Innocent

Here is the last set of quotes this week.  As promised, the first quote is a continuation of the previous quote I mentioned.  We don’t behave perfectly all the time, but nevertheless we can be certain we are innocent before our Heavenly Judge:

Justification declares the sinner righteous, but it is external to the man.  That is, the justified man may be no better off for his justification if that is all that happened to him.  Justification is a judicial thing.  Just as a man may stand before the court and be declared innocent of a crime — not guilty, and yet it does not change the man inside.  He weighs exactly the same as he weighed before; stands at the same height, with the same color of hair and eyes as before. He has the same relationships and in every way is the same man he was before.  The only difference, he is judicially free, declared not guilty before the law.  — A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 184

Of course he doesn’t leave us that way if we truly seek Him in repentance and offer Him our hearts:

In the history lesson of Psalm 78, we find the Israelites following the Lord “only with their words.”  They knew what to say, but they didn’t know how to live.  They would come to God’s Temple with sacrifices but they would not offer him their hearts.  “I want you to be merciful,” God said,  “I don’t want your sacrifices.”  The people were going through the motions, but not letting God’s emotions go through them.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 6/21

Repentance is primarily a change of moral purpose, a sudden and often violent reversal of the soul’s direction.  The prodigal son took his first step upward from the pigsty when he said, “I will arise and go to my father.”  As he had once willed to leave his father’s house, now he willed to return.”  — A. W. Tozer

The atonement (the fact that Jesus lived a perfect life for us, and died a perfect judgment for us on the cross, and truly did rise again from the dead as proof) makes all the difference in the world and can even change the inside of a man, though we will never be perfect until Christ returns.  How do I know Jesus did rise from the dead?  See my previous “God is Real” posts — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3!

Atonement is the basis upon which God acts toward humanity.  Atonement makes justification possible, and justification leads to regeneration.  This is the work of God outside of a man that has the potential to change the inside of a man.  Regeneration takes place at the same time justification takes place…A regenerated man is a man [or woman] who partakes of the divine nature, a man who has a new relation to God, which gives him eternal life.  –A. W. Tozer, My Daily Pursuit, pg. 185

But now we are seeing the righteousness of God declared quite apart from the Law (though simply testified by by both Law and prophets)–it is a righteousness imparted to, and operating in, all who have faith in Jesus Christ.  (For there is no distinction to be made anywhere: everyone has sinned, everyone falls short of the beauty of God’s plan).  Under this divine system a man who has faith is now freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the redemptive act of Christ Jesus.  God has appointed him as the means of propitiation, a propitiation accomplished by the shedding of his blood, to be received and made effective in ourselves by faith.  God has done this to demonstrate his righteousness both by the wiping out of the sins of the past (the time when he withheld his hand), and by showing in the present time that he is a just God and that he justifies every man who has faith in Jesus Christ. What happens now to human pride of achievement?  There is no more room for it.  Why, because failure to keep the Law has killed it?  Not at all, but because the whole matter is now on a different plane–believing instead of achieving.  We see now that a man is justified before God by the fact of his faith in God’s appointed Savior and not by what he has managed to achieve under the Law.  — Romans 3:21-28 (PHI)

From there, we can encourage one another in our relationship with Jesus, our Savior.  The apostle Paul spent much time in prison writing to believers in various places, encouraging them in their faith.  Here is just one example of many, beautifully expressed in the J.B. Phillips translation:

I wish you could understand how deep is my anxiety for you…How I long that you may be encouraged, and find out more and more how strong are the bonds of Christian love.  How I love for you to grow more certain in your knowledge and more sure in your grasp of God himself.  May your spiritual experience become richer as you are more and more full of God’s great secret, Christ himself.  For it is in him, and in him alone, that men will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge…in spirit I am by your side, watching like a proud father the solid steadfastness of your faith in Christ.  Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him–in simple faith.  Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.  –Colossians 2:1-7 (PHI)

And now, if you haven’t already, go back and read my “God is Real” posts, to see why I’m so certain that all of this is true — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

 

In Control

I read an outstanding devotion from Jerry Bridges recently.  This has certainly rung a strong sense of “truth” within my soul.  Take a look at it and see what you think.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.  James 1:2-4 [ESV]

We can be sure that the development of a beautiful Christlike character will not occur in our lives without adversity.  Think of those lovely graces Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.  The first four traits he mentions–love, joy, peace, and patience–can be developed only in the womb of adversity.

We may think we have true Christian love until someone offends us or treats us unjustly.  Then we begin to see anger and resentment well up within us.  We may conclude we have learned about genuine Christian joy until our lives are shattered by an unexpected calamity or grievous disappointment.  Adversities spoil our peace and sorely try our patience.  God uses those difficulties to reveal our need to grow so that we’ll reach out to Him to change us more and more into the likeness of His Son.

Both Paul and James speak of rejoicing in our sufferings (see Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4).  Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, have difficulty with that idea.  Endure them, perhaps, but rejoice?  That often seems like an unreasonable expectation.  We are not masochistic; we don’t enjoy pain.

But Paul and James both say that we should rejoice in our trials because of their beneficial results.  It’s not the adversity considered in itself that is to be the ground of our joy.  Rather, it is the expectation of the results, the development of our character, that should cause us to rejoice in adversity.  God does not ask us to rejoice because we have lost our job or a loved one has been stricken with cancer or a child has been born with an incurable birth defect.  But He does tell us to rejoice because we believe He’s in control of those circumstances and is working through them for our ultimate good.  — Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, as quoted in How Great is Our God, 9/5

I really believe this, that God can use tragedy for good.  He doesn’t send tragedy; this is one of the greatest fallacies in human thinking.  He allows it for now, but it won’t be this way forever.  Why didn’t he destroy the enemy in the very beginning?  Because if He did, no one would ever have chosen Him willingly.  We would’ve chosen Him out of fear, and would really have had no other option.  The evil and disruption and storms in this world must continue for a time, because of God’s great patience and long suffering (even for those who reject Him), but it will not continue forever.  In the meantime, I truly believe that we can trust Him, no matter what comes in our lives.  He can work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).  That’s not a copout; it’s the blessed truth.

