For Obedience to Christ

Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 7:25 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put in mind this song:

Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee
Bermard of Clairvaux / John B. Dykes

Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest.

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but his loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be thou,
As thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Peter 1 (quoting selected verses NIV).

For Obedience

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. ~ vv. 1-2​

I am a firm believer in the scriptural teachings on the subjects of both election and grace; predestination and free will. I believe the Word of God teaches that no one can come to faith in Jesus Christ unless the Father first draws him. I also believe that we are saved by God’s grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves. It is a gift of God, not of human works, lest any of us should boast. I believe that even the faith to believe is a gift from God, but it is a gift we must appropriate to our lives. In other words, we can’t come to faith in Jesus Christ of our own initiative or in our own human self-effort. We must be chosen (elected) of God to become one of his children, and the Father must draw us to Christ.

Yet, I also believe scripture teaches that God so loved the world (everyone), that he gave his One and Only begotten Son to die for our sins, that Jesus died for all people’s sins, and that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. He commands us to go make disciples of Christ of people of all nations and for us to be his witnesses throughout the world. So, he obviously is giving everyone a chance to believe.

As well, scripture teaches us that people die without Christ because of unbelief, of their own free will (See: Ro. 1; 2:1-8; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; 1 Pet. 2:4-10), yet as they were destined to do. So, although we are God’s elect (chosen), still, when drawn to faith in Jesus Christ, we must willingly choose to believe in Him, i.e. we must choose to receive that gift of faith.

I know this is complicated, and I, for one, don’t have all the answers to all of this, but what I do know is that true faith, although a gift of God, involves our cooperation with the Spirit’s work of grace in our hearts. We must submit to God’s saving grace in our lives, to death to sin, to walking in the Spirit and in Christ’s holiness, and to the Spirit’s work in our lives in making us holy (sanctified). We are called for obedience to Christ, but this is not something we can do in our own flesh or of our own human works. We are only able to obey Christ and his commandments via the power, strength and working of the Spirit in our lives in sanctification, as we cooperate fully with that work. God can only apply the blood of Jesus to our lives in saving us from sin, in cleansing us, in making us whole, and in daily purifying us from all sin if we submit to that work of grace and surrender our lives to Christ (See: Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6-8; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14 & 1 Jn. 1-5).

A Living Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 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. ~ vv. 3-9​

Oh, I am so thankful that he saved me by his grace and mercy! For those of us in Christ Jesus, through faith, we have been caused to be born again to a living hope. When we were born the first time, we were born in the flesh with a sin nature, and we were without hope. When we are born again of the Spirit of God, we die with Christ to our old self and to sin, and he gives us new lives to be lived out in his holiness and righteousness. We now have the Spirit of God living within us, empowering, strengthening, counseling, teaching, leading and guiding us in the way we should go.

Jesus died so we would no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us. His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for his return (See: 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:11-14). This is what it means to be “born again.” The old life of sin is done away with, and we are given new lives to be lived in the Spirit. Amen!

Yet, we still live on this earth, and we still live in flesh bodies, so we are still subject to pain, disease, injury, heartache and temptation, and we still have the propensity to sin. That is why Jesus prayed to the Father for his disciples’ (his followers’) protection - for those whom the Father had given to him out of this world - that we would be sanctified by his Word, and that we may have the full measure of His joy living within us (See: John 17). He knew we would be grieved by various trials, which have come to test our faith. Yet, because of his grace we can rejoice in our sufferings, and we can respond to our trials with grace, with faith, and in love for God and for our fellow humans.

Jesus also prayed for them (us) because he knew that we would be hated as he was hated, because we have the Word of God living within us, and because we share the full gospel of salvation to the world about us. Yet all this will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ returns for us.

Set Your Hope

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. ~ vv. 13-23​

So many people are teaching a false grace gospel today that says that God demands nothing of us, and that Jesus does it all, as though we have no choice in the matter, and as though we are mere puppets (marionettes) on strings, and he is the one who pulls the strings and makes us go the way he wants us to go. If that were the case then, i.e. if the gospel of Jesus Christ was basically that God gives us the gift of faith, Jesus cleanses us from sin, and the Spirit comes to live within us and lives Christ’s life out through us, but we have no participation in this process at all, then we might as well throw out most of scripture. Although we can do nothing to earn or to deserve our salvation, and we are only saved by God’s grace and through the gift of faith, scripture definitely teaches us that we are to be full participants with God (cooperating fully with his work of grace) in this life which we now live in the Spirit, by God’s grace, and through faith.

We prepare our minds for action by not filling them with the garbage of this world, but by filling them, instead, with the Word of God and with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. We are sober-minded when we decide to take God and his Word seriously, and to apply its truths to our daily lives, instead of acting just like the world and focusing our time and attention on being entertained and having a good time, or on participating in sinful behaviors, convinced that sin doesn’t matter now that we are saved by grace.

When we set our hope FULLY on our salvation complete at the return of Christ, we choose to make Jesus Christ and his Word the central focus of our lives and how we live them day to day. We are to obey our Lord and his Word by not conforming our lives to the ways of this sinful world. We are to be set apart (unlike; different) from the world and set apart to God and to his service. We are to live like strangers in this world. We are no longer to live like we did before He saved us, but we are to be transformed of the Spirit of God in the renewing of our minds, which should also result in changed behavior. Because we love our Lord, we want to obey him. Because we love him, we desire to serve him. Amen!

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.