Choosing to Believe – John 14:1

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”
John 14:1

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:8-9

This morning I read a statement by Oswald Chambers that I’d like to pause and contemplate:
“We say—’If I really could believe!’ The point is—If I really will believe. No wonder Jesus Christ lays such emphasis on the sin of unbelief. ‘And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.’ If we really believed that God meant what He said—what should we be like! Dare I really let God be to me all that He says He will be?’

Processing these thoughts, they strike me as remarkable. A challenge to us that our belief must not be based on feeling, but on our choice. The question of, “Will I believe?”

Another striking aspect to me is in Chambers’ last line. Because there are some who might try to twist the focus in his statements based on his selection of Matthew 13:58, in which Jesus did not do many miracles in Nazareth due to the unbelief of the people. There is potential there for those who claim that God will always give us what we ask for (money, success, physical healing) if we simply have “enough faith.” But Chambers’ final statement clarifies his focus, and highlights what ours is to be: Will we believe that God will be to us all that He says?

Not “do for us,” but “be to us.”

God is our strength, our light, our hope, our everything. He is faithful and true. He is steadfast and unchanging. He is a refuge and fortress, and very present help to us in troubles we experience. He is the One who satisfies our hearts with who He is.

The world gets us focused on what we want.

But it is the person of Jesus Christ who fills all in all.

It is this connection with the God of heaven that fills us with fullness of joy so great it is inexpressible (Psalm 16:11; 1 Peter 1:8)

Eternal life is knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son whom He sent, and experiencing the love and grace poured into our hearts through His Spirit who has been given to us (John 17:3; Romans 5:5)

When we choose to believe God, we open ourselves to experience the wonderful, powerful reality of who He is to those who are His. A reality that changes us at the core as we are made to be like Him. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). As Chambers wonders in the statement above, “If we really believed that God meant what He said—what should we be like!”

“Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Choose this day whom you will believe. Choose with purpose and intentionality.

And, oh, let it be the Lord. Choose to believe the One who will fill your soul with His light and His peace that passes all understanding. And choose to position your heart, your mind, your strength, your will – all that you are – to live out that belief in joyful obedience. Because all of His commands are filled with His goodness, light, and wisdom, and He empowers us through His Spirit to follow Him. And the closer we walk with Him, the more we get of Him.

May I make that choice. The choice to believe. The choice to dwell here, in His presence, not passing casually over statements and reminders of His greatness, His wisdom, His power, His faithfulness, His love. But fixing my eyes resolutely on Him and positioning my heart toward love, obedience, and belief in this God who sent His Son to die in my place, that I would be set free in knowing Him.

Choose to believe, and walk forward in His freedom and light. Knowing it is the God of heaven who walks with you.

“For Your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in Your faithfulness.” Psalm 26:3

Worth It All – Joshua 1:9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

This morning I saw yet another disheartening headline. Another indication of a world increasing in wickedness and celebration of sin, a world increasingly hostile to our God.

As I considered the sense of discouragement I felt, God’s words in Joshua 1:9 came to mind: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Words spoken to Joshua as he took Moses’ place. A piece of God’s encouragement specifically for him, preparing him to go forward to take the Promised Land; commanding him to hold fast to the Lord’s commandments and trust His Word; and assuring him that the Lord would be with him just as He was with Moses.

They are words to Joshua, specific to the task set before him. And I believe they show us principles and truths of who God is to those who are His as we walk forward in what He commands.

Considering this, my mind shifts to Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I see beautiful parallels in the framework of the Lord’s words in Joshua 1:9 and Matthew 28:18-20. Assurances of His authority, compelling us to obedience while also calming our fears, seeking to build our strength through faith in Him. Assurance also of His presence at all times as we walk this path.

Regardless of what we face from the world around us, this is our mission.

Joshua’s was to lead God’s people in conquering and taking up residence in the Promised Land, meditating on and obeying His Law.

