Father Forgive Them

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”  And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.”

                                                                                                                                                                Luke 23:34

                Luke gives us here a very precious word from the cross.  This word opens up to our understanding the whole purpose of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.  He gives up His life as a sacrifice of atonement through which we receive the forgiveness of our sin.  Luke presents it in such a wonderful way here that we find ourselves being overwhelmed by the sheer grace that is extended to us.  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”  On the cross, in agony and humiliation, the Lord Jesus Christ is praying for those who are killing Him.  Of all people who have ever lived on this earth the Lord Jesus Christ was the least worthy of death.  He had no sin.  He was compassionate and holy in every way.  Yet they turned against Him and nailed Him to a cross.  His response was to forgive them.

This verse raises several important questions for us.

1)      Who was Jesus praying for?  Was it the soldiers who were nailing Him to the cross, dividing up His clothes by lot, and doing everything they could to humiliate Him?

2)      Was it the people of Israel who were His own people, to whom He came as their God, and who responded to Him with rejection because they did not recognise Him as the fulfillment of all that the Prophets had promised?

3)      Was it the Gentiles, the Romans who drove the nails into His hands and feet?

4)      Or was it all of them?  The truth is that each and every one of us was in one way or another responsible for the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In His compassionate love the Lord Jesus Christ intercedes for the soldiers that they would be forgiven the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God.  He prayed for the Jews that they would recognise Him and receive forgiveness.  He prayed for the Gentiles that they would be grafted into the vine that would give them real abundant life.  He interceded for you and me that we too would receive the forgiveness which was purchased for us on the cross.

In praying in this compassionate way the Lord Jesus Christ was not offering a blanket amnesty for all sin.  He was praying that these soldiers, Jews, Gentiles, and all of us would come to repentance and faith in Him.  Right away as Jesus dies on the cross we see the first answer to this prayer as the Centurion praises God and confesses Christ.  Over the next forty years as judgment on Jerusalem was delayed countess Jews came to faith in Christ. Over the centuries since then millions of Gentiles have come to faith in Christ, all in answer to this compassionate prayer.  If you are a believer you owe your forgiveness to this one prayer.  The Son of the Living God while in agony on the cross prayed that you would be forgiven.  That prayer was answered as the grace of God was poured out upon you bringing you to faith.

This prayer is an invitation to faith and repentance as well as a call to compassionate prayerfulness as well.  Steven in Acts seven prayed this way and Saul of Tarsus was brought to faith.  Can you or I be any less prayerful seeing we are surrounded by countless lost people who do not know what they are doing?  Each one of them desperately needs the forgiveness which you and I enjoy today.

Digging Into The Word Of God

DIGGING INTO THE WORD OF GOD

                “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning.”

                                                                                                                                Luke 12:35

                As Jesus speaks to His disciples, and to us, His call to serious service focuses our attention upon the need for us to be ready for service.  In the verses which follow He calls us to develop a commitment to readiness.  This can mean an attitude of readiness to serve God and others, a prayerful life, believing the Gospel, loving one another, and diligent Bible Study.  It is this last point that I want to focus upon here.  Charles Spurgeon writes the following thoughts.

“We must not rest content with having given a superficial reading to a chapter or two; but with the candle of the Spirit, we must deliberately seek out the hidden meaning of the Word. Holy Scripture requires searching—much of it can only be learned by careful study. There is milk for babes, but also meat for strong men. The rabbis wisely say that a mountain of matter hangs upon every word, yea, upon every title of Scripture. Tertullian exclaims, “I adore the fullness of the Scriptures.” No man who merely skims the book of God can profit thereby; we must dig and mine until we obtain the hid treasure. The door of the Word only opens to the key of diligence. The Scriptures claim searching. They are the writings of God, bearing the divine stamp and imprimatur—who shall dare to treat them with levity? He who despises them despises the God Who wrote them. God forbid that any of us should leave our Bibles to become swift witnesses against us in the great Day of Account. The Word of God will repay searching. God does not bid us sift a mountain of chaff with here and there a grain of wheat in it, but the Bible is winnowed corn—we have but to open the granary door and find it.” —Charles Spurgeon  (from “God-breathed Scripture (Free Grace Broadcaster Book 239)” by Charles H. Spurgeon, John Murray, Arthur W. Pink, Louis Gaussen, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Thomas Boston, Charles Hodge, Benjamin B. Warfield, Wilhelmus a Brakel, Octavius Winslow)

