Confirmation of Conquest
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined [destiny predetermined or pre-arranged] to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified, those he justified, he also glorified.
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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?” (Romans 8: 28 – 32 NIV)
I’m thinking about the conquest of Jesus over the world, sin, and the devil. I have made some underlining and emboldened emphasis in the above scripture. I will quote some other scriptures in a few moments; but I first want to write about the facts mentioned above. It is God at work in the world in Jesus Christ. God the Father sent His one and only Son into the world so that the world can be saved and not condemned. The reason God did that is to confirm the destiny He has for you. Your destiny for all eternity has been to become a daughter or son of God. The word “predestine” has within it the concept of destiny. One is pre to a destiny. The process of engaging that destiny involves engaging God’s love. We are not writing about an impersonal interaction with a spiritual force. We are writing about the desire of a person to interconnect with you and develop a relationship with you based on being a daughter or son. That destiny for you is because the purpose of God is to cause many sons and daughters to conform to the image of His Son, Jesus, so that Jesus will be more and more glorified. As more and more daughters and sons become more like Jesus the Father is constantly saying to the Son, “Our project of redeeming the human race is proving successful! What You have done is producing many sisters and brothers. Be glorified.”
When this “project” is complete at the decision and discretion of the Father; Jesus the Son, will turn to the Father and say, “Here is what You have done! You have provided salvation for the human race. Be glorified.”
Meanwhile, we walk and live in that glory. We are called, chosen, justified, sanctified, and glorified. This process is continuing and will continue until we fully measure up to the measure expressed in Jesus Christ.
“You are already clean [you have already been pruned] because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15: 3, 4 NIV  brackets are my own)
When the glorified Christ is revealed to John in Revelation we note the sword proceeding from His mouth. His word prunes and cleanses us. His word makes it possible for us to bear fruit. As we bear fruit His word continues to prune and cleanse us so that we will bear more fruit. This process is called sanctification, the purposeful and continuous process of setting aside more and more aspects of our personalities for use by God in bringing salvation to the world. This process is stated in another way by Paul in Romans:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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.” (Romans 12: 1, 2 NIV)
Jesus expressed this worship to the woman He encountered in Samaria at Jacob’s well:
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4: 23, 24 NIV)
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I awoke this morning with the title “Limitless” on my mind. I know why from a logical standpoint. My wife and I went to a late lunch yesterday at the Olive Garden, one of our favorite restaurants. It offers “unlimited” breadsticks and salad with each entrée. But my subconscious mind connected the words “limitless” and “unlimited” with some psychological and emotional difficulties I have been going through lately. I have been going through a “crisis of faith” to use a term I first heard from Henry Blackaby in his book Experiencing God. A “crisis of faith” is when you come up against a situation where you are asked by God to step forward in faith to do something and have a difficult time believing that what you have heard is from God or have a difficult time believing you can do what God is asking of you. My emotional difficulties related to my efforts to build churches in Africa and establish a Bible School there. I had forgotten some of the basic principles of faith and the process of following Jesus. I had forgotten how to be a faithful sheep. Let me explain.
I must review some of the principles of following the Good Shepherd as a faithful sheep. Before I do that, however, let me state that the basic principle is that God is the initiator and the One who accomplishes what He calls us to do. My problem in all of this “crisis of faith” is that I had forgotten that basic principle and had begun to take on God’s role.
- We are given the authority to become daughters and sons of God: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1: 12 NIV)
- When a situation arises that seems like it is overwhelming; the Lord takes over and does the work: “Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel . . . He said, `Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: `Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’” (2 Chronicles 20: 14a, 15a NIV)
- The principle by which Jesus lived His life was that with God all things are possible: “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. `Abba, Father,’ he said, `everything is possible for you.’” (Mark 14: 35 NIV)
- Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that we would be able to understand all that the Father was doing through Him and so that we would receive, for all time, what Jesus wanted us to receive: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16: 13 – 15 NIV)
- Jesus expects us to carry on the work He began in the power of the Holy Spirit: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14: 12 NIV)
- The principle that Jesus lived by that in God all things are possible is now extended to us: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14: 13, 14 NIV)
- We are living in an era when God the Father is subjecting the world under Jesus, the Son, for the purpose of glorifying the Son: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8: 28, 29 NIV)
To put it in very simple terms, such as a graduate of kindergarten might understand, God’s expectation that He accomplished through Jesus is that there are lots of daughters and sons in the world just like Jesus; doing what Jesus did. When I remember this everything becomes easy and I can trust that what God has assigned for me to do will get done. It all becomes easy in the glory; in the very presence of God.Write comment (0 Comments)
Immanuel – God with Us
“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, `Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: `The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, `God with us.’ [This prophecy is from Isaiah 7: 14]
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had not union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” (Matthew 18 – 25 NIV)
I had a reminder this morning of the fact that God is with us. Usually, I arise each morning at 4:30 AM to write this blog; peruse news items; and listen to God by meditating and praying. I have been quite discouraged lately because of stress related to my view of what God has assigned me to do. I have forgotten my own teachings related to the reading of Scripture. I have allowed fear, doubt, and unbelief become central in my attitude. So, last night as I retired for sleep I turned off my alarm for my 4:30 AM wake-up. However, as I was about to sleep I thought of a friend and prayed for him. I hadn’t heard from him in some time and was concerned if he was OK. Well, in the midst of a deep sleep my phone rang at 5 AM and my friend was calling to assure me he was, indeed, OK. This may seem like a strange way for God to connect with me; but I can assure you that God is with us.