Ours is to share the gospel and disciple those who believe to love God and follow Him in obedience to His Word.

Jesus knew it would be hard and discouraging at times. We see His heartbreak at times in the gospels, seeing the lostness around Him. He knew that those who follow Him would be hated and have trouble. Knowing this, He promised us His presence always, and reminded us without question that He is the One who holds all authority here – no one else.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Hebrews 1:1-4

This is our Savior, and the Savior of all who will believe in Him. Our God who is mighty to save, for whom no one is out of reach. Our God who is currently holding off the world’s judgment with great patience and mercy, so that more will know Him and be saved from the wrath that is due each of us for our sin.

He sees us. He hears us. He is with us. He has spoken to us through His Son with such personal care, and ensured the preservation of His Words for us in Scripture, that we would know Him and His truth that sets us free from sin.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

Whatever we see in the news, however the world and our community around us seem to be spiralling toward unrighteousness and destruction, may we settle our hearts by focusing on what God has given us for hope, for comfort, for encouragement, for life.

Read His Word. Study it. Know what it says. Obey it wholeheartedly. Because it is truth and it focuses us on who God is – and He is life, hope, peace, and strength. He is the light of the world, and in Him we are established as light in the darkness around us. Light that will draw others to Him, even as it draws opposition from those who reject our Lord.

Jesus believed the opposition of some was worth the salvation of others.

Oh, may our hearts become like His, that we would believe this as well. Enduring all “for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Because their salvation is worth it.

In it all, whatever we face, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

With hope, with joy, with peace, with faith, run to win the prize. Run to snatch others from the fire. Run, as the saints who have gone before us line the way with shouts of encouragement that the joy set before us in Christ is worth it all.

Written on Your Heart – Proverbs 3:3-4

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.”

Proverbs 3:3-4

This is a call from a father to his son to not only keep to the father’s teaching and commands but also for the son to bind steadfast love and faithfulness around his neck and write them on his very heart.

This goes beyond the surface.

It isn’t just obedience. It is devotion. Pure, whole-hearted devotion from the core of his being. This entailed an intentional commitment by the son. His heart wouldn’t necessarily naturally incline to the teaching; he needed to write faithfulness and steadfast love onto it.

This picture of the heart as a tablet highlights how impressionable it is. It implies that the heart itself is impacted by what is written on it. It cannot lead – it follows, and it does so strongly. So we must lead it with truth.

The verses in Proverbs remind me of another, Jeremiah 31:33: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

That is the Lord’s declaration, spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. Contrasting the covenant initiated with Moses, “my covenant that they broke” (v. 32), with the new covenant the Lord would establish through Christ.

“And [Jesus] took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” Matthew 26:27-28

In the new covenant, when we enter into grace through faith in Christ, we are forgiven, freed, cleansed, and our brokenness healed, because we are made whole in Christ. And the Lord has declared that He will put His law within us and write it on our hearts.

Our hearts engraved with His Word and His commands, enabled to walk in light and life as our hearts are led with truth.

It is devotion, love for Him at our core, which pours out as obedience because that is what He has written in power and grace. And that is what we continually strive to experience as we study His Word, walking in His power to resist the temptations of a world that tries to etch falsehoods in place of His truth.

So to our deepest places, He is our God and we are His people.

Does this not reveal a beautiful aspect of God’s heart?

He is involved here. Very personally.

To put His law within you, a law of liberty and love to guide you to abundant life and keep you free from sin’s entrapment.

To write it on your heart.

This is not surface-level obedience.

It is relationship, a relationship that brings whole-life change at the core.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

All My Heart – Proverbs 3:5

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Proverbs 3:5

Reading this familiar verse this morning, I began to contemplate what it is to trust in the Lord with all my heart. We generally hear and use the phrase, “with all my heart,” in contexts where it’s all-encompassing. No reservations. No hindrances. All-in.