For me the application of Spurgeon’s thoughts is that I am called to engage in all of the necessary work to prepare myself for the ministry of service that I am to engage in.  Each and every Christian is called to bear fruit in the LORD’s service.  John Miller in Outgrowing the Ingrown Church states that the place to begin is with our giving ourselves without reservation to the LORD, then to the work.  This means first of all surrendering ourselves to the LORD’s leading, and work within us.  In His Providence He is working out His plan in our lives.  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”  (Ephesians 2:10).  To step out in faith to do the work then involve in the first place diligent digging into the Scriptures.  There is no substitute for the Spirit led persistent study of the Word of God.  It is here that we find the treasures of God’s wisdom which will see us through the trials and tribulations of our lives.  For me this has meant a year’s long commitment to the McCheyne Bible reading plan.  It is amazing how many times this has yielded fruit in my life at just the right time.  Secondly, the work requires dependant intercessory praying.  Thirdly, I am called to seek to have grace filled conversations with those that the LORD brings into my life.  At the heart of this call to readiness for service is a desire to be a person whose life has been the awareness that God’s purpose for all believers is that our lives be saturated with the Gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ.  This is the personal relationship that the Word of God calls us to be living.

God’s Word of power

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it has been written: “The righteous will live by faith.””

                                                                                                                                                                Romans 1:16-17

                A number of years ago I had an experience as I was driving back to First Baptist Church from running an errand which illustrated very powerfully the issue that the Apostle Paul raises in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans.  As I was driving and approaching a red light that I knew had an advanced green light which would allow traffic to start early in the oncoming lanes, I was bringing my car to a stop when to my great surprise the car in the curb lane beside me sailed unconcernedly through the intersection against the red light.  The driver of that car either was unaware of the red light, or was unconcerned about it, and as a result put themselves, as well as every other driver in great danger.  As I saw the scene unfolding before me all I could do was offer an insufficient warning with my horn.  Perhaps the driver, or one of the others crossing legally into the intersection, would hear and respond to the warning.  Thankfully all of the oncoming traffic stayed put, and the unaware driver sailed safely through the intersection.  The events of the morning however got me to thinking.  How often do I see people who are unconcernedly living their lives without the knowledge of God and do nothing to warn them?  The danger they are facing is far greater, because it is in fact an eternal danger.

Today I am meditating upon that question within the context of the Apostle Paul’s theme statement at the beginning of his letter to the Romans.  To paraphrase what he tells the Romans Paul glories in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, because it is in fact God’s powerful word which redeems anyone who believes it.  Robert Haldane in his Geneva Commentary on Romans (Banner of Truth, page 47) writes.

“For it is the power of God unto salvation. – Here the Apostle gives the reason why he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.  The Gospel is the great and admirable mystery, which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God, into which the Angels desire to look, whereby His manifold wisdom is made known unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places.  It is the efficacious means by which God saves men from sin and misery, and bestows on them eternal life, — the instrument by which He triumphs in their hearts, and destroys in them the dominion of Satan.  The Gospel, which is the Word of God, is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.  By it, as the word of truth, men are begotten by the will of God, Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23; and through the faith of the Gospel they are kept by His power unto salvation, 1 Pet. 1:5.  The exceeding greatness of the power of God exerted in the Gospel towards those who believe, is compared to His mighty power which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand, Eph. 1:19.  Thus, while the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, to those who are saved it is the power of God.”