I know that the above scripture is designated to be part of the Christmas story when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. I selected it primarily because of the world “Immanuel” embedded in it. It is very important to remember that Jesus has come; Jesus has lived among us; Jesus died and was buried; Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus ascended to the Father; and both Jesus and Father have sent the Holy Spirit. God is, indeed, among us.
My struggle is to believe what I preach. We are living in a world that threatens to be reduced to chaos. Yet, the truth of the matter is that God is sovereign and the kingdom of God has been established through the work of Jesus Christ and that kingdom shall never end, as promised. Our role is to carry on the work of Jesus and complete the assignments that God gives us to do. There are good works that have been ordained for us to perform. We are promised that we shall do the very works that Jesus did when He was physically among us. The Holy Spirit has been given to empower us to carry on the work of Jesus.
The Church was established to bear witness to the work of Jesus. But we have an active relationship through the Holy Spirit with God the Father. We do not live in a world of chaos although Satan is constantly trying to make us think that we are. We live in a world that is under the control of God who is the Lord of Creation not the author of Chaos. We do not have to do great works to be in line with God’s plans and purposes. To heal and deliver from demonic authority are considered small be Jesus. He considered it far more important that our names are written in the Book of Life.
We do not seek our own glory. We seek the glory of God. As God is among us by the Holy Spirit we are actually living in the glory of God. As we go about our daily activities we will naturally do the works assigned to us by God. This is the promise. We need not live in fear, but we are assigned to walk in faith. We take on thankfulness, joyfulness, and the spirit of worship as we go through our daily routines and the glory of God will show that God truly is with us.
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Kingdom Rule and Reign
“Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, `What charges are you bringing against this man?
“If he were not a criminal,’ they replied, `we would not have handed him over to you.’
“Pilate said, `Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’
“`But we have no right to execute anyone,’ they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.
“Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, `Are you the king of the Jews?’
“`Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, `or did others talk to you about me?’
“`Am I a Jew?’ Pilate replied. `Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?’
“Jesus said, `My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’
“`You are a king, then!’ said Pilate.
“Jesus answered, `You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’
“`What is truth?’ retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, `I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release `the king of the Jews’?’
“They shouted back, `No not him! Give us Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.” (John 18: 28 – 40 NIV)
I have quoted the appearance of Jesus before Pilate from John’s Gospel to make four points:
- The Roman governor Pilate recognized Jesus as the king of the Jews.
- Jesus declared that His kingdom is not of this world.
- Jesus declared that His kingdom is from another place.
- Jesus declared that His kingdom is not something to be physically defended or fought for in battle.
The conclusion that Jesus made is that only the truth will bring about the kingdom. I know that I am either “preaching to the choir,” as they say; or you will not understand at all what I am saying. From Jesus’ presentation of the principles of the kingdom of God in parables it is obvious that those to whom the kingdom of God is to be revealed by the Holy Spirit will “get it;” all others will not understand no matter how carefully we speak or write.
“The seventh angle sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
`The kingdom of the world
has become the kingdom of our Lord
And of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’
And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones
before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:
‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
the One who is and who was,
because you have taken your great power
And have begun to reign.
The nations were angry,
And your wrath has come.
The time has come for judging the dead,
and for rewarding your servants the prophets
and your people who revere your name,
both great and small --
And for destroying those who destroy the earth.’
"Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within was seen the ark of the covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe thunderstorm." (Revelation 11: 15 - 19 NIV)
Both the Christian attempts at establishing a physical kingdom of God and the Muslim attempts to establish an Islamic “Caliphate” are false attempts of mankind to force religious doctrine upon others at the point of the sword. Jesus’ kingdom is not established by such means but by the dissemination of truth. The word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit, proceeds from the mouth of Christ. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom and is established by words which are life and truth.
I have for a long time maintained that the vision that John saw and recorded in Revelation is in large measure a glance into the spiritual realm all around us. We cannot ignore that some of what John saw is future; but much of his vision is what is happening now or has happened in the past.
Today the false attempt by the devil to imitate both the Law of Moses and the Christian kingdom of God has resulted in the Islamic concept of establishing Muslim rule throughout the earth and bring about the end of the world through physical means.
Concerning the kingdom of God we do not want to make the same mistake that the disciples made when Jesus was among us both before and after the resurrection. There was, and still is, a strong tendency on the part of mankind to want power to overcome and control of events to be in our hands. The disciples envisioned Jesus, as the Messiah, to be a warrior king and overthrow the kingdoms of the world and rule and reign on earth. This is a normal tendency of man and has been displayed through the centuries by Christians fighting physically to take over territory for the kingdom. Much of the warfare in Europe during the Middle Ages was about making a physical kingdom of God on earth. The Crusades to “re-take” the Holy Land was about the concept of a physical kingdom.
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