This is a leaning-in with every piece of my heart, every part of my being, to trust the Lord.

To trust the God who is living and active; the God who reigns over all; the God who made me with all of my details and who watches over me with care because I am His through Christ.

To trust the God who has very specific and intentional commands regarding how I am to live, including where my focus should be, what my aim and motivations should be, how I am to treat people, and the lifestyle and moral character my life is to demonstrate – character grounded solidly in the morals He established in His Word as Ruler and Creator of all and as the One who reigns in light.

To trust in Him with all my heart regardless of what I perceive or understand because He is the One who knows and sees everything.

He knows better.

I do not.

But I know Him and He is trustworthy. Far more trustworthy than my own perceptions or how I feel about something. Far more trustworthy than what makes sense to me.

He is wise. He is good. He is light and in Him is no darkness at all. He is comfort and peace. He is strength and joy and hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

When I trust in the Lord with all my heart, this is what it does. This is what it looks like. Unshaken. Hope abounding. Joyful, peace-filled, believing in Him.

As I share the gospel, speaking Christ to those He brings on my path. As I work. As unexpected things happen, whether painful, discouraging, scary, or expensive. As I go throughout my days in my marriage, with my family, with my friends and fellow believers. Whatever my path holds, hope abounding in my ever-present God as I look to and trust fully in Him.

A God who shows His power by giving us hope. We don’t have to muster it ourselves. The joy and peace, even the belief itself, starts with Him and flows into us. As we abide. As we rest. As we dwell with Him and abide in His Word which holds all truth because it reveals Him to us.

We set our eyes. We choose to press in. We lean our hearts and minds toward Him and toward trusting Him fully, and we rejoice knowing that He meets us there and that He has been empowering us for it the whole time.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself
give you peace at all times in every way.
The Lord be with you all.”

2 Thessalonians 3:16

Prayer that Changes Us – 1 Timothy 2:1-6

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
1 Timothy 2:1-6

These verses highlight prayer as essentially connected both to the salvation of others and to how we live. My pastor focused yesterday on its vital role in our sharing of the gospel; this morning, I am drawn also to prayer as a vital element in our leading “a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

The study notes in my Bible connect the two pieces, stating, “This sort of living commends the gospel.”

Our sharing of the gospel, then, is inseparably impacted by the manner in which we live. Because with our whole lives, including those moments when we are alone, we are witnesses to the truth of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and salvation of us, and witnesses to His power to change us at our very core. We speak and we live the truth, and this shows those around us that what we declare is real and life-changing.

Prayer is crucial to this – to all of it. As we intentionally and consistently lean our hearts toward the gospel in prayer, God’s heart and His truth strengthen within us. And perhaps we will begin to live with the focus of Paul: “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them…I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19, 22-23); “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10).

Prayer like this changes us. It changes our focus. It rights our perspective and priorities, and helps protect us from being carried through our days without intention or purposeful thought.

Prayer that is focused on the gospel and grounded in the Word of God, as we abide in His words and truth, fixes our eyes on Jesus. And in beholding Him, we become like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). The more we become like Jesus, the more our prayers are characterized by His heart and His personhood – and we experience what it truly means to pray in His name and His will, rather than in our own faulty perspective and desires.

As my pastor stated in yesterday’s sermon, it is through purposeful, devoted, unhindered, united prayer that we can experience the power of God: His power around us, mighty to save, changing hearts and bringing those lost in darkness to salvation; and His power within us, giving us His heart and leading us on the paths of righteousness and truth for His name’s sake.

That we may lead peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way.

Pouring ourselves out and enduring all for the sake of the elect.

Beholding the power of the cross to save all those whom God draws to Himself, all who take hold of His promise in faith and are changed to join with us as witnesses to His truth, hope, light, and everlasting love.

Forgiven in Righteousness – Psalm 51:14

“Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.”