                What Haldane writes here puts things in their proper experience.  It also helps me to put into words my own conversion.  The Gospel is in fact a living Word from God.  It is personal in that it is in fact the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, living, and active among us.  His Word of the Gospel is powerful to accomplish the purpose for which it was spoken.  As I was living my life, blindly unaware of my danger, the Lord spoke the Word of the Gospel and it became something which arrested me.  It stopped me in my tracks.  It awakened concern for my eternal destiny.  It became an irresistible force in my life calling me to put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

As a Christian it now raises another question for me.  Do I believe that it has the power to do what it did in me for others?  If I do believe that is has that power then I will never tire of glorying in the Gospel because it is the Word of life for anyone who believes it.  It does not matter whether the person I am speaking with, or preaching to, looks like a good candidate for salvation.  I certainly did not look like a good candidate when I first heard the Word of Christ.  That is not the issue.  This Gospel proclamation is God’s power to save.  So do I slumber on keeping the Word to myself?   Or do I Preach it, believing that it can save anyone who believes it?

Reverence For God

“Listen! The Lord is calling to the city — and to fear your Name is wisdom — “Heed the rod and the One who appointed it.””

                                                                                                                                                Micah 6:9

 

                George Truett used to speak about how he did the work of personal evangelism.  He would focus upon the needs of the person’s family, how they would be helped by having a Godly parent. He would remind the person that he was visiting that “your children need to have a better parent.”  In doing this Truett seems to be faithfully following the words of the Prophet Micah who brings God’s accusation against the city of Jerusalem.  Judgement is coming upon them because of certain sinful practices that they have been engaged in.  At the heart of God’s word to them is the fact that they are lacking in real reverence for God.  They are treating God’s words as if they are empty.

This is a foundational thought for us.  Reverence, or fear, of God is vital to living a successful life.  In the Scriptures we read this.

“The fool says in his heart.  There is no God.  They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”

                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 14:1

                “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.  Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing.  The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.  Come my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.  Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 34:8-14

                “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

                                                                                                                                                                Proverbs 1:7

                In Romans 3:10-19 the apostle Paul summarizes this teaching from the Old Testament by showing us that each of us has fallen into a hard hearted disobedience to the purposes of God for our lives.  We have not reverenced Him as we ought; therefore we have disobeyed His commands and fallen short of His standards.  It is this hard hearted “lostness” that keeps us from enjoying the blessings of God in our lives.

Paul tells us this so that he can lead us to the free gift of redemption which we find in the Lord Jesus Christ.  What we cannot do for ourselves God has done for us in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Through faith in Him we find ourselves set right with God.

Where Is Your Faith?

““Where is your faith?”  He asked His disciples.  In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the wind and the water, and they obey Him.””

                                                                                                                                                                Luke 8:25

                Reading Crawford Loritt’s essay “Jesus’ Transforming Power on Behalf of the Afflicted” got me to thinking about a great need in the local Church.  It is one which has been occupying an increasing amount of my thinking in recent years.  This is our need for a growing involvement in dependant prayer.  Loritt begins his essay with the following reflection.

“In 2002, in the space of about thirty-six hours, I received an avalanche of bad news. I had just returned home after visiting my sister, who had had surgery. The surgeon was cautiously optimistic that he and his team had removed all of the cancer cells. Then I got a call informing me that that was not the case. She had also contracted a virus and wasn’t expected to survive. Then I got another call from our oldest son, who was rushing to the hospital with his infant son, our first grandchild, who had a very high fever and had suffered a seizure. Then the phone rang again. My wife’s aunt, who was more like a second mother to her, had just died unexpectedly. On top of all of this, I was right in the middle of dealing with a crisis facing our ministry. This rapid sequence of events sent me a very clear message: Crawford, you can’t handle this. This is the time for aggressive surrender and dependence. You need God to step into what you and Karen are facing. Get to God, and he will get to what you are facing. His Presence is what you need.” (from “His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (The Gospel Coalition)” by D. A. Carson, Kathleen Nielson, John Piper, Colin S. Smith, Crawford W. Loritts, Kevin DeYoung, Stephen T. Um, Gary Millar, Timothy J. Keller

Just today I was reminded of these thoughts from the pen of Richard Lovelace in The Dynamics of the Spiritual Life, which is a book which every Christian who is serious about the renewal of the Church must read.

“If all regenerate church members in Western Christendom were to intercede daily simply for the most obvious spiritual concerns visible in their homes, their workplaces, their local churches and denominations, their nations, and the world and the total mission of the body of Christ within it, the transformation which would result would be incalculable.

