood.
In point of fact, I was a very ugly person myself in those early days when I did as I pleased; harboring terrible gender bias and becoming irritated with others much too easily.
How To Live.
Today, every believer needs to put a high priority on Eph 4:17-24, and Col 3:5-17 and concentrate their energies on a new self. All we really have to do is follow Jesus' lead at John 15:1-14 and comply with God's revealed will. We know from Ps 37:23-24, and Pro 16:9, the worn out churchian cliché, *finding the will of God for your life* will take care of itself when we make every effort to honor God by doing what He commands. Before worrying about the unknown, why not begin concentrating on what's revealed first?
●Eph 4:17-24 ...So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.....You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by it's deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
It shouldn't take a rocket scientist's IQ to figure this out. If we make a habit of always gratifying the interests, and the passions and the impulses of human nature; we might as well forget about providence. But if we stifle the influences of human nature, and strive to please God, then providence will keep us from many troubles.
●Pro 22:3 ...A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.
Let me caution you again, just one more time; God is patient, but not forever. Don't push Him too far.
●Prov 1:22-33 How long will you simple ones love simplicity, you scoffers be eager to scoff, you dullards hate knowledge? You are indifferent to my rebuke; I will now speak my mind to you, and let you know my thoughts.
Since you refused me when I called, and paid no heed when I extended my hand, you spurned all my advice, and would not hear my rebuke, I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when terror comes upon you, when terror comes like a disaster, and calamity arrives like a whirlwind, when trouble and distress come upon you. Then they shall call me but I will not answer; they shall seek me but not find me. Because they hated knowledge, and did not choose fear of the Lord; they refused my advice, and disdained all my rebukes, they shall eat the fruit of their ways, and have their fill of their own counsels. The tranquility of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of dullards will destroy them. But he who listens to me will dwell in safety, untroubled by the terror of misfortune.
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