Psalm 51:14

There is a contrast in this verse that is stirring my heart this morning. David, the writer of this psalm, links deliverance from bloodguiltiness – and he is guilty of someone’s death – with God’s righteousness.

But on the surface, that isn’t righteousness, is it? For a holy, just God to deliver a guilty person from guilt? We would not view a judge as acting justly who allows a guilty person to walk free, perhaps especially one who intentionally got someone killed.

This is a major contradiction that must be dealt with. For God to forgive this sin (or any sin) and remain righteous and just, something must happen.

And so, Jesus enters the scene.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as a propitiation [(one who satisfies God’s wrath and turns it to favor for us)] by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).

Jesus came to take on the wrath of God, which we were rightfully due as the just payment for our sin and rebellion against His ways, to satisfy it and turn it to favor for us. So God could forgive us, could show us mercy and love and pour out His grace upon us, while upholding His throne in justice and righteousness.

In 1 John 1:9, we read, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God’s wrath was so thoroughly satisfied through the death of His Son that His justice now is demonstrated not in punishment, but in His forgiveness of those who put their faith in Jesus to save them. Jesus’ blood has already paid that price for those who believe, and He paid it completely. So, through Christ, God’s throne becomes one of grace that we can approach with confidence, confessing our sins and finding forgiveness, cleansing from all unrighteousness, and grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

What great love is shown here, in this sacrifice that saves us.

Because our sin is very personal to God. It is direct rebellion against His authority, His worth, His holiness, His wisdom, His magnificent glory. This isn’t a situation where we hurt a third party and God chose to deliver us from that consequence. No, we hurt Him. We essentially looked Him in the face and said, no, I’m going to do this differently because I prefer to go a different way. Disregarding His commands that show us how to live in light, holiness, and peace with Him. Wanting to decide for ourselves and be our own ruler, casting aside the sovereign King and dismissing His majesty.

And yet. And yet He loves us. He desires to save us. He longs for us to know Him, not because He needs us but simply because of His great love. He knows the devastating consequences, the death that comes from sin, and He aches to rescue us from not just the consequences but from sin itself – so He sent His Son to die, that all who believe in Him would live.

And because of this wonderful reality, this unshakable and unchanging truth, we know that if we come to Him, as David did in Psalm 51, placing our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, we will be forgiven. We will be cleansed. We will be made new.

“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Psalm 51:1-17

In Power and Peace – Matthew 26:36-46

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go over and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’ And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping…Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Matthew 26:36-46

As my pastor focused on this passage yesterday, one detail he emphasized was the change in Jesus’ demeanor from His wrestling in the garden to His exit toward the cross. It’s something that hasn’t left my thoughts since.

In the accounts of Jesus’ prayers in Gethsemane, we see Him crying out in sorrow and agony, stressed to the point where His sweat becomes drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Asking the Father if it’s possible for this cup of wrath to be removed. Wrestling for surrender to the Father’s will, surrender to this act of sacrifice that would save us.

He prays three times with this intensity, and the response we see in the midst of those prayers is the appearance of an angel, strengthening Him (Luke 22:43). Then Jesus rises and His wrestling appears to be over. As He leaves the garden and in the passages that follow, He demonstrates unmistakable power and peace throughout His arrest and crucifixion.

Jesus prevailed over the temptation to abandon us. He wrestled, but He surrendered to the Father, and we see this decided victory as He gathers His disciples with the words, “Rise, let us be going.” Jesus walks forward toward the cross, no further question in His steps.

Considering this example stirs this question: How often does our surrender reflect this settled peace, this strength in moving forward in obedience to the Father’s path before us? Sometimes it seems that we simply move forward in our wrestling, not fully coming to a point of surrender where the matter is settled. We might justify it, saying we’re only human. We could view it as us just “being real,” sharing our struggle with others in vulnerability. And sharing those things, being vulnerable, is a good thing in certain contexts. But we must take care that it doesn’t become an excuse to settle into that struggling as an ongoing state.

