Thursday, February 28, 2019

New Heart, New Spirit, New Nature

Chuckle: "Insomnia is contagious; if your baby has it, chances are you will have it too!!"
Quote: "If his conditions are met, God is bound by his Word to forgive any man or woman of any sin because of Christ." --Billy Graham

"Now turn from your sins and turn to God, so you can be cleansed of your sins" (Acts 3:19 NLT). "And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so you will obey my laws and do whatever I command" (Ezekiel 36:26-27 NLT).
What a beautiful picture of God's love and plan for the life of every human being. God had Ezekiel record for us an Old Testament image of the New Testament plan of salvation through faith in Christ. When we place our faith in Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, God, through his Spirit, creates within us a new nature. ". . . you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you" (Colossians 3:10 NLT). In the life of a Christian, there is a continuous battle between the old sinful nature and the new nature God has given us.
"So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. The two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict" (Galatians 5:16-17 NLT).
Over the course of time, the way we live is dependent upon which nature we choose to give control over our lives. If the old nature wins, we will drift away from God and the joy of a daily walk and fellowship with him. When this happens, we lose interest in attending church, we stop studying God's Word, We stop praying, and we stop enjoying the fellowship of other Christians. If you find yourself in this situation, you need a renewal of commitment to God. You need revival. You may need to pray as did the psalmist: "Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10 NLT).
"A man once came to Gipsy Smith, the celebrated English evangelist of an earlier time, and asked him how to have revival. Gipsy asked, 'Do you have a place where you can pray?' 'Yes,' was the reply. 'Tell you what to do, you go to that place and take a piece of chalk along. Kneel down there, and with the chalk draw a complete circle all around you -- and pray to God to send revival on everything inside the circle. Stay there until He answers -- and then you will have revival.'"
Every Christian can claim the promise of I John 1:9: "But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong." By admitting our sins and receiving Christ's cleansing, we are (1) agreeing with God that our sin is truly sin and that we are willing to turn away from it, (2) ensuring that we don't try to conceal our sins from him and consequently from ourselves, and (3) recognizing our tendency to sin and relying on his power to help us overcome it.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A New Life Has Begun

Chuckle: Father to son, "What did you learn in school today?" Son: "three and three are seven." Father: "But three and three are six." Son: "Then I guess I didn't learn anything today."
Quote: "Lord my God, you have formed me and reformed me." --St Anselm

"What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons (new creations). They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone, A new life has begun" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT).
Last time, we used this basic passage to emphasize that we are “New Creations” when we are born again by faith in Jesus Christ.  The next two lessons will focus on the specific dimensions of New Creations – New Life, New Heart, New Spirit and New Nature.  Today, we will focus on what it means to have a new life in Christ.
The greatest mystery and most wonderful miracle recorded in the Bible is what happens when a person is "born again" spiritually and becomes a totally new life in Christ from the inside out. This miracle is only possible by God's grace through faith and the saving power of God's Holy Spirit who transforms a lost sinner into a brand new creation in Christ. Such a person is ". . .God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).
When we are born again and are "in Christ," we are not rehabilitated, or reeducated -- we are re-created (new creations). This means that nothing will ever be the same in our lives -- we are totally remade. We have not just turned over a new leaf and made some promises, but have received new life with a new nature and a new Master.
You may be thinking, "but what happens to all those bad habits, addictions, and sinful actions in which you may have indulged?" When you are born again, you are justified before God who remembers your sins no more and removes them as far as the east is from the west. It's as if you had never sinned. God provides us a full pardon through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ and our record before God is wiped completely clean and all sin is forgiven and forgotten. Wow!! Just take a moment and let that sink deep into your heart and mind.
One of the reasons this truth is so difficult for many is the mind-set that we need to make changes in our behavior by our own will rather than giving our total being over to the One who gives us new life. Godly changes in our behavior will come as the result of our new life. I like the words of Henry Blackaby:
"The profound testimony of Scripture is that the blood of Jesus Christ and the death of the Son of God is sufficient to completely free you from your sin. Satan will seek to convince you that it is not. Whom will you believe?"
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A New Creation

Chuckle: The worst analogy ever written in a high school essay was . . . "Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze!"
Good Quote: "All that I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