Not only would God certainly change those situations in response to prayer – we have Christ’s word that if we ask in his name he will do more than we ask or think – but the church’s comprehension of its task would attain an unprecedented sharpness of focus.

Perhaps much of our prayer now should simply be for God to pour out such a spirit of prayer and supplication in the hearts of his people.”

The call is to dependant praying as individuals and as Congregations of Believers.  This means that we must, recognise our helplessness apart from God’s intervention, become aware of the limitless power and resources of God, and cast ourselves daily upon the mercy of God.

We must become a people of dependant prayer once again.

Rekindling Prayer

“There remains therefore, a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.”

                                                                                                                                                                Hebrews 4:9-10

                When the middle of June rolls around each year I find myself, as I am sure each of you does, looking forward to the summer months in which the pace of our Church life slows down for a while.  I look forward to vacation time when I can get rested and renewed in order to return to the full pace of all of our ministries in the fall.  Summer is a time of a slower pace, of resting, of reconnecting with family and friends.  As I look back on all of my years in Pastoral ministry I find that most of my best family times came during the summer.  In these coming two months my most significant relationships will be rekindled.

If that is true for my family relationships how much more should it be true for my most significant relationship?  During the summer I hope to reconnect with the LORD Jesus Christ in prayer.  So much of what we are called to as believers is dependent upon our life of prayer.  We speak about it often, but how often does it become the reality of our lives?

The Book of Hebrews calls us into this significant relationship with the LORD Jesus Christ.  We enter into it through faith in the LORD Jesus.  Chap Clark, at the recent CBOQ Assembly Meetings spoke to us about this faith in Christ.  It is a trust relationship, which is what the word means.  It means to turn from everything else that we have been trusting in, to put our whole trust in the LORD Jesus Christ.  This means that if we are to enter into this type of relationship we must become people of prayer, not because the amount of prayer in our lives is significant, but because we must communicate with the one we trust.  We listen to His Word as the Holy Spirit opens up our understanding of it.  We also speak to the LORD laying the burdens of our lives down at His feet.

As the fourth chapter of Hebrews concludes the focus becomes overtly upon this calling to become people of prayer.

“Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.  Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

                                                                                                                                                                Hebrews 4:14-16

                Such prayer leads us into worship, praise, and petition for our needs and the needs of others.  It also has a crucial place in the advancement of the mission and ministry of the Gospel in this world.  Please, this summer hear the calling of these words from the Apostle Paul.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we might proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”

                                                                                                                                                                Colossians 4:2-3

I Am the True Vine

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the Gardener.  He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.”

                                                                                                                                                                                John 15:1-2

                John’s Gospel is focused on the task of bringing us to faith that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Messiah who was promised by God.  There is good reason why new Christians, myself included, are encouraged to read John’s Gospel first.  This is a Biblical book which breathes faith.  Every chapter confronts us with a new piece of evidence that Jesus is the Christ.  There is material here that will test the most accomplished of Bible Scholars.  There is also a simplicity which encourages the faith of even the newest of believers.

In looking carefully at the fifteenth chapter of John I am becoming increasingly convinced that John’s intention is to lead us into a profound meditation on some of the key passages of Scripture, seeing in them their fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ.

David Hill in “’Son of Man’ in Psalm 80 vs. 17” (Novum Testamentum 15 [1973]: p. 261-69) makes a convincing case that the Vine imagery used in Psalm 80 is the background to the exposition of Scripture which Jesus give us here in John 15.  In that Psalm, which is a prayer for the restoration of the people of God, and which three times repeats the chorus, “Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we might be saved,” the Psalmist begins with a reflection on God as the shepherd of Israel but half way through the Psalm he turns to a reflection on the vine which God had planted in the land.

“You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the Nations and planted it.

                You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land.

                The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. 

                It sent out boughs to the Sea, and its shoots as far as the River.

                Why have you broken down its walls so that all who pass by pick its grapes?

                Boars from the forest ravage it and the creatures of the field feed on it.

                Return to us, O God Almighty!

                Look down from heaven and see!

                Watch over this vine, the root your right hand has planted,

                The son you have raised up for yourself.

                Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire;

                At your rebuke your people perish.

                Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,

                The son of man you have raised up for yourself.