The goal is surrender.

The aim is holiness like Jesus.

We have been given all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and we are to press on to take hold of that, for we are Christ’s (Philippians 3:12).

God hasn’t completed His work in us yet – though He will (Philippians 1:6). We haven’t reached perfection. But we are to pursue it wholeheartedly because we are His, bought with a great price, and we walk in His strength.

We pursue it because we pursue Him, and He is glorious and righteous and holy, and the way He has called us to live is the best, most abundant and joy-filled life we could imagine. Difficult at times, with temptations to wrestle with as Jesus did, but worth it. Settling for less – and a life lived in sin, with characteristics and choices that don’t align with Scripture, is far less – will leave us disappointed, empty, and facing the devastating consequences of our actions.

Hebrews 12:1-2 provides a glimpse of Jesus’ focus on that horrible day, connecting it with our call to endure the race before us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus endured for joy. He set His gaze on the outcome and surrendered to the will of the Father.

“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:10-11

As we wrestle with aspects of surrender – whatever struggle you face – where do we train our focus? Do we fixate on how hard it is, or do we lift our eyes to the joy set before us, allowing the truth and strength of God to correct our perspective and set us decidedly on His path of holiness and joy? Perhaps this is a reality – an amazing, God-filled and God-glorifying reality – we often miss out on: that our God is able to strengthen us to the point where we leave the wrestling behind and move forward in His power and peace, as Jesus did toward the cross.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:7-14

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Colossians 3:1-4

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.”

Psalm 121:1-8

The Obedience of Faith – Romans 1:1-6

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…concerning His Son…Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”
Romans 1:1-6

With this opening, Paul conveys a direct purpose of the grace he has received and the authority and calling he has been given as an apostle: to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of the name of the Lord among all the nations and among those in Jesus’ church.

Obedience that flows from our faith in Jesus Christ brings glory to His name.

This obedience is not done so that we are saved. It is obedience chosen because He has saved us; obedience because we love Him; obedience because we trust His wisdom, goodness, and power; obedience because we fear our God in humble respect and worship of His supreme authority over us and over all things.

If we claim to be Christ’s and to believe in Him for salvation, yet we ignore what His Word says about how we are to live and speak and act, it doesn’t make sense. It disgraces our Lord. It denies the power of the cross to actually do anything and thereby shatters any hope others might see in it to save.

The purpose of the cross was not to clear our consequences so we could do as we please without fear.

Far from it.

Rather, its purpose was to free us from sin, which enslaves us (John 8:31-36; Hebrews 9:26). To bring us out of darkness (Colossians 1:13). To make us alive and open our eyes to the light and truth and goodness and magnificence of the God who is greater than anything (Ephesians 2:4-5; 2 Corinthians 4:6). To reconnect us in relationship with the treasure of all the universe as we walk in light and are cleansed from all sin (Colossians 1:19-22; 1 John 1:6-7; 1 John 3:1).

The power of God’s Spirit within us strengthens us with grace to obey the way He calls us to, so that we walk in light and unhindered relationship, enjoying the presence of our God in fullness of joy. And us living and walking joyfully in this light brings Him great glory – it showcases His power, righteousness, greatness, and supreme worth, filling us with greater joy because our God is magnified.

Whether the world approves of our contrasting life and values or persecutes them.

And it will persecute them. Jesus promises that. Because the world does not understand, it hates our God, and it hates the light.

But there are those still in that darkness whom God will rescue. Those whose eyes will be opened, who will hear the truth, respond in faith, and be brought into the light. So we speak the gospel to this world that is perishing. We live in light, pouring ourselves out, loving our neighbor in words and action, not holding back but spending our lives in hopes that some might be saved. We hold fast to the truth, stirring the hearts of those who are Christ’s toward love and good works so we do not become weary or self-focused (Hebrews 10:23-25; Galatians 6:9-10). We follow the apostles’ example to encourage fellow believers to walk in the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among the nations, among our families, and within our own selves.