"So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now! What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons (new creations). They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:16-17 NLT).
This passage contains one of the most miraculous truths in Scripture. When a person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, he or she becomes a new creation -- a brand-new person on the inside. By the working of the Holy Spirit, he or she is not the same anymore. Rather, we think differently, speak differently, and act differently. We have a new nature. In the first creation, God brought people into physical existence from nothingness; but in this new creation, he brings us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
Christians are not reformed, rehabilitated, or reeducated, but are transformed human beings living in an eternal union with Christ. This new relationship with Christ becomes the controlling factor in one's life. When we are converted/saved, it is not the equivalent of turning over a new leave and promising to do better. It is the beginning of a new life under the control of a new Master. As a new creation in Christ, we receive a new nature with a new attitude toward God and life itself. We are no longer driven by the standards of the world, but by the standards of God's Word.
"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 NIV). The Message Bible puts it this way: "He (God) creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing."
Notice that our salvation is not the result of doing good deeds. No, our salvation is by grace through faith -- resulting in our recreation. Then, as a natural progression from our rebirth, God expects us to do the work which he has arranged in advance for us to do. As a new creation, we do the work (ministry) of God while empowered by, and under the direction of, his Spirit. "When God's work is done in God's way for God's glory, it will never lack God's supply. God is not obligated to pay for our selfish schemes. He is obligated to support his ministry." --Hudson Taylor
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Miracle of Mercy

Chuckle: A woman says to the postal clerk, "May I have 70 Christmas stamps? The clerk asks, "What denomination?" The woman says, "Lord help us. Has it come to this? Give me 8 Catholic, 12 Episcopalian, 8 Methodist, 9 Presbyterian, 10 Lutheran and 22 Baptists."
Quote: “The corn that makes the holy bread By which the soul of man is fed, The holy bread, the food unpriced, The everlasting mercy, Christ.” --John Masefield

"He who covers (hides) his transgressions (sins) will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes his sins will obtain mercy" (Proverbs 28:13 AMP).
Sin is not a favorite word in our modern vocabulary. We would much prefer to call our impure thoughts and actions by other terms such as, mistakes, errors, or short-comings. But we are wise to deal honestly with the meaning of sin as it relates to the way we live. In the original language, the word, "sin," means to miss the mark that God has set for us -- to miss living by God's standards for human conduct -- to rebel against God. The word "Sin" describes those ungodly things we do, the good things we fail to do, and the condition into which everyone is born.
The greatest sin of all is rejecting God's free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The wonderful truth is that our merciful God will forgive all our sins if we genuinely repent and ask His forgiveness and cleansing. We all need to be reminded that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23 NIV), and we all need forgiveness.
When you ignore your sins and try to conceal them, you do major harm to yourself and sometimes to others. Sins that are not dealt with create a lifestyle which includes many individual sins. A destructive cycle of rebelliousness and deception is created within you. In the same way Adam and Eve wanted to hide their sins from God, it is human nature to try to hide ours from Him and others. Something deep within us strongly resists admitting that we have sinned -- done wrong. But, when we openly and humbly admit our sins and seek God's forgiveness, a healing process begins that will ultimately result in a sense of well-being, peace, and eternal security.
Even though Christians have been saved from the eternal penalty for their sins, we all need to continually confess our sins to God, and admit that we need God's mercy and forgiveness each day we live. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NIV). When we accept God's mercy, forgiveness and cleansing, He sets us free from the damaging cycle of sin in our lives and also frees us from the anger, bitterness, rebelliousness and corruption that precipitated our sinful actions.
We should fall on our faces before God in gratitude and praise Him for His love, mercy and grace. Further, we should ask God's forgiveness for failing to ask for His mercy and forgiveness. Without the shed blood of Jesus and God's boundless love, amazing grace, and infinite mercy, there would be no forgiveness of sins.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Living Sacrifice

Chuckle: A child's answer to a science test question: "What does the word "benign' mean?" Answer: "It is what you will be after you be eight."
Quote: "What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." --Albert Pike

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1 NIV).
I'm sure you remember the Old Testament story of Abraham and his son, Isaac (Genesis, chapter 22). The short version: God tested Abraham's faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham did as God commanded. He bound Isaac, laid him on the wood, and raised his knife to kill him. As he raised the knife, God stopped him and said to him: "Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son" (Genesis 22:12 NIV). God provided a ram to be offered instead of Isaac after Abraham had passed the test of faith. You see, God did not want Isaac to die. He had great plans for both Abraham and Isaac. He wanted both of them to be living sacrifices.
The message for us is that God wants us to love and trust him so completely that we will sacrifice ourselves by dying to self and living lives of sacrifice for him. He wants us to sacrifice through identification with Jesus' death which then makes it possible for us to live and do as Jesus did. Doing the will of our heavenly Father becomes our first priority. Oswald Chambers puts it this way:
"I am willing to be identified with Your (Jesus') death so that I may sacrifice my life to God." He goes on to say: It is of no value to God to give him your life for death. He wants you to be a living sacrifice, to let him have all your powers that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus. This is the thing (sacrifice) that is acceptable to God."
Salvation is a free gift, which we do not deserve, made possible by God's love and grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is not something we can earn. Because of God's free gift, we owe him everything we have and are. We owe him ourselves and all we have as an act of sacrificial worship. Our worship should be a matter of applying faith to everyday life. This is possible when God changes our mindset by his Spirit working in us, giving us the ability to discern God's will in all we do.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Be Quick to Listen