                Then we will not turn away from you; Revive us, and we will call on your Name.”

                                                                                                                                                                Psalm 80:8-18

                The Psalmist refers to Israel as the vine the Lord planted in the land which has fallen on hard times and needs once again to be restored that she might be saved.  Then he seems to shift his focus to a Kingly figure who is raised from misfortune by the hand of the Lord.  Finally this figure is described as the Son of Man who is raised up by the power of God.

This Messiah is the true vine who brings life to all who will cry out with the Psalmist.  “Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we might be saved.”

 

Father, Forgive Them

“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”  And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.”

                                                                                                                                                                Luke 23:34

                Luke gives us here a very precious word from the cross.  This word opens up to our understanding the whole purpose of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.  He gives up His life as a sacrifice of atonement through which we receive the forgiveness of our sin.  Luke presents it in such a wonderful way here that we find ourselves being overwhelmed by the sheer grace that is extended to us.  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”  On the cross, in agony and humiliation, the Lord Jesus Christ is praying for those who are killing Him.  Of all people who have ever lived on this earth the Lord Jesus Christ was the least worthy of death.  He had no sin.  He was compassionate and holy in every way.  Yet they turned against Him and nailed Him to a cross.  His response was to forgive them.

This verse raises several important questions for us.

1)      Who was Jesus praying for?  Was it the soldiers who were nailing Him to the cross, dividing up His clothes by lot, and doing everything they could to humiliate Him?

2)      Was it the people of Israel who were His own people, to whom He came as their God, and who responded to Him with rejection because they did not recognise Him as the fulfillment of all that the Prophets had promised?

3)      Was it the Gentiles, the Romans who drove the nails into His hands and feet?

4)      Or was it all of them?  The truth is that each and every one of us was in one way or another responsible for the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In His compassionate love the Lord Jesus Christ intercedes for the soldiers that they would be forgiven the awful crime of crucifying the Son of God.  He prayed for the Jews that they would recognise Him and receive forgiveness.  He prayed for the Gentiles that they would be grafted into the vine that would give them real abundant life.  He interceded for you and me that we too would receive the forgiveness which was purchased for us on the cross.

In praying in this compassionate way the Lord Jesus Christ was not offering a blanket amnesty for all sin.  He was praying that these soldiers, Jews, Gentiles, and all of us would come to repentance and faith in Him.  Right away as Jesus dies on the cross we see the first answer to this prayer as the Centurion praises God and confesses Christ.  Over the next forty years as judgment on Jerusalem was delayed countess Jews came to faith in Christ. Over the centuries since then millions of Gentiles have come to faith in Christ, all in answer to this compassionate prayer.  If you are a believer you owe your forgiveness to this one prayer.  The Son of the Living God while in agony on the cross prayed that you would be forgiven.  That prayer was answered as the grace of God was poured out upon you bringing you to faith.

This prayer is an invitation to faith and repentance as well as a call to compassionate prayerfulness as well.  Steven in Acts seven prayed this way and Saul of Tarsus was brought to faith.  Can you or I be any less prayerful seeing we are surrounded by countless lost people who do not know what they are doing?  Each one of them desperately needs the forgiveness which you and I enjoy today.

Two Key Points About God’s Purposes

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.  I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.  I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.  Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.’”

                                                                                                                                                                Exodus 6:6-7

  1. Ross Blackburn in his The God Who Makes Himself Known introduces us to a study of the book of Exodus which is focused upon the missionary heart of this Old Testament book. D. A. Carson, writing a review of the book says that it is a study which requires frequent stops for reflection upon what we have just read.  Carson is correct in his assessment.  I am just a few dozen pages into the book and already I have had to break away from it to reflect and understand what Blackburn has taught me.

What forced me to stop the first time was a simple comment that at the heart of the book of Exodus is two powerful missionary points with which we must grapple.  The first is that God does everything for His own glory.  This is not to be taken negatively as if God was in the business of insisting that everything else give way to His egoism.  Blackburn tells us that Exodus insists upon the glory of God because it is in His glory that God reveals His character as a gracious, redeeming God to us.  God wants us to wrestle with the reality of His character as One who is committed to do everything required to create for Himself a people who reflect His holiness in their daily living.