Because He is glorious, and it thrills our souls – those souls which He has made alive in Christ – when His name is made great. He is glorified, individuals are snatched from the fire, and we continue walking in light in eager anticipation of His return to make all things new.

We have a great hope, one that is steadfast and unmoving in our God who does not change. We know the One whose name alone has the ability and power to save. Let us live our lives to make His name great, that this salvation may go out and bring in all who hear Jesus’ voice and are rescued into His fold (John 10:3-4)

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”
2 Corinthians 4:6-10

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God…For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
‘Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
Ephesians 5:1-16

“May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Colossians 1:11-14

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Jude 20-25

Only God – 1 Corinthians 3:5-7

“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

1 Corinthians 3:5-7

Only God.

Only God is anything.

Not us.

It isn’t about us.

It is all about Him, because He is everything.

All glory, all honor, all worth, all strength, all power, all praise is His. It is all Him. Our great God who reigns in glory, majesty, and sovereignty over all creation as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

He is everything.

We are not.

We are loved greatly.

In Christ, we are rescued from darkness, purchased from sin and death at great cost, when all we deserve is the terrible wrath of a just and righteous God.

We are made alive.

We are recreated as God’s workmanship, made new and continually built up into the image of Christ.

We are forgiven of deep, dark, evil sin that stained all of our hearts irreparably – with no cure except Christ.

We are cleansed and made beautiful, the stain taken away. All vestiges of it gone because Jesus took it on Himself.

We are His. Restored in relationship to the God of heaven and brought near as His children.

All of this is true if we have placed our faith and hope in the great salvation worked by God through the death and resurrection of God the Son, Jesus.

But none of it is because we are anything.

That is what makes this salvation so great.

It’s easy to get caught up in our culture and seek to build up our view of ourselves as worthy, to build up the idea of what we have to offer.

But this can undermine our view of the greatness of God’s salvation and our view of the greatness and glory of Him.

We are nothing. He is everything. Yet the infinite God of all the universe, who created and reigns over all things in perfection and righteousness and a fullness we cannot even grasp apart from Him – He loves us, He died in our place, He draws us to Himself, and He saves our dead and wicked souls at great cost to Himself while we can offer Him nothing.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:1-9

Saved as a gift so that no one may boast.

Immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in the coming ages – because He sees we are worthy of that? No. It isn’t because we’re worthy or great that we have this to come in eternity; it is because He is great and His grace is astoundingly glorious in His love for us.

Why does He love us so greatly, so deeply, so steadfastly?

He loves us like that because He does.

God has set His heart in love on us and He never changes. It has nothing to do with our worth and effort.

He just does.

Isn’t that amazing?

If we had anything to offer or contribute, it might make us feel stronger and better about ourselves, but oh, how much it takes away from how glorious our God is and how greatly loved we are. It takes away the wonder.

The gospel doesn’t build us up.

It saves us and reveals to us how great He is.

As I was thinking through this, my husband suggested an analogy that was helpful to me. We have a car sitting in the parking lot of a service center right now. The engine is irreparable, so it can’t run. It would cost more to repair than we would get out of it. So at this point, it’s only worth the salvage yard. It sits there, useless, no good to anyone, dead. It likely can’t even crank up to get moved from one spot to another.

But let’s say a mechanic purchases it. He knows the issues, pays the price, and begins work, skillfully replacing and repairing the brokenness. The car begins to run. It’s brought to life, made new, and able to be used for the mechanic’s purposes.

None of that was in the car’s own merit. It contributed nothing. Yet it was given life, purpose, and value at the cost and effort of someone who didn’t have to.

God does this for us (to a much greater extent).