I realize I have not experienced the hardships that others around the world (or even you, perhaps) deal with every day.  I don’t know why God allows it, but I pray for these precious ones (and for you) when I’m awake at night, and I often hear of miraculous ways God has encouraged or healed even in the darkest nights.  I have felt that instantaneous healing touch myself more than once.  I know that these words are true and that all people will see and know this some day; I’m certain of this.

Perfect Work

Following the scripture below is a great quote from the South African writer, Andrew Murray [1828-1917].  It contains great wisdom for today.

We call Abraham “Father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody.  Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture:  God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples?”  Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do:  raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing.  — Romans 4:17 [MSG]

As we cease from self and our soul becomes still, to God, God will arise and show Himself…Christ, in His death, in His life, in His perfected redemption, the soul may be still, and God will come in, take possession, and do his perfect work.  But God Himself must work it.  And for this end our working must cease.  We must see how entirely it is to be the faith of the operation of God, who raised Jesus from the dead.  — Andrew Murray [How Great is Our God, 6/28]

Refuge

I’ve been seeing a lot of great quotes in these weeks of caring for my dad and then dealing with his passing.  This week I’ll be sharing some of those classic quotes with you.  If you’re dealing with stress or sorrow, I hope these are of some comfort to you.

May God, the source of hope, fill you completely with joy and shalom as you continue trusting, so that by the power of the Ruach Hakodesh you may overflow with hope. –Romans 15:13 (CJB); Note:  “Shalom”=Peace, tranquility, safety, well-being, refuge, welfare, health, contentment, success, comfort, wholeness, integrity; “Ruach Hakodesh”=the Holy Spirit)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  This I declare about the LORD:  He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.  –Psalms 91:1-2 (NLT)

God is both refuge and strength for us, a help always ready in trouble…Be still and acknowledge that I am God, supreme over nations, Yahweh Sabbath is with us, our citadel, the God of Jacob.  –Psalms 46:1, 10

 

Everybody Prays

Here are more quotes from my Word of the Year last year — “Pain.”

Everybody prays whether he thinks of it as praying or not.  The odd silence you fall into when something very beautiful is happening or something very good or very bad.  The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of you as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the sky-rocket bursts over the water.  The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain.  The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy.  Whatever words or sounds you use for sighing with over your own life.  These are all prayers in their way.  — Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, pg. 211-212

I might also add — whose name do people call out when something really horrible or wonderful happens?  People call out the only name that really can answer to these extreme situations.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs.  But it’s not only around us; it’s within us.  The Spirit of God is arousing us within.  We’re also feeling the birth pangs.  These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance…If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter.  He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.  So what do you think?  With God on our side like this, how can we lose?  –Romans 8:22-23, 26, 31 (MSG)

Thoughts About Death

As I write this post, it’s the last day of July and I must say that death has been on my mind all month.  This is the month when my mother passed away in 2001, also a very close friend, Marilyn; our beloved dog, Holly; and now there are two more to add to the list — our pastor’s wife, Lynn; and our dear friend Jalan’s son, Dylan, at the age of twenty-five.

The death of Lynn this summer brought these matters back into focus for me.  She’d had a return of cancer (like my mother) and did not even have as long as we’d expected.  The moment of death was also delayed by a few days, making it really hard for the family.

But in the midst of this, God was speaking in my regular readings of the day.

Dying and dissolution continue to strike fear in me. Death itself does not. Ten years ago if somebody had offered me a vigorous, healthy life that would never end, I would have said yes. Today I think I would say no. I love my life as much as I ever did and will cling on to it for as long as I can, but life without death has become as unthinkable to me as day without night or waking without sleep. Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, pg. 172

We find by losing. We hold fast by letting go. We become something new by ceasing to be something old. This seems to be close to the heart of that mystery. I know no more now than I ever did about the far side of death as the last letting-go of all, but I begin to know that I do not need to know and that I do not need to be afraid of not knowing. God knows. That is all that matters.

Out of Nothing he creates Something. Out of the End he creates the Beginning. Out of selfness we grow, by his grace, toward selflessness, and out of that final selflessness, which is the loss of self altogether, ‘eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man’ what new marvels he will bring to pass next. All’s lost. All’s found. And if such words sound childish, so be it. Out of each old self that dies some precious essence is preserved for the new self that is born; and within the child-self that is part of us all, there is perhaps nothing more precious than the fathomless capacity to trust. –Ibid, pg. 174

This is what we can do as Christians — and we do — trust.  Because of that trust there’s a deep sense of peace that no one can take away from us.  It’s a foundation to our lives that covers all areas — death, life, fear, disappointment.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created things, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:37-39 [NASB]

Thanks

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.  –1 Corinthians 1:4

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  –1 Corinthians 15:57

There is the wave breast of thanksgiving—a catching God’s eye with the easy motions of praise—and a time for it.  In ancient Israel’s rites for a voluntary offering of thanksgiving, the priest comes before the altar in clean linen, empty-handed.  Into his hands is placed the breast of the slain unblemished ram of consecration:  and he waves it as a wave offering before the Lord…Thanks be to God.    (The Annie Dillard Reader, pg. 414)

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  –Romans 1:21

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!  –2 Corinthians 9:15

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  –Ephesians 1:16

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  –Colossians 3:17

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  –Philippians 4:6

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. –Colossians 2:6-7