In our text from Exodus 6:6-7 we see that God delivers His people out of slavery to the Egyptians with all manner of mighty works of grace so that His people will know Him intimately.  This is a vital principle for us.  We cannot really understand ourselves and our needs unless we know God intimately.  In fact an intimate knowledge of God is crucial to the knowledge of everything else.  John Calvin expressed this truth in the following way.

“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.  But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes, and gives birth to the other.  For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone.  In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven are like streams conducting us to the fountain.  Here, again, the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty.” (Calvin, Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 1, Section 1, page 37)

                The second point that Blackburn causes us to reflect upon is that everything God does, is done for our own good.  Even, in chastening and in judgment God is at work accomplishing the good of the world.  Our eternal good depends upon our knowledge of and obedience to God.  Think about this for a few moments.  How often have you found that those things in your life which seem hardest; even those disasters from which there seems to be no recovery, are the building blocks upon which real life has been built?  I know that this has certainly been the case in my life.  Time after time those events that I have worked tirelessly to avoid have, when experienced, become the keys to unlocking all that is good in my life.  Hardship, illness, brokenness, fear, and failure, have all been used by God to bring us to Himself.  This gives us a new, and in fact, a more Biblically balanced view of the events of our lives.  All God allows into our lives has been given by His loving hand in order to accomplish eternal good for us.  The question is whether we truly believe this.

Freedom In Christ

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

                                                                                                                                                                Galatians 5:1

                As the Apostle Paul writes this gospel letter to the Churches in Galatia he brings them and us as his readers to the place where we recognise the vital place of an orthodox faith which is living in the grace of the Spirit of God.  Too often we content ourselves with a type of dead orthodoxy.  We know the doctrines of the faith in our heads but they have not become a living reality in our hearts.  It is for this reason that Paul spends such a considerable time applying the doctrines that he teaches in his letters.  If we were to look carefully at his letters such as Romans or Ephesians we would see that at some point Paul begins to apply his teaching (Romans 12:1ff; Ephesians 4:1ff).  The Gospel has a much bigger purpose than just to inform our intellects.  Its purpose is to transform our hearts causing us to be made alive in Christ.

Theological writers often explore this reality by pointing to the fact that the purpose of the gospel is to conform us to the image of Christ.  Herman Bavinck puts it this way.

“We are absolutely dependant in such a manner that the denial of this dependence never makes us free, while the acknowledgement of it never reduces us to the status of a slave.  On the contrary: in the conscious and voluntary acceptance of this dependence, we human beings arrive at our greatest freedom.  We become human to the degree that we are children of God.”  ( Bavinck, Herman, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 2003, p. 243)

                John Miller echoes this by telling the story of Roberta Peace in his book, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church.

“As we prayed together day after day, I began to read Romans 1 to Roberta.  I read it to her for ten days in a row!  I fully and repeatedly explained free justification by faith and challenged her to make sure that she was in Christ by faith and free from fears about the judgement of God.  “You cannot have it both ways,” I said, ‘you are either in Christ by faith or in the world by unbelief.”  At the end of ten days she said that her whole life was changed by a simple surrender of her life in faith to Christ and His “alien righteousness.”” (Miller, C. John, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1999, p. 37)

                As Paul begins his application of the truth that we have been set free in Christ from the hold that sin has upon us he tells us that this freedom in Christ is something which we must continually stand firm in.  Our faith in Christ is a constant, living relationship with Him.  Daily we maintain our communion with Him.  Such a living faith weans us off of our dependence upon our flesh for the hope that we have.  So often our meaning in life, our hope for eternity, our seeking after success and results in life are entirely dependent upon what we can accomplish on our own.  Our trust is in what others can give to us, or in what we can accomplish on our own.  We find ourselves becoming uncomfortable when we are called to put our trust in the LORD.  Paul calls us to look entirely, and only to Christ.  Therefore we must become a people who pray with complete dependence upon God.  To understand this and to live it means that we become people who are increasingly becoming conformed to the image of Christ in our lives.

What do you depend upon?  Is it your flesh, that which you can do for yourself?  Or is it the Spirit, that completed work of the crucified Christ in which you have been completely set free?