Even though we are nothing. Even though He has no need of us. And even though we were enemies who, until He opened our eyes to it, didn’t see or care about His glory or recognize the great lengths He went to so we could know freedom, salvation, and wholeness in relationship with Him

There was only one way for our salvation, and this amazing God satisfied both His holy justice and His mercy through the sacrifice of Himself. Great cost for the sins we committed, the rebellion we actively participated in. A cost that was paid willingly to the great glory of God, entirely accomplished by Him and in His sovereign will.

It is all Him.

Far from this realization resulting in us getting caught up in shame or self-abasement, I pray it will open your heart up to know how very much you are loved.

May this realization free us from focusing on ourselves and missing Him.

May it free us from placing our value and worth on what we are able to do, so we can rest and humbly, confidently rejoice in the beautiful reality that we are fully loved by the great, magnificent God who has chosen to love us, save us, work in and through us for His glory, and ultimately present us blameless before Himself with great joy.

May it free us to live in wonder and whole-hearted, whole-life worship of Him.

Trusting His Goodness – James 1:17

“Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
James 1:17

In a devotional this morning, these words stirred my heart with some thoughts I’ve been pondering for some time now:
“Like the Israelites, we also choose to live out from God’s protective umbrella, and as He did in the time of the Israelites, God waits patiently for us to return to Him. When you exercise your free will – a gift from God Himself – freely choose Him. He loves you and wants to bless your life more than you can imagine.”

I’d like us to pause for a moment to dwell on this. We have been given free will. With it, we can step away from the path God directs us to take. We can choose to ignore His commands and do what we prefer or what makes sense. But those choices bring us out from His protection. They limit our experience of His love. Ignoring His direction and commands, in big choices or in small, everyday moments and conversations, causes us to miss out on His blessings. We miss out on Him.

Our God is good. He is so very good to us. He is kind and compassionate and present with us. He understands what we are going through, and when His commandments and directions become difficult or painful, if they go against what society or others tell us is right or true, He knows exactly what following Him will cost us. He is not uncaring. His heart breaks with ours when we walk these painful paths with Him. But He longs for us to follow Him, to trust Him in obedience, because the outcome is worth it – and following another path would not be.

The God who declared in Malachi 3:10, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need,” is the same God who is leading your days and directing your steps. As the verse above in James 1 highlights, our God does not change. There is not one variation, not one shadow that would indicate a shaken hope or changed foundation for us.

The verse in Malachi isn’t about us having an aim to get things from the Lord; it’s about faith. Do we trust Him? Do I trust that He is good, that He has plans and purposes for His glory, plans that will get me – and others – more of Him and result in beautifully fulfilling joy? Do I trust that He will provide all I need when I open up my hands, release my hold, and obey Him, as Malachi 3:10 indicates? Do I trust that He loves me? Do you?

My mind is stirring with more verses:

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

“Which one of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11

“What then shall we say 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 with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32

The last set of verses captures the greatest point, does it not? A call to remember the greatest example of God’s love for us: the sacrifice of His Son, who lived among us to show us the way to the Father, willingly took our place through an agonizing death, and rose again in victorious power so all who would believe in Him could live abundantly with Him forever, free from sin, darkness, and fear.

Abundant life. Freedom. Light. Joy. Peace. Beloved children of a great, mighty heavenly Father, a Father whose very essence is love. One who reigns in justice, righteousness, and glory.

Believer, He surrounds you with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:12). Trust Him. Follow Him without holding back, without fear. He is good, He is sovereign, and He will not let you down.

To one who has not yet believed, know that Jesus is beckoning you to Himself. It isn’t about what you bring to the table; it is about what He has done for you out of great love and with great power. The God who created you did so with purpose and love and is drawing you to Himself so you can know what it is to be filled with His fullness and experience the wonder of being fully known and unwaveringly, fully loved by a Father who will never leave, never forget, and never stop giving to you through His goodness and wonderful grace. Don’t waste another day outside of the abundant life, peace, and joy He has for you. Waiting isn’t worth it. Jesus absolutely is.