Chuckle: "These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter. I go somewhere to get something and then wonder what I'm here after."
Quote: “The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second step is listening.” --Unknown source

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:19-20 NIV).
Although the two words are often used interchangeably, there is a great deal of difference between hearing and listening. The dictionary defines hearing as "the act of receiving sound through the ears." To listen is "to pay attention to someone in order to hear." As I recall from my physiology classes, hearing is the involuntary function of turning sound waves into electrical impulses which are received and interpreted in our brains. Briefly, here's how it works.
Sound waves travel through the ear (auditory) canal and cause the eardrum to vibrate. The vibrations are then transferred to the cochlea through a series of three small bones attached to the eardrum. These tiny bones are called the incus, malleus, and stapes. Because of their shapes, they are sometimes called hammer, anvil, and stirrup. The cochlea turns the vibrations into electrical impulses which are transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve. The brain is trained to interpret these impulses. Assuming healthy ears, hearing occurs whether we want it to or not and requires no effort from us.
Listening, on the other hand, implies intent -- to pay attention. To listen, we intentionally focus our attention on the person speaking and make an effort not only to hear what he or she is saying, but to appreciate, and understand what is being said. Listening requires effort and a genuine interest in the person who is speaking as well as his or her words.
When we listen intently to a person, we are saying: "You are a person of value whom I love and respect and what you have to say is important to me." Each of us receives great satisfaction from knowing we are speaking to someone who not only hears us but listens to us attentively.
Here is a good example of the difference between hearing and listening. It is the last play of the fourth quarter and your favorite team is lined up on the two yard line about to score the winning touchdown. And at that precise instant, your wife calls out, "honey, would you please take out the garbage." You will hear her words but they won't register because you aren't listening -- your attention is elsewhere. Your lack of response can easily be interpreted that you are intentionally ignoring your wife and refusing to listen to her. Not Good!!
Every person deserves to have us listen to him or her. This is especially true among fellow believers. As we are "quick to listen," our understanding of each other will deepen, our fellowship will become warmer, our appreciation for one another will increase, and our love for each other will grow.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Last Will Be First

Chuckle: A new rural resident called the local authorities requesting the removal of the "Deer Crossing" sign on their road. Their reason was that many deer were being hit by cars and they no longer wanted them to cross there.
Quote: "Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service and character." --William Arthur Ward

Jesus said, "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first" (Matthew 19:30 NIV).
You may remember the inspiring story of Derek Redmond, the sprinter who finished last in the 400 meter finals during the 1992 summer Olympics. He pulled a hamstring and only made it across the finish line with the help of his father who came out of the crowd to assist him. Derek garnered more attention and acclaim than the actual winner because of his courage and determination to finish the race and never quit. Even today, as we think about the scene, the runner who finished last is the first one we remember.
Jesus taught His disciples by saying, ". . . whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-28 NIV).
You may feel as if you are always bringing up the rear -- last place, in the game of life. But it is a reality that most of us Christians will never receive the notoriety of a Billy Graham, Lottie Moon, or other well-known Christian faithful. We may never receive first place recognition in this life; however, it is not the world we seek to please, but the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. When it comes to being first or great, Jesus completely dismantled the world's values and turned them upside down, as reflected in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. It is not our stature that will be rewarded but our enduring faithfulness -- even for the small things we do for God's glory.
As we see in the above passage, our greatness and being first is dependent upon our humbling ourselves and being lowly servants to others. Jesus set the example for us as He came to serve and give His life for you and me. In this world, not many powerful and acclaimed people got to where they are by being humble, kind, and understanding. But in the heavenly world to come, the last will be first. We should not be working for human approval, but be faithful to the One whose approval really matters.
I started with a story about an Olympic 400 meter race. Listen to Paul's words to young Timothy as he thought about his eminent death. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day . . ." (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV). Paul was not interested in being first in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of his Lord. Paul was not alone as he finished his race. Like Derek Redmond, his Father was there to help him.
Love, Jerry & Dotse